Johan Krieg is currently pursuing his Ph.D. fron The Research Center for Anthropology and Comparative Sociology (LESC) at Paris West University Nanterre La Défense. In his Master’s thesis entitled “The Sankata Mocana Foundation : a hindu and scientific answer to the pollution of the Ganges”, he studied the role of NGO (Sankata Mocana Foundation) which since 1982 fight against pollution of the Ganges in Varanasi (North India). His research in Varanasi highlighted the complexity of the relationship between Hinduism and ecology and led him to continue studying the contribution made by Hindu community to nature conservation. His Doctoral research focusses on the attempts of some religious institution to solve environmental problems in Rishikesh.
Rishikesh is a town on the banks of the river Ganga in the foothills of Himalayas. It has long been a major Hindu pilgrimage site in Northern India. But for a long period of time this sacred seat of Hinduism has been difficult to access. Beginning with the late 1940s, however, some Hindu monasteries were founded and have became sacred sites with national and international reputation. A growing number of disciples, pilgrims, domestic and international tourists go to Rishikesh to receive the teaching of Hindu gurus. Today, many gurus have a large number of followers among whom we can include chief ministers, movie stars, foreigners from all over the world, etc. What used to be a small village where ascetics came to get away from society to devote themselves to penitence and prayer has become known in recent decades as the “yoga capital of the world”. Religious and spiritual tourism are now the major components of socio-economic vitality of Rishikesh. However, the infrastructures in this town are inadequate to support the heavy influx of pilgrims and tourists, in particular at the peak season from April to June (before the monsoon). The environmental consequences are the same as those that exist in many other Indian religious sites : air pollution caused by heavy road traffic, water pollution, deforestation, etc. The contemporary problems of environmental degradation have not gone unnoticed by Hindus. Some of them turn to Hinduism in the hope of finding solutions to the ecological crisis.The heads of some monasteries reinterprets Hindu philosophical and religious ideas, more specifically the doctrine and practice of Yoga, in order to adapt them to today’s global environmental challenges. The aim of his study is to make a contribution to a better understanding of the role of Hindu monks and their disciples in conservation of environment in contemporary India.