The Ganges River: Symbology, Sustainability, and the Confluence of Cultural and Fluvial Connectivity
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The Ganges River Basin is one of the largest in the world and is also one of the most spiritually and religiously connected to society. In order to understand the extensive relationship between the Ganges River and those who live in its basin, I will employ a framework based on The Six Degrees of Connectivity, a tool commonly used in the study of rivers. Through a detailed literature review this paper will analyze and address the anthropogenic influences on the river. Although each of the six degrees are equally important when examining river systems, for the purposes of this paper three will be analyzed in depth: longitudinal connectivity, lateral connectivity between the river and the floodplain, and vertical connectivity between the river and the atmosphere. Through these parameters, this paper will examine how the values, management systems, socioeconomic stratification, political marginalization, and livelihood of the population are effected geospatially within the Ganges River Basin. This research is pertinent to cultural ecology, as well as river basin management, because it demonstrates that cultural connectivity and fluvial connectivity should be analyzed in conjunction with one another for a more holistic understanding of the system. The definition of the river’s significance does not solely rely on its physical magnitude, or the volume of water that is transported, but its significance must also be evaluated in terms of its cultural magnitude. The Ganges River is not simply a resource for consumption and use, but is essential to Indian culture through the lenses of spirituality, symbology, and moral regard.