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Monday, November 5, 2012

CULTURAL AND ECOLOGICAL DIMENSIONS OF SACRED GROVES IN INDIA

Kailash C. Malhotra.
Indian Statistical Institute
203 B.T. Road
Kolkata - 700 035.
Yogesh Gokhale Sudipto Chatterjee
Centre for Ecological Sciences World Wide Fund for Nature-India
Indian Institute of Science 172 B, Lodi Estate New Delhi 110 003.
Bangalore 560 012.

Sanjeev Srivastava
Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya, Bhopal.
Indian National Science Academy,
New Delhi
&
Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya,
Bhopal

June, 2001
Published by: Indian National Science Academy, New Delhi & Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya, Bhopal.
Printed at : Nirmal Vijay Printer, B-62/8, Naraina Indl. Area, Phase – II, New Delhi – 110 028. Ph: 5704549, 9811053617

PREFACE
In India, as elsewhere in many parts of the world, a number of communities practice different forms of nature worship. One such
significant tradition is that of providing protection to patches of forests dedicated to deities and/or ancestral spirits. These patches of forests are
known as sacred groves (SGs). The institution of SGs is very ancient, and once was widespread in most parts of the world. Over 50,000 SGs
have so far been reported from different parts of India. SGs are the rich heritage of India, and play an important role in the religious and sociocultural
life of the local people. SGs are ecosystems by themselves and perform all the ecological functions. Many threatened, endangered and
rare species find safe refuge in the SGs. The groves are repositories of biological wealth of the nation. This institution, however, now shows
signs of weakening in both cultural and biological integrity.
The overview presented in this report has been prepared on behalf of the National Committee for Scientific Committee on Problems of
Environment (SCOPE). The overview covers various cultural and ecological dimensions of SGs in India, and describes the recent initiatives
undertaken by various institutes in the country to strengthen this institution.
On behalf of the SCOPE National Committee and the authors of this report, I express, my appreciation and gratitude to the Indian National
Science Academy, New Delhi, and the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya, Bhopal for publishing this report.
June 2001 Kailash C. Malhotra, FASc, FNA
Chairman, SCOPE National Committee

CULTURAL AND ECOLOGICAL DIMENSIONS OF
SACRED GROVES IN INDIA
In India, as elsewhere in many parts of the world, a number of communities practise different forms of nature worship. One such
significant tradition of nature worship is that of providing protection to patches of forests dedicated to deities or ancestral spirits. These
vegetation patches have been designated as sacred groves. Although different authors have described these groves in different ways, most
scholars emphasize the natural or near-natural state of vegetation in the sacred groves, and the preservation of these groves by local communities
through social taboos and sanctions that reflect spiritual and ecological ethos of these communities.
Sacred groves are dedicated by local communities to their ancestral spirits or deities. Such a grove may consist of. a multi-species, multi tier primary forest or a clump of trees, depending on the history of the vegetation. These groves are protected by local communities, usually
through customary taboos and sanctions’ with cultural and ecological implications.
Thus sacred groves (SGs) are segments ‘of landscape, containing vegetation and other forms of life and geographical features that are
delimited and protected by human societies under the belief that to keep them in a relatively undisturbed state is expressive of an important
relationship of humans with the divine or with nature (Hughes and Chandran, 1998). Diverse cultures perceive this relationship in different
ways, and institutionalise various rules of behaviour (taboos) with regard to the sacred space and its elements.
The institution of SGs has been fairly well studied in India from anthropologicaI as well as biological conservation points of view (for an
overview of anthropological studies, see Roy Burman, 1995; Gupta, 1998; Malhotra, 1998; Das and Malhotra, 1998; and for biological
conservation related studies see Chandrashekara & Sankar, 1998; Deb et al. 1997; Deshmukh et al., 1998; Pushpangadan et al., 1998; Gokhale et
al., 1998; Ramakrishnan, 1998; and also see Ramakrishnan et al. (eds.), 1998: This publication contains several articles on the subject.)
We provide here an overview of the cultural and ecological dimensions of SGs in India. The materials have been described under three
broad headings: (1) Anthropological Dimensions, (2) Biological and Ecological Dimensions and (3) Threats and Opportunities.
1. Anthropological Dimensions of SGs
The material in this part has been described under the following heads and draws substantially on an earlier
review article of Malhotra (1998) and Gokhale (in press)~
• Antiquity of SGs
• Geographical Distribution of SGs in India
• Number and Size ‘Distribution of SGs
• Ownership Pattern and Management of SGs
• Ethnicity and SGs
• Gender and SGs
• Interface Between People and SGs
— Religious
- Socio-cultural
— Economic
— Political.
1.1 Antiquity of SGs
Several scholars have noted that SGs are a very ancient and widespread institution in the
Old World cultures. According to Kosambi (1962) the institution in India is very ancient and dates
back to the pre-agrarian hunting-gathering stage, before humans had settled down to raise
livestock or till the land.
1.2 Geographical Distribution, of SGs in India
In the present day India the tradition of SGs is reported from most parts of the country.
However, for the following states there are no reports or studies available regarding the presence
or absence of the tradition:
Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Jammu and Kashmir, Lakshadweep, Nagaland, Delhi, Goa,
Punjab and Tripura. We describe here the salient features of the distribution of SGs in different
parts of the country.
1.2.1 Andhra Pradesh
The report of WWF -A. P. (1996) has more than 750 SGs from 23 districts of the State as
follows (figures in parenthesis are number of groves in the respective district) - Adilabad (2),
Anantapur (73), Chittoor (133), Cuddapah (76), East Godavari (10), Guntur (17), Hyderabad
(13), Karimnagar (4), Khammam (4), Krishna (12), Kurnool (115), Mahabubnagar (9), Medak
(4), Nalgonda (9), Nellore (87), Nizamabad (7), Prakasam (59), Ranga Reddy (10), Srikakulam
(30), Visakhapatnam (30), Vizianagaram (32), Warangal (3), West Godavári (17). A study by
Prakash (in press) in the Eastern Ghats of Andhra Pradesh indicates the following species as
commonly found in the SGs such as neredu (Syzygium jambolunu), chintha (Tumurindus indica),
niamidi (Mangifera indica), panasa (Artocurpus integrifolia), vepa (Azhadiracta indica),
gummidi (Gmelina arborea), ganuga (Pongamia glabra), sampange (Michelia chum paka), teku
(Tectona grandis), Juvvi (Ficus retusa), medi (Ficus glomerata), ravi (Ficus religiosa) and marri
(Ficus benghalensis). Several groves can be found in the habitation area ‘or economic zone and
the common land of the village.
