Hinduism and Ecology: The Intersection of Earth, Sky, and Water

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This fourth volume in the series exploring religions and the environment investigates the role of the multifaceted Hindu tradition in the development of greater ecological awareness in India.

The twenty-two contributors ask how traditional concepts of nature in the classical texts might inspire or impede an eco-friendly attitude among modern Hindus, and they describe some grassroots approaches to environmental protection. They look to Gandhian principles of minimal consumption, self-reliance, simplicity, and sustainability. And they explore forests and sacred groves in text and tradition and review the political and religious controversies surrounding India's sacred river systems.

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Editorial Reviews


This book opens with the startling statement that India boasts the world's largest environmental movement, involving over 950 nongovernmental organizations...The central issue is whether the mores and tenets of Hinduism are compatible with the protection of the environment. The writers examine epics and sacred texts, arts and rituals, and the thoughts of Gandhi for what they show about the human use of nature in India...The quality of writing and scholarship is high. The writers are aware of parallels with the ecological crisis in the West; thus the book should be valuable to those interested in the global crisis. These lucid explanations of Indian thought and customs will help the Westerner to better understand India.
— W. C. Buchanan

Times Higher Education Supplement

[This] book is a major contribution to an important and expanding academic area, and it will be much appreciated by university audiences.
— David Gosling

Chapple (theology, Loyola Marymount U, Los Angeles) and Tucker (religion, Bucknell U, Lewisberg, PA) edit 21 essays by scholars of religion, anthropology, ecology, and political science, most of whom teach at American universities, whose papers were initially presented at a series of conferences on religion and ecology held between 1996- 1998 at the Harvard U. Center for the Study of World Religions. The papers fall into sections on traditional Hindu concepts of nature; Gandhian philosophy and the development of an Indian environmental ethic; the motif of forests in classic texts and traditions; India's Yamuna, Ganga, and Narmada rivers; and whether Hindu text and ritual practice will help develop an environmental conscience. An introduction, glossary, and selected bibliography are provided. This volume will be a rich resource for students of religion, ethics, and ecology. Distributed by Harvard U. Press. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Christopher Key Chapple is Navin and Pratima Doshi Professor of Indic and Comparative Theology, Loyola Marymount University.

Mary Evelyn Tucker is Senior Lecturer, Yale Divinity School.

O.P. Dwivedi teaches environmental policy and law and public administration. He has published twenty-six books and many articles and chapters in books. Former member (1986-89) of the Environmental Assessment Board of Ontario; past president of the Canadian Political Science Association; former vice president of the International Association of Schools and Institutes of Administration, Brussels; and chair of the Research Committee on Technology and Development of the International Political Science Association.

Ann Grodzins Gold is Professor of Religion and Anthropology at Syracuse University.

Pramod Parajuli teaches anthropology, ecology, and social movements at Syracuse University.

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Table of Contents

  • Preface Lawrence E. Sullivan
  • Series Foreword Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim
  • Introduction Christopher Key Chapple

The Cultural Underpinnings: Traditional Hindu Concepts of Nature
  • Dharmic Ecology O. P. Dwivedi
  • The Five Great Elements (Pañcamahābhūta): An Ecological Perspective K. L. Seshagiri Rao
  • Nature Romanticism and Sacrifice in Rgvedic Interpretation Laurie L. Patton
  • State Responsibility for Environmental Management: Perspectives from Hindu Texts on Polity Mary McGee
  • Literary Foundations for an Ecological Aesthetic: Dharma, Ayurveda, the Arts, and Abhijñānaśākuntalam T S. Rukmani
  • Reading the Bhagavadgītā from an Ecological Perspective Lance E. Nelson
  • Can Hindu Beliefs and Values Help India Meet Its Ecological Crisis? Anil Agarwal

Gandhian Philosophy and the Development of an Indigenous Indian Environmental Ethic
  • Too Deep for Deep Ecology: Gandhi and the Ecological Vision of Life Vinay Lal
  • The Inner Logic of Gandhian Ecology Larry D. Shinn

Forests in Classic Texts and Traditions
  • The Natural History of the Rāmāyana David Lee
  • City, Forest, and Cosmos: Ecological Perspectives from the Sanskrit Epics Philip Lutgendorf
  • "Sacred Grove" and Ecology: Ritual and Science Fréderique Apffel-Marglin and Pramod Parajuli
  • "If You Cut a Branch You Cut My Finger": Court, Forest, and Environmental Ethics in Rajasthan Ann Grodzins Gold

Flowing Sacrality and Risking Profanity: The Yamunā, Gaʼngā, and Narmada Rivers
  • River of Love in an Age of Pollution David L. Haberman
  • Separate Domains: Hinduism, Politics, and Environmental Pollution Kelly D. Alley
  • The Narmada: Circumambulation of a Sacred Landscape Chris Deegan
  • Sacred Rivers, Sacred Dams: Competing Visions of Social Justice and Sustainable Development along the Narmada William F. Fisher
  • Green and Red, Not Saffron: Gender and the Politics of Resistance in the Narmada Valley Pratyusha Basu and Jael Silliman

Can Hindu Text and Ritual Practice Help Develop Environmental Conscience?
  • Rituals of Embedded Ecologies: Drawing Kōlams, Marrying Trees, and Generating Auspiciousness Vijaya Nagarajan
  • The Ritual Capsule of Durgā Pūjā: An Ecological Perspective Madhu Khanna
  • Ethical and Religious Dimensions of Chipko Resistance George A. James

  • Appendix 1 Harry Blair
  • Appendix 2 David Lee
  • Glossary
  • Select Bibliography
  • Notes on Contributors
  • Index

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