Purifying the Earthly Body of God

Religion and Ecology in Hindu India

Edited by Lance E. Nelson

Subjects: Hindu Studies
Series: SUNY series in Religious Studies
Paperback : 9780791439241, 366 pages, September 1998
Hardcover : 9780791439234, 366 pages, September 1998

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Table of contents



Lance E. Nelson

Part I: Theological and Textual Perspectives

1. Toward an Indigenous Indian Environmentalism

Christopher Key Chapple

2. The Ecological Implications of Karma Theory

Harold Coward

3. Attitudes to Nature in the Early Upanisads

Arvind Sharma

4. The Dualism of Nondualism:
Advaita Vedanta and the Irrelevance of Nature

Lance E. Nelson

5. Sacred Immanence: Reflections of Ecofeminism in Hindu Tantra

Rita DasGupta Sherma

6. Models and Images for a Vaisnava Environmental Theology: The Potential Contribution of Srivaisnavism

Patricia Y. Mumme

Part II: Views from the Field

7. Sin and Rain:
Moral Ecology in Rural North India

Ann Grodzins Gold

8. On the Ethics and Aesthetics of Recycling in India

Frank J. Korom

9. Learning the Story of the Land:
Reflections on the Liberating Power of Geography and Pilgrimage in the Hindu Tradition

David Kinsley

10. Theology and Ecology at the Birthplace of Krsna

Bruce M. Sullivan

11. The Earth as Goddess Bhu Devi:
Toward a Theory of "Embedded Ecologies" in Folk Hinduism

Vijaya Rettakudi Nagarajan

12. Idioms of Degeneracy: Assessing Ganga's Purity and Pollution

Kelly D. Alley


Lance E. Nelson



An interdisciplinary exploration of the relationship between religion and environment in Hinduism.


Examining the relation between religion and ecological concern in Hinduism from textual, theological, anthropological, feminist, and eco-activist approaches, this volume brings together an international, interdisciplinary group of scholars. The book covers the most relevant aspects of the Hindu tradition, searching out the ecological implications of pilgrimage and sacred geography, earth and river goddesses, the beliefs and ritual practice of villagers, caste consciousness, and Vedanta, Tantra, and Goddess theologies.

Lance E. Nelson is Assistant Professor of Theological and Religious Studies at the University of San Diego.


"The book considers, in a thoughtful and analytical way, a timely issue: how important and basic traditional ideas like asceticism, karma and rebirth, and purity and impurity influence contemporary Indian thinking about the environment. It has an impressive and diverse array of contributors, and there is a nice balance of theory and fieldwork. It shows well how India is 'sacred ground (and water).' " — Andrew O. Fort, Texas Christian University

"This is the only book of which I am aware in the larger field of Indian studies and ecology where attention to religious textual resources is combined with the investigation of modern field contexts." — Rachel Fell McDermott, Barnard College, Columbia University