Belief in the sanctity ofanimals originated from ideas of karma and the transmigration of souls thus anant or a tiger could be one s past or future identity.
Sacred Animals of India draws on the ancientreligious traditions of India Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism to explore thecustoms and practices that engendered the veneration of animals in India.
Animals are worshipped inIndia as deities, as, for instance, the elephant-god Ganesha and the monkey-godHanuman, or as the fish, tortoise and boar forms or avatars that Vishnu isbelieved to have taken on earth. Some species, such as the swan, bull, lion andtiger, regarded as vahanas vehicles of deities developed sanctity byassociation. Others, such as the snake, are worshipped out of fear. Birds suchas the crow are regarded as the abode of the dead, or the souls of ancestors,while the cow s sanctity may derive from its economic value. There are alsohero-animals, such as the vanaras, and animals that were totemic symbols oftribes that were assimilated in Vedic Hinduism.
This book also examinesthe traditions that gave animals in India protection, and is a reminder of therole of animal species in the earth s biodiversity.