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Forest and Biodiversity Conservation in Ancient Indian Culture: A Review Based on Old Texts and Archaeological Evidences

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Abstract:

In the early periods of human history, environment strongly determined the lives and activities of the people. They were very much close to forest and natural resources as we find in historical documents. Ancient Indian texts like Arthasastra, Sathapatha Bhramanas, Vedas, Manusmrti, Brhat-Samhita, Ramayana, Mahabharata, Rajtarangini reflected the concepts of forest ecology and conservation in a sustainable manner. In the Indus valley civilization, several characteristics of the city planning and social structure showed environmental awareness. The presence of leaves, wild animals like peacocks and one-horned deer, tigers, elephants, bulls in the seals and the mud pots can indicate the pattern of biodiversity in those areas. Reduction of forests in that area was due to use of huge amount of timber-wood for burning bricks. So rainfall reduced and soil erosion caused deposition of silt in the Indus River which had choked off Mohenjodaro from the sea, causing a rise in the water table that must have been a prime factor in the destruction of Mohenjodaro. The sacred groves (Tapovana) of India were rich in biodiversity and ecological wealth, which was also mentioned in many ancient Indian documents like Abhigyan Shakuntalam written by Kalidasa. They are small packets of forests dedicated to local deities. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna compares the world to a single banyan tree with unlimited branches in which all the species of animals, humans and demigods wander, which reflects the concept of community ecology. The trees like Banyan and Peepal were often referred in historical background (widely protected in Asia and Africa) are keystone resources. In modern age, there are many policies developing in many countries for forest and biodiversity conservation, but they are all directly or indirectly influenced by the traditional knowledge developed in the ancient India.

Info:

Periodical:
International Letters of Social and Humanistic Sciences (Volume 30)
Pages:
35-46
Citation:
S. Bhattacharya "Forest and Biodiversity Conservation in Ancient Indian Culture: A Review Based on Old Texts and Archaeological Evidences", International Letters of Social and Humanistic Sciences, Vol. 30, pp. 35-46, 2014
Online since:
June 2014
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