Life Style and Ecology
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Life Style and Ecology

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Item Code: NAW070
Author: Baidyanath Saraswati
Publisher: D. K. Printworld Pvt. Ltd.
Language: English
Edition: 1998
ISBN: 8124601038
Pages: 238 (8 Colored and 8 B/W Illustrations)
Other Details 10.00 X 7.50 inch
Weight 880 gm
About the Book

As one of its significant programmes, the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) has, for sometime, focussed on the lifestyle studies addressing the fundamental questions concerning Man’s relationship with Cosmic Order, his perceptions of Space and Time through the ages and across cultures, and his experience of Nature and how far he has evolved a symbiotic existential connection’ with it. The IGNCA has now launched forth a series of ‘Pilot Studies’ which, through specific community Studies, seeks to explore culture-ecology interrelationship in its myriad manifestations. Lifestyles and Ecology is the series’ first thematic monograph.

With meticulous analyses of the lifestyles of the Himalayan pastoral nomads, the Lakshadweep islanders, and Kanyakumari’s Mukkuvar fisherfolk, among others, the Studies here show how these communities follow the spirit of the natural world: not in imitation, but in continuation of the primal vision. Delineating, thus, variegated cultural paradigms of these communities, with details like, for instance, of their belief systems, myths, rituals, folklore, songs, and their knowledge of cosmology as well as natural phenomena, the authors underscore the inseparability of nature and culture in the lived experience of traditional societies the world over. The book also carries a brilliant overview of ecology vis-a-vis traditional resource management systems.

The authors are ecologists, anthropologists and folklorists of wide repute.

About the Author

Baidyanath Saraswati, an anthropologist of international eminence, is Unesco- Professor at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi. Andis former Professor of Anthropology at the North- Eastern Hill University; Fellow of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study; and Visiting Professor at the universities of Ranchi and Visva-Bharati.

Professor Saraswati’s published work comprises a number of books and monographs, among which notably figure Pottery-making Cultures and Indian Civilization; Brahmanic Ritual Traditions; Kashi: Myth and Reality; and Spectrum of the Sacred — besides his edited titles, like Tribal Thought and Culture; Prakrti: Primal Elements — the Oral Tradition; Prakrti: Man in Nature; Computerizing Cultures; Cross-Cultural Lifestyle Studies; Cultural Dimension of Education and Cultural Dimension of Ecology.


One of the main programmes of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts is the Lifestyle Studies, which aim at exploring all fields of cultural knowledge with a view to understanding the structure and function of various communities in their totality. So far societies have been studied in linear, unidimensional form, by such disciplines as anthropology, sociology, economics, politics, science, history, art-history, development planning, etc. The Centre is evolving a model of studies based on the premise that life is not fragmented into separate dimensions, neither can a model replicate in full a total picture of the cultural life of the diverse groups and communities. It addresses itself to fundamental questions regarding Man's relationship with the Cosmic Order, his worldview on the manifestation of Space for various purposes through various mediums, his perception of Time through the ages and across cultures, his experience of Nature with reference to the Five Elements (Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Sky), and his symbiotic relationship with Nature.

Pilot studies are being initiated on the interrelationship of nature, ecology. social structure, worldview, cosmology, daily routine, lifecycle, annual calendar, knowledge, skills, traditional technologies and artistic manifestations. Through specific community studies the interdependence in the arts, mutual influence amongst regions and interrelationship of the ‘tribal’, rural and urban, the literary and oral traditions are investigated. These studies often culminate in a monograph, audio-visual documentation and/or cartographical presentation of specific aspects of arts and crafts. The field studies also provide information to evolve computerizable modules for conducting further studies.

I am happy to introduce the first thematic monograph in this series of Pilot Studies.


The essays here collected are the result of the IGNCA Pilot Studies of Lifestyles carried out in four different locations, namely, the high Himalayas of the Garhwal region, the rich forests of Western Ghats in South India, the enchanting archipelago of Lakshadweep in the Arabian Sea, and the coastal village of the fisherfolk located above Cape Comorin. The authors of the essays are knowledgeable experts — ecologist, anthropologist and folklorist of repute. In what follows we may briefly highlight the essence of each of these contributions.

The contribution by the ecologist Madhava Gadgil is an excellent overview of the field of ecology and traditional resource management systems. Investigating the several different worldviews in relation to ecologically prudent resource use practices, the author has arrived at the conclusion that scientific prescriptions often resemble or parallel ‘pre-scientific’ prescriptions based on traditional ecological knowledge and simple rules of thumb. An important point which has been stressed here is that with all its power, modern science seems unable to halt and reverse the depletion of resources and the degradation of the environment. The reason for this, he says, may be that scientific resource management, and Western reductionist science in general, developed in the service of the utilitarian, exploitative "dominion over nature" worldview of colonialists and developers.

The anthrolopist R.S. Negi dwells on the symbiotic relationship between man, animal and nature in the Garhwal Himalaya. Rich in ethnographic details, the paper highlights the sociocultural aspects of the Muslim Gujar pastoralists. Their concept of time and space, defined as ecological and structural, has a special significance for pastoral lifestyles which follow horizontal seasonal migration between two ecozones and transhumant mode of subsistence based on buffalo herd. Addressing the strategies of life-support and herd raising, the author finds that the Gujars are ideally adapted to the requirements of the pastoral ecosystem. He also touches on their knowledge of the various diseases that the buffaloes suffer from, and gives a good account of Gujar cosmology and belief system. On the recent changes from pastoral nomadism to sedentarisation and rehabilitation, his analysis indicates that Gujars today use their experiential knowledge for over-exploitation of the forest resources, allowing no opportunity for regeneration. This, he says, eventually goes against their own interest.

The ecologist M.D. Subash Chandran presents a case study of an ancient sacred grove in the Western Ghats. Introducing the concept of sacredness of trees, primarily by examples from different parts of the world, he turns to the Indian scenario where Hindus maintain sacred forests all over. Giving scriptural and historical references of sacred groves and trees, the author shows continuity of the sacred tradition through the ages. In particular, the sacred kans forest rich in biological diversity is identified as the property of the village Gods. This central belief has played an important role in the conservation of biodiversity and helped regeneration and restoration of the degraded forests around. Decline of the kans begins with the decline of faith. Also the State domination over the forest and subsequent exploitation by forest-based industries, followed by negative change in Indian attitude toward nature, have caused disappearance of sacred groves. Finally, what seems evident is the fact that the groves, once an integral part of the village landscape and ecosystem, are no more sacred.

The anthropologist Makhan Jha has taken fishing and coconut as the dual entry point for studying the cultural perception of the Muslim islanders of Lakshadweep. Describing and illustrating their lifestyle, he arrives at the conclusion that the island culture and its ecology are inseparable in their structure and function. He brings sophistication to the study of the islanders’ knowledge of the sea, flora and fauna, space and time, and cosmos by referring to the people's historical background as well as the existing ecological setup. It has been pointed out that some of their archaic pre- Islamic traditions, folklore, folksong, belief in spirit, myth and mysterious dreams are shaped and determined by ocean ecology. But it is feared that since the natural eco- system today is greatly influenced by man-made structure, the old cultural values and traditions may become extinct soon.

**Contents and Sample Pages**

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