Linking Biodiversity and Faunal Values through Cultural Visual Heritage as a tool for

Biodiversity Conservation in Maharashtra

A project of Institute of Environment Education and Research,

Bharati Vidyapeeth University, Pune 

funded by Maharashtra State Biodiversity Board, Nagpur

The Biodiversity Act of India (2002) addresses new approach towards biodiversity conservation in the country and has evolved three possible programs to achieve locally relevant biodiversity of the wilderness and cultural landscapes.These aspects enhanced in the Biodiversity Act of Biodiversity Management Committee, Peoples’ Biodiversity Register, Access and Benefit Sharing and Biodiversity Heritage Sites strongly endorse the involvement of local communities in biodiversity conservation, the history of biodiversity   conservation in the country shows that it was never emphasized.

There is, thus a gap between biodiversity conservation and the indigenous knowledge of local communities. Indigenous knowledge is locale specific and is deeply embedded in the culture of local people (UNESCO). Cultural heritage encompasses both the tangible cultural heritage (paintings, sculptures) and natural heritage which includes flora and fauna of the area.

A historical overview of visual arts in Maharashtra showed that it has been inherent in the ancient depictions in cave temples and sculptures that are more than 1900 years old (UNESCO, 1983). There is also a strong influence of faunal elements in later paintings, miniature drawings of the Hindu, Muslim as well as those done for the British by local artists.

The project focused on the influence of the natural environment and biodiversity in which different tribal groups of Maharashtra live on their traditional knowledge systems. Different traditional knowledge systems which were explored in the study mainly focused on the visual art and folklore of the people although religious sentiments, non-timber forest products collection and agriculture were also studied. In communities which do not have traditional visual art, religious sentiments, non-timber forest products collection and agriculture were the main focus of the study.

The methodology for the project focused on an analysis of secondary data sources and primary surveys of the traditional visual art done by the people of the region. The analysis has identified the species and their relevance to the local culture and its linkage to biodiversity conservation in the area. This led to expert interviews of key stakeholders of different cultural groups for collection of data on the visual art, folklore and other cultural aspects that are linked to local biodiversity.

Analysis of the traditional knowledge systems of various tribal communities across the state has led to the creation of a database of the local floral and faunal elements which influence the local visual art and folklore. This database would be useful for prioritizing key hot specks of culture related to biodiversity for providing support to local communities, initiate Biodiversity Management Committees develop PBRs and notify the most valuable hot specks as biodiversity and cultural heritage sites. The database has been used to suggest strategies for better preservation of this valuable cultural knowledge which is unique to the individual tribal groups.

Glimpses of Cultural Ecological Heritage of Maharashtra

1. Warli People

Worshipping the gods before harvest

A Warli paddy field

The Waghoba

Toddy Collection

Painting depicting Rann Bhoot

Painting depicting the story of the crab

The story of Mahadev and Ganga Gauri

Padma Shri Jivya Soma Mashe

2. Katkari and Mahadeo Koli People

Paddy Transplantation

Landscape in which the Katkaris and Mahadeo Kolis live

Catching fish in paddy fields

Worshipping in a sacred grove of the Western Ghats

 3. Korku People

A korku farmer making farm implements

A korku boy on his way to the fields

A skeleton of a Korku hut

The fast disappearing Korku silver jewelry

Fish traps used by the Korkus

4. Gond People

A traditional Ghotul

Travelling to Bhimal Pen

Worshipping Bhimal Pen, a God of the Gonds

Metalwork turtles made by Gonds

Gond artists with their artifacts

Artwork of the Gonds depicting deer

Gond artwork depicting the tiger

5. Pardhi People

A hunting trap for small birds and animals


Project Report

  • Part_1_Cover and End
  • Part_2_Inside cover
  • Part_3_Introduction
  • Part_4_Warli People
  • Part_5_Katkari and Mahadeo Koli People
  • Part_6_Korku People
  • Part_7_Gond People_1
  • Part_8_Gond People_2
  • Part_9_Pardhi People
  • Part_10_Strategies