Belief in the sanctity of animals originated from ideas of karma and the transmigration of souls-thus an ant or a tiger could be one's past or future identity. Sacred Animals of India draws on the ancient religious traditions of India-Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism-to explore the customs and practices that engendered the veneration of animals in India.
Animals are worshipped in India as deities, as, for instance, the elephant-god Ganesha and the monkey-god Hanuman, or as the fish, tortoise and boar-forms or avatars that Vishnu is believed to have taken on earth. Some species, such as the swan, bull, lion and tiger, regarded as vahanas-vehicles of deities- developed sanctity by association. Others, such as the snake, are worshipped out of fear.
Birds such as the crow are regarded as the abode of the dead, or the souls of ancestors, while the cow's sanctity may derive from its economic value. There are also hero-animals, such as the vanaras, and animals that were totemic symbols of tribes that were assimilated in Vedic Hinduism.
This book also examines the traditions that gave animals in India protection, and is a reminder of the role of animal species in the earth's biodiversity.
Sacred Animals of India by Nanditha Krishna
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