An expert on the Asian elephant will discuss “Elephant, Empire and Ecology in Ancient India” on Tuesday, Oct. 30, at 4 p.m. in Burke Auditorium.
Raman Sukumar, a professor in the Centre for Ecological Sciences at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, India, will trace the elephant-human relationship from the ancient Harappan civilization, when elephants are believed to have been first tamed, to the use of elephants in the armies of major kingdoms and empires, and to the rise in their status from a supreme animal, Gajatame, in early Buddhist India to that of a supreme god, Ganesha, in Hindu India by about the 4th or 5th century.
“I will provide sociopolitical and ecological interpretations as to why the largest land mammal was accorded sacred status in Asia, though not in Africa,” said Sukumar.
In addition, he will explain howelephants have been widely revered across the cultures of South Asia and Southeast Asia.
“This reverence, perhaps, has played a critical role in the survival of the species in one of the most densely populated regions of the world,” he said.
Sukumar was a recipient of the International Cosmos Prize in 2006, and his publications include four books and over 100 scholarly papers on elephant biology, tropical forest ecology, climate change and nature conservation. From 1991 to 1992 he was a Fulbright Fellow at Princeton University, and since 2001 he has been a member of the adjunct faculty at Columbia University. His doctoral research on elephant-human interaction, “The Asian Elephant: Ecology and Management,” was published as a monograph by Cambridge University Press in 1989.