1.2.2 Arunachal Pradesh
Arunachal Pradesh has SGs attached to Buddhist monasteries called as Gumpa Forest
Areas (GFAs), which are managed by Lamas. The monasteries are mainly found in the western
districts, namely, Tawang and West Kameng. 58 GFAs are reported from the state. Other
districts namely Lower Subansiri, Siang are also having SGs (Chatterjee et al., 2000).
1.2.3 Assam
In plains and foothills of western Assam, the forest dwelling tribes like Bodo and Rabha
have tradition of SGs locally called than. Karbi Anglong district also has about 40 SGs (Deb,
1995). In Haflong district in the foothills of Assam, SGs of the Dimasa tribe are called madaico.
The size of madaico is generally not more than an acre. SGs are also found in the plains of
Brahmaputra in Assam. The Vaishnav monasteries like Shankaradeva maths distributed all over
the State also have SGs:
1.2.4 Bihar
No information is available about SGs in the State. However, there are several tribes among
whom this tradition is present ‘inhabit the State. Therefore, there is a strong possibility of the
existence of SGs in Bihar.
1.2.5 Chhattisgarh
Many anthropological studies on tribals give account of the tradition of SGs in
Chhattisgarh, the new State carved out from the Madhya Pradesh. Villages in Bastar have three
kinds of SGs, namely, matagudi, devgudi and gaondevi. Different tribes have their own Mata or
Gaondevi or goddess in devgudi. The Chhotanagpur part of the State shows the predominance of
sarana or jahera kind of SGs plotted all over the State (Patnaik and Pandey, 1998; Pandey,
2000). The saranas are of different types such as sarhul sarana, mahadani sarana, etc.
Generally, area occupied by the sarana is less than an acre.
1.2.6 Gujarat
Twenty nine SGs have been reported from Banaskantha district of Gujarat. The sizes of the
groves range between one acre to two square kms (Gupta et al., 2000).
1.2.7 Haryana
In Haryana unlike in many States there is no generic name for SGs although the sites are
protected for similar reasons. There are in all 248 SGs enumerated in Kurukshetra district where
Kurukshetra tahsil has 190, Pehowa tahsil 30 and Shahabad tahsil 28. Out of the 248 groves
studied, temple groves account for 30 percent, Tirath groves 20 percent, Gurudwara groves 18
percent, Samadhi groves &4percent and others (under Ashram, Dharamshala, Vidyapeeth,
Church etc.) 16 percent (NAEB, 1995).
1.2.8 Himachal Pradesh
In Himachal Pradesh, the tradition of sacred groves is generally known as dev van. The
tradition is reported from Shimla, Mandi, Kullu districts and Lahaul and Spiti. All these districts
have dense forest cover according to maps of Forest Survey of India except Lahaul and Spiti
where the groves are useful in maintaining the perennial source of water in harsh environmental
conditions (Chhatre et al., 1998). Groves of various sizes are found. However, larger groves
spread over few hectares are used for controlled use of resources by the local people. There are
about 10,000 temples in the State with well defined management committees and Biradari
Panchayats (Caste councils). Almost all the major deities in the State have their own groves and
hence the State can be called as Land of Deities and Sacred Groves (Sharma, 2000).
1.2.9 Jharkhand
The newly formed State is extensively dotted with sacred groves. The townships like Ranchi
which were earlier tribal settlements, even today harbour SGs. Various anthropological studies
report the tradition from Jharkhand. The tradition is popularly known as sarana or jaherthan.
These groves are usually small forest patches not more than an acre. In the Chhotanagpur area
there are various types of sarana for different purposes like sarhul sarana., duvaria sarana, etc.
In Mundari language sarhul means nature’s festival. Tribals also describe it as a beautification of
Mother Earth. The sarhul is celebrated in sarhul sarana. The festival is celebrated when sal
(Shorea robusta) trees start flowering.
1.2.10 Karnataka
The links of the forests with the deities of their respective villages of the Western Ghats of
Karnataka were referred to by Buchanan (1870), who travelled through Uttara Kannada in 1801:
The forests are the property of the gods of the villages in which they are situated, and the
trees ought not to be cut without having leave from the Gauda or headman of the village, who
here also is the priest to the temple of the village god.
The SGs are referred to by different names in various parts of Karnataka such as -
devarabana, devarakadu, hulidevarakadu, nagabana, Bhutappanbana, jataka-ppanbana,
chowdibana, etc. The groves in the Western Ghats broadly fall under two categories. The smaller
groves are entirely protected; no tree felling or other biomass extraction may be allowed. On the
other hand, larger groves function as resource forests, offering both livelihood sustenance and
ecological security. The people of the village may gather fallen deadwood, non-wood produce
such as pepper, mango, jackfruit, etc., and tap toddy from a palm (Caryota urens) (Chandran and
Gadgil, 1993). The forested districts in the Western Ghats namely Uttara Kannada, Shimoga,
Udupi, Mangalore, Dakshina Kannada and Kodagu harbour 1424 SGs (Kalam, 1996; Gokhale,
2000). (In Kodagu about 873 devarakadus spread over 10,865 acres were counted, registered and
their boundaries were marked ,in 1873 by the forest department (Kalam, 1996).) According to
the records of the forest department about 1214 devarakadus spread over an area about 6299.61
acres exist; where 352.28 acres are encroached resulting to 5947.23 acres under the devarakadus
in Kodagu district (Kalam, 1996).
1.2.11 Kerala
The first authentic report on the SGs appeared in the Census report of Travancore published
in 1891 in which Lt. Ward and Lt. Corner reported the presence of 15,000 sacred groves in
Travancore (1827). A serpent kavu or an bode of snakes was an indispensable adjunct to each
well-to-do Nair and Nambudiri family of Kerala (Chandran and Gadgil, 1993). The serpent
worship is an important feature of SGs in the State. The SC tradition in Kerala can be broadly
classified as follows:
The SGs owned collectively by the villagers are mostly dedicated to Lord Ayyappa and called as Ayyappan kavu or
Sastham kavu and those dedicated to Goddess Bhagavathi are called Bhagavathi kavu or Amman kavu.;
Sacred groves owned by the tribal communities are dedicated to vanadevatha, the goddess of the forest or to spirits,
demons or to ancestors. These groves are known as Madan kavu or Yekshi kavu.; and
The other castes like Nair, Namboodiri, Ezhava and ‘coastal fisher folk Dheevara also maintain the groves called
cheema or cheerumba (Pushpangadan et al., 1998).
