472 pages, colour & b/w illustrations, 1 colour fold-out map
This book is divided into 10 chapters. Chapter 1 attempts to bring forth the salient ethics of conservation inherent in the major religions of the world. Chapter 2 delves into the institution of sacred – starting with the concept of sacred species (why precisely the sacredness gets attached to the same), moving on subsequently to sacred groves/forests, sacred water bodies, sacred mountains, and ultimately the sacred landscapes. The chapter ends with giving a hindsight view of the very institution of sacred, as practiced across the world; their precise functions, and lastly how they are managed. The concept of gods and goddesses in the state of Uttarakhand is somewhat different from the notion prevalent elsewhere, principallv south of the Himalaya. Chapter 3 gives a more cursive outline depiction of the most common deities encountered throughout the period of study. The chapter begins with the genesis of the dual cultic institution, the institution of polytheism, describing the more specific or enshrined role of each resident deity within the sacred complex of a village.
Invariably, the best conserved sacred natural sites remain those wherein the taboo system are stringently practiced. The strict adherence to the established norms is often built around the myths – that invariably are strengthened every time the rituals are conducted. Myths, obviously relates to the locative strand of how the deity first came to occupy the site. These two aspects of ‘sacred’, i.e. the fear factor and the myths associated, forms Chapter 4. Sacred groves invariably carry out more than one functions – slte for conduct of rituals,just being one and the most conspicuous feature. Chapter 5 delves into a number of rituals, which are carried out in the sacred groves. However, apart from the socio-cultural relevance, the ‘sacred’ renders myriad ecosystem services in the form of the vital resources (fuel wood, fodder, litter mass, NTFPs, etc); the only source of water, and so forth. And so the very viability of the ‘sacred’ vis-a-vis the resource exploitation is governed by set of traditional norms, which are strictly adhered to by the stakeholders. Chapter 6 attempts to bring forth this salient aspect of conservation vis-a-vis practice of different sets of traditional knowledge-based systems. Chapter 7 describes the different class of taboo system in practice governing the resource use, and if not then the precise conservation of the sacred natural site. The dread, the fear, the abhorrence that male folks carry towards the fairer sex, primarily manifested during the conduction of rituals within the sacred grove, is borne out of the fear of defilement or pollution-potential of menses. Chapter 8 attempts to delve into the ‘menstrual taboo’. The provision of declaring Biodiversity Heritage Sites (BHS) in the National Biodiversity Act 2002 provides an opportunity to
give recognition to the community initiatives vis-a-vis the institution of the sacred natural sites. Chapter 9 attempts to bring forth the experiences gained during the study being conducted in the sacred forests selected for the proposed Biodiversity Heritage Sites, primarily as relates to the constitution of BMC. Finally, Chapter 10 delves into the issues of concern related to the very viability of the institution of sacred.
1. Religion and biodiversity conservation
2. The institution of sacred
3. The pantheon of Gods and Goddesses and the associated myths
4. Fear woven around myths and thus conservation
5. The principal rituals conducted within the sacred complex
6. Traditional knowledge and biodiversity conservation vis-à-vis the institution of sacred
7. The institution of taboo and the local resource management
8. The anthropology of menses
9. Developing sacred groves into biodiversity heritage sits-experiences from the state of Uttarakhand
10. The viability of the very institution of sacred
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