Singh, Rana P. B. 1995. Heritage Ecology and Caring for the Earth. NGJI, 41 (2): 191-218. 1
[109-95]. Singh Rana P.B. 1995. Heritage Ecology & Caring for the Earth: A Search for
Preserving Harmony and Ethical values. National Geographical Journal of India
(ISSN: 0027-9374/ 0966; NGSI, BHU Varanasi), vol. 41 (2), June 1995: 191-218.
National Geographical Society of India, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, UP 221005, INDIA.
Heritage Ecology & Caring for the Earth:
A Search for Preserving Harmony and Ethical values
Rana P.B. Singh
Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, India. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Path running towards beyond the boundary,
Out of space, out of time and image.
Let’s cross sky-shape blue territory,
Searching what lies across the mirage.
Ultimately reaching to wholeness of cosmic limit,
Where God and Human formed a unit.
- the author
Heritage Ecology, as a way of knowing, is proposed as the line of thought which involves
multi-disciplinary and multi-code research, and is also deeply conditioned by belief about our built
nature and destiny and the ways to follow the path of sustainable development. Heritage Ecology, as
yoga of place is close to geomancy, and linked to the Gaia theory and connectedness of human psyche
to the earth-spirit. Following the path of a paradigm shift, it follows a systems approach to project the
mysteries of the Living Earth. As cultural resource, heritage represents the sacredscapes of
mystic-religious sites, built-structures, historical monuments and the perceived natural scenarios and
landscapes. The UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites committee has prepared a list of 360 such sites based
on their criteria, and many thematic issues of concern are described. The environmental problems result
from people living out of harmony with nature; heritage ecology would help to re-search the cosmic
integrity -- our intrinsic value deeply rooted in our cultural traditions and maintained by the continuing
traditions of rituals, festivities, pilgrimages and associative religious activities. Heritage resource
conservation is a strategy of sustainable development. In this march the idea of heritage zoning is a
rational design for practising heritage ecology. But above all the Self-realisation, deeper consciousness
and financial support are the pre-requisite for the survival and practice of Heritage Ecology.
Conservation, cultural resource, Earth mysteries, ethical values, Gaia, heritage ecology,
heritage zoning, sustainability, a systems approach.
The quest of man in search of his identity and connectedness with the nature results to
man-environment interaction through the media of culture and cognition. Sensory experience and
resultant responses take their shape in terms of a screen of knowledge and values, belief and emotion.
In such a process world vision and views and spatial manifestation of cosmology are ways of systematic
representation of spatial experience, memory, imagination and cultural exposure. The deep rootedness
of man’s interaction with nature shaped through the changes is space and time, and ultimately forms the
idea of landscape as structured, expressive, aesthetic, value-preserving and giver of sacramental
feelings-the core concern of Heritage ecology. In span of time man has developed symbolic structure to
make his feelings and values in an organised form, that is how monuments are accepted as historical
Singh, Rana P. B. 1995. Heritage Ecology and Caring for the Earth. NGJI, 41 (2): 191-218. 2
heritage. Of course, even without humanised structure, there also exist distinct places and natural
scenes, which are searched by man as sacred places and heritage sites.
The most commonly cited definition of geography moves around the three keywords: the earth,
the humans and the home: “geography is the study of the earth as home of mankind”. The basic essence
behind this definition refers to the idea of human transformation of the environments into the worlds,
nature into homes. Earth as home reflects natural identity and humans’ creative form. Home as an
‘ultimately lived-in-place is imbued into moral meaning! (Tuan 1991). Intimate thought finally refers to
faith and involvement, which have a tradition of continuity, change, existence and maintenance - visible
in the form of our heritage. Its climax is developed in history in the form of sacramental values that
promote the growth of sacred sites. Generally we feel that human manifestive rituals and involvement
given rise to a sacred site, but the process was in reverse way man had searched and revealed the
manifestive power of a site and in passage of time put more divine connotations. In spite of various
forms of changes, assimilation of traditions and taboos, the spirit of place attached to a sacredscape is
always there and be there in future too -- only the appearance and uses would change. Heritage ecology
as a way of knowing, helps to see ‘clearly’ and understand them.
2. Heritage Ecology: a Purview
The idea of ‘ecology’ is derived from the root for “home” (Greek oikos); this way it refers to the
interactions of the living and nonliving components that together make an ecosystem. In a broad view
ecology deals with “a major interdisciplinary science that links together the biological, physical, and
social sciences” (Odum 1975: 4). This interconnectedness reflects to cosmic unity. About the present
crisis and upheaval, Oates (1989: 6) remarks:
“We live at a fascinating moment, a rare time when the place of humans in the natural world is
being questioned and reformulated. New ideas of how to understand the living process are, being
introduced; and these, unexpectedly; are leading many thinkers around to some Very old ideas
about the almost sacred importance of the earth and our connection to it”.
The realisation of the sense of deep connectedness is the concern of ecology. One of the ancient
most sacred texts, dated ca. 2000 BCE, the Rig Veda (X.18.11) mentions a funerary hymn honouring
the mother Earth :
Heave thyself, Earth,
nor press thee downward heavily
afford him easy access,
gently tending him.
Earth, as a mother wraps her skirt
about her child, so cover him.
Following the ecological notion that everything is interconnected, ecological awareness leads to
the ethical question of finding an inner guide for right action, right thought and sustainability.
Heritage ecology, a way of knowing, is provoked as the area of concern which involves
multi-disciplinary and multi-code research emphasising the role and status of human psyche, ethical
values, landscape domain, astronomical perception and related issues which are exposed in human
belief systems and expressed by the symbolism, mythology, ritual practices and deeply rooted
traditions-all leading to experience the Earth Spirit and finally to healing the Earth. Thus, heritage
ecology be expressed as a way of knowing the sacred power of place and a way of understanding and
seeking the roots of ecopsychology which together with spiritual dimension results in the creation of
theosphere and faithscape. Ecopsychology is the spirit inherent in heritage ecology (cf. Devereux
1996). Devereux’s great contributions in this line of thought are serving as Light Tower in this thinking
and approach (see his works: 1990 - 1996, bib.).
Singh, Rana P. B. 1995. Heritage Ecology and Caring for the Earth. NGJI, 41 (2): 191-218. 3
Heritage ecology is deeply conditioned by beliefs about our built nature and destiny and the ways
to follow the path of peace, humankindness and sustainable development -- that is, by religious and
moral ethics. This, as concerned here, includes all material and non-material surroundings accessible to
human beings reflecting interconnectedness where a deep sense of conservation, preservation and
maintenance is involved through Self-realisation and feelings of attachment.
Heritage ecology helps to feel and visualise the sense of place attachment. This concept provides
framework for exploring myriad ways in which people form meaningful relation with places (Lawrence
1992 : 212). In fact, “people invest places with meaning and significance and act as ways that reflect
their bonding and linkage with places” (Werner, Altman and Oxley 1985 : 5). Mythology and rituals
attached to such places preserve the sense of human’s understanding of beingness in the cosmos,
according to their particular, local version of the meaningful, traditional homology-human body : house
: cosmos (Eliade 1959 : 172ff ). This homology is clearly visible at all the holy places and in all the
sacredscapes in India, of course at different degrees. In several cases the intrinsic value of scientific
homology is preserved, e.g. in case of cultural astronomy of solar shrines in Varanasi which has still
closed homology between the spatiality and the sequence of zodiacs resulting to the representation of
months, solstices and vernoxes (cf. Singh and Malville 1995). Similarly, the close alignment between
three-dimensional space and topographical relationship in the Avebury complex is also marked
(Devereux 1991 b). Review on “leys” and associated symbolism and rituals (cf. Devereux 1993 b)
further justify its validity in different countries. After all the recovery of lost meanings and
understanding has been the strong desire of human beings in historical past. We need, following
Eliadian march, a paradigm shift “in order to open up to realms beyond ourselves, which still came to
us existentially, manifesting the dimensions of reality in which we can dwell. Here we would need to
learn to think anew, that is, to attend to and to care for what is given to us ... .” (Mugerauer 1994 : 55).
This is a call for Heritage Ecology.