In Kerala distribution of sacred groves does not overlap with the forested areas. SGs are
mainly found in the plains of Kerala. It is estimated that about 500 ha of forest area is under SGs
(Prasad and Mohanan, 1995) contributing 0.05% of the total forest area of the state
(Chandrashekara and Sankar, 1998).
1.2.12 Madhya Pradesh
The anthropological accounts of the tribes in the State suggest the existence of the
institution. However, no studies are available on probable areas like Bundelkhand, Aravalli
ranges in the northern part, Panchamahal area as well as central Madhya Pradesh.
1.2.13 Maharashtra
In Maharashtra SGs are found in tribal as well as non-tribal areas. The SC in western part
is called devrai or devrahati whereas in the eastern part Madiya tribals call it devgudi. Gadgil
and Vartak (1981) documented 233 SGs from Thane, Raigad, Jalgaon, Pune, Satara, Kolhapur,
Yewatmal, Bhandara and Chandrapur districts. A recent study by Bombay Natural History
Society shows existence of about 1600 SGs in Maharashtra (Deshmukh et al., 1998). Mahadev
Koli tribe in the Western Ghats of Maharashtra also has the tradition of sacred groves (Roy
Burman, 1992).
The distribution of SGs .overlaps with the distribution of forests in the State. No reports are
available for the central semi-arid region regarding presence of the groves. The average size of
the groves is a few acres. Large groves are found occassionally. Smaller groves in the western
and eastern parts rarely allow extraction of resource from the groves. Sacred groves form an
important landscape feature in the deforested hill ranges of the Western Chats of Maharashtra.
1.2.14 Manipur
Among the Gangte tribe in Churachandpur district of Manipur, extensive tracts of land
were traditionally not subjected to shifting cultivation, since these were considered to be SGs,
and believed to be abodes of spirits. There were also forest belts protected as sacred around the
habitations called as gamkhap. Gangte tribals also have small reserves of bamboo called mauhak.
Extraction of bamboo shoots from mauhak is totally prohibited (Gadgil, Hemam and Reddy,
1998). Meitei in Manipur practice nature worship and ancestor worship. The lofty hills, which
surround the valley, are named after the deities. Their deity umanglai (jungle deity) is also
derived from nature worship. There are 365 umanglai groves in Manipur (Devi, 2000).
1.2.15 Meghalaya
Tiwari et at (1998) report 79 SGs from the State. Rodgers (1994) mentions categorization
of protected groves in Meghalaya, which was formulated by Durbar of Khasis in 1925 as
follows:
Ki Law Lyngdoh: forests under the control of the traditional religious leader (or now
village councils): no public use permitted.
Ki Law Kyntang: forests of great sacred value for sacrificial and religious ceremonies.
Ki Law Niam: religious forest (may not be distinct from above).
Ki Law Adong: forest protected for non-commercial use, e.g. water.
Ki Law Shnong: forest resources for village use.
Brandis (1897) mentioned the existence of SGs in Garo hills. Bamboo reserves dedicated
to deities are also reported from the Garo hills. The ancestral worship is traditionally performed
in forest patches by the Garo people. Iii forested areas the focus of worship is more on the
ancient monoliths.
1.2.16 Mizoram
Mizo tribals have safety reserves and supply reserves around the villages. These safety
forests are continuation of the SGs of the pre-Christian period. They also have bamboo reserves
called mawmund in Sialkal region of northeastern Mizoram (Malhotra, 1990; Gokhale et al.,
1998).
1.2.17 Orissa
The institution of SGs in the State is recognized by various names like jahera,
Thakuramma, etc. Malhotra et al. (1997) and Malhotra et at. (in press) report 322 SGs from
Semiliguda block of Koraput district.
1.2.18 Rajasthan
SGs are found from the western part of Rajasthan to the east of the Aravalli range. The SGs
in Rajasthan are instanced by the vanis of Mewar, the kenkris of Ajmer, the orans of Jodhpur,
Jaisalmer, Bikaner and the shamlat dehs and devbanis of Alwar. It is reported that orans account
for 8 to 9 percent of the desert area (Mitra and Paul, 1994).
The tradition in Rajasthan is an ideal example of support of the tradition for ecosystem
services. The resources in the groves are used in controlled fashion or only in case of emergency
Most of these groves are also associated with streams (Pandey, 1998). whereas orans in the
western arid tract are a major source of green fodder for the livestock as well as water. The arid
districts such as Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Bikaner support orans spread over huge areas often
exceeding thousands of acres as in the case of degrai oran at village Rasla in Jaisalmer district
(Gokhale et at., 1998).
1.2.19 Sikkim
SGs in Sikkim are attached to Buddhist monasteries called Gumpa Forest Areas (GFAs)
which are managed by Lamas. Total number of SGs in Sikkim is 56 spread over 4 districts in the
State. Most of the GFAs are not fenced, but in continuation with the surrounding protected areas,
they are well protected, and use of resources vary from monastery to monastery (Chatterjee et al.,
2000).
1.2.20 Tamil Nadu
Tamil Nadu has two important institution namely kovilkadu or SG, and sthalavriksha
which are the sacred trees protected all over the State. In all, 448 groves have been reported from
28 districts of the State (Amrithalingam, 1998). Out of the districts studied, the eastern districts
without any forest cover have more number of SGs than forested districts on the western side.
More than 250 sthalavrikshas are documented. They belong to more than 70 species; most of
them are trees, while a few are herbs (Paulraj, 1996). The study of 42 SGs in Pudukottai and
Tanjore districts give account of 105 species belonging to 95 genera distributed among 44
families of flowering plants.
Terracotta plays a major role, representing the powers of renewal inherent in the earth and
all the deities and votive offerings are made of clay. At the shrine of Mother Goddess people
make offerings of terracotta horses to Ayyanaar, the village kaaval kaaran (watchman). The
horses range from 12 inches to 20 feet or more in height, depending on the district, local practice
and economic status of the devotees (Krishna, 1997).
1.2.21 Uttar Pradesh
In Uttar Pradesh, the areas like Gangetic plains due to highly commercialized agriculture
have almost lost the tradition of SGs. The tradition has been reduced to worship of single tree
species like Ficus religiosa.
1.2.22 Uttaranchal
The villages in the hills of Garhwal and Kumaon of Uttaranchal State have many sacred
conservation traditions like bugyal (sacred alpine meadows), dev van, etc
1.2.23 West Bengal
Das and Malhotra (1998) and Deb et al. (in press) have found many types of SGs such as
garamthan, shitalathan, harithan, sabitrithan, santalburithan and jahera along with sacred
burial grounds. Over 670 SGs reported from Bankura, Birbhum, Midnapur, Purulia and
Jalpaiguri districts of the state (Deb et al., 1997; Deb et al., in press.). These SGs are very small,
generally less than an acre and are not used for harvest of any biomass. Bamboo groves are
found in Jalpaiguri and Coochbihar districts.
