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| Last Updated:: 21/03/2017

Sacred Natural Sites of Gujarat

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sacred natural sites are the place in natural areas having some sacred values which play an important role in conserving culture and nature. Sacred natural sites are defined as an area of land or water having special spiritual significance to peoples and communities.

 

 

 

An inherent link is found in the belief system of human societies between their faiths and the conservation of land, water and biodiversity. The sacred natural sites include sacred groves, sacred rivers, sacred ponds, caves, hillocks, etc. They are sometimes the burial grounds of ancestors, places of pilgrimage, the locale of a temple, or sites associated with special events, saints and spiritual leaders.

 

 

 

These sites are considered as nodes of biological and cultural diversity which are not sufficiently understood or recognized. Sacred natural sites are indeed the oldest protected areas of the planet (Wild and McLeod, 2008) and are the world’s oldest conservation areas known to mankind. These sites provide all types of ecosystem services viz. preserving, supporting, regulating, provisioning and cultural and these services are a by-product of the traditional protection of these sites. Though these sacred natural sites are part of the ecosystem which has material values but these areas have also ‘non-material’ spiritual significance to people.

 

 

 

Some sacred natural sites are also recorded from Gujarat state. Kachchh which is located in the north-western part of Gujarat is endowed with many types of ecosystems, habitats and sacred natural sites. The prominent natural and unique site of the district is Sharvan Kavadiya which is located in the central part of the district. Apart from the above site, many sacred natural sites are also found in the districts which have their own cultural significance to the local communities. These sites are traditionally managed by the local people since a long period. The sites of the district are unsurveyed and their cultural histories are also not documented. The rapid loss and degradation of sacred natural sites by ongoing developmental activities in the district have severely threatened the critical biodiversity, ecosystem services, cultural resources associated with these sites.

 

 

 

The following are some of the sacred natural sites in the district.

 

 

 

Imli Garden, Mothala Village, Abdasa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A total of 13 old tamarind trees (Tamarindus indica) are found in the sacred sites located in the boundary of agricultural field of Mothala village. The site is often referred as a ghost site by villagers. The villagers informed that the grove area is used for learning black magic and they perform the rituals during full moon chaudas (a day before Diwali or Kali chaudas). People did not dare to come alone to the site even during day light. As per the local villagers, the site is 400 years old. In the central portion of the site, there is one old well and its water is not used by people now-a-day for drinking or other purposes.

 

 

 

 

Guneri Inland Mangrove, Abdasa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is located in Guneri village of Lakhpat taluka and is also located on the fringe of the Great Rann of Kachchh. It is considered as one of the unique and oldest (more than 500 years old) inland mangrove forests in the region. The site is 45 km far from the Arabian Sea. As per the local people, once the place was used by devotees of Hinglaj mata as a resting place. They used the branches of the tree for mouth washing and planted the left over parts of the used branch in the area which in the later period developed as an inland mangrove. The local people traditionally managed the area from long time due to sacred associations with the site. They use the branches and leaves of mangrove for their livestock only during the drought period. Avicennia marina is the only mangrove species found in the area which is more than 200 years old. The site is used as a habitat and shelter for many wildlife species like; chinkara, wild boar, blue bull, Indian fox, jackal, Indian hare, etc. and along with many avian species.

 

 

 

 

Bileshwar Mahadev, Nandra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The site is located in the Abdasa taluka of Kachchh district. The site is about 125 years old and has more than 100 trees of Aegle marmelos (locally called Bili). Thus, the temple situated in the centre was named as Bileshwar Mahadev. Most of the trees are more than 100 years old and all trees are worshiped by the priest of the temple. The site and many large sized Banyan trees are found which are used as a roosting site by the flying fox (Pteropus giganteus). The site is home to a large number of peacocks which is an attraction for devotees.

 

 

 

 

Nilkhant Temple, Piyoni, Abdasa

 

 

 

The temple is a cultural symbol of the local communities which attracts many devotees throughout the year. According to the temple priest (locally called pujari), the temple in the village was once occupied by the goldsmith’s community. Due to frequent droughts, ghost activities and illness etc. had forced them to leave their homeland. Ultimately no one dared to live in this area for a long period. But the region flourished after the establishment of the Nilkhant temple within the area. At present, the availability of fresh water resulted in a good habitation, which was not so much evident in the past.

 

 

 

 

Kashi Vishwanth Mandir, Tera Village

 

 

 

The site is also located in the Abdasa taluka. It is one of the oldest temples of the district and important religious site for the local communities. The two trees; Ficus benghalensis and Ficus religiosa are worshipped as a holy tree by the local community since a very long period.

 

 

 

 

Chapal Devi Maa, Jaru

 

 

 

It is located in the Anjar taluka of the district. The site is known as Bhutiya talab (pond) in the area. It is believed that a ghost prepared this pond in one night. As per the villagers, 10 to 15 years ago, no body dared to visit the pond even in the day time. The site flourished after the establishment of Chapal Devi Maa temple on the bank of the pond. Hence, many devotees used to worship the site. The site has many old Pipal (Ficus religiosa) and Banyan (Ficus benghalensis) trees. These trees are used as a roosting site by a large number of flying foxes and many avian species.