The paradigm shift in our thought to understand and practise heritage ecology needs a sense of
guidance, mediation between two realms of our everyday life and the extraordinary earth-spirit
possessed at special places in different forms. This shift would shock our present struggle in life,
however awaken us to wider reality. The concept of guidance refers to the sense of returning to the root
meaning in search of identity. Says Appelbaum (1993 : XII): “To guide is to see, to know directly, the
Sanskrit veda comes from the same soil. We are guided by a vision of the whole -- ourselves -- and the
greater whole - the Self’. This vision of guidance is the central point in heritage ecology. This speaks
for the deep sense of belongingness of human being and mutual cohesiveness between the human and
divine realms. Vision is a search for spirits that join our human contradictories in a moment of union.
The practice of heritage ecology, metaphorically be referred as “yoga of place”. Says Anderson
(1986 : 27):
“What would a “yoga of place” be like? Imagine a set of practices similar to yoga which, instead
of seeking to unite us with God, facilitated union with the environment, with the region in which
we live - that is, with divine consciousness as manifested in Mother Earth”.
Anderson (ibid.) explains that such a yoga of place (identical to geomancy !) has always existed
in human history; he further says :
“Such a yoga of place does exist, although its practice has been curtailed in the last two hundred
years. Known as geomancy (literally “divining the Earth Spirit, or the Earth’s energies or
rhythms) it is a kind of yoga for entire cultures -- a set of practices and principles designed to
keep all human activity in harmony with natural patterns, from the rhythms of the seasons to the
universal proportions found in the way all organisms grow. Geomancy seeks the harmonious
placement of cities, buildings and human activities, so that the vitality of the Earth’s life force, its
ch’i or prana, is maintained”.
Singh, Rana P. B. 1995. Heritage Ecology and Caring for the Earth. NGJI, 41 (2): 191-218. 4
That is how “geomancy clearly is that ‘sacred geography’ we need to relearn -- or rather, we need to
understand any basic principles that underlie its various manifestations in different societies and ages”
(Devereux 1993 a : 18). There was a general understanding that in the ancient past when humans were
close to the nature, “the earth was alive with subtle but powerful forces flowing through its body, the
land” ... . [sacred places or places of power, .. ] “Each of these locations had its own quality, tutelary
deity or ‘spirit of place’ -- genius loci. They were points of geographical sanctity” (Devereux 1990:
The temples or shrines were not normally for containing humans, but instead they housed the
image of god, immortal and therefore separate from humans, and were themselves an image, in the
landscape, of his qualities as described in mythologies. Of course, the images and icons are made by
humans in memory and as manifestive form of the historical events. They are still continued and
maintained by sacred journeys and associated rituals thereby. The sacred and symbolic, connection
becomes one like land and people. They attest a deep concern with the earth spirit, with its sacred
geography. The names given refer to the testimony of the historical mythology, which persist and are
archaic, and connote the cultural context they occur in. Heritage ecology is a way of understanding and
experiencing the deeper insights of culture and connections – a search for sacred geography.
In visiting sacredscape we are not dealing with an unending journey back and forth across the
land territory solely in pursuit of experiencing awe and wonder. Instead we are looking at a sacred
journey in which each stage is imbued with sacred significance – the inherent message and in-depth
meaning. We certainly need new maps for another type of geography, another worldview (Devereux
1993 a : 7) which is rooted in and starts from emotional and spiritual connections to place -- an inherent
reality of humanity. Remember that “the important thing about truth is not that it should be naked, but
what clothes suit it best” (Brian 1959: 3). Heritage ecology provides the clothe.
One of the functions of geography is to account for human being as feature of the landscape --
the Earth as home of humankind -- ultimately this is cultural landscape. Almost all the landscapes are
cultural in the sense that they result from human actions on natural givens (physical environs, ecology,
etc.) over historical time. Most landscapes are a result of human action -- or at least they have been
considerably modified by it (Rapoport 1992: 34). Landscapes are discovered by people, only sometimes
created -- through their deep quest to hear the message of earth spirit -- understanding them,
experiencing them, communicating with them. This reminds us that “landscape is a social product, the
consequence of a collective human transformation of nature” (Cosgrove 1984: 14). “The cultural
landscape then is subject to change” says Carl Sauer (1963: 333) “either by the development of a
culture or by a replacement of cultures. The datum line from which change is measured is the natural
condition of the landscape”.
In geography, the “geo-“ refers to the biological idea of mother Earth, Gaia/Geo, and “-graphy”
to a cultural connotation referring to subjective meaning of place: with human interference and
connectedness (e.g. love) space transfers to place. This is a kind of “deep” geography, where
historical-cultural-ecological-landscape concerns altogether make a sense of meaning and
understanding (cf. Parson 1994: 281). This is a recent approach in geographic synthesis. Carl Sauer
(1963: 321) has already professed this during 1920’s: “modem geography is the modem expression of
the most ancient geography”. Lowenthal (1961: 260) opines: “The geography of the world is unified
only by human logic and optics, by the light and colour of artifice, by decorative arrangement, and by
ideas of the good, the true, and the beautiful”. The same is provoked by the Upanishads (Hindu
philosophic text of 3-5th centuries CE): Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram (“The Truth, the Good, and the
Beautiful”). Devereux (1990: 23) notes: “How to give our spirituality a place in the landscape is also a
problem as yet barely addressed by today’s ecological activists”. Let us hope that heritage ecology
would pave the path with passion and peace.
Coming back to the essence of geo is a good returning to Earth, “a return to the understanding
of ourselves and our world, and the relationship existing between mind, body and planet -- each is a
Singh, Rana P. B. 1995. Heritage Ecology and Caring for the Earth. NGJI, 41 (2): 191-218. 5
great complex of its own, and none has clearly defined boundaries” (Devereux 1991 a: 23). This is a
call for ecological awareness, a concern for the incredibly interactive and interdependent web of life on
this planet : the biosphere ... . “heal the Earth” -- an Environmental healing (ibid.: 13; Devereux 1996).
Healing the Earth is the message of heritage ecology. This process of healing requires a specific mode
of conduct, a religion -- in fact a dharma. Says Jarow (1986: 2) “the Indian word dharma like the
Chinese Tao, is essentially untranslatable. It has been spoken of as “religion”, “sacred duty”, “virtue”,
“cosmic order” and so on. Etymologically, it comes from the Sanskrit verbal root/dhri, which means “to
hold”, giving the sense of that which holds everything together ... . The dharma of water is wetness.
The dharma of honey is sweetness ... “. The dharma of place is to sustain the sacred power manifested
therein. The dharma of our culture is to save its heritage ecology -- promoting deeper moral values-the
gateways of knowing the cosmic identity of human beings. Practising heritage ecology is the “yoga of
place” and the sacred journey to the symbol of earth spirit, i.e. heritage. The pioneer of land-ethic,
Leopold’s (1945: 224-225) call is noteworthy in this context:
“A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic
community (human beings). It is wrong when it tends otherwise”.
3. Heritage Ecology and Gaia
If heritage ecology be perceived as a way of knowing, experiencing and feeling towards the
earth-spirit at a site or in a sacredscape, or within a compound of sacred structure, this conceptual
approach certainly postulates its deeper relationship with the life organism and invisible earth-spirit
possessed there. During early 1970s British atmospheric scientist James E. Lovelock developed a
theory of the Earth as a living organism -- life regulates life on Earth. This is how well known as Gaia --
after the name of Greek Earth goddess, Gaia -- the Isis in ancient Egypt, Go in ancient India. Says
Lovelock (1995: 19) : “Gaia, ... , has continuity with the past back to the origin of life, and extends into
the future as long as life persists”. In this line heritage ecology may be accepted as way of
understanding the earth-spirit, however it has more religious and theological tone. Lovelock (1995:
192) reached to the stage where “life itself is a religious experience”, and there does not exist any
dilemma between sacred and secular; in fact this is more a mental construct rather than deep
experiences. He expresses (ibid. : 194):
“Belief in God is an act of faith and will remain so. In the same way, it is otiose to try to prove
that Gaia is alive. Instead, Gaia should be a way to view the Earth, ourselves, and our
relationships with living things”.
