Friday, October 19, 2018 | ePaper

Intangible culture of the Himalayas; is it instrumental in conserving environment?

The Himalayas is one of the most biodiverse regions of the world and most communities living here revere nature. They have a repository of oral tales, legends and myths built around this intrinsic relationship which might be effective in protecting the environment

  • Print
Weekend Plus Desk :
“While it may look like any other forest to you, it is sacred to us. We revere and respect it,” explained Daya Prasad Gurung, while I sat and listened to him under a dim light in his house in Nepal.The 69-year-old, who lives with his wife Hosuba Gurung, in Khilang, an interior village in the Annapurna mountain range of Nepal, belongs to one of the many communities living in the Himalayas who is closely associated with the environment.
For those who aren't aware, the Himalayas is one of the most biodiverse regions of the world. Most communities living here revere nature and have a repository of oral tales, legends and myths built around this intrinsic relationship.
Co-existing comes easy to them and is further strengthened by their age-old narratives, some of which are so old that even the locals don't know the time of its origin.
While some of the folklores have religious connotations, others are strong on beliefs, and cultural and traditional ties. Whether it's Arunachal Pradesh in India, the locals of the Annapurna Mountain Range of Nepal or Bhutan, societies at large display a strong natural alignment towards their environment.
For people in Khilang, the patch of forestland overlooking the village is sacred. Popularly known as ‘Kuliphi,’ it centres around the ‘Thanku asthan’ - a holy place which symbolises the abode of their deity ‘Thanku.’ Locals believe that the ‘asthan’ was brought to its current location about 500 years ago from a place called ‘Komu’ in the Himalayas. At present, its resources are preserved and conserved to the best of their knowledge and ability. Similar is the story of the religious forest of Bajra Barahi which is located close to the city limits of Latitpur, a few kilometres from Kathmandu city.
The 16th-century temple of Bajra Barahi is surrounded by a thick green deciduous forest of approximately 19 hectares. The temple was built by King Shree Niwas Malla of Patan in 1666 AD in respect of Goddess Bajra Barahi, who is believed to be the guardian deity of the valley. This forest patch is conserved by the local communities and is maintained by a committee named Jyotidaya Sangh.
Dirang basti located in West Kameng district of western Arunachal Pradesh in India carries an age-old narrative of how animal sacrifice was banned in the area through an interesting challenge which took between the head priest of the people following Bon religion and a Buddhist lama Lopon Rinpoche visiting from Tibet.
While animal sacrifice was an important ritual of the Bons, Lopon Rinpoche advocated for non-killing of any beings. This soon resulted in a challenge to which both agreed - it was to reach the Dzangto Peri mountain first. The head priest of the Bons lost the challenge and thereby, promised never to sacrifice any animals during their religious performances, especially while worshipping their sacred mountains - ‘Bangle’ and ‘Dunphu.’ Following this, till date, not only animal sacrifice is banned in the area but the killing of animals in the village for dietary consumption is also prohibited. Not far from Dirang Basti, there is the picturesque valley of Sangti where one can find oral narratives in abundance. Similar sentiments also echo in the mountains of Bhutan.
A common string which connects these places irrespective of their local and national boundaries is the fact that they are conserving their backyard forests and hence, the biodiversity. No resources from the sacred forests are taken out for personal or community use by the locals.
There is an understanding that there should be no felling of trees or lopping of branches in the sacred groves. Such practices strengthen the eco-system and create an important refuge for biodiversity. Locals living in these areas seem to be interested in preserving their environment more for the reason of their ‘being’ than its economic or scientific value.
In a time when science-based conservation practices are prevalent, rekindling our past cultural ties with our natural surrounding is important so as to create a common language between the local communities and the modern-day conservationists. Developing such a language can open channels for establishing the much-needed balance between people, environment, science and culture.
Amongst many conservation initiatives which can be undertaken, documenting and preserving the oral narratives that connect people with the environment is a vital step. However, a brimming challenge in preserving them are the increasing dearth of storytellers in the region. With changing value systems and a shift towards individualistic society, these narratives might soon become a thing of the past. But what most don’t understand is that spreading the practice will not only help to preserve our culture but also strengthen people's natural alignment towards the environment. n

More News For this Category

Wonder Woman helps boost self-confidence in young girls

Wonder Woman helps boost self-confidence in young girls

Weekend Plus Desk :It is known that young movie buffs get inspired by superheroes. Reiterating the fact is a study, jointly conducted by BBC America and Women’s Media Center,

In the wake of global warming, it is   best to switch to a ‘flexitarian diet’

In the wake of global warming, it is best to switch to a ‘flexitarian diet’

Weekend Plus Desk :As per Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), roughly, one-third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year, that is approximately 1.3 billion

New study links Vitamin D  deficiency with breast cancer

New study links Vitamin D deficiency with breast cancer

Weekend Plus Desk :Serena Williams kick started 2018's Breast Cancer Awareness Month in partnership with ‘I Touch Myself.’ In a short video, the tennis star used her voice to

 Sudhi Drishtitey Sabir Darshan

Sudhi Drishtitey Sabir Darshan

(Sabir’s Philosophy in the eyes of the intellectuals)Advisory Editor:  Professor AMS Arefin Siddique, former Vice-Chancellor, Dhaka University. Editor:  MR  Mahboob. Cover Design by Samar Majumdar. Published by Gourob Prokason

Poet and dramatist Oscar Wilde

Karl Beckson :Oscar Wilde, in full Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde, (born October 16, 1854, Dublin, Ireland-died November 30, 1900, Paris, France), Irish wit, poet, and dramatist whose reputation

Poet Helal Hafiz

Poet Helal Hafiz

Literature Desk :Helal Hafiz (born 7 October 1948) is considered a true representative of poets of his generation having certain creative traits in an age when his nation and

Sufi Baul Lalon Shah

Sufi Baul Lalon Shah

Wakil Ahmed & Anwarul Karim :Lalon Shah (1774-1890) preceptor of baul asceticism, composer and singer of Baul songs. He was born in 1181 BS (1774 AD) at village Harishpur

Aspirin can reduce  liver  cancer risk

Aspirin can reduce liver cancer risk

Weekend Plus Desk :Taking two or more aspirin tablets a week can help reduce the risk of developing primary liver cancer, also called hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), according to a

Study shows age boys reach  puberty linked to mothers

Study shows age boys reach puberty linked to mothers

Weekend Plus Desk :The age at which boys hit puberty is linked to when their mothers had their first period, according to a study. A BBC report notes that

How media is re-shaping rural culture?

How media is re-shaping rural culture?

Sayeed Ovi :Development-biological, social, economic and political is the continuous result of evolution, adaptation and innovation, so do the technology. Media is a blessing of modern breakthrough that dislodged