Forest and Fire

Madhav Gadgil and Ramachandra Guha

in This Fissured Land

Second edition

Published in print December 2012 | ISBN: 9780198077442
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199082155 | DOI:

Series: Oxford India Perennials Series

Forest and Fire

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Agricultural-pastoral people spread over the Indian subcontinent in many phases. Hunting-gathering, along with shifting cultivation, dominated all the moister tracts of this region. The pattern of resource use became grounded in a continual march of agriculture and pastoralism over territory held by food gatherers. The highest concentration of agricultural-pastoral populations was along the Gangetic plains. Buddhism and Jainism did not succeed in destroying the social hierarchy of Indian society then. The eight centuries from 500 bc to ad 300, which followed the colonization of the fertile lands of northern India, appear to have been characterized by the availability of large surpluses of agricultural production for activities outside food production. Elephant forests and hunting preserves brought in a new form of territorial control over living resources—control by the state. Protection to cattle has undoubtedly been significant in influencing the practices of mixed agriculture and animal husbandry, which are so characteristic of India.

Keywords: northern India; Elephant forests; mixed agriculture; resource use; pastoralism; Buddhism; Jainism; hunting; animal husbandry

Chapter.  5525 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Sociology

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