Sacred groves of India are forest fragments of varying sizes, which are communally protected, and which usually have a significant religious connotation for the protecting community. Hunting and logging are usually strictly prohibited within these patches. Other forms of forest usage like honey collection and deadwood collection are sometimes allowed on a sustainable basis. Sacred groves did not enjoy protection via federal legislation in India. Some NGOs work with local villagers to protect such groves. Traditionally, and in some cases even today, members of the community take turns to protect the grove. However, the introduction of the protected area category community reserves under the Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Act, 2002 has introduced legislation for providing government protection to community held lands, which could include sacred groves.
Indian sacred groves are often associated with temples, monasteries, shrines or with burial grounds. Historically, sacred groves find their mentions in Hindu, Jain and Buddhist texts, from sacred tree groves in Hinduism to sacred deer parks in Buddhism for example. Sacred groves may be loosely used to refer to natural habitat protected on religious grounds. Other historical references to sacred groves can be obtained in Vrukshayurveda an ancient treatise, ancient classics such as Kalidasa's Vikramuurvashiiya. There has been a growing interest in creating green patches such as Nakshatravana grove.
The Hindu tradition considers forests to be of three types - Tapovan, Mahavan and Sreevan. Tapovan are forests associated with penance (Tapas), and are inhabited by saints and rishis. Mahavan refers to the grand natural forests. Tapovan and Mahavan are considered to be a Raksha ("sanctuary") for flora and fauna as ordinary human beings are not allowed to enter these forests. Sreevan, which means, "forests of prosperity", consists of dense forests and groves. From the former, people would collect dry wood, leaves, forest produce and a limited amount of timber, though natural ecosystem would not be unnecessarily disturbed. Groves were considered as spaces of forests from where harvesting could be done. Sometimes, specific trees like mango trees could be planted and nurtured here. Groves were associated with religious rites, festivals and recreation. Typical recreational activities associated with these groves included jhoola/ jhoolan. In the villages, Panchavati, or a cluster of five trees that represented the forests, were maintained. These trees represented the five elements of Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Space.
Planting and nurturing of trees has been a highly evolved practice in ancient India. Vrukshayurveda, the science of plant life and also a 10th-century treatise of that title on the subject ascribed to Surapala, dealt with various species of trees and their growth. Verses 9-23 from this text indicate how mystical beliefs and conservation of ecology was inter-connected.
Typically, sacred groves are associated with the concept of a presiding deity. Often these sacred deities are numerous nature spirits and guardians associated with Hindu, Jain and Buddhist deities, such as nature spirits known as Yakshas (numerous nature spirits), Nāgas (serpent guardians) and guardian tutelary deities (like ayyanar and amman) are also known. There are over 1000 deities associated with sacred groves in the states of Kerala and Karnataka alone. In Kodagu district in Karnataka from time immemorial the martial community of Kodavas had maintained over a 1000 "Devakadu" dedicated to Aiyappa the forest god.
Traditional uses: One of the most important traditional uses of sacred groves was that it acted as a repository for various Ayurvedic medicines. Other uses involved a source of replenishable resources like fruits and honey. However, in most sacred groves it was taboo to hunt or chop wood. The vegetation cover helps reduce soil erosion and prevents desertification, as in Rajasthan. The groves are often associated with ponds and streams, and meet water requirements of local communities. They sometimes help in recharging aquifers as well.
Modern uses: In modern times, sacred groves have become biodiversity hotspots, as various species seek refuge in the areas due to progressive habitat destruction, and hunting. Sacred groves often contain plant and animal species that have become extinct in neighboring areas. They therefore harbor great genetic diversity. Besides this, sacred groves in urban landscapes act as "lungs" to the city as well, providing much needed vegetation cover.
Sacred groves are scattered all over the country, and are referred to by different names in different parts of India. Sacred groves occur in a variety of places – from scrub forests in the Thar Desert of Rajasthan maintained by the Bishnois, to rain forests in the Western Ghats of Kerala. Himachal Pradesh in the north and Kerala in the south are specifically known for their large numbers of sacred groves. The Kodavas of Karnataka alone maintained over 1000 sacred groves in their region. The Gurjar people of Rajasthan have a unique practice of neem (Azadirachta indica) planting and worshipping as abode of God Devnarayan.Thus, a Gurjjar settlement appears like a human-inhabited sacred grove. Similarly Mangar Bani, last surviving natural forest of Delhi is protected by Gurjars of nearby area. 14,000 sacred groves have been reported from all over India, which act as reservoirs of rare fauna, and more often rare flora, amid rural and even urban settings. Experts believe that the total number of sacred groves could be as high as 100,000.
