Graduation Year

2022

Date of Submission

4-2022

Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

Religious Studies

Reader 1

Daniel Michon

Reader 2

Jay Ramesh

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© 2022 Zoe G Carlson

Abstract

Hindu women’s perspectives of the more-than-human world are illuminated through ritual. Researching ecological actions millions of people of different faiths across the world partake in every day, in the context of the climate crisis of our present time, is a vital project I undertake in this thesis. I look to Hinduism, which has traditionally been called an “ecological” religion, but without a clear definition of what “ecological” means. I use Vijaya Nagarajan’s theories about Hinduism, women, and ecology as a theoretical guide. I apply her theory of “embedded ecologies” to analyze how knowledge about the environment is layered in cultural, aesthetic, and religious practices. By studying the spiritual reciprocity between Hindu women and goddesses, I investigate how ecological knowledge and practices are embedded in the Hindu women’s rituals of kolam drawing, Pongala, and rituals associated with Mother Ten, Sitala, and Yamuna goddess worship. I analyze considering the interactions of gender, class, capitalism, indigenous worldviews, and development with faith through ritual performance, observation, and ethnography. The implications for Nagarajan’s research are vast and pertain to ongoing debates among scholars of Religion and Ecology, as well as larger universal questions of how we as humans are enmeshed with nature. An essential question scholars are asking is: how do religious beliefs and practices promote an environmental ethic and incline practitioners to behave ecologically? I reference the scholarship of Vijaya Nagarajan, A.K. Ramanujan, David Haberman, and more to guide the connections I make between Hindu devotional practices and environmentalism.

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