Western Himalayan N?gs as Guardians of Water Resources
Keywords:cosmologies, myth and ritual, sacred landscapes, springs and wells
My ethnographic research focuses on the N?gs, which are cobra-shaped deities and guardians of water sources, to exemplify how religion and ecology relate to each other in the Indian Western Himalayas.
Ethnography has much to contribute to environmental research: Hydrological degradation of the Ganges (alias mother Gang?), erosion of mountains (alias goddess Nand? or the N?g deity V?suki), and deforestation are not merely physical phenomena. They also belong to the ritually and mythically constructed environments of Hindus, in which religion, ownership, irrigation techniques and microeconomics are interconnected.
My project examines not only how theories and mythologies about water, rain and the N?gs shape the imaginative world of deities and place them in ‘nature’, but also how this nature is reciprocally set up and conceptualized by its connection to deities. How do people distribute their water supply and what role do the N?gs play in this instance?
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