Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-78bd46657c-lkdxh Total loading time: 0.311 Render date: 2021-05-09T04:57:34.678Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": false, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true }

God's fishes: religion, culture and freshwater fish conservation in India

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 September 2015

Nishikant Gupta
Department of Geography, King's College London, UK.
Arun Kanagavel
Conservation Research Group, St. Albert's College, Kochi, India
Parineeta Dandekar
South Asia Network for Dams, Rivers and People, Delhi, India
Neelesh Dahanukar
Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Pune, India
Kuppusamy Sivakumar
Department of Endangered Species Management, Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, India
Vinod B. Mathur
Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, India
Rajeev Raghavan
Conservation Research Group, St. Albert's College, Kochi, India
E-mail address:
Rights & Permissions[Opens in a new window]


Indigenous communities worldwide have long relied on their environment for survival. Religious and customary beliefs that foster community conservation have not only bound these communities to ecosystems but also assisted in the conservation of species. We provide an example of how religion fosters the conservation of freshwater fishes in India. Since ancient times rural communities in India have revered fish species as symbols of divine power, and offered them protection in pools associated with temples. Such voluntary, informal institutions and arrangements continue to help conserve several freshwater fish species that are otherwise subjected to anthropogenic pressure in open-access areas. However, religious beliefs in India are waning as a result of increased urbanization, modernization of societies and disintegration of rural communities, and the sustainability of existing temple and community fish sanctuaries is questionable. We discuss the role of temple sanctuaries as an informal conservation strategy for freshwater fishes, and discuss the knowledge and policy gaps that need to be addressed for ensuring their future.

Copyright © Fauna & Flora International 2015 


Religion is a powerful facilitator of the evolution of pro-social behaviour in human society (Norenzayan & Shariff, Reference Norenzayan and Shariff2008). In many countries religious beliefs have determined local resource use and facilitated the protection of species and ecosystems (Colding & Folke, Reference Colding and Folke1997; Anthwal et al., Reference Anthwal, Gupta, Sharma, Anthwal and Kim2010), governed to an extent by the voluntary involvement of local stakeholders. Although religious adherents are distributed unequally in relation to areas important for global biodiversity, in India there is an overlap between such areas and the religions of Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam (Mikusiński et al., Reference Mikusiński, Possingham and Blicharska2014). Circa 4 billion people in countries with biodiversity hotspots follow an organized religion, and these countries generally have low ecological footprints, with nearly 60% of people utilizing < 2 global hectares per person (Bhagwat et al., Reference Bhagwat, Dudley and Harrop2011; WWF, Reference McLellan, Iyengar, Jeffries and Oerlemans2014). In promoting environmental conservation this association provides an opportunity to work together that is more persuasive than the scientific importance of species (Bhagwat & Palmer, Reference Bhagwat and Palmer2009). Sacred species and sites are also concentrated in biodiversity-rich nations; in India, for example, there are c. 50 groups of sacred animals (e.g. lizards, snakes, frogs; Krishna, Reference Krishna2014), and more informal sacred sites than formal protected areas (Kala, Reference Kala2011; Rutte, Reference Rutte2011).

India is home to numerous religious groups, indigenous communities, ethnic groups and regional cultures, each with their own beliefs and taboos (Sinha, Reference Sinha1995; Kanagavel et al., Reference Kanagavel, Raghavan and Veríssimo2014). Religions have long advocated care and passion for nature and the environment, resulting in protection of forest areas, aquatic bodies and various species (Yachkaschi & Yachkaschi, Reference Yachkaschi and Yachkaschi2012). In Hinduism many species are considered sacred because of their association with gods and goddesses. Lord Shiva (the destroyer), one of the three main deities of Hinduism, is represented with a spectacled cobra Naja naja around his neck, signifying that he has conquered death, and also representing dormant energy (kundalini). Lord Krishna is one of the 10 incarnations of Lord Vishnu (the protector), another of the three main Hindu deities. In Hindu mythology Lord Krishna is known for his fondness for butter, and one story tells how he hid stolen butter rolled within a leaf of the sacred fig Ficus religiosa. Basil Ocimum sanctum, known locally as tulsi, is also worshipped as a sacred plant, a favourite of Lord Vishnu; the annual ritual Tulsi Vivaha coincides with the start of the Indian marriage season.

