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Dickinson College

Publication Date

Spring 2018

Program Name

India: Public Health, Gender, and Community Action

Abstract

This study explores the rural area of Pauri Garhwal in Uttarakhand to gain an understanding of the relationship between traditional societies and their natural environment – including perceptions of water in the community, the aspect of religious rituals involving such resources, and the impact that these factors have on the overall health of the community. Originally, the water body of interest was the Ganga, with the complex layers of spirituality surrounding her waters. However, upon visitation to the community, it was discovered that natural springs held a much greater importance to the individual and collective lives in the area. Through personal interviews, observations, and case studies, it became apparent that springs have a larger significant value in the lives of people in the villages – in ways that are functional, spiritual, ritualistic, as well as a combination of these factors. The water from the Ganga is still important in the lives of individuals in aspects of religious rituals and for purification purposes but in Pauri Garhwal, springs are both more accessible and integrated into the lives of the community. The findings of this study include that water in the Uttarakhand region is perceived as a manifestation of god, and natural springs are pure and unpolluted as the water comes untouched from the earth. It is necessary in the village communities that the water be worshipped – in its designation as the only water that can be used for drinking and cooking, its vital role in Hindu religious celebrations and recognition of deities, as well as in important lifecycle events. It was also found that individuals have observed changes in the quality of these natural sources and the relationship the community has with them, touching on issues such as migration, resource conservation, and shifting priorities.

Disciplines

Community-Based Research | Family, Life Course, and Society | Hindu Studies | Religion

 

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