Murdoch University Research Repository

Welcome to the Murdoch University Research Repository

The Murdoch University Research Repository is an open access digital collection of research
created by Murdoch University staff, researchers and postgraduate students.

Learn more

In a city like Delhi: sustainability and spirituality

Narayanan, Yamini (2008) In a city like Delhi: sustainability and spirituality. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

PDF - Front Pages
Download (360kB)
PDF - Whole Thesis
Download (18MB)


The broad purpose of ‘In A City Like Delhi’ is to make an argument in favour of the positive link between spirituality and sustainability. Sustainability, at its core, requires an ethical commitment, and the thesis proposes that spirituality may be that vital means through which sustainability may be truly animated, in theory and in practice. The thesis is particularly preoccupied with considering the yet fully unrealised competence of spirituality to enrich the understanding and practise of sustainability in the urban space. To this end, it uses a very particular case study to make a modest exploration of such a conceptual association – the city of Delhi.

The concept of sustainability, as articulated in the West, is primarily a secular notion. While international religious and spiritual organisations have taken up the sustainability challenge, the reverse is less true – sustainability planning is rarely conducted in a dialogue with religious or spiritual institutions and resources. In this context the case study of an Indian megacity to examine the relationship between religion, spirituality, secularism and development, is particularly interesting. The thesis explores, as one example of the potential interface, how Hindu spirituality as interpreted by Mahatma Gandhi, may usefully inform a spiritual philosophy to enliven a sustainability consciousness in Delhi.

The theoretical speculations of the thesis are grounded in the local context by seeking the perspectives of twenty primary informants from Delhi who are all associated with various levels of planning and implementing development in the city. I specifically chose my interviewees from secular development backgrounds (rather than religious and spiritual representatives) because this would enrich critical understanding of how spirituality may be viewed within a secular sustainability discourse. I use their views on spirituality, sustainable development, and any affinities between the two notions to balance my own perspective, derived from both my research and my personal experience of the city of my birth. The interviews gave added depth to the environmental, economic and social challenges confronting the city of Delhi, which were already evident in the literature review. Additionally however, the interviews confirmed the hypothesis that sustainable development and spirituality together could have a productive, coherent and an even inseparable grounding union in Delhi and that spirituality may be vital in facilitating that essential shift in consciousness that a sustainable mindset requires. These findings are crucial to any study or strategy considering comprehensive sustainable development for Delhi.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Institute for Sustainability and Technology Policy
Supervisor(s): Thiele, Beverly and Barns, Ian
Item Control Page Item Control Page


Downloads per month over past year