Environment - Food and Water

Taming Godavari River: Navigating through Religious, Developmental and Environmental Narratives

Multiple socio-cultural and political imaginaries associated with the urban riverscapes, in India, are emphasizing the religious symbolism(s) of the river, and recently, are transforming riverscapes into sites of capital accumulation. Deliberating upon the urban and socio-ecological alterations along the Godavari riverscape in Nashik, this focus article published in WIREs Water explores the intersection of religion, environment, and city. By doing so, it challenges the nature-society divide and underlines the inseparability of nature and society.

Celebrated as the elder sister of the Ganges, the Godavari is one of the seven sacred rivers in Hinduism. Close to its origin from Brahmagiri Mountains, Godavari encounters a significant religious and a fast urbanizing city of Nashik in the western Indian state of Maharashtra.

Thousands of pilgrims converge every day on its banks in the city, and millions arrive during the Hindu pilgrimage festival of Sinhastha Mela or Kumbh Mela–one of the biggest congregations in the world. Several endeavors striving to enforce the religious identity of Nashik and to materialize the aspirations of becoming a ‘world-class’ city have increased the attempts to harness, regulate, and redevelop the Godavari riverscape.

The Godavari is no longer solely a sacred river but also a resource to be exploited, controlled, commodified, and became an institutionalized entity. The religious, modernist, and environmental narratives are constantly (re)producing a contested riverscape in Nashik. Thus, the article propagates a historically and socially grounded understanding of the rivers to nuance the inherent complexity in the perception, investigation, and management of rivers.

 

Kindly contributed by Shilpa Dahake, Doctoral Candidate, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Mohali.

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