The practice of heritage ecology is also an act of ‘faith’, and that is how taken to be an important
part of Gaia theory. Some one argues that Gaia is a myth, but one has to remember that myth is also “a
living reality, directly informing their beliefs, views of universe, social arrangement, rituals - and
landscapes” (Devereux 1992: 7). The basic premise of heritage ecology is to unify the mythic and
scientific, the felt and the factual. Says Oates (1989: 204):
“We can accommodate scientific hedging, questioning, but-if-ing -- as long as there remains
some measure of sober, respectable, usable truth in the possibility. Only then do we feel
connected into the whole world: the world of fact and vision, intellect and experience”.
The sense of sacred beingness resides in all the human beings, however it requires special
awakening for this sense to manifest itself. This sense is sometimes referred as clairvoyance --“clear
seeing” in theosophy. We are so much trivialised by a secular society and materialistic life that the
sense of grasping the inner meanings and mysteries is suppressed, but reality and power are always
there. “Our only hope” says Berry (1992: 129) “is in a renewal of those primordial experiences out of
which the shaping of our move sublime human qualities could take place”. According to English
biologist Sheldrake (1981: 201) ‘the physical world we know is influenced by forces originating in a
different reality, a non-physical reality which can offer a better explanation for our evolution than the
operation of blind chance’.
Singh, Rana P. B. 1995. Heritage Ecology and Caring for the Earth. NGJI, 41 (2): 191-218. 6
The main object of heritage ecology is to understand and experience the sacred power inherent at
a place or landscape, resulting to converge it into sacredscape. This “developed as the result of the
special relationship which an experienced there between cosmic and earthly forces” (Zoeteman 1991:
259). They are the active magnets of earth-spirit where human beings and their culture codes set the
meaning. Human being makes and selects meanings to superimpose at a place -- result of his sense of
humankindness and quest to search his own identity in the web of cosmic interconnectedness. This
process he is operating within his own inherited mandate. To experience this we need rather a deeper
kind of understanding and reverence too.
The Greek idea of mother Earth, Gaia, mother of all, is prayed for all sort of happiness:
Hail, Mother of the gods, wife of starry Heaven ;
freely bestow upon me for this my song substance
that cheers the heart !
And now I will remember you and another song also.
The Homeric Hymns, XXX
(cf. Eliade 1992 : 55).
This is comparable to a prayer in the Atharva Veda (a 10th century BCE text from India):
O mother Earth,
Kindly set me down upon a well-founded place
With (father) heaven co-operating,
O thou wise one, do thou place me into
happiness and prosperity
- The Atharva Veda, XII.1.63 (cf. Eliade 1992 : 40).
In Hindu ancient literature the mother earth is called Go (Sanskrit; in Hindi as “Gai”) and
symbolised as “cow” who provides milk to her understand and experience the sacred power calves in
the form of life substance. Without milk no sacrifice or any ritual offering in Hinduism be completed;
the cow milk as energy of life substance ultimately results to stimulate the divine energy preserved in
the human body. The act of performing rituals at sacredscape / holy centre is a process to establish a
sense of spirit of place to centre oneself in time and space within the context of sacrality and
cosmological integrity. This way is applicable to the Gaia theory and also to heritage ecology when
spiritual dimension is given a contextual root of understanding the nature or the earth-spirit.
The spiritual dimension of heritage ecology together with place-attachment can further be
extended for psychological well-being. Carl Jung’s idea of Anima Mundi, the soul of the world, as
unified totality, a natural force responsible for all the phenomena of life and the psyche, is an inherent
thought to understand the way― the way of symbolism, i.e. symbols associated with heritagescapes (cf.
Bishop 1994: 54-55). In the light of Jung’s exposition that we have lost a world ‘that once pulsed with
our blood and breathed with our breath’ (Jung 1970, X : para 44), Bishop (1994: 61) has firmly come to
the conclusion that ‘Anima Mundi certainly calls into question established notions of what constitutes a
psychological perspective and at the same time offers geography a coherent way of deepening its
concern with a poetics of the World and with its understanding of humanity’s residence on the Earth”.
4. Heritage Ecology: To the Earth Mysteries
Heritage ecology as ‘a way of knowing’ follows a system resulting to holistic view – holism --
where all the parts have their own distinct characteristics in spite of being part of the three, however
together by the unifying principle they form a whole at the end. This is meticulously explained by an
analogy of ‘Earth Mysteries tree’ comprehended by Devereux (1991a). He has explained that as to how
Singh, Rana P. B. 1995. Heritage Ecology and Caring for the Earth. NGJI, 41 (2): 191-218. 7
the seven groups of subjective branches flourish on the top, and at the next level emerges into three
main branches, resulting to give a final shape of three whose roots lie in ‘the Living Earth’ (Fig. 1).
Devereux’s taxonomy and a systems approach would be a guideline for the comprehension and practise
of heritage ecology.
Fig. 1. The Living Earth (after Devereux 1991a: 40-41)
1) Archaeology. This branch refers the perception and cultural image of time as projected onto the
remnants of antiquity -- a product and possessor of our ancestral worldview, which has several
dimensions to see and to understand.
2) Being and Seeing. To get experience of genius loci, the spirit of place, one has to understand the
inherent meaning possessed at a place and the messages conveyed in this respect. To perceive and
Singh, Rana P. B. 1995. Heritage Ecology and Caring for the Earth. NGJI, 41 (2): 191-218. 8
envision such messages, one needs “clear seeing”— clairvoyance, without any preconceived concepts,
“that means being open to feelings as well as to observations …… (ibid. : 88).
3) Ancient Astronomy/ Cultural Astronomy. The association of astronomy and sacredscape is a
traditional one in most of the old cultures. The archaeoastronomical explanations synthesises the
ancient scientific truth and their perceived images used in the society. In case of India, the solar shrines
and their associated myths in Varanasi are compared with the values of Global Positioning System of
satellites (GPS; Garmin GPS-75 Receivers) which shows a very strong correspondence (cf. Singh and
Malville 1995). In fact, astronomy was an element of the spiritual worldview of the archaic societies
involved (Devereux 1992: 126).
4) Sacred Geometry. The perception of cosmic transformation and integration from the heaven
(macrocosm) to the earth (mesocosm) and further to individual shrine or site (microcosm) shows the
hierarchical form of wholeness. When it takes the form of ground plan geometry, called as sacred
geometry. The ancient plan and design of sacred places and sites denote such outline (for several
examples from India, see Singh 1994).
5) Folklore & Mythology. “Myth is the high form of the art, and tells us much about the workings of
the human psyche. Myth, like sacred geometry and measures, is perennial, and relates to our inner lives
now just as much it ever did; it is only that we have lost touch as a culture with the patterns of
consciousness that mythological motifs represent (Devereux 1992 : 155).
6) Seeing and Monitoring at Sites. There Ms been tradition of watching and understanding mysterious
forces manifested at sacred sites of antiquity (ibid. : 169). Certainly there exists some
extrasensory-perception element in human sensitivities. Many examples and details of sporadic physical
monitoring of prehistoric sites are described in Devereux (1990, 1993a).
7) Geomancy. Descending at he second level of the Earth Mysteries Tree, the issue of integrated
aspects of ancient sites is taken into account. Geomancy is a kind of yoga for entire cultures-a way to
keep human activity in harmony with nature; in a geomagnetic paradigm the seat of divinity, Mother
Earth, is perceived as comprising both matter and spirit” (Anderson 1986: 27).
8) Correspondence and Symbolism. If geometry and number represent the ultimate systems language,
then correspondence and its close companion symbolism represent the oldest and most profound form
of systems thinking (Devereux 1990 : 227). They are, in fact, deduced from nature itself, for example
the numerical symbolism and its correspondence to the astronomical cognition.
9) Use of Sites. From shamanism and ritual acts to the pilgrimages and recently tourism -- all define the
special use of all the sacredscapes and sites. Pilgrimage is a shared story of understanding through the
gates of dharma; similarly other uses too.
10) Energies. The above last three together ultimately distil down to a question of energies of some
kind-universal force. This ‘force’ is really a deeper dimension of geomancy and also human psychic
and spiritual relationship with it (ibid. 294).
