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Sacred Groves of India

India has a long tradition of prudent use and wise conservation of all resources that are useful to people. Forests have been the lifeline for tribals and other forest-dwelling communities since ages. For conservation of this green resource, the concept of sacred groves was generally used. In fact, the practice of dedicating groves to local deities has a long history. They are the ancient natural sanctuaries where all forms of living creatures are given protection by a deity. These sacred groves have been a traditional means of biodiversity conservation. None is permitted to cut any tree or plant, kill animals and birds, or do any harm to any form of life in this area.

Today, the few groves that are left near towns, are protected by barbed wire fencing or hedges. A good example of this is Shipin, about 12 km.from Shimla. It is believed to be the biggest deodar grove in this district and consists of trees that are hundreds of years old. Villagers in this area who pass through it dust their clothes to make sure they do not carry anything belonging to the grove. Trees in the area cannot be cut or felled and all deadwood found in the forest is used only in the temple, located in the grove. There are hundreds of such groves in Himachal Pradesh.

Sacred groves in the hills of Garhwal and Kumaon are mentioned in old Hindu scriptures like the Puranas. The largest known sacred grove is in Hariyali near Ganchar in Chamoli district others include Askot, Binsar, and Gananath . But in all these areas, though fairs are regularly held and rituals performed, the trees seem to have lost their religious importance in the minds of the people.

In Maharashtra, as in many other states, it is believed that the sacred groves, which are known as Devrais, are declining as social values and religious beliefs are changing. In fact, only the groves in the remote and inaccessible areas have survived any type of damage. This is undoubtedly a result of modernization and urbanization. An important role is being played by the expansion of the market economy, which places heavy demand on resources such as timber. For most villagers, economics is easier to understand than ecology.


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