The fact that many Indian deities are associated with animals is well known. The association of Saraswati and peacock, Ganesh and mouse, Shiva and the bull Nandi, Vishnu and Shesh Naag — but city-based researches have also found crab, scorpion, monitor lizard, goat, deer and several other animals linked with deities.
In a new book ‘Fauna and Deities: A Perspective on Nature Conservation’, researches and authors Dr Suruchi Pande and Dr Satish Pande, ethnobiologist and ornithologist, have shown how culture was a powerful tool for nature conservation.
The deep philosophical contexts of fauna-deity associations from all over India are explained and photographically illustrated. “Our research shows that over 60 taxa of mammals, birds, fishes, amphibians, reptiles and invertebrates (crabs, insects, mollusks) are found to be associated with deities related to Indian religions. The references are from Sanskrit, Pali and Prakrit languages,” Dr Satish Pande told Newsline.
This is the second title in the Conservation Ethics in Indian Culture Series jointly published by the Ela Foundation, Pune and Maharashtra forest department. The first title was ‘Buddhist thought on Nature Conservation’. The book has 336 pages in colour on art paper with over 500 photographs.
Culture is a tool that reaches the heart of rural and urban populations. The book offers resource material for ethnobiological aspect of nature conservations that the authors have documented from temple architecture, museums, forts and private collections from the length and breadth of India. These expressions are seen in sculptures, art, literature, decorative motifs, seals and musical instruments.
“Indian iconography is a sublime expression of philosophical thought that our ancestors wisely used for conservation by taking the help of religious ideology. These associations of a plethora of Indian deities with diverse animals have unconsciously played a vital part in the conservation of nature,” added Pande.