ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

34 – Religious and Environmental Encounters: North Indian Mountains Through the Eyes of Travellers

The Himalaya, notably the Garhwal and Kumaon regions, has been a place of fascination for non-residents since time immemorial and has attracted travellers, naturalists, pilgrims, ascetics, and writers from all over Asia and Europe.

Convenors

Dr Philippe Bornet - Department of South Asian Studies, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland
Dr Nicola Pozza - Department of South Asian Studies, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland

Long Abstract

The Himalaya, notably the Garhwal and Kumaon regions, has been a place of fascination for non-residents since time immemorial and has attracted travellers, naturalists, pilgrims, ascetics, and writers from all over Asia and Europe. Despite their extremely rich literary and cultural history, and with notable exceptions (McKay, Salil, Sax), travel literature on these regions has been less systematically studied than for other regions such as Western Tibet, Lhasa, Sikkim or Kalimpong (Viehbeck). Leaving aside purely sociological, political, or anthropological perspectives, this panel aims at analysing how religious and environmental aspects have been perceived and described in travel narratives and literary reports by combining historical and literary approaches to produce contextualised analyses of these texts. Focusing on various types of encounters (Pratt) that took place in the Garhwal and Kumaon regions, we aim at going beyond a dichotomy of Western versus Indian narratives by expanding the reflection on how perceptions of the environment reflect the diverse perspectives of the respective authors.

The panel aims at bringing into conversation junior and senior scholars from India, Europe, and other parts of the world, interested in themes such as the sacralization and secularization of the Himalaya (Banerjee & Basu); the endangering and preservation of fauna and flora, and/or the ecological change in a historical perspective (Guha) as reflected in travel narratives; etc. Submitted abstracts should reflect sound methodological approaches and research in progress, based on literary sources written in Asian and/or European languages, starting from the 19th century to present times.