11) The living Sacred Earth. After all let us guess at how deep and how far its roots are in making the
Earth as living organism. The transpersonal experience is one of the ways to get experience of inherent
earth-spirit. In the vein of Naess’s philosophical sense of deep ecology (transpersonal ecology) is
suggested as a distinctive approach to ecophilosophy and be worthwhile to apply in this context (cf. Fox
1990: 204). About the sacred living nature of earth Mitchell (1989: 4) rightly suggests :
“The earth was sacred, not because pious people chose so to regard it, but because it was in fact
ruled by spirit, by the creative powers of the universe, manifest in all the phenomena of nature,
shaping the features of the landscape, regulating the seasons, the cycles of fertility, the lives of
animals and men”.
Singh, Rana P. B. 1995. Heritage Ecology and Caring for the Earth. NGJI, 41 (2): 191-218. 9
Says Devereux (1990: 308):
“Our culture has to develop what will be for it new understandings about both mind and planet.
That synthesis is essential if the Global Tribe is to survive”
And finally (ibid.)
“These ‘new’ sets of connections have to be made, if we are to reorient our worldview. The
ancient, sacred places can help us make them”.
5. Heritage - A Cultural Resource
Heritage will be ‘explained’ in terms of roots, and of ‘our’ ‘deep’ glories of the past. A person
could at least commune with special places of power where one can see “his heritage evolves from
within, a heritage which could be shared with the whole community sharing together, along with an
understanding of sacred geography” (Jarow 1986: 11). It is also realised that “ancient sites are places of
learning; repositories of knowledge about former understanding of our planet and our relationship with
it’ (Devereux 1990: 54).
The word “heritage” is commonly used in a broad sense involving both natural and cultural
milieu and in extended form it also includes the ideas, beliefs, and ways of life that people value and
use when faced with change-above all the link to intimate relationship between human psyche and
Among the attributes identifying the intimate relationship between human faith and landscape
the sacramental attitudes to particular sites lead to form sacred place/sacredscapes-as highly manifested
and sacral-symbolic form (Singh 1993c: 297; cf. Singh 1995: 96-104). Although the degree of
sacredness and values attached are highly variable, sacred space implies particular attachment to place
(Norton 1989: 127). Religion is a major factor and has the capacity to endow space with sacred
meaning, broadly categorised into three groups (Jackson and Henrie 1983: 95):
(a) Mystic-religious spaces
-- associated with religious or other experiences inexplicable through conventional means.
(b) Homelands or Temples as sacred spaces
-- representing the roots of each individuals, family, people or believers.
(c) Historical sacred spaces
-- representing sites which have been assigned activity as a result of an event occurring there.
All the sacred spaces vary according to the special sense attached to them depending on how
“sacred” the space is -- persons, cultures or faiths, and the intensity of attraction at a sacred place as
centre of pilgrimage. In India, the holy centres, sacred sites and centres of pilgrimages are almost
identical and together in a complex way represent the archetype-mysticism built structure, historicity
and faithscape – to be understood and explained through the framework of heritage ecology. Therefore
to know our past and to link past with the present and future the preservation of heritage environment
becomes necessary. How the heritage environment affects the everyday lives of the people who use it --
that is how it affects them in an immediate sense through their eyes, ears, nose and skin (Lynch 1976:
3-4). This is why they can be viewed with reference to sensory quality (cultural attitudes toward
looking and feeling), social importance (place and attachment to the society) and management and
preservation (need imperative, today and tomorrow). This is not so important what and how is they
important at present, it is more important to take lesson from them. Each tradition can learn from the
other. Lynch (1976: 6) suggests that “preservation of cultural heritage than creating a new heritage
symbol, and with management more than design” needs to be accepted as prime goal. In fact, one has to
remember that, “no place remains unchanged except heaven, hell, and outer space, and none those is fit
for human beings” (ibid. : 72).
Singh, Rana P. B. 1995. Heritage Ecology and Caring for the Earth. NGJI, 41 (2): 191-218. 10
Cultural heritage to be seen to embody human feelings developed within the historical-cultural
processes and to be studied for a deeper and hidden truth while interpreting it in terms of intrinsic
meanings and reverence. “It is the duty of every individuals,” writes Cosgrove (1984: 249) “to observe
and seek to understand the message written by divinity into natural forms and that individual life and
work to submit to them”. One has to remember that “the ‘essence’ of landscape runs beyond the
intention of observing form and morphology within the limit of scientific insight, rather to grasp a truth
which is yielded in the active engagement of the human subject with its object of contemplation” (ibid. :
As an individual and social being, the cultural heritage remains integral to us all as “it is
assimilated in ourselves and resurrected into an ever-changing, present” (Lowenthal 1985: 412).
Lowenthal has further put it modestly: “The urge to preserve derives from several interrelated
presumptions: that the past was unlike the present; that its relies are necessary to our identity desirable
in themselves; and that tangible remain are a finite and dwindling commodity” (ibid. : 389). This way
cultural heritage is a resource. The cultural man is he who knows his past from who he learns lessons.
The idea of cultural heritage as resource was proposed by the World Heritage Trust convention and was
adopted in 1972 by the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural
Cultural heritage sites are the true representative of the divine order and human’s deep faith
involvement, that is how it may be accepted as religious ‘resource’, but it has scientific, recreational,
aesthetic, economic and sacramental values too. At a sacrosanct or holy place one can get nearness to
ultimacy. In fact, “the cultural-symbolisation capacity of nature is no accident but has been a repeated
feature in the myriad cultures on Earth” (Rolston 1988: 16). Nevertheless, “we are kept pilgrims and
pioneers on a frontier, and to travel hopefully is better than to arrive. Meanwhile, this much as least we
do value: that nature is endlessly stimulating to the mind, and bores only the ignorant or the insensitive”
(Rolston 1989: 89).
Cultural heritage offers a richer source of environmental well being in terms of deep attachment
of human being to the nature where lies the human identity and will for continuity and existence. Carl
Jung had already acknowledged spirituality as an integral aspect of human nature and a vital force in
human life. To realise and reveal that vital force, one is bound to preserve the cultural heritage resource
-- the form of spiritual landscape. Following Confucius’ wisdom, Swan (1992: 233) has established the
idea of cosmic integrity: “Heaven directs things, the earth produces, and man co-operates to create
6. World Heritage Cities: The UNESCO Scale
In 1972 in the General Conference of the UNESCO has been formed the World Heritage Trust
Convention with the intention to foster ‘preservation and restoration of outstanding culture and natural
areas of the world”. By the end of January 1992 the World Heritage List counts 360 sites, in 80
countries, with more being added annually from widely separated geographic regions of the world. The
World Heritage symbol (Fig. 2) shows integration of nature and culture, and also integration.
The World Heritage, UNESCO
This emblem symbolises the Interdependence of cultural and natural
properties: the central square is a form created by man and the circle
represents nature, the two being intimately linked. The emblem is
round like the World, but at the same time it is a symbol of
(© Unesco, 1978).
Fig. 2. The mono of the World Heritage, UNESCO.
Singh, Rana P. B. 1995. Heritage Ecology and Caring for the Earth. NGJI, 41 (2): 191-218. 11
Presently a proliferation of international agencies attests the global character of concern for
tangible heritage and its preservation; among them notables are: the International Council of Museums
(ICOM), the International Council of Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), the International Center for the
Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM), the International Institute
for Conservation of Historic and Architecture Works (IIC-HAW), the World Heritage Convention
(WHQ, and Sacred Sites International Foundation (SSIF). Efforts to develop heritage programme and
heritage resource conservation are promoted by these agencies in different ways and on priority basis in
various parts of the globe.
The UNESCO-IUCN’s publication, Masterworks of Man and Nature (1992), covers highlights of 337
World Heritage Sites (WHS) illustrated with nearly 400 colour photographs, excluding short notes on
23 sites. The WHS Committee provides a. detailed criteria for the establishment of the List, the basic
criteria are (UNESCO 1992):
(a) A Cultural monument must for example be authentic and have exerted great architectural influence
or bear unique witness, or be associated with ideas or beliefs of universal significance, or it may be an
outstanding example of a traditional way of life that represents a certain culture.
(b) A Natural site may exemplify a stage of the earth’s evolutionary process, or be representative of
biological evolution, or contains, the natural habitats of endangered animals. It may be a scene of
exceptional beauty, a spectacular view or a reserve for large numbers of wild animals.
The WHS Committee applies these criteria rigorously in order to present the List becoming too long or
turning into a simple checklist of all the places that countries would like to see on it (UNESCO 1992).
