Published on: November 29, 2022

Sacred groves

Sacred groves

Why in news?

 In Tamil Nadu’s arid northern Villupuram region, the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR & CE) Department embarking on a project to protect these forest patches by recreating sacred groves.


  • Along with nature enthusiasts and volunteers, the department has now launched a campaign to maintain and protect these fragile ecosystems, and recreate them on temple land
  • Sthala Vriksham (sacred plant) : Denotes the importance given for plants and trees in the ancient days

What are scared groves?

  • Scared groves 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.

How  are they protected?

  • 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.

Importance of groves with regard to religion

  • Sacred groves are places of yatra (pilgrimage) in Indian-origin religions, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism.
  • They are often associated with temples, monasteries, shrines, pilgrimage sites, or with burial grounds.
  • 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.

Its uses:

  • Repository for various Ayurvedic medicines
  • The vegetation cover helps reduce soil erosion and prevents desertification, as in Rajasthan.
  • They are often associated with ponds and streams, and meet water requirements of local communities also helps in recharging aquifers as well.
  • Biodiversity hotspots, as various species seek refuge in the areas due to progressive habitat destruction, and hunting
  • Contain plant and animal species that have become extinct in neighboring areas that harbours genetic diversity
  • Groves in urban landscapes act as “lungs” to the city as well, providing much needed vegetation cover.

Distribution of sacred groves in India

  • Scrub forests in the Thar Desert of Rajasthan by Bishnois
  • 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 Gurjar people of Rajasthan have a unique practice of neem planting and worshipping as abode of God Devnarayan
  • Mangar Bani, last surviving natural forest of Delhi is protected by Gurjars
  • 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.

What are its threats?

  • 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.

What they are called ?

  • Oran, Kenkri , Vani, Shamlat deh, Devbani and , Jogmaya- Rajasthan
  • Devarakadu- Karnataka
  • Sarna- Jharkhand
  • Than and adaico- Assam
  • Beed or Bid , Bani , Bann , Janglat and Shamlat- Haryana
  • Devrahi – Maharashtra