Water, symbol and metaphor

©Eduando Melon

Our relationship with water goes beyond the survival of our body, beyond dignity and justice, it is spiritual. H2O, the short film by the Bangladeshi Ahmmed Raihan, one of the finalists of the We Art Water Film Festival 4, reflects how water has been an element that for thousands of years has united us all as a symbol of transformation and a metaphor of an ethical lifestyle.


H2O, Ahmmed (Bangladesh), finalist of the We Art Water Film Festival 4. Micro-documentary category.

In Asia, where the most ancient religions find their roots, the value of water as a symbol of life and purification is reflected in all worships. In the short film, the Buddhist monk Karunannada Bhikkhu, the Hindu priest Sri Sujon Chakraboti, the Christian friar Lintu Francis da Costa and the Muslim imam Mohiuddin Rasel describe the profound presence of water in the different philosophies and rituals of their religions.   

Water does not know or identify with any race, culture, ethnicity or religion; it is in the systems of thought of all civilizations.  A principle common to all of them is the contemplation of water as an element intrinsically linked to life and of union to the world. For Buddhism, “being like water” is an integrating metaphor with nature that spread throughout the East more than 2,500 years ago.

For Hinduism, according to the Vedic tradition, water is the essential substance from which all forms are born. In the Upanishads, narrations that appeared around the sixth century B.C., there are constant references to water as a metaphor of purity and authentic wisdom: “As pure water poured into pure water remains unchanged, so is the ego of an illuminated thinker.”

In the Judaeo-Christian Bible we find the symbolic power of water and the sentimental intensity with which people once lived in relation with it. The word water appears 582 times in the Old Testament and it is used to describe creation and destruction, purification, regeneration and love. Water accompanies the divine spirit and its relationship with mankind in all stages of the long biblical story.

In the Christian Gospels, water has a very special significance as a metaphor of divine wisdom: “Whoever drinks of this water shall thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I give him shall never thirst, as the water I give him shall become a fountain a water springing up to eternal life.”

In the Koranic texts of Islam water is donated by God for the creation and maintenance of life: “God is the one who has given you the earth as a bed and who has built the heavens as a building over your heads; he is the one who brings down water from heaven and who germinates with it the fruits destined to nourish us.”

Water not only gives us life, it is the origin of life. Since the dawn of human consciousness our relationship with water has been profound and enriching. The history of philosophy and the rites of ancient cultures and religions confirm it: in all of them, water is a symbol of life, of purification and hope, values that are a common denominator that unites us and that we should take into account much more.