1.3 Number and size Distribution of SGs
As noted in section 1.2, although SGs are known to be present in many States of the
country, we however, do not as yet have even an estimate of the number of such groves in India.
In Table 1, readily available data in terms. of number of SGs in India are presented. Pooling
together all the data in Table 1, at least 13,720 SGs have been reported so far in India.
Table 1. Reported number of the SGs in India.
State No. of SGs1
Andhra Pradesh 750
Arunachal Pradesh 58
Assam 40
Chhattisgarh 600
Gujarat 29
Haryana 248
Himachal Pradesh 5000
Jharkhand 21
Karnataka 1424
Kerala 2000
Maharashtra 1600
Manipur 365
Meghalaya 79
Orissa 322
Rajasthan 9
Sikkim 56
Tamil Nadu 448
Uttaranchal 1
West Bengal 670
Total 13720
1. For references see section 1.2.
It may be pointed out here that this figure of 13,750 is only an indication of the extent and
magnitude of the presence of SGs in the country. It is certainly difficult to make a guess
regarding the total number of SGs in the country but in view of the known presence and pattern
 of distribution of sacred groves in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Uttaranchal, Madhya Pradesh
and West Bengal for which detailed inventories are not available, we strongly feel that the
number of SGs in India is likely to be between 100,000 and 150,000 (Malhotra, 1998).
According to Gokhale et al. (1998), the total area of SGs in India as a whole, would be
about 33,000 ha. or 0.01 percent of the total area of India. There seems to be some error in this
estimate as just 4,415 SGs reported so far cover over 42,000 ha (Table 2). Although based on the
rather incomplete data, it is not possible to come up with a reasonable estimate. However, it can
safely be said that the area under SGs will be many times more than Gokhale et al. have
estimated.
Table 2. Reported Area of SGs In India.
State No of SGs Area (ha.) References
Karnataka
Kodagu 1214 5947 Kalam,1996
Kerala 2000 500 Rajendraprasad,1995
Maharashtra 483 3570 Gadgil and Vartak,1981
Meghalaya 79 26326 Tiwari et al.,1998
Orissa 322 50 Malhotra et al., 1998
Rajasthan (1) 1 83 Singh and Saxena, 1998
(2) 8 158 ]ha et al., 1998
Tamil Nadu 10 127 Swamy et al., 1998
Uttaranchal 1 5500 Sinha and Maikhuri,1998
West Bengal (1) 7 2 Malhotra et al., 199&
(2) 290 15 Deb et aI, in press
Total 4415 42278
1.4 Ownership and Management of SGs
The literature on this aspect, though sparse and scanty, suggests the existence of a wide
variation in the legal status and management of SGs in the country It appears that in terms of the
legal tenurial rights, SGs fall under three categories:
• SGs under the control of State forest departments;
• SGs under the control of revenue and other government departments; and
• Privately owned SGs.
A large number of SGs in Maharashtra are under the control of the Forest Department.
Gadgil and Vartak (1981) have documented 223 such groves. Legally all sacred groves in
Meghalaya are under the control of District Councils (Tiwari et al., 1998).
Kalam (1996) reports that devarakadus in Kodagu district of Karnataka are under the
control of the Revenue Department. Godbole et al. (1998) and Roy Burman (1996) mention that
many SGs in western Maharashtra are under the control of the Revenue Department. Roy
Burman further mentions that a few thousand temples and their groves in western Maharashtra
were brought under the scrutiny of the government by forming the Paschim Maharashtra
Deosthan Prabodhan Samiti in the 1960s.
Several SGs are also privately owned by a family, a group of families, a clan, or a trust
body. Chandrashekara and Sankar (1998) give examples of such groves in Kerala: Ollur kavu is
owned by a single family, the S.N. Puram grove owned and managed by several families, and the
Iringole kavu owned and managed by a temple Trust.
There are significant variations in terms of management of the SGs, i.e. upkeep, protection,
performance of rituals and festivals, conflict resolution and harvesting of biomass. To cite a few
examples: orans in Rajasthan are usually managed by Gram Panchayats (Jha et al., 1998); the
Haryali grove in Garhwal is managed by a temple committee consisting of members of three
villages (Sinha and Maikhuri, 1998); Roy Burman (1996) mentions that among the Mahadeo
Kolis of Pune district, the management is usually vested with the clan elders, whereas among the
Kunbis of Kolhapur district the groves are managed by village elders; the Kantabanshini
Thakurma SG in Koraput district is managed by two clans of the Proja tribe (Hemam et al.,
1997). Clan-based management appears to be a widespread practice among the Santhal, Oraon,
Munda, Kharia and other tribes of central, eastern and north-eastern India.
1.5 Ethnicity and Sacred Groves
The process of peopling of India stretching over indeed a long period, brought in not only
different human biological traits, but also a variety of cultural, religious and technological
characteristics. Contemporary India is an agglomeration of over 40,000 endogamous groups
(Malhotra, 1984). An estimated 37,000 groups are structured in the Hindu caste system. Each
group (caste) belongs to one of the five varnas: Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya, Sudra and
Pancham. The remaining 3,000 groups constitute different tribes, religious communities and
other communities like Parsis and Siddis who immigrated in recent history. In other words, there
is a bewildering heterogeneity in the Indian society in terms of religious beliefs, culture,
language and pattern of livelihoods.
In this section we examine if there exists any pattern in terms of association of the
institution of sacred groves and ethnicity.
A few tentative inferences in terms of association of SGs with different ethnic groups that
can be drawn from the materials described earlier are:
(i) that sacred groves are found among both tribals and non-tribals; (ii) there is regional variation
in terms of ethnic association; (iii) the association with castes of different varnas is not clear; (iv)
in States like Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, West Bengal, etc., where we have both tribals and
non tribals the presence or absence of groves in the non-tribal areas is not clear.
1.6 Gender and SGs
The role of gender in SGs can be analysed at least at four levels: (a) the gender of the deity
associated with the sacred groves, (b) the gender of the priest serving the groves, (c) the nature
and extent of access to men and women in various rituals, festivals and ceremonies that take
place in the groves, and harvest of biomass from the groves, and (d) the role of gender in the
management of the SGs.