Further, when a site or monument on the List is seriously and specifically endangered, it may be put on
a complementary List called the List of World Heritage in Danger which provides help for emergency
measures. For the implementation of various programmes and funding the World Heritage Fund is
created which allows calling upon the international support for the conservation of the cultural and
natural wonders on the List.
In the latest International Symposium on World Heritage Towns (4 July 1991; Quebec City, Canada),
as presidential address Arpin (1993: 555-56) proposed six precise criteria with an aim to integrate the
importance of other charters, declarations, and conventions:
* to represent a unique artistic accomplishment, a masterpiece of man’s creative spirit;
* to have exerted a considerable influence in a given period or throughout a given cultural area upon the
development of architecture, the monumental arts, or the organisation or space;
* to bear witness, in a unique or at least in an exceptional way, to dead civilisation;
* to constitute an eminent example of a type of architectural construction or ensemble illustrating a
significant historical period;
* to constitute an eminent example of a traditional human habitat, one that is representative of a culture
and that has become vulnerable as result of irreversible change; and
* to be directly and materially associated with events, ideas, or beliefs having exceptional universal
# The cultural monuments and heritage sites are chosen on the following criteria simplified by the
UNESCO-IUCN (1992: 12) as:
* Constitute a unique achievement
* Have exercised considerable influence at a certain period
Singh, Rana P. B. 1995. Heritage Ecology and Caring for the Earth. NGJI, 41 (2): 191-218. 12
* Provide evidence of a civilisation which has disappeared
* Illustrate a significant historical period
* Constitute an outstanding example of a traditional way of life
* Be associated with ideas or beliefs or universal significance.
# The natural heritage properties are chosen on the following criteria:
* Illustrate a stage in the Earth’s evolution
* Represent ongoing geological processes
* Constitute remarkable natural formations of areas of exceptional natural beauty
* Contain the natural habitats of endangered species.
In the above context three basic meanings to a- historical encounter to preservation of heritage
sites need to be taken into consideration (Arpin 1993: 553):
(1) a political meaning -- to assume responsibility for the decisions.
(2) a cultural meaning -- to save cultural rootedness and sense of continuity.
(3) a didactic meaning -- to promote citizen’s participation.
The varieties of all such meanings can be stored in symbols (the cultural identity) among
which “sacred symbols are particularly powerful because they legitimate. They relate ontology and
cosmology to morality and ethics, identify with values at the most fundamental level” (Rapoport 1982 :
80). Heritage cities preserve the memory of history through symbols; a living mythology is not enough,
rather an active symbol with continuity and people’s faith and involvement are important.
In the First Conference of the WHS-UNESCO in 1972 the following preamble was projected :
“For a long time, nature and culture were perceived as opposing elements in that man was supposed to
conquer a hostile nature, which culture symbolised spiritual values. However, nature and culture are of
course complementary: the cultural identity of different people has been forged in the environment in
which they live and, frequently, the most beautiful man-made Works owe part of their beauty to their
natural surroundings. Moreover, some of the most spectacular natural sites bear the imprint of centuries
of human activity”
7. Heritage Resource Conservation
The places and monuments which preserve human history of value assessment and deep
feelings of the nature’s mystery need to be preserved and conserved around the three basic themes
(Shepard 1976 : 235-271) :
(1) Landscape threatened -- the frontier was coming to an end and new attitudes toward nature, land and
resources were emerging;
(2) Landscape transcendental -- the inspirational qualities of the natural landscape were idealised in
literature and art;
(3) Landscape triumphant -- there was a continuing search for the aspects of country-level experience
which reinforced national identity and cultural distinctiveness.
Under the pace of population pressure, economic scarcity, attitudes toward technocracy and
materialism and priority consideration for livelihood, the following nine thematic issues with respect
to heritage resource conservation are suggested under subsequent communications:
1. The Transformation of traditional ways of life: technocracy, population movement,
commercialisation, desire for modernisation, and exerted pressure for land speculation.
Singh, Rana P. B. 1995. Heritage Ecology and Caring for the Earth. NGJI, 41 (2): 191-218. 13
2. Urban Development and Conservation : need for conservation management, harmonising action and
3. Financing: budget augmentation, financial links, ongoing quest for financial solutions, integrated
4. Citizen’s Involvement: collective action, subscribing to the decisions, educational programme and
5. Architecture and Restoration: norms, laws and charters; guidelines based upon shared experience and
concern with history, morphology and materials -- to preserve city’s rhythms, harmonies and
6. Traffic: size of the city, needs, situation, specific problems concerning movement in and around the
sites and monuments.
7. Tourism: desirability and historic preservation, expectation and fulfilment; rational needs and
maintenance of balance.
8. Expertise: need for technical expertise having deep feelings and technical knowledge both, and
9. Forming Networks: contacts and interaction, exchange of information, regional meetings and specific
commissions and agencies, institution for systematic co-ordination.
The highest form of man-nature relationship is the experiences of the sacred environments. They
“are an attempt to get closer to the divine, by ordering it more, making it a more perfect expression ....
Sacred environments conform closest to an ideal, for they are the most ordered” (Rapoport 1982: 78).
India has a rich tradition of sacredscapes distributed all-over India. These places have unique earth
wisdom, called “spirit of place” (genius loci) – something human sensuous organism can easily reveal
and accepts. These places need special care for preservation “as they have power to inspire, people for
experiencing mystical or transpersonal nature” (Swan 1992: 197).
From the snow-peaks of the source in the Himalaya to the meeting point in the Indian Ocean,
2,525 km long the Ganga (Ganges) river is perhaps the most sacred river body and also the most used
and misused sacred shrine in the world (Swan 1990: 32). Only after walking along the Ganga’s bank
one realises and their great-great-grandfathers once walked that very bank and had certain experiences,
manifestation and revelation. Revealing the Ganga as the living organism requires specific forms of
communication, interaction and environmental sensitivity and transpersonal-ecological feelings. That is
how the Ganga is known as the mother.
The Ganga provides specific power where one goes to make a direct contact with the Great Spirit
which flows through all life-stream, visible and invisible. That is how the Ganga is sacred and
holy-heritage, hence to be respected, protected, preserved and used property. However, only a living
mythology is not enough: its real understanding and preservation are the h needs and call of the time --
a call of heritage ecology.
The sacredscapes and heritage places may be broadly categorised into three groups (cf. Swan
1991: 64-66) :
(1) Human-crafted Sacred Buildings:
temples in association with uniqueness of a specific locality.
Singh, Rana P. B. 1995. Heritage Ecology and Caring for the Earth. NGJI, 41 (2): 191-218. 14
(2) Cosmologically Ordered Sacred Sites:
by condensing the cosmos into a smaller sphere, its laws can be observed and experienced more
clearly and human lives can be placed more accurately in accord with them.
(3) Socio-politically Oriented Sacred Sites:
Without special making, known for mystic beauty of sacred architecture drawn in terms of some
These three types of sacred places exist in the consciousness of early earth worship and search for
man’s harmonious relationship with the nature’s cosmic mysteries. The special sense of heritage
conservation be for the human peace and search for his cosmic integrity: “Care for the place and it will
care for you” (Swan 1990: 219).
Sacred places in transpersonal context and human’s deep faith are seen as “touchstones of cultura1
integrity, serving as inspirational points for health, creativity and religious worship”, (Swan 1991: 8-9);
however all around the world sacred places are in trouble. There exists a relationship between the
noumenal world of invisible spiritual beings and the phenomenal, physical world of perception. Since
sacred schemata and meanings are deeply involved in any, culture, the environmental ethics and spirit
of place there, can be understood only in such contexts.
There is also an issue of experiential feeling, ‘value assessment and faith. Says Simone Weil
(1971 : in Dooling 1986 : 11), “Our age has as its own particular mission or vocation, the creation of a
civilisation founded upon the spiritual nature of work”. (Jungian idea) of ‘synchronicity’ is the “first
law” of ecology; it is the idea that everything is related to everything else in the universe. Ecopiety is
that moral fibre of man which weaves together all things both living and non-living. It is made up of the
yang of homopiety and yin of geopiety as complementary’ (Jung and Pung 1989 : 86).
