The word sacred means holy place and groves means an area of land, so sacred groves means small area of land with particular type of trees grown on it and dedicated to local deities or ancestral spirit, which are protected by local communities and add in ecological and religious values. Patches of vegetation protected on the basis of religious faith are called sacred groves. Apart from India, they occur in other parts of Asia, Africa, Europe, America and Australia. There are several sacred groves present in India and mostly are found near ponds, which mainly comprises of trees for example: Deodara (Cedrus deodara) considered to be the “abode of Gods” and grass like Doob (cynodon dactylon) etc. Many of the sacred trees are associated with individual deities for example Pipal is associated with Lord Vishnu; Bel with Shiva; and Rudraksha with an incarnation of Shiva, Lord Rudra. Sacred groves in India are widely distributed among western coast of India through the states of Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Kerela. About 1,424 documented sacred groves called as devarakadus or devarkans (meaning: sacred forests) are found in Karnataka. In Kerela, about 2000 documented sacred groves are found. These are called as Kavusand. Hundreds of these sacred groves have been dedicated to snakes that protect crops by controlling insects and rodents.
According to experts the actual number of sacred groves in India is likely to be 100,000 to 150,000.
Importance of Sacred Groves
- Sacred Groves provide shelter to thousands of species of other plants and animals.
- Sacred Groves are important reservoirs of biodiversity.
- These are storehouses of Medicinal plants valuable to village communities as well as modern pharmacopoeia.
- Sacred Groves help in keeping the water cycle in local areas.
- These improve soil stability, prevent top-soil erosion and provide irrigation for agriculture in drier climates.