A random literature search reveals that by and large a majority of the SGs are associated
with female deities. Gadgil and Vartak (1976) found, among 21 SGs in Maharashtra, 15
associated with goddesses and 5 with male deity (phallic worship) and one with ancestor
worship. Chandran (1995) reports occurrence of both male (Bhutappa, Jatakappa) and female
(Choudamma) deities associated with sacred groves in Karnataka. In southwest Bengal and in
Koraput district of Orissa, the deities are mostly female (Hemam et al., 1997; Malhotra et al.,
1997).
Regarding the gender of the. priest, it appears that without an exception the priesthood rests
with males (see Vartak and Gadgil, 1981; Roy Burman, 1996; Godbole et al, 1998; Sinha, 1989
and others). However, this aspect needs to be further studied, as many studies do not provide
explicit details on the gender of priests. Of great interest will be the situation among the
matrilineal societies such as Nairs in Kerala, Khasis and Garos in northeast India.
The data in terms of access to sacred groves by women are also very scanty. It appears that
generally women are not permitted into the groves after attaining puberty. However, women’s
entry is not restricted in West Bengal SGs (Deb et al., in press). Roy (1912) while describing
sacred groves among the Oraon of Chhotanagpur, mentioned that the main festival associated
with sarana is Sarhul. However, women are not allowed in the sarana, but take part in dance at
the akhara which is located close to the grove (also see Fernandes, 1993 for more details). Roy
Burman (1996) has reported a similar phenomenon among the Mahadeo Kolis of Pune district
and among the Kunbis of Kolhapur district in Maharashtra. Malhotra et al. (1997) have observed
taboo against entry of women in the sacred groves among the tribes of south-west Bengal and
among the tribes of Koraput district of Orissa.
Although many studies have dealt with harvesting of biomass from SGs, it is not clear
whether women are allowed to gather the same (see, among others, Unnikrishnan, 1990; Mitra
and Pal, 1994; Viji, 1995).
Finally, nothing is known at all about the kind of role women play in decision-making
regarding management of SGs. It will be of immense value to examine whether women are
represented in the numerous trust bodies that are managing SGs, in particular in Maharashtra,
Karnataka and Kerala. The limited information available from the studies in West Bengal and
Orissa (Deb et al., 1997; Deb et al., in press; Malhotra et al., in press) suggests practically no role
of women in the management of SGs.
1.7Interface between People and Sacred Groves
In this- section we examine the role of sacred groves in the lives of the people from four
aspects: (i) religious; (ii) socio-cultural; (iii) economic, and (iv) political
1.7.1 Religious
There is a category of SGs among many communities that are associated with certain
deities. In such groves annual rituals and ceremonies are performed to propitiate the deity.
During these rituals sacrifices of animals (such as fowl, goat, pig, buffalo) are made. In other
sanskritized groves offerings of vegetable items are made. These rituals are performed for the
well-being of the people, animals, crops, etc. Details of such offerings are available in the
anthropological literature.
The presiding deities are believed to look after the well-being of the people, and also protect the
groves by administering punishment (mostly death) to the offenders. The practice of oath/vow
taking in the groves is fairly widespread in the country (among others see Roy, 1912; Sisodia and
Malhotra, 1963; Kalam, 1996). People take vows for wish-fulfilment when there is a crisis,
particularly bearing on health,. and offerings mostly of terracotta of animals, birds, humans, etc.,
are made. In some of the groves of West Bengal heaps of such terracotta offerings of elephants
and horses are found (Malhotra and Das, 1997).
Table 3. Hierarchical Levels of Sacred Groves in Indiat.
Levels of Sacred Groves Management of Sacred Groves
V Pan-Indian By trust
IV Regional By trust
III Local By whole village/community/local committees
IL Village By whole village
I Intra-village By separate communities
I Modified from Malhotra, 1998.
There seems to be a hierarchy of sacred groves in terms of their geographical influence. At
least five such hierarchical levels are discernible (Table 3). Inhabitants of a village or even
different ethnic groups! different castes in multi-ethnic situations have their own groves. Roy
Burman (1996) reports the existence of such groves for different castes in villages of Kolhapur
and Pune districts. Malhotra et al. (1997) observed in Kendua village of Jamboni taluk of
Midnapore district where Kora and Santhal communities have their separate groves. Such a
pattern seems fairly widespread among the tribes of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Orissa. Such
groves are mostly managed by the local community(ies), and owned by a family, group of
families, or a clan.
A second category of SGs is represented by those managed by the entire village
community, regardless of ethnic composition of the village.
The local-level groves are where people from somewhat larger geographical areas, usually
a few neighbouring districts come to worship a particular grove. Examples of such groves are
Iringole in Kerala and Kantabanshini Thakurma in Orissa. Such groves are usually managed by
local community and/or committees.
The regional-level sacred groves are where people from several districts! States participate.
Such an example is the Sabarimala sacred grove in Kerala. Such groves are usually managed by
temple trusts.
The next higher level of SGs involves those of Pan-Indian character where people from
many parts of the country participate. An example of such groves is the Hariyali sacred grove in
Garhwal Himalayas (Sinha and Maikhuri, 1998). Such groves tend to be larger and managed by
temple trusts.
Another category of SGs includes those that are believed to be abodes of ancestral spirits.
Often these groves are, in fact, burial grounds. Such groves have been reported from a number of
places. A few illustrative examples are: masani SGs, among the Maler of Bihar (Vidyarthi,
1963); SGs in Sangameshwar tehsil of Ratnagiri district in Maharashtra (Godbole et al., 1998);
north Kerala SGs where ancestor worship is performed with theyyam ritual (Unnikrishnan,
1990); sasan SGs as burial grounds in Chhotanagpur (Fernandes, 1993); SGs among the Bhils of
Ratanmal (Nath, 1960). It may be mentioned that sometimes a grove may serve both the
functions, i.e. deity worship and ancestor worship. Unlike the groves associated with deities, the
groves associated with ancestor worship, in particular burial grounds, do not seem to have a
hierarchical pattern.