Above all, from all forms of human enterprise while promoting the quality of life, people’s
participation and development of moral ethics are pre-requisites. Further, allocation of funds and
institutional establishment like voluntary and governmental agencies are the other necessary measures.
Humans’ “sensory quality is clearly related to the history of place. Place character is the result of
historical evolution, and thinking of how to conserve or enhance that character is illuminated by
knowing how it came to be and what historical forces still sustain it” (Lynch 1976: 72). “Preservation
thus promises ecological thrift along with heritage and environmental felicity” (Lowenthal 1985 : 400).
With the increasing domain of human interference, cultural and natural heritage and sites are threatened
by degradation! Heritage cities and sites are all monuments and places where spendour enriches each
and every one of us. Their disappearance would thus be an irreparable loss, their preservation concerns
us all. Conservation of our cultural heritage is part of the movement to save the Earth, so to say
preserving the symbol of the Living Sacred Earth.
Conservation Methodology. The conservation strategy needs a single integrated, inter-professional
methodology co-ordinating a range of aesthetic, historic, scientific and technical studies as
multidisciplinary activity. The practical aspect of conservation varies in scale and extent of
intervention. In broad perspective, say for example architectural work requires four aspects of
considerations: (a) treatment of material in terms of local availability of materials, ravages of time and
weather, (b) scale of operations while considering the complexity and size, (c) the dilemma between
complexity, and communal and supervision, and (d) consideration of the context of historic structure,
incorporating site, setting and physical environment (Feilden 1993a: 2).
Value Judgement. In conservation strategy, while defining the objective and methodological
orientation the identity of “values” and our feelings in the object are also a follow-up task. The value
can be defined under the three broad categories: (a) Emotional -- this includes wonder, continuity,
veneration, symbolic value, and spiritual feelings and related values, (b) Cultural -- this consists of
Singh, Rana P. B. 1995. Heritage Ecology and Caring for the Earth. NGJI, 41 (2): 191-218. 15
aesthetic, artistic, art and historical, documentary, archaeological, and age values, and (c) Use values --
referring to functional and fundamental characteristics. Other values also be evaluated and taken into
account include architectural, scientific, landscapic, townscapic, economical, socio-political, etc.
(Feilden 1993 a: 3-7).
Above all, “there is need to develop a holistic approach to our heritage on the basis of cultural
pluralism and diversity respected by professionals, craft-persons and administrators. Conservation
requires the ability to observe, analyse and synthesise” (ibid. : 9).
8. Pilgrimage: Return from Tourism to Heritage Ecology
Tourism is frequently thought of as handmaiden for conservation of natural and cultural heritage.
However, tourism also has many destructive effects upon environmental and socio-economic systems
of heritage (Nelson, Butler and Wall 1991). There is an urgent need for sustainable perspective
promoting pilgrimage-tourism with respect to integrating economic, socio-cultural and environmental
concern, and above all considering its adjustment together with the local traditions. Remember that
when tradition is totally ignored, the result can be an environmental and cultural disaster (Orland and
Bellaflore 1990: 94). In fact, in most of the developing countries the sacred site and heritage sites are
subjected to extraordinary economic pressures and change in lack of sustainable approach and
realization by the local inhabitants and authorities. No system of proper monitoring and assessment is
accepted in this direction. In any sort of heritage planning the role of citizens is very crucial, either in
consideration of social, economic, political and aesthetic dimensions, or heritage zoning (cf. Nelson and
Alder 1993 b). The basic ideology behind the heritage conservation and promotion of
pilgrimage-tourism be the rational sharing of the past for the future-a global concern for all of us (cf.
Nelson and Alder 1993a). Heritage is, of course, seen as a source of income through tourists’ visit― a
fundamental component of economy, however the tourism should be in the I , ine of preservation of
cultural heritage and revival of the traditions and values involved therein (cf. Legendre-De Konink
There appears constant tension between personal needs and social responsibilities. For
methodological orientation, the frame of behavioural cultural ecology may be applied which
incorporates : (a) the dialectic of the individual and the community, (b) the interplay of individual and
collective decision in management, or change, and (c) encoding of past experience in cultural
institutions and values as transmitted through several levels and several phases of the past (Butzer 1994
In the line of experiencing more deeper feelings as generally described in the sacred ecology, the
modem way of tourism – only exploiting the richness of insight and beauty -- should be replaced by
pilgrimage. This does not mean to return back to naive tradition or any sort of fundamentalism. One has
to remember that “pilgrimage is a rhythm of awakening, a root pulse that carries with it the codings of
all our becomings. It is a yeasting in the searching soul” (Houston 1993: 1). Pilgrimage is a journey into
larger reality, an initiation that leads to a union, or continuity with powers and principalities beyond
one’s little local self (cf. bibliography, Singh 1987). As a pilgrim, one becomes part of an extended
larger eco-system, a larger ecology of Being -- experiencing a unified reality of nature-spirit and human
psyche. The programmes and plan promoting pilgrimage-tourism should be in the light of experiencing
Living Sacred Earth -- re-establishment and re-search of the values involved and revival of such
traditions and festivities with the support of local and private stewardship (cf. Nelson and Woodley
Peter Dawkins (1995) in “The Art Pilgrimage” expresses the overall spectrum of its rootedness,
meanings and messages (see the Box).
Pilgrimage is an art which brings peace to the soul.
Pilgrims are bearers of love, which they carry to special places of the earth.
Singh, Rana P. B. 1995. Heritage Ecology and Caring for the Earth. NGJI, 41 (2): 191-218. 16
By holding a joyful consciousness of this love and of the beauty of these places, pilgrims
encourage the natural energies of the earth to flow harmoniously.
Pilgrims are guided by a wisdom based on both intuition and an understanding of the energy routes
and sacred places of power in the world.
The gifts of love, hope and joy are inestimable.... They have the power to heal and transform all
To be a pilgrim is to be a friend with the earth, with the Divine and with all levels of life....
-- Peter Dawkins
While explaining the basic idea behind founding the Gatekeepers Trust, Martino (1995 : 5)
expresses that “by exploring and renewing our spiritual relationship with the Earth through Pilgrimage,
we may experience the transformative affect that is known between individuals and the living Earth”
…. “The Ancient Tree, the historic Cathedral, Ley lines and Stone Circles stand as a silent visual
testimony of a Living Sacred Earth receiving and providing a rich and conscious energy of care and
celebration that is Light.... That IS LEFE.”
Sir Walter Raleigh (1552-1618) in his poem “The Passionate Man’s Pilgrimage” presented a
sense of silence and human psyche and a pilgrim’s wish for sacred journey :
Give me my scallop shell of quiet,
My staff of faith to walk upon,
My scrip of joy, immortal diet,
My bottle of salvation,
My gown of glory, hope’s true gage,
And thus I’ll take my pilgrimage.
9. Heritage and Sustainable Development: An Ethical View
Heritage as economic resource is an object of promoting tourism. Tour organisers and tourist
agencies regard cultural heritage as an item to be exploited. On the other hand, the development and
governmental agencies at most of the levels fail to plough back profits into conservation. Subsequently
over-promotion of tourism led to encourage unthinking commercialism and disastrous effects on natural
beauty and the centuries-old rhythm of community life. With the increasing pace of modem tourism,
lacking of maintenance of heritage ecology, the heritage environment becomes a major threat of
There is somewhere an ethical gap in promoting tourism. In fact, that should have been promoted
in the light of religious perspective of tourism-pilgrimage with a view to maintaining the spirit of
sustainability. Feilden in his keynote speech at the first International Symposium on World Heritage
Cities, 1991 has rightly warned us:
What we do today will be the history of tomorrow and ultimately it is by history that we are judged.
Civilising the city is now a vital cultural question. “Where there is no vision the people perish”
We need to experience the vision in the spirit of sustainability. However, such issues are
primarily concerned with moral understanding and ‘Self-realisation’. Alas! Increasing pace of
‘ethical-and-moral pollution’ is slowly threatening cultural sense and identity of humankindness (cf.
A question always comes to our mind whether in the face of all these modem changes the
heritage site can retain those qualities of the spirit that have made it a magnetic place! May one hope
that the preservation of those qualities must derive from those old impulses of the tradition and belief
which have made the glory of sacredscape the powerful symbol of that rich cultural heritage. One may
also hope for reviving the sense of belongingness in the light of ecoethics for preserving the age-old
Singh, Rana P. B. 1995. Heritage Ecology and Caring for the Earth. NGJI, 41 (2): 191-218. 17
intangible spirit of sustainability, and for recognising our identity in the context of heritage sites.