Many faunal species are revered as vahanas, or vehicles that carry or transport gods and goddesses. The tiger is associated with the goddess Durga (the invincible), the peacock with Karthikeya (god of war), the owl and elephant with Lakshmi (goddess of wealth, love and prosperity), and crocodiles with the goddess Ganga (the sacred river). Similarly in Buddhism, meditating Buddhas (individuals who have attained enlightenment) and some bodhisattvas (those who practise the way of life of a Buddha) have an animal vehicle (Krishna, Reference Krishna2014). The Bodhi tree Ficus religiosa under which the Buddha attained enlightenment is held sacred by Buddhists and is considered to be the tree of life (Mansberger, Reference Mansberger, Dargavel, Dixon and Semple1988, cited in Barrow, Reference Barrow, Verschuuren, Wild, McNeely and Oviedo2010).

Localized cultural attitudes and practices (e.g. sacred groves, deification of bird, animal or tree species) attributed to indigenous and non-indigenous communities have facilitated effective biodiversity conservation; for example, the Bishnois, a religious sect in the state of Rajasthan, are ecologically conscious and do not cut trees or kill animals (Krishna, Reference Krishna2014). Some Buddhist sects in the north-eastern states and in the western Himalayan regions have evolved community conservation practices, including bans on hunting and fishing, and play an important role in the protection of threatened species, such as the black-necked crane Grus nigricollis (Mazumdar & Samal, Reference Mazumdar, Samal, Ramakrishnan, Saxena, Rao and Sharma2012).

The belief in supernatural monitoring (Rossano, Reference Rossano2007) and punishment (Johnson & Krüger, Reference Johnson and Krüger2004) deters people from violating norms and breaking social rules, and may have played a vital role in maintaining sacred sites in India (Gadgil & Vartak, Reference Gadgil and Vartak1974). It is also likely to have contributed to the conservation of freshwater fishes, which have been associated with supernatural beings (Dandekar, Reference Dandekar2011; Katwate et al., Reference Katwate, Pawar, Shinde, Apte and Katwate2014).

Religion and freshwater fishes in India

Freshwater fishes have been considered sacred in many parts of India since the Vedic period (1750–500 BC; Nautiyal, Reference Nautiyal2014). Species of mahseer (Tor spp.), for example, a threatened group of cyprinid fishes (Pinder & Raghavan, Reference Pinder and Raghavan2013), are mentioned in various religious scriptures as being valued for propitiating the souls of deceased ancestors and relished by forest-dwelling saints (Nautiyal, Reference Nautiyal2014). This reverence for mahseer continues and the fishes are protected in several stretches of rivers associated with temples (Dandekar, Reference Dandekar2011; Fig. 1), where fishing is prohibited and local communities, pilgrims and temple authorities help to monitor and safeguard the fish population.

Fig. 1 Locations of important temple fish sanctuaries in India.

In Walan Kond (Savitri River) in the northern part of the Western Ghats, local people regard mahseer as the children of the goddess Parvathi (Katwate et al., Reference Katwate, Pawar, Shinde, Apte and Katwate2014). On the Tunga River, also in the Western Ghats region, the Sringeri fish sanctuary protects threatened cyprinids of the genera Hypselobarbus, Neolissochilus and Tor. Chippalgudde Matsya Dhama, another sanctuary on the same river, protects, among other fishes, the endemic herbivorous cyprinid Hypselobarbus pulchellus, categorized as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List (Rema Devi & Ali, Reference Rema Devi and Ali2013). The fishes are considered sacred as they are associated with Lord Vishnu, whose first incarnation on Earth was in the form of a fish. In this incarnation Lord Vishnu is believed to have saved the first human on Earth by informing him of the calamitous floods that were to follow. Many tributaries of the River Ganges are considered sacred, and religious sentiments play a positive role in the protection of the Endangered golden mahseer Tor putitora (Jha & Rayamajhi, Reference Jha and Rayamajhi2010) in this region (Dandekar, Reference Dandekar2011). Local worship of the fish god is a key driver of conservation at Machchiyal Lake in the state of Himachal Pradesh, where the fishes are fed regularly by local people and tourists. The temple authorities keep the water free of pollution, and prevent exploitation by local people (Plate 1).

