JavaScript must be enabled in order for you to use the Site in standard view. However, it seems JavaScript is either disabled or not supported by your browser. To use standard view, enable JavaScript by changing your browser options.

| Last Updated:: 11/11/2014

Museum of bio-diversity


The origin of the ancient sacred groves, scattered all over India, goes back to the pre-agricultural hunter–gatherer. As he migrated in search of food, stones were left in their place of origin around which trees grew, becoming markers of identity and gradually assumed their identity as sacred groves, described today as a “patch of forest protected in favour and fear of God.”

Known as ‘pavitra vana’ in Andhra Pradesh, ‘kovil kaadu’ in Tamil Nadu, ‘deo bhumi’ in Uttarkhand and ‘K law lyngdoh’ in Meghalaya, these ancient groves dot every State representing a nurturing philosophy of eco-sensitivity and bio-diversity.

Looked after and maintained by local village communities, many of the groves today are intact while many ‘degraded’ ones are being restored by the C.P. Ramaswamy Environmental Education Centre (CPREEC), a Centre of Excellence of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India, set up in 1989 jointly by the Ministry and the C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation.

According to Dr. Nanditha Krishna, director, CPREEC, “In India, every village has a sacred grove. It is a whole magical, spiritual experience when you enter its precincts. So far, CPEEC has restored 52 sacred groves in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. We took up restoration in a one-acre sacred grove in Pavapattu. Once intervention was done in Pavapattu and the grove left alone – in the care of the locals – it grew gradually into a 50-acre grove. Each grove is a museum of bio-diversity. Meghalaya has 54 rare and endangered plant species, while Tiruchi has rare fruit-eating bats in its sacred groves.”

The CPREEC restoration team comprises Dr. P. Sudhakaran, who ascertains which ‘degraded’ groves need to be restored, S. Selvapandian, who looks after the actual restoration, and M. Amritalingam, a specialist in documentation of sacred groves and their mythology. They explain that now restoration is actually done on the ground.

“We do soil testing to find out which local plants and trees can grow in a particular ‘degraded’ grove and talk to the elders of the village, the panchayat, etc. We involve the locals in the planting, take care of the ‘restored’ grove for five years and then hand it back to the village community. Gradually, the trees grow, sub-growth takes place with natural pollination, birds come in as do animals and a whole eco-system is created.”

At the ‘Sacred Groves of India,’ exhibition now on view at the C.P. Arts Centre, Eldams Road, Alwarpet, a fascinating world of the country’s eco-culture opens up for visitors. Twelve groves from different regions are presented in enormous 12x10 ft. photographic frames, creating an idyllic panorama in shades of green. The protective deity of different forests, also on view, has been crafted in three-dimension by the C.P. Art Centre’s artist Venkatesh.

Meghalaya’s ever green forests protected by menhirs representing ancestral spirits, Tamil Nadu’s tropical, dry deciduous groves protected by Ayyanar horses, West Bengal’s thick groves and beautiful kumkum spattered Bankura horses, Rajasthan’s scrub tree groves full of peacocks and Goa’s sacred crocodile protected evergreen forests open pathways of knowledge for the onlooker.

Strict taboos are observed in the sacred groves, according to the informative text which accompanies the visuals. No one can walk without footwear , there is no cutting of trees or lopping off of branches, hunting and poaching are prohibited as also cattle grazing, defecation, and construction inside the grove.