Ecoethics is a moral feeling to behave in a way to help others-a justice for all ecological cosmology,
that is ecojustice. Says Skolimowski (1990: 101), “Ecojustice as justice for all is a consequence of our
ecological cosmology, of the idea of responsibility for all, and of the perception of the
interconnectedness of all”. We need the Self-realisation for responsibility – “a spiritual bridge which
makes of rationality human rationality, and of ethics a nourishing river for the meaning of our lives”
(ibid. : 100).
Disappearing trend of man-nature-cosmic relationship is one of the basic causes for the present
environmental crisis we are facing today. In Indian tone it is referred as ‘ethical-and-moral pollution’,
or crisis-replacing the old value system of sustainability by materialism and consumerism. It seems that
during the past 700 years of foreign cultural domination-superseded by Muslim culture and the British
Christianity-the ancient Hindu value system has lost its many facets, nevertheless the seeds are still
preserved in some forms of religious ethics and related performances. We certainly need the public
awareness march (Chetna march) !
Awakening mass awareness in the context of old cultural values would promote a new spirit of
sustainability. However, such a revival need not turn into fundamentalism; .... that should not cause any
damage to the secularism. Gandhi has warned us that ‘nature has enough for everybody’s need not for
everybody’s greed’ (cf. Dwivedi 1990: 211).
The environmental problems result from people living out of harmony with nature. Realising the
deeper nature of things, the cosmic integrity to be re-searched as intrinsic value. Most of the great
religious thoughts, including Hinduism, have a very strong sense of spirituality of place. It commu-
nicates the feelings about the specialness of place. Spirit of place certainly influence the unconscious in
certain predictable ways, what Carl Jung calls “psychic localisation”. Says Swan (1992: 225): “The
spirit of place is the result of the interplay between the spiritual world and nature, and the collective
product of the interactions of the people of that area too. When they all come into harmony, the spirit of
place can really work its magic best”.
According to Hindu theology everywhere exists spirit-of-place, imbuing the earth and the heaven
with its unique and ineradicable sense of rhythm, mood, and character; the experience of this results to
variety of local forms of faith and traditions derived from it, however the fundamental ethic of
reverence is everywhere. But disturbing the spirit and misusing the holiness of place bring calamity to
society. If the harmony is disturbed the spirit of place decreases its power of sanctity of life.
The spirit of sustainability defines development depending upon the emergence of holistic
understanding and action in every section of society (Engel 1990: 20). The meaning of action is
determined by the deeper principle of intrinsic value this action serves. After all, intrinsic value requires
a new moral thought, of course rooted in place and tradition. Says Tuan (1984: 9), “We need to be
rooted in place, for without roots we cannot develop those habits and routines that are essential
component of sanity. We need to have a sense of place, because without it we shall have failed to use
our unique capacity of appreciation”.
To cite an example from India. The Ganga river is perceived as mysterious life force for Hindu
culture-the basis of the spirit of sustainability. It has special sacred value or power seemingly universal.
It once served to energise the human mind into a state of unitive, intuitive consciousness where the
boundaries between the spiritual and material planes of life meet. The Ganga was believed to contain an
extra ‘energy’-unusual environmental fields. But where have gone all these qualifies and values, and
who are responsible ? Ultimately we are
We want to possess the sacred without owing the ordinary. Trying to receive power of the
heritage sites we want the direct experience of body touch, e.g. to bathe. As a result, inevitably we look
beyond everything without seeing it for what it is. That is why a preparatory and special rite and mode
of human psyche are prescribed before entering to the territory of sacredscape. Only then one can get
more close experience of touch and feeling. However, the only those can get that experience who have
deep faith. The reverence and faith of people to the cultural heritagescape and an integral part of their
traditions should be respected and added to the World Conservation Strategy. The nearby inhabitants
and their belief in the sacredness of heritage sites should be made part and parcel of the conservation
Singh, Rana P. B. 1995. Heritage Ecology and Caring for the Earth. NGJI, 41 (2): 191-218. 18
The Ganga river (in India) as natural an cultural resource is under constant threat from the effects
of underdevelopment or ill-advised development, some ignorantly and some intentionally for the
present need. I saw the light along the Ganga-bank; I suddenly realised that was my home, where the
earth spirit meets the divine -- the revelation of life. Alas! Now the feeling of attachment is superseded
by consumerism. Attachment to a place is a pre-requisite for developing a sense of the spirit of place.
This sense of attachment provides emotional and spiritual sustainability to both individuals and the
community. Attachment is an existential and phenomenological experience. The key to the future is in
the commitment of human habitants living there and maintains the sense of attachment (cf. Singh
Reverence -- sanctity of life as deeper vision, responsibility -- the connecting link between ethics
and rationality, frugality -- grace without waste and promotion for others, and ecojustice -- value
specific ecological cosmology, altogether form the minimal core of intrinsic values for right
conservation and preservation of the spirit of sustainability (as advocated by Skolimowski 1990:
100-102). In fact, reverential development is unitary in the broadest and deepest sense, combining
reverence and sanctity of life to contemporary economic, social, moral, cultural and traditional premises
to bring peace and harmony with the nature (Skolimowski 1990: 103). The fact that they may be
difficult to implement in practice in no way negates their importance and desirability.
Paraphrased Carl Jung’s provoking should be taken as a moral and ethical concern for the
People of our earth would never find true peace until they could come into a harmonious
relationship with and deep feelings of reverence to the heritagescapes who are the cradle and
identity of our culture and civilisation since time immemorial.
10. Heritage Resource Studies: Institutional Initiatives
Several institutions at national and international level are involved in promoting heritage studies
and conservation in different capacity and in different ways. Some of them are highlighted in the BOX.
The World Archaeological Congress (started since 1986 and held at every four years; 3rd held at Delhi
in Dec. 1994) acknowledges that the identification and conservation of sacred sites are of major concern
to all the people of the world; its proceedings on this theme shows the varieties of regional concern,
lacking a coherent umbrella for a common march (cf. Carmichael, et el. 1994).
11. Heritage Resource Conservation a view from India
With a view to promoting dialogue between tradition and modernity and cultural preservation, the
Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) is actively engaged in heritage
preservation. The concept of “cultural heritage zone” refers beyond more buildings and artefacts of
culture; it also includes a spatial-territorial approach to integrate the monuments with people’s faith and
performance system (sacred ecology). The basic idea behind this approach is “placemaking.”
The cultural heritage zone is similar in concept to the European historic town centre and the
North American historic district, and implied in Indian context with additive thrust on preservation,
overall maintenance, sustainable development, provision of recreation, and maintenance of land
reserves. The planning of Cultural Heritage Zone is to be guided by the broad principles and objectives
of conservation of urban historic areas, as summarised by the ICOMOS (cf. Menon 1989: 6):
* For the conservation of a historic town to be most effective it should be an integral part of a coherent
policy of economic and social development and of urban and regional planning.
* The values to be preserved include the historic character of the historic town and all those material
and spatial elements that create this character, especially:
-- the urban pattern and network;
-- buildings and green and open spaces;
-- appearance and morphology of buildings;
Singh, Rana P. B. 1995. Heritage Ecology and Caring for the Earth. NGJI, 41 (2): 191-218. 19
-- natural and cultural regional settings; and
-- Changing role of a historic city and consequences.
* The participation and the involvement of the towns-people of every age is essential for the success of
the conservation programme and must be encouraged. The conservation of historic towns concerns first
and foremost residents.
* Conservation in an historic town demands prudence, sensitivity and precision without rigidity, since
each case presents a specific problem.
These outlines need modification in Indian condition, as they do not easily fit to our situation.
The INTACH had undertaken a heritage preservation plan for the Ganga Ghats, Varanasi, and finally a
Master Plan of the entire stretch of the Ghats was framed. It is obvious through this study that an
understanding of the characteristics of the heritage of the Ghats provides the appropriate framework for
a planning intervention (Menon 1989: 14). A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity,
stability and beauty of the site as living organism.
