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Title:Journeys in the cultural landscapes of Okhamandal in Gujarat, India: an ecological model for heritage conservation
Author(s):Gajjar, Heena Ashokbhai
Contributor(s):Sinha, Amita; Hays, David L.; Birkenholtz, Jessica Vantine
Department / Program:Landscape Architecture
Discipline:Landscape Architecture
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Cultural Landscape
Sea Level Rise
Heritage Conservation
Ecological Planning
Abstract:In the study of the cultural landscape of Okhamandal in Gujarat, India, cultural heritage conservation practices are leveraged in planning for ecological restoration. Dwarka, located in Okhamandal, one of the four holy sites across the Indian subcontinent, is facing drastic pressures of climate change resulting in rising sea levels, salt ingress, desertification, scarcity of water for drinking and agriculture, and a severe threat to the heritage sites. Okhamandal has many sacred sites, the largest of which is the holy city of Dwarka, where the Hindu god Krishna established his kingdom in antiquity. Krishna is an incarnation of Vishnu, the sustainer in the Hindu trinity of gods who create, uphold and destroy the universe unceasingly. In the cyclical understanding of time in Indic thought, creation is always preceded by destruction. According to Hindu mythology, Dwarka, situated along the coast of Gujarat, was swallowed by sea upon Krishna's death, a legend corroborated by underwater archaeological findings dating back to 15th BCE. Changes in the shoreline suggest that rising sea levels have inundated and destroyed coastal settlements as many as seven times. Okhamandal, a peninsula connected to the mainland by a narrow isthmus between the sea and the desert, is once again under threat. The trend for mean sea level rise is 2.06 mm/ year (± 0.06 mm) for the Okhamandal region; the projection for next 100 years is thus a 0.20 meters rise in sea level. This project proposes the conservation of sacred and archeological sites in the Okhamandal region based on a model derived from the scientific systems approach and faith-based environmental ethic. Krishna’s life in Dwarka and Braj, his sayings and deeds emphasize nature reverence and have been very significant in guiding the faith of Hindus. The environmental ethic is developed from the concept of Krishna awareness, which represents a reverential and caring attitude towards nature demonstrated by working in harmony with natural systems. This project proposes reclamation strategies, including ground water replenishment by reviving wetlands and sacred water bodies and mitigation of coastal erosion through green terracing and floating islands, to promote resiliency. These strategies guide the design of an eco-cultural heritage trail for pilgrims circumambulating the sacred sites of Okhamandal. The trail will link sacred, archaeological, and environmentally reclaimed sites, facilitating the pilgrims' and visitors' experience of Krishna awareness as part of the journey through this cultural landscape. The restored sites along the eco-cultural heritage trail will also set a precedent for environmental reclamation of the Okhamandal peninsula and promote ecological and cultural resiliency.
Issue Date:2016-04-27
Rights Information:Copyright 2016 Heena Gajjar
Date Available in IDEALS:2016-07-07
Date Deposited:2016-05

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