It is estimated that around 1000 km² of unexploited land is inside sacred groves. Some of the more famous groves are the kavus of Kerala, which are located in the Western Ghats and have enormous biodiversity; and the law kyntangs of Meghalaya – sacred groves associated with every village (two large groves being in Mawphlang  and Mausmai) to appease the forest spirit.
Among the largest sacred groves of India are the ones in Hariyali, near Gauchar in Chamoli District of Uttarakhand, and the Deodar grove in Shipin near Simla in Himachal Pradesh. Kodagu, a small region of about 4000 km² in Karnataka, had over 1000 sacred groves.
|State||No of groves||Local name||References|
|Andhra Pradesh||691||Pavitraskhetralu||Kailash C. Malhotra et al.|
|Arunachal Pradesh||65||Gumpa forests
|Dudley et al.|
|Goa||NA*||SERBC document |
|Haryana||248||Beed or Bid (बीड़), Bani (बणी), Bann (बण), Janglat (जंगलात), Shamlat (शामलात)|
|Himachal Pradesh||329||Dev Kothi, Devban, Bakhu Devban|||
more than 500 " Jaherthan" in Godda of Jharkhand
|Marine Carrin |
|Gadgil et al.|
|Kerala||2000||Kavu, Sarpa Kavu||M. Jayarajan |
||Waghchaure et al.|
|Khumbongyam et al.|
|Upadhyay et al.|
|Puducherry||108||Kovil Kadu||Ramanujam et al.|
Shamlat deh, Devbani
|S. S. Dash |
Dudley et al.
|Tamil Nadu||503||Kovil Kadu||M. Amrithalingam |
|Telangana||65||Kailash C. Malhotra et al.|
|Uttarakhand||18*||Devbhumi, Baun, Bugyal
|Anthwal et al.|
|West Bengal||670*||Garamthan, Harithan,
|R. K. Bhakat |
All numbers are quoted from the records of the C.P.R. Environmental Education Centre of the Government of India. Starred numbers are likely to increase. The centre also maintains a complete list of identified sacred groves in India, most of which is online.
A Sarpakkavu or Snake Grove is a kind of holy grove found in Kerala.
Threats to the grove include urbanization, over-exploitation of resources (like overgrazing and excessive firewood collection), and environmental destruction due to religious practices. Other threats to the sacred groves include invasion by invasive species, like the invasive weeds Chromolaena odorata, Lantana camara and Prosopis juliflora.
A large number of distinct local art forms and folk traditions are associated with the deities of sacred groves, and are an important cultural aspect closely associated with sacred traditions. Ritualistic dances and dramatizations based on the local deities that protect the groves are called Theyyam in Kerala and Nagmandalam, among other names, in Karnataka. Often, elaborate rituals and traditions are associated with sacred groves, as are associated folk tales and folk mythology.
Animal sacrifice is the ritual killing and offering of an animal usually as part of a religious ritual or to appease or maintain favour with a deity. Animal sacrifices were common throughout Europe and the Ancient Near East until Late Antiquity, and continue in some cultures or religions today. Human sacrifice, where it existed, was always much more rare.
All or only part of a sacrificial animal may be offered; some cultures, like the ancient and modern Greeks, eat most of the edible parts of the sacrifice in a feast, and burnt the rest as an offering. Others, including the ancient Hebrews, burnt the whole animal offering, called a holocaust.
Animal sacrifice should generally be distinguished from the religiously-prescribed methods of ritual slaughter of animals for normal consumption as food.
During the Neolithic Revolution, early humans began to move from hunter-gatherer cultures toward agriculture, leading to the spread of animal domestication. In a theory presented in Homo Necans, mythologist Walter Burkert suggests that the ritual sacrifice of livestock may have developed as a continuation of ancient hunting rituals, as livestock replaced wild game in the food supply.Animal sacrifice in Hinduism
Practices of Hindu animal sacrifice are mostly associated with Shaktism, and in currents of folk Hinduism strongly rooted in local tribal traditions. Animal sacrifices were carried out in ancient times in India, and are mentioned in scriptures such as the Yajurveda. Hindu scriptures such as the Gita, and some Puranas forbid animal sacrifice.Communal forests of India
An "Important Common Forest" in India is a forest governed by local communities in a way compatible with sustainable development. Such forests are typically called village forests or panchayat forests, reflecting the fact that the administration and resource use of the forest occurs at the village and panchayat (an elected rural body) levels. Hamlets, villages and communities of villages may actually administer such a forest. Such community forests are usually administered by a locally elected body, usually called the Forest Protection Committee, Village Forest Committee or the Village Forest Institution. Such committees are known as Van Panchayats in the Kumaon Division of Uttarakhand, Forest Co-operative Societies in Himachal Pradesh and Van Samrakshan Samitis in Andhra Pradesh. Legislation pertaining to communal forests vary from state to state, but typically the state government retains some administrative control over matters like staff appointment, and penalization of offenders. Such forests typically conform to the IUCN Category VI Protected Areas, but protection may be enforced by the local communities or the government depending on local legislation.