Plate 1 Temple fish sanctuaries in (a) Walan Kond (site 10 in Fig. 1), (b) Yenekal Temple (14), (c) Ramanathapura Temple (20) and (d) Shishileswara Temple (17). (a and b © Parineeta Dandekar; c and d © Shrinivas Kadabagere)

The charismatic and threatened mahseer species are probably better protected in such sacred sites (Gadgil et al., Reference Gadgil, Chandrasekhariah and Bhat2001; Gupta et al., Reference Gupta, Sivakumar, Mathur and Chadwick2015) than in unprotected open-access areas, where they are subjected to indiscriminate (often destructive) fishing, and habitat loss as a result of hydroelectric projects and pollution (Pinder & Raghavan, Reference Pinder and Raghavan2013; Nautiyal, Reference Nautiyal2014; Gupta et al., Reference Gupta, Nautiyal, Borgohain, Sivakumar, Mathur and Chadwick2014a). The mainstays of this protection are the prohibition of fishing in these waters, the availability of food (through artificial feeding), and active monitoring against pollution and other hydrological changes. Community-based educational programmes have improved the water quality in many temple pools by ensuring protection of upstream and downstream reaches (Dandekar, Reference Dandekar2011; Gupta, Reference Gupta2013).

Ecological and socio-political issues

Although freshwater fishes are one of the most threatened vertebrate groups (Leidy & Moyle, Reference Leidy, Moyle, Fiedler and Kareiva1997; Carrizo et al., Reference Carrizo, Smith and Darwall2013) they are often neglected in conservation efforts, including in countries rich in freshwater biodiversity, such as India. None of the > 150 threatened freshwater fish species in India (IUCN, 2014) are legally protected or the focus of species-specific conservation plans. The increasing threat to freshwater ecosystems and fish species in India has been the subject of debate not only among scientists but also among stakeholders, including local communities (Gupta et al., Reference Gupta, Sivakumar, Mathur and Chadwick2014c). However, the role of stakeholders in freshwater biodiversity conservation is often overlooked by policy makers (Gupta et al., Reference Gupta, Raghavan, Sivakumar and Mathur2014b) as a result of overt emphasis on centralization and adoption of a technocentric approach to managing ecological entities (Gupta et al., Reference Gupta, Raghavan, Sivakumar and Mathur2014b).

Despite the apparent conservation benefits of sacred sites, several ecological and policy-related concerns have yet to be addressed (Dudley et al., Reference Dudley, Higgins-Zogib and Mansourian2009). Providing legal status to sacred sites would help ensure additional protection for these areas but could also undermine the concept of religious values and traditions associated with the sites (Dudley et al., Reference Dudley, Higgins-Zogib and Mansourian2009) if local communities were allowed only limited access. The success of legally protected sites is often hindered by poor management and enforcement because of a lack of human resources (Kanagavel et al., Reference Kanagavel, Pandya, Prithvi and Raghavan2013) and in some cases the transfer of site ownership to Forest Departments has resulted in conflict with local communities, which has adversely affected site management (Gadgil, Reference Gadgil1991; Bhagwat & Rutte, Reference Bhagwat and Rutte2006). To avoid this, the legislative arrangement should empower the primary stakeholders and uphold their rights, and put land-use and management mechanisms in place rather than devolving and transferring management to the Forest Department. The legislation should promote the bio-cultural diversity of individual sites rather than focusing on biodiversity alone, given the interdependence of biodiversity and cultural values at these locations (Verschuuren, Reference Verschuuren, Verschuuren, Wild, McNeely and Oviedo2010). Sacred sites could also benefit from being integrated into a larger, state-level conservation landscape.

The most important ecological challenge related to temple fish sanctuaries is the need to manage their upstream reaches so that the sacred sites are not damaged by stressors that originate in other places. One way to achieve this is through the establishment of safe zones where sustainable and regulated fishing activity is promoted, potentially yielding social and economic benefits for local stakeholders (Gupta et al., Reference Gupta, Raghavan, Sivakumar and Mathur2014b). Another emerging question is whether temple sanctuaries serve as arks (where fish can mature, reproduce and help repopulate adjoining areas) or cages (where they can survive but are unable to reproduce because of unsuitable habitat or other hindrances; Kumar & Devi, Reference Kumar and Devi2013). Whether temple sanctuaries alter the life history traits (e.g. feeding behaviour, reproduction) of fish is therefore a priority for future research. There is also a need to explore non-invasive means of monitoring and stock assessment, such as the use of hydro-acoustics or video cameras.

Many community-conserved fish sanctuaries at Indian temples are threatened by the proliferation of hydropower projects (e.g. Nakur Gaya and Hosmata in Karnataka, and Walan Kond and Tilase in Maharashtra; Dandekar & Thakkar, Reference Dandekar and Thakkar2015). Environmental impact assessments do not even mention the existence of such fish sanctuaries, nor are the communities managing the sanctuaries involved in making or implementing decisions related to dams (Dandekar & Thakkar, Reference Dandekar and Thakkar2015).