 

 

 

 

Nilkhant Mahadev, Lakhapar

 

 

 

The site is also located in the Anjar taluka of the district. The Banyan (Ficus benghalensis) is the prominent species and as per the local people the oldest tree is about 500 years old. The Banyan tree is worshiped by the local people from a very long time. Apart from worshipping, the site is also used as a resting site and entertainment place during the summer season. It also provides shelter for many avian species and other animals.

 

 

 

 

 

Shravan Kavadiya, Anjar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sharvan Kavadiya is a unique natural site of India, hosting the inland mangrove vegetation. There are only eight recorded inland mangroves found in the world among which this mangrove is the first recorded inland mangrove of India. This inland mangrove is also the first recorded sacred grove of Gujarat. The site is land locked and is located on the fringe of the Great Rann of Kachchh, Gujarat. The site is situated about 100 km from the Arabian Sea. It is a well known historical and sacred place. As per the local community, the site was believed to be visited mangrove by Shravan Kumar during Treta Yuga (mentioned in the holy Ramayana). He came to the site for collecting water for his parents. At the same time, King Dashrath went there for hunting and accidently killed Sharvan kumar.

 

 

Avicevvia marina is the only mangrove species in the inland mangrove. About two decades ago, the site had more than a hundred very old Avicennia trees. The super cyclone of 1998 in the Gulf of Kachchh, felled more than 90 trees of the site. The site is now degraded due to natural and anthropogenic pressure.

 

 

 

 

 

Gangeshwar Mahadev Temple, Mau Moti

 

 

 

The site is located in the Mandvi taluka of Kachchh district. The area is located in the arid part of the district. About 150 years ago, the natural fresh water was flowing above the land surface. Due to the presence of natural flow of fresh water, the site was known as Ganga by the villagers. A Lord Shiva temple was established 200 years ago and named as Gangeshwar Mahadev. The site has a large number of old tamarind trees (Tamarindus indica), locally called Imli and many Banyan (Ficus benghalensis) trees. As per the villagers, from the last 100 years the surface water flow of the area was closed and the ground water level is also depleted. The site has more than 10 very old wells are found which are used as a only source of fresh water by the people. Nowadays, the ground water level of the area is about 400 feet as per the villagers.

 

 

 

 

Pir Bari, Jangai, Nakhatrana

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About 100 years ago, the king used to levy tax upon the landlords in the form of 1/3 rd yield of the net crop produce in a year. At that time, there was a Fhakir along with his family who refused to pay the tax; as a consequence, the officials from the King’s court assassinated the entire family. Subsequently, the officials tried to collect the crop yield of Sesam from the Fhakir’s field but the entire crop automatically burnt. This came as a surprise to the entire villagers and officials. Thereafter, the place was recognized as a sacred place by all the villagers. The site has a large number of Salvadora Sp., locally called as Pilu. For protection from evil activities, the villagers are performing a ritual every year in the site. During the time of performing the ritual the villagers tie a string around the entire village boundary. The villagers are protecting and worshipping the grove due to the past tradition.

 

 

 

 

Swami Narayan Temple, Juna Dhamarka, Anjar

 

 

The villagers highlighted that once upon a time, Lord Swami Narayan had meditated and performed some rituals underneath the tree Prosopis cineraria, locally called as Khijdo. Since then the site is a holy place for the local community and the villagers worship the tree.

 

 

 

 

Sati Mata Temple, Jura, Bhuj

 

 

It is believed that a woman committed Sati here ritual after her husband’s death. The sacred tree, Prosopis cineraria (Khijdo) is naturally grown on the same place which is being worshipped by all the villagers. Hence the temple is known as Sati Mata Temple in Nirona village. Apart from the Khijdo, many old neem trees are found at the site.

 

 

 

Phool Shah Pir Dada, Nirona, Nakhatrana

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

It is a unique Dargah of the Hindu clan which is being worshipped by both the Hindu and Muslim communities. It is well managed by the local communities. The site has many natural species like Cordia Sp. (Gundi), Salvadora Sp. (Pilu) and Prosopis cineraria (Khijdo).

 

 

 

 

Jai Shri Dada Garibnath, Nakhatrana

 

 

 

In ancient times, children used to throw mango seeds willfully on the Saint who was meditating underneath the mango trees. The saint meditation was disturbed and he uttered curse causing the mango trees to be transformed into tamarind trees. After this incident, no mango trees are allowed to be grown in this area.

 

 

 

 

Gebal Shah Pir, Bhimasar, Bhachau

 

 

 

It is one of the sacred places in the taluka and the site is worshiped by both Hindu and Muslim communities. The tree species like; Salvadora Sp. (Pilu) and Moringa Sp. (drumstick) are prominent species of this place. Apart from these trees, many other species are found the site and shelter the wildlife.

 

 

The above mentioned natural sites in the district are few which are mostly managed by traditional practices by the local communities. In addition to the cultural and religious importance, the sites also provide habitat for many wildlife species and biodiversity. Since the last two decades, the anthropogenic pressure like intensive agriculture, urbanization, industrialization and infrastructural development have increased in the district which impacts the survival of these natural sites. Therefore, an intensive management plan for each site and public awareness about the sites is a pre-requisite to conserve these natural sites in the district.