Maharashtra is the state with the most forest land while Haryana has the least.Kavu
Kavu is the traditional name given for sacred groves across the Malabar Coast in Kerala, South India. Kavus are notable for Theyyam, the centuries-old ritual dance.List of forests in India
This is an incomplete list of forests in India.List of types of formally designated forests
This is a list of types of formally designated forests, as used in various places around the world. It is organized in three sublists: by forest ownership, protection status, and designated use.Meghalaya
Meghalaya (UK: , US: ) is a state in northeastern India. The name means "the abode of clouds" in Sanskrit. The population of Meghalaya as of 2016 is estimated to be 3,211,474. Meghalaya covers an area of approximately 22,430 square kilometers, with a length to breadth ratio of about 3:1.The state is bounded to the south by the Bangladeshi divisions of Mymensingh and Sylhet, to the west by the Bangladeshi division of Rangpur, and to the north and east by India's State of Assam. The capital of Meghalaya is Shillong. During the British rule of India, the British imperial authorities nicknamed it the "Scotland of the East". Meghalaya was previously part of Assam, but on 21 January 1972, the districts of Khasi, Garo and Jaintia hills became the new state of Meghalaya. English is the official language of Meghalaya. The other principal languages spoken include Khasi, Garo, Pnar, Biate Hajong, Assamese and Bengali. Unlike many Indian states, Meghalaya has historically followed a matrilineal system where the lineage and inheritance are traced through women; the youngest daughter inherits all wealth and she also takes care of her parents.The state is the wettest region of India, recording an average of 12,000 mm (470 in) of rain a year. About 70% of the state is forested. The Meghalaya subtropical forests ecoregion encompasses the state; its mountain forests are distinct from the lowland tropical forests to the north and south. The forests are notable for their biodiversity of mammals, birds, and plants.
Meghalaya has predominantly an agrarian economy with a significant commercial forestry industry. The important crops are potatoes, rice, maize, pineapples, bananas, papayas, spices, etc. The service sector is made up of real estate and insurance companies. Meghalaya's gross state domestic product for 2012 was estimated at ₹16,173 crore (US$2.3 billion) in current prices. The state is geologically rich in minerals, but it has no significant industries. The state has about 1,170 km (730 mi) of national highways. It is also a major logistical center for trade with Bangladesh.In July 2018, the International Commission on Stratigraphy divided the Holocene epoch into three, with the late Holocene being called the Meghalayan stage/age, since a speleothem in Mawmluh cave indicating a dramatic worldwide climate event around 2250 BC had been chosen as the boundary stratotype.Wildlife of South Asia
The wildlife of South Asia encompasses that of India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
Wildlife of India
Wildlife of Pakistan
Wildlife of Bhutan
Wildlife of Bangladesh
Wildlife of Sri Lanka
Wildlife of Maldives
Wildlife of Afghanistan
Fauna of India
Flora of India
List of fish in India
Ecoregions of India
The study of natural history in India
Asiatic Lion Reintroduction Project
List of Zoos in India
Central Zoo Authority of India (CZA)
Zoo Outreach Organisation (ZOO), India is an NGO
Wildlife Institute of India (WII)
Indian Institute of Forest Management (IIFM)
Zoological Survey of India (ZSI)
India Nature Watch (INW) spreading the love of nature and wildlife in India through photography
Geological Survey of India (GSI) also maintains 2 fossil parks currently.
Fossil Parks of India
Protected areas of India
List of protected areas in India
National parks of India
Biosphere reserves of India
Conservation areas of India
Wildlife sanctuaries of India
Reserved forests and protected forests of India
Conservation reserves and community reserves of India
Communal forests of India, including
Sacred groves of India
Social forestry in India
Private protected areas of India
Environmental policy of the Government of India
Indian Forest Act, 1927
Wildlife Protection Act of 1972
Ministry of Environment and Forests (India)