The erosion of religious beliefs, an increase in religious heterogeneity, and changing traditions are potential drivers of the increasing threats to sacred sites (Gadgil, Reference Gadgil1991; Bhagwat & Rutte, Reference Bhagwat and Rutte2006). In promoting freshwater conservation through temple fish sanctuaries it is essential that linkages between religion, culture and conservation (McKay, Reference McKay2014) are highlighted in a non-discriminatory manner to avoid causing divisions among people of different religions, which could have an adverse effect on conservation efforts.

The bio-cultural conservation of freshwater fishes should not be limited to temple sanctuaries but expanded to include individuals, communities or organizations interested in facilitating and coordinating such initiatives. However, informal institutions such as temple sanctuaries serve as models for the survival and dissemination of beliefs that support the conservation of nature, habitats and species. These beliefs could be retold as simple stories that emphasize their positive value, and not the religion from which the beliefs originate. However, to achieve long-term conservation benefits it will be necessary to inspire people to put their beliefs into action.

Research suggests that sacred spaces harbour species of scientific importance in significant abundance, and in many cases these are the last remaining relics of the original landscape and species (Dudley et al., Reference Dudley, Bhagwat, Higgins-Zogib, Lassen, Verschuuren, Wild, Verschuuren, Wild, McNeely and Oviedo2010). Although not all temple sanctuaries necessarily harbour endemic and threatened freshwater fishes, it is the pro-conservation beliefs in place that are of significance and should be harnessed to promote freshwater fauna and habitats, regardless of the species involved. Conservation organizations could focus attention primarily on those sacred spaces that encompass critical habitats and species, and establish partnerships with faith groups to assist in the fulfilment of conservation goals (McKay, Reference McKay2014).

The way forward

Temple sanctuaries continue to exist in India but diminishing dependence on traditional dogmas may mean that religious beliefs and taboos are unlikely to be prioritized in the future (Bhagwat & Rutte, Reference Bhagwat and Rutte2006). This is particularly pertinent in the case of marginalized communities living along river banks, for whom fish is a cheap source of protein, and fisheries a livelihood option. Incentive-driven conservation (Hutton & Leader-Williams, Reference Hutton and Leader-Williams2003) in the form of national recognition and provision of financial support for maintaining or improving the water quality at sanctuaries could ensure that such informal protected areas provide much-needed protection for threatened freshwater taxa. There is a need for a greater understanding of the short and long-term socio-economic, environmental and conservation impacts of such sacred sites (Berkes, Reference Berkes2004). With the current dearth of conservation options for freshwater biodiversity (Strayer & Dudgeon, Reference Strayer and Dudgeon2010), whether sacred sites can be supported legislatively and utilized as an additional safeguarding mechanism can be ascertained only through rigorous scientific studies that involve locally relevant stakeholders.


We thank Steven Cooke and three anonymous reviewers for their critical comments and suggestions, Unmesh Katwate for information, and Shrinivas Kadabagere for photographs.

Biographical sketches

Nishikant Gupta is interested in river and fish conservation in India. Arun Kanagavel is interested in social dimensions of nature conservation and their role in influencing pro-conservation behaviour. Parineeta Dandekar works for a civil society organization on issues related to water governance, infrastructure projects and their impacts on people and ecosystems. Neelesh Dahanukar is interested in ecology and evolution, with an emphasis on statistical analysis, as well as taxonomy, distribution patterns, molecular phylogeny and conservation of freshwater fish. Kuppusamy Sivakumar's interests include fish and avian ecology, island ecology, marine biology, invasive species and Antarctic wildlife. Vinod Mathur's interests include biodiversity conservation, environmental and strategic impact assessment, biodiversity informatics and natural heritage conservation. Rajeev Raghavan's research focuses on generating information to support conservation decision making in tropical freshwater ecosystems, with a special focus on the Western Ghats–Sri Lanka biodiversity hotspot.