A collaborative Indo-US team performed another study of cultural heritage conservation and
planning for Sarnath (VDA & DLA 1990). Accepting Sarnath as a microcosm of the cultural heritage of
India, attempt was made to integrate tradition and modernity in a complementary manner: preserve the
past, introduce the modem where both can fit easily to make harmonic continuity of the past. The
proposed Master Plan is in accord to the heritage conservation, environmental sensibility, people’s
involvement, users’ feelings and the need for the site as a very important tourist centre (ibid.; also Sinha
In this context Sinha (1991: 30) remarks that a sacred place is not viewed for aesthetic
appreciation only (although that may be a part of it) but is also associated with transcendental
experience. Therefore its environmental manipulation should be handled extremely sensitively with full
awareness of religious history and contemporary cultural meanings.” All such sites and places which
are living cultural treasures are the heritage of our existence, therefore must be preserved and
maintained. Of course, there exists a line of thought that heritage preservation is a luxury expandable,
but it is only and marginally true when times are hard. One has to remember that “a principal aim of
culture is to extend the realm of the familiar at the expense of nature and strange” (Tuan 1986: 16).
Following Lawrence’s (1923) provoking that ‘spirit of place’ is a great reality, to understand
earth mysteries and wisdom, heritage ecology is a necessary vision. We may separate ourselves from
the web of our heritage in the line of modern secularism, but it would always be in the heart and soul of
ourselves. One has to remember that modern science and way of life, and ancient wisdom and its
message can work together to help in searching harmonious and peaceful path of mankind’s integrity
with nature. Our heritage sites tell the history, possibilities and future prospects of our existence and
continuity. Heritage is the mirror of mankind’s growth, progress and prospects; that must be preserved.
This ideology should be taken as an environmental ethics having heritage ecology at the core.
12. Epilogue: From Perspective to Appeal
“A religion is one that teaches respect for the dignity and sanctity of all nature. The wrong
religion is one that licenses the indulgence of human greed at the expense of non human nature”
(Toynbee and Ikeda 1976: 324). We need a religion which promotes pantheism, variety of forms, and
variety of inherent meanings as exemplified in Hinduism where all form of nature and its objects are
manifested with a distinct sanctity, and someway at some point accepted as part of worship. The moral
ethics and religious values provoked in almost all the religions agree that there is one true religion,
which is to do justice, and love mercy and walk humbly with that earth spirit-sacred power/God (Clark
1994: 127). Heritage ecology is vision and way in this.
The question of moral ethics extends beyond the human greed and interest at a time; in fact it
gives a way by which one can pass on the heritage to the human generations of tomorrow. Remember
that in lack of realisation and awareness we have been responsible for destroying and degrading our
Singh, Rana P. B. 1995. Heritage Ecology and Caring for the Earth. NGJI, 41 (2): 191-218. 20
symbols of culture and civilisation -- our heritage. In loss of this symbol, how our children and
children’s children may respectfully remember their ancestors’ great achievements and creativity.
We are more threatened by the erosion of culture. Should we not re-think to survive at least
those festivities related to the earth spirit, power of place and preserving our heritage ecology by
celebrating the religious festivities and rituals which symbolise the communionship of human being
with the cosmic spirit. So now let us rejoice, for we are alive, and life is good; let us participate in the
celebration of renewal, in making more harmonious friendship with nature and earth spirit. This is a call
of heritage ecology at this crucial time.
Promoting World Heritage programme at national level, an appeal for six action points is made
by Thorsell (1992 a): encourage the missing countries to join the Convention, promote nomination of
heritage sites and properties, strengthen monitoring activities, stimulate increased contribution to WH
Fund, revise the operational guidelines, and accelerate the heritage activities. However, Thorsell (1992
b) laments for the challenges the heritage professionals face, viz. decline options at high speed, growing
pressure of population and inappropriate tourism, lack of commitment and enough people to care
Especially in South Asia, the programmes to preserve and maintain heritage ecology are slow. In
fact, “the yeast of conservation is making in the dough of economic policy leading to programme for
sustainable development which will include conservation of each nation’s cultural heritage’ (Feilden
1993a: 10). For if heritage ecology is no incorporated into the life of community and integrated into
each settlement’s comprehensive and sustainable planning programmes as required by the World
Heritage Convention, then that Work Heritage site is at risk. This is a great challenge and choice before
To rule Gaia is a violent attack on the mother; to keep Gaia in the state that she gives cheerful life
and happiness to the future generation we have to serve her reverentially while sacrificing our
greediness. This is a call of the time where the only path left is “Self realisation.” Heritage ecology may
help to promote this sense more deeper.
The visit to heritage sites and heritagescapes, the effort to understand, the work to keep the mind
and heart open to the sacred manifestation, all this charges one’s being with vision, with insight and the
purpose (c.f. Jarow 1986: 12). This is the real pilgrimage – ‘an enacting of an internal process in the
external world’. Heritage ecology is also a way to pilgrimage -- a way of relating to the land (Earth
spirit) and the people (Human psyche). It is possible, “by working in certain ways at the ceremonial
arrangement and juxtapositions of monuments and natural contours to at least start to share the
worldview of the ancient (Devereux 1992: 119).
Let us hope we will have the sense to seek, the wisdom to listen, and the patience to learn”
(Devereux 1990: 216).
Through the practice and use of heritage ecology a strategy for sustainable development in light
of heritage conservation and preservation, reverential development be accepted in the service human
civilisation and its symbolic identity. Let come to an end at least at this stage with, the words of the
African ecologist Babu Diou:
In the end
We will conserve only what we love.
We will love only what we understand.
We will understand only what we learn.
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Prof. Rana P.B. Singh
Professor of Cultural Geography & Heritage Studies, Banaras Hindu University,
# New F - 7 Jodhpur Colony, B.H.U. Campus, Varanasi, UP 221005. INDIA.
Mobile: 0-9838 119474. Email: email@example.com
§ Rana P.B. Singh (b. 15 Dec. 1950) is researching in the fields of geographical thoughts,
heritage planning, pilgrimages and settlement systems in Varanasi region since over last three
decades as promoter, collaborator and organiser. He is the Founding President of the Society
of Heritage Planning & Environmental Health, and of the Society of Pilgrimage Studies. He
has been involved in studying, performing and promoting the heritage planning and spiritual
tourism in the Varanasi region since over last three decades as researcher, teacher, promoter,
collaborator, guide and organiser. He is teaching current geographical thoughts to post-
Singh, Rana P. B. 1995. Heritage Ecology and Caring for the Earth. NGJI, 41 (2): 191-218. 24
graduate study since over three decades. On these topics he has given lectures and seminars at
various centres in Australia, Austria, Belgium, China PR, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy,
Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Singapore, Spain,
Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, USA (& Hawaii), USSR. His publications include over 200
papers and 39 books on these subjects, including Banaras (Varanasi), Cosmic Order, Sacred
City, Hindu Traditions (1993), Environmental Ethics (1993), The Spirit and Power of Place
(1994), Banaras Region: A Spiritual & Cultural Guide (2002, with P.S. Rana), Towards
pilgrimage Archetypes: Panchakroshi Yatra of Kashi (2002), Where the Buddha Walked
(2003), The Cultural Landscape and the Lifeworld: The Literary Images of Banaras (2004),
Banaras, the City Revealed (2005, with George Michell), Banaras, the Heritage City:
Geography, History, Bibliography (2009), and the eight books under ‘Planet Earth & Cultural
Understanding Series’: ‒ five from Cambridge Scholars Publishing UK: Uprooting
Geographic Thoughts in India (2009), Geographical Thoughts in India: Snapshots and Vision
for the 21
Century (2009), Cosmic Order & Cultural Astronomy (2009), Banaras, Making of
India’s Heritage City (2009), Sacred Geography of Goddesses in South Asia (2010), and ‒
three from Shubhi Publications (New Delhi): Heritagescapes and Cultural Landscapes (2011),
Sacredscapes and Pilgrimage Systems (2011), and Holy Places and Pilgrimages: Essays on
India (2011); and
Indo-Kyosei Global Ordering: Gandhi’s Vision, Harmonious Coexistence, &
(Toyo Univ. Tokyo, Japan, 2011). Presently he is working on the Kashi &
Cosmos: Sacred Geography and Ritualscape of Banaras.