The University of Iowa

From Snakes' Blood to Sewage

October 15th, 2012

SASP talk examines the cultural impact of losing an important Indian river

Professor, author, and researcher Ann Grodzins Gold will give a lecture Thursday, Oct. 25, from 4:00-5:30 p.m. in 2390 University Capitol Centre (the Executive Board Room) discussing the cultural impact on an Indian community of losing a river of great spiritual importance. The talk is titled, “From Snakes' Blood to Sewage: Mythology and Ecology of a Minor River in Rajasthan.”

This event is free and open to the public.

The Nagdi River, a tributary of the much larger Banas, flows through a portion of Rajasthan's Bhilwara District and past the old market town of Jahazpur.  Unlike India's major sacred waterways, such as the Ganga and the Yamuna, which have the status of goddesses, the Nagdi was never deified.  However, within living memories the Nagdi displayed miraculous properties, and it figures in the origin legend of the town of Jahazpur. At present, due to a complex convergence of ecological tragedies and local conditions, the Nagdi's flow has dwindled and its waters are badly polluted. Once proud of the Nagdi's miraculous properties, Jahazpur residents are aware of having lost an important part of their environmental and cultural heritage.

In her lecture, Gold will share the responses of the local community to this tragedy and explore the complex causalities of the Nagdi's deterioration and possibilities for restoration.

Gold is Thomas J. Watson Professor of Religion and Professor of Anthropology at Syracuse University.  Gold's fieldwork in rural Rajasthan, North India, has focused on pilgrimage, gender, expressive traditions, and environmental history.  During 2010-2011, she held a Fulbright-Hays Faculty Research Fellowship for ethnographic research on landscape and identity in a small market town.

Sponsors of this event are the South Asian Studies Program and International Programs. For more information, contact Meena Khandelwal at or 319-335-3857.