1.7.2 Socio-cultural
SGs have important socio-cultural functions, in addition to the religious functions. Several
festivals are performed at SGs. The literature on this subject is indeed very vast, and detailed
accounts of socio-cultural functions performed are described in several earlier ethnographic
studies. Just to mention a few as illustration: Nath (1960) mentions that once a year on the
occasion of Deepavali, offerings of food and liquor are made in groves among the Bhils of
Ratanmal; Deb and Malhotra (1997) report that, among the tribals of southwest Bengal, social
gatherings take place in these groves on the occasion of Salui and Karam festivals, as well as
wedding ceremonies; Vidyarthi and Rai (1997) report that different tribes of Bihar celebrate their
major festivals at the SGs; marriage ceremonies of the Mahedeo Koli of Pune district of
Maharashtra are held in their SGs. Fernandes (1993) has stressed on the role of sacred groves in
the socialization of the youth among the tribes of Chhotanagpur; Godbole. et al. (1998) report
that festivals like Holi, Navratri, Devdiwali are performed in sacred groves in Ratnagiri district
of Maharashtra; Troisi (1978) mentions that the association of a village with jaherthan expresses
the unity of the group. No two villages share the same jaherthan, and this serves as an important
criterion to ascertain village membership and geographical boundary; Paranjapye (1989)
highlights that the function of the SGs is to maintain a caste hierarchy within the village. The
clan control over resources is signified by the SGs among the Mahadeo Koli of Western
Maharashtra (Roy Burman, 1996).
The purpose and meaning attached to various rituals, ceremonies and functions performed
in SGs are summarised in Table 4.
Table 4. Services and Functions of SGs1.
Types Functions provided by SGs
1. Religious Propitiation of deity/spirits
Propitiation of ancestral spirits
Propitiation of totems
2. Secular
2.1 Cultural Provides cultural space to the community as a common property resource
2.2 Political Assertion of group identity
Assertion of group solidarity
Establishing new alliances
2.3 Health Fertility and Paternity
Well-being of individual/family
Well-being of community
2.4 Economic Good rainfall
Good agricultural production
Well-being of crops and animals
Success in hunting Gift exchange
2.5 Psychological Moral support and guidance
1. Modified from Malhotra et al. (1998).
Many Cultural beliefs relating to fertility and paternity find expression in vows and prayers
made at SGs. Similarly, different moral support and guidance for individuals are derived from
the cultural value associated with the SGs.
1.7.3 Economic
Several economic activities take place in SGs. Also certain community activities with
economic implications are associated with the SG (see Table 4).
a) Harvesting of biomass
There is a general belief that biomass is not harvested from the SGs. This is certainly true
in many SGs found across the country. Gadgil and Vartak (1976), Roy Burman (1995) and
Godbole et al. (1998) report such groves in the Western Ghats of Maharashtra. Malhotra et al.
(1998) report such groves in southwest Bengal and in Koraput district of Orissa. Pushpangadan
et al. (1998) report the existence of numerous groves in Kerala from which plants and animals
are not harvested, and Swamy et al. (1998) report such groves in Tamil Nadu.
However, there are many groves from where biomass is extracted, and thus the local
communities derive certain direct economic benefits from the groves. A few illustrative
examples are: Singh and Saxena (1998) and Jha et al. (1998) report that in many orans people
graze their animals; Godbole et al. (1998) report collection of dead wood and dried leaf litter and
harvesting of certain species of trees (Caryota urens and Mangifera indica) from groves in
Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra; Malhotra et al,. (1997) report 192 out of 322 groves from
Koraput district from which dead wood and several non-timber forest products are gathered;
Unnikrishnan (1990) observes that certain plants extracted from SGs of Kerala provide
livelihood to many artisans; Gadgil and Vartak (1976) report that villagers of Tunbad in Kolaba
(now Raigad) district use the bark of Entada phaseoloides Merr. for the treatment of cattle
against snake bite; wood is also extracted from many groves dedicated to ancestor spirits for
cremation (Mitra and Pal, 1994).
b) Gift exchange
Exchange of gifts is an important social activity, which takes place at SGs during certain
festivals. Malhotra et al. (in press) report that villagers in Koraput district of Orissa engage in gift
exchange at their SGs during the annual festival associated with the SGs.
c) Activities with economic implication
Deities/spirits of SGs are propitiated by devotees with a view to ensuring success in
hunting and good harvest. Rituals are also performed in. SGs to bring in good rainfall, health of
livestock and fending off disasters. Kalam (1996) mentions offering of miniature images of cattle
and buffaloes to the SC deity in Iyappa devarakadu by villagers in Kodagu district of Karnataka,
to keep their livestock healthy.
1.7.4 Political
This section draws heavily on a series of articles by Roy Burman (1992, 1995, 1996),
which have demonstrated the political dimensions of SGs in the local and regional context.
Sontheimer (1989) showed linkages of forest deities of the Western Ghats with the pastoral
nomads as a means of drawing their territorial affinity. Kosambi (1962) observed that SGs are
usually found along the preagrarian trade routes and cross-roads. Sawant (1990) wrote that SG at
Phondaghat in Sindhudurg district of Maharashtra was a resting place for traders and that the
troops of Shivaji passed through it while depredating the coastal townships. Roy Burman (1996)
described that at Jhinji mahal sacred grove in Kolhapur district, Shivaji had taken shelter before
attacking Shayasta Khan in Pune. This grove has been a hiding place for the troops and also their
training centre. Sacred groves have often been supported by the local rulers. Shau Chattrapati,
the king of Kolhapur, use to support a sacred grove dedicated to Amba Devi (Roy Burman,
1992). Kalam (1996) has written about the State patronage of sacred groves in Kodagu district of
Karnataka.
Roy Burman (1992) mentions the strategic location of SGs along the trade routes in
Meghalaya where the moral authority of the priests-chiefs facilitated the flow of commodity. As
noted earlier, village membership among the Santhal and the geographical boundary of their
village are defined by the SG (Troisi, 1978).
Hembram (1983) states that sarna dharma (religion) brought together discrete ethnic
groups of Chhotanagpur in to a common platform for asserting their rights to self-determination.
The sarna dharma, in fact, helped them in consolidating their common identity and solidarity
between the Christian and non-Christian tribes of the region. Mitra and Pal (1994) observed that
sarana was one of the basic factors that stalled the Koel-Karo dam project in Bihar a decade ago.
Roy Burman (1995) has also highlighted this aspect of self-assertion among the Gonds of
Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra. The Gonds have revived the Danteshwari sacred grove to’
assert their identity and right of self-determination. Self-assertion of the tribes through sacred
groves is not always strong. D.N. (1990) interprets the construction of temples in the groves or
replacement of local deities by the idol of Hanuman as reflecting subjugation and
marginalisation of the tribal communities by the mainstream Hindu culture.
2. Biological and Ecological Dimensions
A number of scholars have studied biological and ecological value of SGs in the country.