Anthwal, A., Gupta, N., Sharma, A., Anthwal, S. & Kim, K.H. (2010) Conserving biodiversity through traditional beliefs in sacred groves in Uttarakhand Himalaya, India. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 54, 962971.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Barrow, E.G.C. (2010) Falling between the ‘cracks’ of conservation and religion: the role of stewardship for sacred trees and groves. In Sacred Natural Sites: Conserving Nature and Culture (eds Verschuuren, B., Wild, R., McNeely, J.A. & Oviedo, G.), pp. 4252. Earthscan, London, UK.Google Scholar
Berkes, F. (2004) Rethinking community-based conservation. Conservation Biology, 18, 621630.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bhagwat, S.A., Dudley, N. & Harrop, S.R. (2011) Religious following in biodiversity hotspots: challenges and opportunities for conservation and development. Conservation Letters, 4, 234240.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bhagwat, S.A. & Palmer, M. (2009) Conservation: the world's religions can help. Nature, 461, 37.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Bhagwat, S.A. & Rutte, C. (2006) Sacred groves: potential for biodiversity management. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 4, 519524.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Carrizo, S.F., Smith, K.G. & Darwall, W.R.T. (2013) Progress towards a global assessment of the status of freshwater fishes (Pisces) for the IUCN Red List: application to conservation programmes in zoos and aquariums. International Zoo Yearbook, 47, 4664.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Colding, J. & Folke, C. (1997) The relations among threatened species, their protection, and taboos. Conservation Ecology, 1, 112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dandekar, P. (2011) India's community fish sanctuaries protect wild fish and rivers. World Rivers Review, 26, 17.Google Scholar
Dandekar, P. & Thakkar, H. (2015) River sanctuaries: worshipping endangered fish and rivers. Global Conference on Inland Fisheries, 26–28 January 2015, FAO, Rome, Italy.Google Scholar
Dudley, N., Bhagwat, S., Higgins-Zogib, L., Lassen, B., Verschuuren, B. & Wild, R. (2010) Conservation of biodiversity in sacred natural sites in Asia and Africa: a review of the scientific literature. In Sacred Natural Sites: Conserving Nature and Culture (eds Verschuuren, B., Wild, R., McNeely, J.A. & Oviedo, G.), pp. 1932. Earthscan, London, UK.Google Scholar
Dudley, N., Higgins-Zogib, L. & Mansourian, S. (2009) The links between protected areas, faiths, and sacred natural sites. Conservation Biology, 23, 568577.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Gadgil, M. (1991) Conserving India's biodiversity: the societal context. Evolutionary Trends in Plants, 5, 38.Google Scholar
Gadgil, M., Chandrasekhariah, H.N. & Bhat, A. (2001) Freshwater fish: out of sight, out of mind. Survey of the Environment 2000, pp. 137–142. The Hindu, Chennai, India.Google Scholar
Gadgil, M. & Vartak, V.D. (1974) Sacred groves of India: a plea for continued conservation. Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, 72, 313320.Google Scholar
Gupta, N. (2013) Reflections on a successful community conservation programme in Haryana, India. Journal of Development Management, 1, 117122.Google Scholar
Gupta, N., Nautiyal, P., Borgohain, A., Sivakumar, K., Mathur, V.B. & Chadwick, M.A. (2014a) Catch-and-release angling as a management tool for mahseer conservation in India. Oryx. Http:// [accessed 30 July 2015].Google Scholar
Gupta, N., Raghavan, R., Sivakumar, K. & Mathur, V.B. (2014b) Freshwater fish safe zones: a prospective conservation strategy for river ecosystems in India. Current Science, 107, 949950.Google Scholar
Gupta, N., Sivakumar, K., Mathur, V.B. & Chadwick, M.A. (2014c) Thetiger of Indian rivers’: stakeholders’ perspectives on the golden mahseer as a flagship fish species. Area, 46, 389397.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gupta, N., Sivakumar, K., Mathur, V.B. & Chadwick, M.A. (2015) Terrestrial protected areas and managed reaches conserve threatened freshwater fish in Uttarakhand, India. PARKS, 21, 89101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hutton, J.M. & Leader-Williams, N. (2003) Sustainable use and incentive-driven conservation: realigning human and conservation interests. Oryx, 37, 215226.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
IUCN (2014) The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2014.2. Http:// [accessed 15 September 2014].Google Scholar
Jha, B.R. & Rayamajhi, A. (2010) Tor putitora. In The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species v. 2015.2. Http:// [accessed 31 July 2015].Google Scholar
