Welcome to this course on South Asian Religions and Ecology. In this first week, the opening lecture stresses an introduction to this topic and then focuses on the importance of religious ecology in the Vedas. Greetings and welcome to the course. We will discuss a diversity of religious and spiritual expressions originating in India. The Northern Gangetic plains, where the Ganges River is, and the central and northern mountain and riverine regions have given expression to ancient and living encounters with a sacred universe. Certainly, South Asia is a region of some of the most profound religious expressions on the planet, from the ancient Vedic hymns to yoga, and remarkable spiritual devotions expressed in religious dance, music, and temple worship. These religious responses rise out of the soil, plant, animal, and human realms of South Asia. Religious responses continue to flourish and adapt even as we face the changes of human-earth relations. Now when speaking about South Asian religions and ecology, a starting point is this early Indus River Valley Civilization dated approximately 2,600 years Before the Common Era. I want to just take a moment to pause, here. You see how large this river valley civilization is. It's comparable, isn't it, to the Nile River Valley, and to the Mesopotamian world of the Tigris and Euphrates, and to the world of China, the Yellow River Valley, these civilizations that arose and influenced all of these regions throughout Asia and the Middle East. The northern area had Harappa and the more southern area has Mohenjo-Daro. These are the two great river valley cities. In 2010, I was able to visit this city, Lothal, at the very border of this large stretch of the Mohenjo-Daro city. The Indian side. Yes. This is India, this is the Punjab region in Pakistan of present-day. This highly developed civilization, then, is named after these two urban areas: the Mohenjo-Daro, in the south, and Harappa in the north. This image is from the Harappa in the north, too. We want to just begin by showing you this image of Harappa. You can see the ordered sensibility and feeling for it. So the riverine sites of the civilization numbered in the hundreds and had populations of up to 40,000 people in some of the major cities. The grid patterns of these cities, like New York, you could say, and the Citadel and housing areas. You see the Citadel up here, the bath area, the housing all around the Citadel for protection. It suggests regimented and well-organized and sophisticated societies. This is also confirmed by the uniform size of brick building materials that were used through the Indus River cities. You can see in the next slide, for example, each brick is the same size. This made expansion of these cities a great deal easier. Now these archaeological ruins tell us specifically what relationships existed between these societies and the local ecologies. They didn't tell us a lot about that, but we know from the images on the pottery and seals that this region was much wetter and supported a rich biodiversity. These artifacts also gave evidence of religious trends that we will explore in the following lectures on Vedic hymns, the practice of yoga and devotion, or bhakti. We have an image here from a much later temple, in Hinduism, but it images the horse chariot. Vedic culture can be primarily characterized as a horse culture. These Vedic peoples, with their horse culture and developed oral literature, came after the Indus River Civilization and into this Punjab region of present-day Pakistan and India, around 1500 Before the Current Era. Battle scenes, such as this image suggest, they're often described in the Vedic literature and they're related in that literature to the fall of the local peoples, and archaeologists have presumed that this was the Indus River Valley Civilization population, yet there is little archaeological evidence in the actual ruins of the sites of the Indus River Valley cities to indicate major battles. And so one theory is that the agricultural culture of the Indus River Valley Civilization, that it failed, due to climate changes causing repeated flooding and severe droughts. The second point that we want to draw out of the Indus River Civilization is these small stone steatite seals, and this is an imprint from a seal. This gave us insights into the script. You can see on the top, here, the script which is not fully deciphered yet. This script, then, also probably relates to the animals we see around this image: elephant, rhinoceros, tiger. So, the moist riverine setting supported, as Mary Evelyn mentioned, this rich biodiversity, and the central figure, with the horned helmet and the tiger-like skin, in a seemingly seated yoga posture. So, obviously, meditative yoga and forms of meditation with a body posture are much older in South Asia than the texts we now have describing these practices. Finally, one of the most amazing finds in Mohenjo-Daro was this four-inch statue of the Dancing Girl. Later developments in Hinduism and ecology that echo back to this find are goddess devotion. Yet again, it's very interesting: this worship of the feminine in later Hinduism has little literary expression in the Vedic hymns, so the Vedic period in between the Indus River Civilization and fully developed Hinduism does not have this focus on goddess worship in the Vedic period. Yet the ecstatic and central practices of devotional bhakti and the threefold curvature of this particular figure is widely expressed in much of Hindu religious art. So we're suggesting that these influences may have been at a very popular level and then returned into later Hinduism. While we do not linger on the Indus River Valley Civilization, these examples make us aware that environmental, economic, and social dimensions of these villages and cities helped shape later religious developments in South Asia. With the coming of Vedic or Aryan peoples, first into the Punjab region and later into the plains of the Ganges River, we can see in this purple area here that movement out of the Hindu Kush. That green area marks the Indus River Civilization. It's a gradual movement into the Punjab region and then later, as I've suggested, the plains of the Ganges River. It's at this time, then, we enter into historical records of a lengthy cultural period from 1500 to 500 BCE. There were obviously a significant ecological and cultural changes as large cities and highly developed Vedic societies arose in the forested plains of the Yamuna and Ganges rivers. Most importantly, the religious cosmology and religious ecology of the Vedic world was established as the classical background of all later South Asian religions.