Date of Thesis



India, with its population of 1.3 billion people, is one of the world's fastest growing countries both in terms of population and economy. One consequence of such rapid growth is that India now has levels of environmental pollution that are unprecedented in scale. Hinduism, India's majority religion, is the primary focus of this research. Hinduism is a religious tradition whose roots lie in the ancient Sanskrit Vedas. The Vedas, along with the Upanishads and Puranas, hold teachings of nurturing, caring, and protecting all aspects of the natural world. The cultural dynamics of India have drastically changed over the past two centuries, causing a diminishing importance of doctrines for environmental protection embedded within Hindu scripture. In my honors thesis, I explore the conflicts between secular and religious institutions as people understand and attempt to combat pollution. This research project is based on anthropological fieldwork carried out in New Delhi, Varanasi, Ranikhet, and Naina Devi during the summers of 2014 and 2015. In carrying out my research, I conducted participant-observation, as well as 9 semi-structured interviews. I found that Hindus understand the current environmental problems dualistically through Hindu scripture and scientific concepts. The conflict arises when religious and secular institutions attempt to combat the environmental problems using a single, secular, ideology. In my Honors thesis, I argue that if India is to successfully mitigate the widespread environmental problems, secular institutions, religious institutions and environmental activists must come together to provide a pluralistic solution that all contemporary Hindus can understand and embrace.


anthropology, religion, environment, India, Hinduism

Access Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Type

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Michelle Johnson

Second Advisor

Edmund Searles