The literature is too vast to be described here. We shall, therefore, mention only some of the
main findings as illustration. The materials are described under the following heads:
2.1 Biological Value
2.2 Ecological Services
2.2.1 Recharge of aquifers
2.2.2 Soil conservation and nutrient cycling.
2.1 Biological Value
As noted in section 1.1, the institution of SGs is very ancient in the country. Access to and
interference with SGs has been culturally restricted and, thereby, reduced the human impact in
terms of harvesting of natural resources. The consequence of such restriction has been that SGs
have evolved as important reservoirs of biological diversity and permitted. the complex and
diverse array of ecological processes to continue uninterruptedly over long period of time.
Many SGs constitute pristine vegetation, and are particularly rich in trees and associate
groups of organisms, like epiphytes, amphibia, reptiles, birds, butterflies etc.
A number of studies have emphasized that many SGs are climax forests, and probably
constitute the only representative of near-natural vegetation in many parts of India. Such island
of climax vegetation amidst a degraded landscape can be seen in many parts of the Western
Ghats, Koraput and Kalahandi districts of Orissa and South-west Bengal. Several studies have
shown that many groves in Meghalaya (Tiwari et al., 1998), Kerala (Chandrashekara and Sankar
1998), Maharashtra (Gadgil and Vartak, 1976) and Himachal Pradesh (Singh et al., 1998)
harbour rich floral and faunal biodiversity. Pushpangadan et al (1998) demonstrated that the
biological spectrum of groves in Kerala closely resembles the typical spectrum of tropical forest
biodiversity. For example, the SGs occupying only 1.4 sq. km contained 722 species of
angiosperm, compared with 960 species occurring in 90 sq. km of the Silent Valley forest.
With the continuing destruction of forest all around them, the SGs have become fragmented
habitats housing a variety of genetic pools and became the last refuge for many threatened
endangered and endemic plant and animal species. Tree species like Phoeba hainsiana
(vulnerable), Rhus hookeri (endangered) and Flacourtia cataphracta (endangered) have been
found to be well represented in, two sacred groves in Manipur valley. Syzygium travancoricum,
an endemic tree, reported from the low-level evergreen forests of Kulathupuzha (South Kerala
has been totally eliminated from its type locality. Today, only a few plants are reported thriving
in some sacred groves of Pathanamthitta district and in the marshlands of Quion-Asramam in the
southern Western Ghats of India. Haridasan and Rao (1985) reported at least 50 endangered and
rare species in SGs of Meghalaya. Sacred groves of Kerala are also found to harbour a number of
plant species that are wild relatives of many crop species. These wild relatives are important for
improving the cultivated varieties of plants.
Sacred groves, in general, act as a nursery and storehouse of many of the ayurvedic, tribal
and folk medicines. Species not under any immediate risk of extinction, if preserved in SGs, may
have great potential of diverse uses in the future. The SGs may also serve to preserve genotypes
which may be useful in forest tree-breeding programmes.
The sacred forests are also of great forestry interest as indicators of the natural productivity
of the region. Ecologically valuable species like Albizia lebbeck and Ficus glomerata, which
conserve high amount of nitrogen, phosphorous, magnesium and calcium in their leaves, are
found in several SGs of Manipur. Keystone species that contribute to the maintenance and
enhancement of biodiversity, are also species that are socially valued by local communities for
cultural or religious reasons, and often found in SGs. In’ orans of Rajasthan, the khejari
(Prosopis cineraria) is a keystone species, inseparably linked to the survival of many other
species, and occupies a special position in Rajasthani culture.
Kunstleria keralensis, a climbing legume, reported from a sacred grove in southern Kerala,
is a species found only in that SG (Mohanan and Nair 1981). Belpharistemma membranifolia,
Buchanania lanceolata and Syzygium travuncoricum are rare species found only in some SGs of
Kerala (Nair and Mohanan, 1981). Mohanan also discovered a rare species of cinnamon,
Cinnamomum quilonensis, in some of the kavus of Alapuzha district in Kerala (Unnikrishnan,
1995). The Kallabbekan SG in Kumta taluk, Karnataka, over 50 ha in extent, despite being in the
midst of arecanut-spice gardens of a populated village, is rich in endemics like wild nutmegs
(Myristica malabarica), cinnamon, Garcinia gummi-gutta and wild pepper (Chandran et a!.,
1998). A new species of frog, Philautus sanctisilvaticus, has recently been reported from
Amarkantak sacred grove, Madhya Pradesh (Das and Chanda, 1997.
Many animal species including birds that are otherwise threatened or becoming rare find a
safe refuge in many a sacred groves. The orans in Rajasthan, managed by the Bishnoi
community, provide protection to the Indian gazelle (Gazella gazella), blackbuck (Antelope
cervicarpa) and to the migratory bird Demoiselle crane (Anthropoides virgo). A similar study by
Deb et al. (1997) has shown that a number of local bird species find refuge exclusively in relict
SGs of West Bengal.
2.2 Ecological Services
Some of the important ecological services provided by the SGs that have been reported in
the literature are summarized below.
2.2.1 Recharge of aquifers
Many SGs hold water resource in the form of springs, ponds, lakes, streams or rivers. Not
only that, but the vegetative mass of the grove itself retains water, soaking it up like a sponge
during wet periods and releasing it slowly in times of drought. It is evident that one of the
important ecological roles of these groves is to provide a more dependable source of water for
the organisms living in and around the SGs (Puspangadan et al., 1998). The ponds and streams
adjoining the groves are often perennial and in some cases, act as the last resorts to many of the
animals and birds for their water requirements, especially during dry seasons. Another function
may be to reduce the incidence and intensity of forest fire, at least in some climates. In addition,
transpiration from the SGs vegetation would increase atmospheric humidity and reduce
temperature in the immediate vicinity and produce a more favourable microclimate for many
organisms (Khiewtam and Ramakrishnan, 1989).
2.2.2 Soil conservation and in nutrient cycling
Sacred groves play a crucial role in soil and water conservation. The Mawsmai sacred
groves in the Cherrapunji ecosystem receive very high rainfall. With a rapid litter decomposition
rate, nutrient release in the soil of these groves is very high. The soil itself has little nutrients to
support a large biomass of the sacred grove. The fine root mat developed on the surface layers of
the soil is important for supporting the large above-ground biomass and for tight cycling of
nutrients. Many microorganisms, invertebrates, fungi, etc. flourish and a vast array of species not
hitherto indigenous to the groves may also colonise and thrive. The root mat prevents the
nutrients from leaching out. The land surrounding the SGs in this area, which is devoid of
necessary root mat and litter decomposition, can no longer sustain vegetation (Khiewtam and
Ramakrishnan, 1989).
All of these factors indicate that the conservation of sacred groves is essential for
maintaining local/regional biodiversity, the comprehensive health of a landscape, and preserving
the socio-cultural integrity of local communities. The existing SGs thus provide far greater
benefits than their small size would otherwise indicate.

