(GIST OF YOJANA) Sacred Groves

(GIST OF YOJANA) Sacred Groves


Sacred Groves


The Rig Veda, an ancient collection of Hindu hymns, mentions tree worship, which might be linked to the concept of sacred groves. generally, sacred groves are small forest patches conserved by local people through religious beliefs, traditional sentiments, and taboos and are repositories of many threatened species; they are popularly called living biological heritage sites as they contain rich diversity. 

Types of Sacred Groves

Based on the deities, cultural, and the religious importance, and their association.

1. Temple Groves: These groves are associated with temples due to their religious importance; generally, they are protected by the government, the temple trust, or village committees. They often contain a wide variety of plants and animals. Examples: Ficus, Neem, and Tamarind tree.

2. Traditional Sacred Groves: These are the places where the folk deities reside, i.e., Potharaju, Yellamma, Polamma, Maridimma in Andhra Pradesh, Sammakka-Sarakka Grama Devathalu inTelangana, Kavus in Kerala,Gumpa Groves in Sikkim, etc. They often contain a rich variety of plant and animal life.

3. Religious Groves: Where they are associated with Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Islamism, and Sikhism. Traditionally, these are protected by local communities through religious beliefs and customs, rather than by formal government legislation.

4. Island Groves: Island groves can be categorised based on the habitat type-specific ecological importance, for example, mangroves and coastal/reverie areas in Andhra Pradesh.

5. Burial/Cremational/Memorial Groves: Groves associated with burial places are popularly called Cremational/Memorial groves. Those groves are seen as places of reverence for the deceased and are believed to be inhabited by the spirits of ancestors. They may serve a spiritual or religious purpose, protected as a way to honour the dead and maintain a connection with them. 

Significance of Sacred Groves

1. Protection of Ecosystems: Sacred groves often serve as protected areas, safeguarding biodiversity by restricting human activities that can harm the environment.

2. Traditional Knowledge: Local communities that manage sacred groves often possess a deep understanding of the local ecology and traditional practices that have been passed down through generations. This knowledge can be valuable for informing conservation efforts for future generations.

3. Biodiversity Conservation: Sacred groves can act as refuge for a wide range of plant and animal species, especially in areas where habitat loss is a major threat. Biodiversity conservation practices associated with sacred groves often lead to sustainable management of natural resources and the maintenance of biodiversity.

4. Cultural Preservation: Sacred groves are important repositories of cultural and religious practices of local communities. They are often seen as the dwelling places of deities or spirits, and are used for religious ceremonies and rituals.

5. Community Empowerment: Sacred groves are often managed by local communities. Supporting the conservation of these areas can help to empower these communities and give them a greater role in decision-making about their natural resources.

6. Environmental Benefits: They play a vital role in maintaining the ecological balance of an area. The trees and other vegetation in sacred groves help to prevent soil erosion and provide clean air.

7. Community Conservation: The core principle of community conservation is protecting biodiversity, preserving natural resources, and managing natural resources sustainably for future preservation. It can also lead to a number of other benefits, such as improved livelihoods for local communities, increased food security, and enhanced cultural preservation.


Sacred Groves have been legally protected under the Community Reserves in the Wildlife (Protection) Amendment act, 2002, these are the best examples for community conservation and also unique source for in-situ conservation but, in the modern era, the groves are facing serious threat due to:

1. Habitat loss: Due to developmental activities like urbanisation, infrastructure development, and expansion of agriculture in top hills many sacred groves are being cleared or fragmented, which can harm the plants and animals that live there.

2. Climatic change: Threatens the forest health and ecosystem, due to sudden and abrupt changes in temperatures. This is leading to rapid erosion of the sacred groves, their ecology, floral compositions, including medicinal taxa.

3. Global warming: Increase of temperature for a long time, disrupts weather patterns, like heat waves, droughts, floods, forest fires causes changes in forest ecosystem, this will lead to loss of biodiversity.

1. Invasive/ Alien species: These are introduced species that can harm the native species. Often, they are considered one of the major threats to the entire ecosystem.

2. Exploitation of resources: In some cases, local communities may collect too much firewood, medicinal plants, or other resources from the sacred grove. This can put a strain on the ecosystem and lead to degradation.

3. Other challenges: Anthropogenic pressure, encroachment, deforestation, cultural degradation, pollution, and no proper legislations, etc.


  • Sacred groves have been legally protected under community reserves under the Wildlife Protection Amendment Act, 2002. These are the best examples of community conservation and unique source for in-situ conservation, but in the modern era, the groves are facing serious threats due to rapid urbanisation, cultural shifting, anthropogenic pressure, global warming, and climatic change, etc., leads to rapid erosion of the sacred groves, their ecology, floral & faunal compositions, and socio¬ cultural significance. Hence, there is an urgent need to promote/ initiate conservation measures both of in-situ, and ex-situ; stringent government legislation (legal protection) and awareness programmes that includes traditional knowledge, cultivars, folk varieties, and incentives for research & development are necessary to protect these groves for future generations.



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Courtesy: Yojana