The Ganga, National River of India: Its Heritage and Future

The symposium will bring together scholars from many diverse disciplines who will speak to the multi-faceted heritage of the Ganga, discuss how this precious heritage is at risk, and develop an integrated framework guiding ecologically and culturally sustainable approaches to conservation.  Topics to be covered include Ganga’s purity and pollution, mapping urbanization and festivals, arts of the Ganga, and the sacred Landscape.


Kelly Alley, Professor of Anthropology at Auburn University, is the author of On the Banks of the Ganga: When Wastewater Meets a Sacred River (University of Michigan Press, 2002) and has a long list of recent publications on India’s river policies, legal activism, and news reporting.

Anthony Acciavati is an Adjunct Prof. at Columbia University in the City of New York. Trained as both an architect and historian of science and technology, he is the author of Ganges Water Machine: Designing New India's Ancient River (2015), a decade long field and archival research project to map the Ganges River basin. He is a principal and co-founder of both Somatic Collaborative and Manifest: A Journal of American Architecture and Urbanism.

Jessica Vantine Birkenholtz is Assistant Professor with the Department of Religion at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. Professor Birkenholtz’s areas of research include the comparative study of Hindu religious identity, practice, and literature from the medieval period to the present day, Hindu goddess traditions in Nepal and India, and gender and religion. Professor Birkenholtz is the Book Review editor for Himalaya, the journal of the Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies.

Trevor Birkenholz is Associate Professor of Geography and Geographic Information Science at University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. Dr. Birkenholtz is a cultural and political ecologist, and development geographer. His work attempts to link the political economy of access to and control over environmental resources, and ecological change (political ecology), to issues of technology, knowledge, and social power. To date, he has advanced these concerns by investigating the transformation of groundwater-based irrigation, and urban and rural water supplies in South Asia. Dr. Birkenholtz also serves as Environment and Society Section Editor for the journal Geography Compass.

Swati Chattopadhyay is Professor of History of Art and Architecture at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Dr.Chattopadhyayis an architect and architectural historian specializing in modern architecture and urbanism as well as the history of the British Empire. She is a recipient of one of 173 2015 fellowships awarded by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Her current work includes a major book project, “Nature’s Infrastructure,” which deals with the infrastructural transformation of the Indo-Gangetic Plain between the 17th and 19th centuries.

Pradeep Dhillon is Associate Professor of Educational Policy, Organization, and Leadership Her research straddles philosophy of language, ethics, and aesthetics as they relate to international and global scholarship and education. She edits the Journal of Aesthetic Education and is the author of two books and several articles many of which focus on modern and contemporary art in India.

Ranjit Makkuni is a multimedia designer and artist. He directs Sacred World Research Laboratory in New Delhi and his major interactive museum projects include The Crossing: Living, Dying and Transformation in Banaras.

Rana P.B. Singh is Professor Emeritus of Cultural Geography and Heritage Studies at Banaras Hindu University in India and is the author of numerous articles on Varanasi (Benares) and the Ganga. He is the editor of Banaras (Varanasi): Cosmic Order, Sacred City, Hindu Traditions (Tara Book Agency, 1993) and co-editor, with George Michell, of Banaras: The City Revealed (Marg Publications, 2005).

Alpa Nawre  is Assistant Professor in the Department of Landscape Architecture at Kansas State University. She has published articles on water systems in India and is currently researching Ganga Riverfronts

Amita Sinha is Professor in the Department of Landscape Architecture at University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. She is the author of Landscapes in India: Forms and Meanings (University Press of Colorado, 2006), editor of Landscape Perception (Academic Press, 1995) and Delhi's Natural Heritage (USIEF and INTACH, 2009).