3. Threats and Opportunities
This ancient and widespread institution, as revealed by several studies, shows signs of
weakening in terms of both cultural and biological integrity in many parts of the country. The
nature and extent of threats and pressures are often region and even grove- specific. The
magnitude of these threats therefore varies from region to region as well as from one type of
grove to another. In this section we summarize the nature of threats reported in the literature.
3.1. Threats
The reported threats can be grouped under the following heads, and contain only illustrative
examples rather than complete enumeration.
Commercial forestry : Over the past two centuries, in many parts of the country the local
people have lost their customary rights of forest management to the government. Many sacred
groves were destroyed under commercial forestry operations.
Development projects: Some of the sacred groves that fell under government vested lands,
were destroyed when townships grew. Railroads and highways have also taken their toll of many
sacred groves. Others were flooded by big dam projects.
Shift in belief system: In some cases, conversion to other religions has resulted in the
degradation of sacred groves.
Sanskritisation: In many places, local folk deities have been, and continue to be, replaced
with Hindu gods and goddesses. This has resulted in the erection of a temple in the sacred grove.
Pilgrimage and tourism: The integrity of many groves with regional or pan-Indian
character, has suffered due to the influx of large number of pilgrims and tourists.
Removal of biomass: In many sacred groves, removal of biomass and cattle grazing is
permitted. Continuation of these practices over generations has resulted in the dwindling of the
groves.
Encroachment: Many instances are reported where the groves have been encroached by
local communities and/or by various government line departments as well as by people migrating
from outside.
Modernisation and market forces: The most recent threat to sacred groves comes from the
process of modernisation. Local traditions are being challenged by westernised urban cultures.
Modern education system fails to instill respect for local traditions. As a result, the institution of
sacred groves is losing its cultural importance for the younger generation of local people. The
spread of market economy has resulted in the denial and erosion of separate identities of local
communities. The lure of short-term commercial gains has prompted destruction of traditional

resource base, including the sacred groves.
Fragmentation and perforation : Many of the SGs are fragmented and perforated by
roadways, extension of power lines, or reclaimed land for agriculture. Such fragmentation leads
to loss of species, and disruption of ecological functions.
3.2 Opportunities
Despite all the threats described above, SGs are still alive in many parts of the country.
Local people maintain these groves as a part of the culture. This fact indicates that there are
ample opportunities for strengthening this institution.
In some areas especially Manipur, the institution has in recent years been revived.
Elsewhere, especially in Rajasthan, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand new groves have
been established. The concept has been extended, especially in Karnataka to establish through
plantations of pavitra vana (sacred forest); groves have also been established around temples and
schools. In Kerala new partnerships have been developed among the grove trustees, NGOs and
local people to protect the forest. In Madhya Pradesh, Forest Department, in collaboration with
local people, has fenced sacred groves. In Ratnagiri district, Maharashtra and Semiliguda block
of Koraput district in Orissa, through the efforts of NGOs, networks among functior1aries of SGs
are being created. An increasing number of scientists from different disciplines are studying
various aspects of the groves. A lot more opportunities are being created to provide fora inside
and outside the country in the form of workshops, conferences, publications for exchange of
views among a wide range of people. International agencies like UNESCO, the World Bank and
Ford Foundation have included SGs in their agenda. The media is currently devoting a lot more
space to this institution than before. The level of awareness among different sections of the
population regarding the cultural and biological importance of SGs is increasing.
Realizing the cultural, biological and ecological importance of the SGs in our country and
the threats faced by this ancient institution, the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya
(IGRMS) Bhopal has undertaken a number of activities in collaboration with many academic
institutions and NGOs like the Indian Statistical Institute, Calcutta; Centre for Interdisciplinary
Studies, Barrackpore; Dept. of Anthropology, University of Pune; Indian Institute of Science,
Banglore; Kerala Institute for Research and Training in Anthropology and Development Studies,
Kozhikode; St. Joseph’s College, Thiruchirapalli; Applied Environmental Research Foundation,
Pune; Indian Institute of Forest Management, Bhopal; North Eastern Hill University, Shillong;
World Wide Fund for Nature-India and many others.. The museum has Installed in 1999, on its
200-acre campus at Bhopal, replicas of SGs from Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Kerala,
Maharashtra, Manipur, Meghalaya, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. Plants from groves
of these States were planted in their respected replicas on IGRMS campus, after a very careful
selection, taking into consideration the geo-climatic condition of Bhopal. These groves were
ritually established, acompanied by dances and ceremonies performed by the local communities
of the respective States. These SG replicas are meant to serve as living nurseries of ancestral and
community identity, purity and longevity in the community habitats.

An indoor exhibition has been developed on SGs, using photographs, maps and charts etc.
depicting various aspects of SGs. A travelling exhibition has also been created during 1999-
2000, using 67 panels of photographs and maps (Malhotra et al. 2000). The objective of this
travelling exhibition is to interact with local people and different organizations to learn more
about SGs of the country, and to strengthen the diverse SG-related local management practices
and knowledge systems.
A three-day Sacred Grove Festival was organized in January 2000, involving 185
participants from 15 States. The Festival provided, for the first time, a platform to different
stakeholders like grass-roots level functionaries associated with SGs, foresters, scientists and
media people to discuss various aspects of the SGs including formation of a network of
stakeholders, developing region/grove specific field based activities, publication of workshop
proceedings, etc.
This initiative is a part of the IGRMS effort to put in place an ecological history exhibition
at the museum in Bhopal; to demonstrate an important dimension of the natural resource
management strategies adapted by different communities.
Acknowledgements
We are extremely grateful to Sri ARK Sastry and Archana Chatterjee of WWF-lndia, New
Delhi and Dr. Debal Deb for their help in developing the section on biological and ecological
value of sacred groves. We express our sincere thank to Dr. B.V. Bhanu for his over-all inputs.
We are also grateful to Viji Kuriakose, Indrsen Wankhede and Neeta Kathal for help in word
processing. Help rendered by Rajendra Rajoriya and Himansu Mishra in editing this volume is
gratefully acknowledged. We are grateful to all our colleagues who kindly permitted us to use
their unpublished photographs.
We express our deep appreciation and gratitude to Dr. K.K. Chakravarty, former Director
and Dr. Sujit Som, the present Director, Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya, Bhopal
for their constant encouragement and guidance.
We express our sincere gratitude to Indian National Science Academy, New Delhi for
publishing this work. Partial funding support received from Ministry of Environment and
Forests, GOI is gratefully acknowledged.
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