Johnson, D.D.P. & Krüger, O. (2004) The good of wrath: supernatural punishment and the evolution of cooperation. Political Theology, 5, 159176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kala, C.P. (2011) Traditional ecological knowledge, sacred groves and conservation of biodiversity in the Pachmarhi Biosphere Reserve of India. Journal of Environmental Protection, 2, 967973.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kanagavel, A., Pandya, R., Prithvi, A. & Raghavan, R. (2013) Multi-stakeholder perceptions of efficiency in biodiversity conservation at limited access forests of the southern Western Ghats, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa, 5, 45294536.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kanagavel, A., Raghavan, R. & Veríssimo, D. (2014) Beyond the “general public”: implications of audience characteristics for promoting species conservation in the Western Ghats Hotspot, India. Ambio, 43, 138148.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Katwate, C., Pawar, R., Shinde, V., Apte, D. & Katwate, U. (2014) How long will social beliefs protect the pride of River Savitri? MIN, 2, 2124.Google Scholar
Krishna, N. (2014) Sacred Animals of India. Penguin India, Gurgaon, India.Google Scholar
Kumar, R. & Devi, K.R. (2013) Conservation of freshwater habitats and fishes in the Western Ghats of India. International Zoo Yearbook, 47, 7180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Leidy, R.A. & Moyle, P.B. (1997) Conservation status of the world's fish fauna: an overview. In Conservation Biology for the Coming Decade (eds Fiedler, P.L. & Kareiva, P.M.), pp. 187227. Chapman & Hall, New York, USA.Google Scholar
Mansberger, J.R. (1988) In search of the tree spirit: evolution of the sacred tree Ficus religiosa . In Changing Tropical Forests: Historical Perspectives on Today's Challenges in Asia, Australasia and Oceania (eds Dargavel, J., Dixon, K. & Semple, N.). Centre for Resource and Environmental Studies, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia.Google Scholar
Mazumdar, K. & Samal, P.K. (2012) Conservation, management and hunting of faunal resources among Monpas and Sherdukpens in Arunachal Pradesh, Eastern Himalaya. In Cultural Landscapes: The Basis for Linking Biodiversity Conservation with the Sustainable Development (eds Ramakrishnan, P.S., Saxena, K.G., Rao, K.S. & Sharma, G.), pp. 91103. UNESCO, New Delhi, India.Google Scholar
McKay, J.E. (2014) Practise what you preach: a faith-based approach to conservation in Indonesia. Oryx, 48, 2329.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mikusiński, G., Possingham, H.P. & Blicharska, M. (2014) Biodiversity priority areas and religionsa global analysis of spatial overlap. Oryx, 48, 1722.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Nautiyal, P. (2014) Review of the art and science of Indian mahseer (game fish) from nineteenth to twentieth century: road to extinction or conservation? Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, India, 84, 215236.Google Scholar
Norenzayan, A. & Shariff, A.F. (2008) The origin and evolution of religious prosociality. Science, 322, 5862.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Pinder, A.C. & Raghavan, R. (2013) Conserving the endangered mahseers (Tor spp.) of India: the positive role of recreational fisheries. Current Science, 104, 14721475.Google Scholar
Rema Devi, K.R. & Ali, A. (2013) Hypselobarbus pulchellus. In The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species v. 2015.2. Http:// [accessed 31 July 2015].Google Scholar
Rossano, M.J. (2007) Supernaturalizing social life: religion and the evolution of human cooperation. Human Nature, 18, 272294.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Rutte, C. (2011) The sacred commons: conflicts and solutions of resource management in sacred natural sites. Biological Conservation, 144, 23872394.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sinha, R.K. (1995) Biodiversity conservation through faith and tradition in India: some case studies. International Journal of Sustainable Development & World Ecology, 2, 278284.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Strayer, D.L. & Dudgeon, D. (2010) Freshwater biodiversity conservation: recent progress and future challenges. Journal of the North American Benthological Society, 29, 344358.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Verschuuren, B. (2010) Arguments for developing biocultural conservation approaches for sacred natural sites. In Sacred Natural Sites: Conserving Nature and Culture (eds Verschuuren, B., Wild, R., McNeely, J.A. & Oviedo, G.), pp. 6272. Earthscan, London, UK.Google Scholar
WWF (2014) Living Planet Report 2014: Species and Spaces, People and Places (eds McLellan, R., Iyengar, L., Jeffries, B. & Oerlemans, N.). WWF, Gland, Switzerland.Google Scholar
Yachkaschi, A. & Yachkaschi, S. (2012) Nature conservation and religion: an excursion into the Zoroastrian religion and its historical benefits for the protection of forests, animals and natural resources. Forest Policy and Economics, 20, 107111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
You have Access

Send article to Kindle

To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

God's fishes: religion, culture and freshwater fish conservation in India
Available formats

Send article to Dropbox

To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

God's fishes: religion, culture and freshwater fish conservation in India
Available formats

Send article to Google Drive

To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

God's fishes: religion, culture and freshwater fish conservation in India
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Your details

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *