Taboos: Traditional beliefs and customs for resource management in the western Himalaya

Sharma, Alpy ; Thakur, Deepika ; Uniyal, Sanjay Kr


People residing in interior areas of the Himalaya are highly dependent on natural resources and thus have evolved their own beliefs and customs, the taboos, for conserving resources. Taboos form an important component of tribal lifestyle and guide sustainable utilization and management of natural resources. The present study was carried out in the higher reaches of Himachal Pradesh that are known for their rich bio-cultural diversity. The study aimed at documenting and classifying taboos prevalent in the area. For this, field surveys were carried out and interactions were held with the local people (n=210) using semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions. The results revealed a prevalence of 22 taboos that were mainly related to forest, water, farmland, and food resources. Of the total taboos, the maximum belonged to the segment and method category taboos (32% each) while the minimum (5%) were species-specific taboos. Adherence to taboos is high and breaking them is believed to bring the wrath of God. They, thus, are important for resource management. Studies targeting the history of taboos and their policy implications are much desired.


Beliefs; Biodiversity; Resource management; Taboos; Traditional knowledge

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