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| Last Updated:: 27/09/2016

Sacred Forests

 

 

 

 

 

 

A sacred forest or grove comprises patches of natural vegetation – from a few trees to several acres – that are dedicated to local deities or tree spirits. These spaces are protected by local communities because of their religious beliefs and traditional rituals that run through several generations.

 


The degree of sanctity accorded to the sacred groves varies from one area to another. In some forests, even the dry foliage and fallen fruits are not touched. People believe that any kind of disturbance will offend the local deity, causing diseases, natural calamities or failure of crops. For example, the Garo and the Khasi tribes of north-eastern India prohibit any human interference in the sacred groves. In other places, deadwood or dried leaves may be picked up, but the live tree or its branches are never cut. For example, the Gonds of central India prohibit the cutting of a tree but allow fallen parts to be used.

 

 

 

Ecological Significance

 

 

Conservation of Biodiversity – The sacred groves are important repositories of floral and faunal diversity that have been conserved by local communities in a sustainable manner. They are often the last refuge of endemic species in a geographic region.



Recharge of aquifers – The groves are often associated with ponds, streams or springs, which support the water requirements of the local people. The vegetative cover helps in the recharging aquifers.

 

Soil conservation - The vegetation cover of the sacred groves improves the soil stability of the area and prevents soil erosion.


 

 

Distribution of Sacred Forests in India


 

In India, sacred groves are found all over the country and abundantly along the Western Ghats. Although, there has been no comprehensive study of  sacred groves in the entire country, experts estimate the total number of sacred groves in India could be in the range of 100,000 – 150,000.

 

 

 

Threats to the Sacred Forests

 

 

The threats vary from one region to the other and even from one forest to the other. But the common threats identified are: 

 

 

 

  • Disappearance of the traditional belief systems, which were fundamental to the concept of sacred forests. These systems and their rituals are now considered mere superstition

 

  • Sacred forests in many parts of our country have been destroyed due to rapid urbanization and developmental interventions such as roads, railways tracks, dams including commercial foretry. Encroachment has led to the shrinkage of some of the largest forests in the country

 

  • Many forests are suffering due to ‘Sanskritisation’ or the transformation of the primitive forms of nature worship into formal temple worship

 

  • Invasion by exotic weeds such as Eupatorium odoratum, Lantana camara and Prosopis juliflora is a serious threat to some grove

 

  • Pressures due to increasing livestock and fuelwood collection

 

 

 

 

Source: “Cultural and Ecological Dimensions of Sacred Groves in India” by Malhotra, K.C., Gokhale, Y., and Chatterjee, S., 1998


 

 

 

 

 

Source:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=obHsBGe9nbw

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

List of Sacred Groves  

 

Sl.No.

 State

Local term for Sacred Forests

No.of documented

Sacred Forests

1.

Pavithravana
677
2
Gumpa Forests (Sacred Groves attached to Buddhist monestries) 
159
3
 Sacred Grove
29

4

Bihar

 

 

Sarhuli Mander

43

5

Chhattisgarh

 

 

Matagudi

63

6

Goa

 

 

Deorai, Pann

93

7

Gujarat

 

 

Sabarkantha, Dahod,Banaskantha

 

42

8

 

Haryana

 

Gurudwara grove

 

 

57
 

9

Himachal Pradesh

Kul Deveta 

 

 

329
 

10

Jammu & Kashmir

Bani

92

11

Jharkhand

 

 

Sarana/Jaherthan

29

12 

Devara Vana, Devara Kadu, Huli devarakadu, Nagavan, Bhatappavana, Jatakappan bana, Ghowdibana, Kan

 

 

1476

13

Kerala

Kavu, Sarp Kavu

 

 

1096

14

Madhya Pradesh

 

Sharana,Devkot, Matikot, Devsthali, Budhadev

170

15

Maharashtra

 

Van, Deovan, Deorai, Devgudi, Pen Gada / Gonds, Devarahati

2820

16

Manipur

 

Gamkhap, Mauhak ( sacred bamboo reserves)

166

17

Meghalaya

 

Ki Law Lyngdoh, Ki Law Kyntang, Ki Law Niam

105

18

Odisha

 

Jahera, Thakuramma

188

19

Puducherry

 

Kovil Kadu

108

20

Rajasthan

 

Vani, Malvan, Kenkri, Orans, Shamlat deh, Devabani, Jogmaya

560

21

Sikkim

 

Pandam

16

22

Tamil Nadu

 

Swami Shola, Koil Kadu, Katttu Koil, Vanakkoil

1275
23
Pavithravana
57
24
Deo Bhumi, Bugyal (sacred alpine meadows)
133
25
Dev van,Van 
32
26
Gramthan, Santalburitan Shitalatan, Haritan Sabitritan, Jahera, Deo Tasara, Mawmund
562