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Environmental degradation and politicization of religion in contemporary India

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  1. Introduction
  2. Review
  3. Conclusion

With an area representing six times that of France, India has a natural and incredibly rich and varied environment, but today, it is threatened by many factors: rapid urbanization which is extremely destructive, the use of common pesticides and toxic herbicides increasingly, excessive pumping of groundwater etc. Forested areas are also endangered: 22% of the territory was covered by forests in 1970, and then it went down to 15% in 1996.

These figures have had a rise following the reforestation campaigns, but the plantations are made according to market demand and endanger the diversity of the forest environment. The rivers are also severely polluted by industrial processes using very old and dirty (tanneries, distilleries) and hazardous chemicals. Thus, the query of the environment in India has become crucial. In this study, we intend to highlight some aspects of the environment in contemporary India.

We analyze two different cases: the relation to forest of Adivasi women, and a liberation movement of the Ganges, by a small Hindu temple. In both cases, we will see how the protection of the environment lies at the intersection of religious and political spheres and see a number of contemporary issues come together.
"In Hindu thought, nature has been influenced by the observance of dharma, the duty in the social sense, and also cosmic sense" (Carrin, forthcoming: 3).

Thus, the movement of environmental protection are emerging in India, not only in order to conserve natural resources but also diversity, it is essentially the name of Dharma, which is a concept from Hinduism: " Hindu Dharma is primarily a perception of the universe that combines the great forces of human nature, deities and other dimensions such as ?Brahman?.

"The Ganges is about 2,507 kilometers and has three major tributaries, the vast Yamuna, is the most important rivers of India. It is also a sacred river. From the Hindu point of view, a mythical river flows in the Ganges, the Saraswati: the goddess of knowledge. The river is regulated by dams that have raised fears for its sanctity and also for its quality. Great places of pilgrimage also exist: Haridvar, Bithor, Allahabad, Benares, Sonepur, and Gangasagar. "(HEUZE, 2008: 62).

As shown in this presentation the Ganges is a very important place in the imagination in India, especially for Hindus. In Allahabad, Prayag for Hindus in particular held a Kumbh Mela, or festival of the jar. During these festive gatherings, the faithful hear sermons, walk by boat on the river, and bathe votive inaugurated by sadhu (or samnyasin).

However, it is not immune to pollution and industrial development of India: "The river is threatened by urban waste and industrial pollution while it was still alive for millions of fishermen" (HEUZE, 2008: 62). Like the Ganges, the forest is the subject of multiple representations in India. In Hinduism, the forest is the realm of Yama, the god of death, and is traditionally held in the chapel of the ascetics.

But it also serves "an important place in the imagination of the tribes among its members who had to leave, and are naturally more pronounced among those who still live there" (Carrin, 1996: 423). The name of the new state of Jharkhand means "the land of the forest."

Tags: Hindu temple, Ganges, industrial pollution, Kumbh Mela, mythical river, rapid urbanization, industrial processes,


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