Saturday, May 26, 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

Opting for Goa, Jaipur this summer

Opting for Goa, Jaipur this summer

Weekend Plus Desk :Despite the scorching heat, Goa remains the most popular Indian holiday destination, followed by Jaipur, according to a study conducted by a leading travel portal. Thanks

Try korma, keema recipes to   impress at Iftar party

Try korma, keema recipes to impress at Iftar party

Weekend Plus Desk :During this Ramzan, impress your family and friends with self-made gosht badam korma or keema with recipes lent by experts. Ramzan is the ninth month of

Olga Tokarczuk wins Man Booker Prize 2018: Other novels by the Polish author

Olga Tokarczuk wins Man Booker Prize 2018: Other novels by the Polish author

Weekend Plus Desk :Polish novelist Olga Tokarczuk has won the prestigious Man Booker International Prize for fiction on for her novel Flights. The novel, translated by Jennifer Croft, narrates

Tribute to Professor Momen Sir

Tribute to Professor Momen Sir

Md Shafiul Alam :It is hard to believe that Professor Momen sir is no more with us. He left us on 10 May 2016. Professor Momen was a wonderful

The Poet’s song

-TennysonThe rain had fallen, the Poet arose He pass'd by the town and out of the street, A light wind blew from the gates of the sun,And waves of

By the moribund river

By the moribund river

Original: Bengali: Mritopray Noditir MukhomukhiI make me little by little better every day Then I think how far better I would beEvery day I go to flowers little by

I was born in the festivity of human

I was born in the festivity of human

Original Bengali: Jonmechhi Manusher UtsobeI was born in the festive of mankindIt may be in ritual, or in religious gatheringMay be in hottest Baishakh’s sunshine,On lip of peasant-bride’s soil

Keep your mind carefully

Original Bengali: Mon Jotne RakhoKeep your mind cagily  Moving around not wise Keep your eyes careful Surely interview will entice.  Keep fingers careful Not wise to be fidgetyKeep hands

Poems of Sheikh Nazrul

Poet Sheikh Nazrul firstly wrote poems. Though the golden gate is opened to him to come to the national dailies in the late 70s, the poet is reluctant to

Humanity dominates Nazrul’s works

Humanity dominates Nazrul’s works

Mizanur Rahman :Kazi Nazrul Islam is generally known as a ‘Rebel Poet.’ The description is only partially true. The Rebel in Nazrul mellowed down into a poet of love,