Sacred Geographies and an Ethics of Relating with Reverence

Part of the Sophia Studies in Cross-cultural Philosophy of Traditions and Cultures book series (SCPT, volume 12)


After secular ideas of landscape ecology, this chapter deconstructs the understanding of sacred nature and natural landscapes in the subcontinent. Religious and philosophical thought has always influenced people’s social and ecological behaviour in India. The unique world views of nature in Indian thought through relationships between place, the idea of sacred, and narratives about sacred landscapes called sthala purāna are elucidated. The chapter also explains how secondary narratives called sthala māhātmya recount the human experience of the sacred and create a moral relationship between landscapes and people. As practices around sacred geography and pilgrimages are prevalent even today, I conclude this chapter with suggestions of the possible place centric, relationship-based ethics of sacred landscapes.


Sacred landscapes Narratives Sthala purāna Place Sthala Sthāna Sacred geography Reverence to nature 


  1. Abram, D. (2004). Reciprocity. In B. V. Foltz & R. Frodeman (Eds.), Rethinking nature (pp. 77–92). Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Alley, K. D. (2000). Idioms of degeneracy. In L. E. Nelson (Ed.), Purifying the earthly body of god: Religion and ecology in Hindu India (pp. 297–330). New Delhi: D.K Printworld (P) Ltd.Google Scholar
  3. Apffel-Marglin, F., & Paranjuli, P. (2000). Sacred grove and ecology: Ritual and science. In C. K. Chapple & M. E. Tucker (Eds.), Hinduism and ecology: The intersection of earth, sky, and water (pp. 291–316). New Delhi: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Baindur, M. (2009). Earthed-experiences of nature: Place and nature in Indian Vedic and Purānic thought. Environmental Philosophy, 6(2), 43–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Baindur, M. (2010a). Conceptualization of nature: Towards a philosophy of conservation and action from Indian traditional thought. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Manipal University.Google Scholar
  6. Bilimoria, P. (1997). Environmental ethics of indian religious traditions. Paper Presented at the Symposium on Religion And Ecology during American Academy of Religion Annual Conference, San Francisco, November (Unabridged essay copy, Courtesy of the author).Google Scholar
  7. Bowie, F. (2006). Religion, culture and environment. In the anthropology of religion: An introduction (2nd ed. 2000, pp. 107–133). Malden: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  8. Casey, E. S. (1993). Getting back into place: Toward a renewed understanding of the place-world. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Chapple, C. K. (2000). Towards an indigenous Indian environmentalism. In L. E. Nelson (Ed.), Purifying the earthly body of god: Religion and ecology in Hindu India (pp. 13–37). New Delhi: D.K Printworld (P) Ltd.Google Scholar
  10. Chowdhury, A. R. (2000). Hinduism. In H. Jean  and J. Bowker (Eds.), Sacred place. London: The Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd.Google Scholar
  11. Das, K. (1964). Temples of Tamilnadu (3rd ed.). Mumbai: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.Google Scholar
  12. Eck, D. L. (1981). India’s ‘Tīrthas’ : ‘ Crossings’ in Sacred Geography, History of Religions (The University Of Chicago Press), 20(4), 323–344.Google Scholar
  13. Eck, D. L. (1990). Banaras: City of light. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Eliade, M. (1959). The sacred and the profane: The nature of religion. New York: Harcourt, Brace.Google Scholar
  15. Flood, G. D. (1993). Introduction in mapping invisible worlds (pp. 1–5). Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Gottelieb, R. S. (Ed.). (2004). Introduction in this sacred earth: Religion, nature, environment. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  17. Griffith, R. T., & Hotchkin, H. (1973). The hymns of Rig Veda. New Delhi: Motilal Banarasidass Publishers.Google Scholar
  18. Jacobsen, K. A. (1993). Restrained persons, places transformed: Relation to place in the Saṃkhya-Yoga Traditions. In R. B. Singh (Ed.), Environmental ethics: Discourses and cultural traditions, a festschrift to Arne Naess. Also published in The national geographical journal of India, 39(1–2): 141–49.Google Scholar
  19. Kane, P. V. (1973). History of the Dharmaśāstras (Vol. 4). Poona: Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute.Google Scholar
  20. Keith, A. B. (1925). The religion and philosophy of the Veda and Upanishads: Part I. New Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers.Google Scholar
  21. Kinsley, D. (1995). Ecology and religion: Ecological spirituality in a cross cultural perspective. New Jersey: Prentice hall.Google Scholar
  22. Kinsley, D. (2000). Learning the story of the land: Reflections on the liberating power of geography and pilgrimage in the Hindu Tradition. In L. E. Nelson (Ed.), Purifying the earthly body of god: Religion and ecology in Hindu India (225–246). New Delhi: D.K Printworld (P) Ltd.Google Scholar
  23. Mathews, F. (1994). The ecological self. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  24. Merchant, C. (1980). The death of nature. NewYork: Harper, SanFrancisco.Google Scholar
  25. Nagarajan, V. (2000a). The Earth as a Goddess BhūDevī: Toward a theory of ‘embedded ecologies’ in folk Hinduism. In L. E. Nelson (Ed.), Purifying the earthly body of god: Religion and ecology in Hindu India (pp. 269–296). New Delhi: D.K Printworld (P) Ltd.Google Scholar
  26. Nagarajan, V. (2000b). Rituals of embedded ecologies: Drawing Kolams, marrying trees, and generating auspiciousness. In C. K Chapple & M. Evelyn Tucker (Eds.), Hinduism and ecology: The intersection of earth, sky, and water (pp. 453–468). New Delhi: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Rappaport, R. A. (1979). Ecology, meaning and religion. Berkley, CA: North Atlantic Books.Google Scholar
  28. Ruether, R. R. (2005). Integrating ecofeminism, globalizations, and world religions. Oxford: Rowman and LittleField Publishers Inc.Google Scholar
  29. Tanaka, H. (1988). On the geographic study of pilgrimage places. In S. M. Bhardwaj & G. Rinschede (Eds.), Pilgrimage in world religions (pp. 21–40). Berlin: Reimer Verlag.Google Scholar
  30. Thapar, R. (2004). The setting in somanatha: The many voices of history. New Delhi: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  31. Tuan, Y. F. (1974). Topophilia: A study of environmental perceptions, attitudes and values. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall Inc.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer India 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Manipal Centre for Philosophy and HumanitiesManipal UniversityManipalIndia

Personalised recommendations