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The Nondual Highlights. Issue #1499 | Monday, July 21, 2003 | Editor: Jerry  

This is a special issue devoted to Sacred Groves. There are several links noted. The best one I came across is  

View down on Hasne village: 1 sacred grove of whole village (main deity: Gangoba) in front of wooded mountain range at the back; 2 'village', that is cluster of three main upper caste hamlets (Pahliwari, Majhliwari, Warsiwari) and temporary sacred meeting place (Chauhatta); 3 cowherd grove; 4 Thal grove, that is, sacred grove and village of scheduled cast Harijans; 5 paddy fields.  

Sacred Groves and Sacred Trees of Uttara Kannada  

M. D. Subash Chandran Madhav Gadgil  

There has been, of late, enormous interest in the study of
nature conservation by traditional societies. The protection
of patches of forest as sacred groves and of several tree
species as sacred trees belong to the religion-based
conservation ethos of ancient people all over the world.
Although such practices became extinct in most parts of the
world, basically due to changes in religion, and during recent
times due to changes in resource use patterns, sacred groves
and sacred trees continue to be of much importance in
religion, culture and resource use systems in many parts of
India. Despite many references to the sacred groves and sacred
trees of India in early literature, the scientific study of
them was initiated by Gadgil and Vartak (1975, 1976, 1981).
Gadgil (1985) pioneered the view that sacred groves and sacred
trees belong to a variety of cultural practices which helped
Indian society to maintain an ecologically steady state with
wild living resources. This view has been fortified by many
later studies (Gadgil, 1985, 1991; Gadgil and Iyer, 1989;
Malhotra, 1990; Subash Chandran and Gadgil, 1993a; and Joshi
and Gadgil, 1991). There is also an increasing number of
studies on the subject, and references to some of them have
been made in this paper.

Egrets of the Sacred Grove. Robert Bateman  

Policy and Institutional Aspects of Sacred Groves: Tending the spirit, sustaining the sacred  

Anil K Gupta and other Members of Honey Bee network  

There was a Chola king by the name Parivallal in ninth century
in south India who was very famous for his generosity and
concern for nature. He was passing through a forest once when
he felt thirsty. He stopped his chariot near a stream and went
to drink fresh water and also relax a bit. After a while when
he came back he noticed some thing that stopped him from
boarding the chariot. He decided to walk back to his palace on
foot. A tendril of a creeper ( locally called as nilotpal) had
grown and twined around the spoke of the wheel. If he moved
his chariot, the tendril would have broken. Whether the king
recognized the ‘rights’ of a creeper or his ‘responsibility’
towards it, is difficult to say but the relevance of such a
story in a discourse on modern institutions of conservation
may certainly appear out of place to many ( Honey Bee 1994).

And yet it is such a discourse that merits our attention in
the current popular upswing of consumerist and utilitarian
world. When we seem to price everything and decide to allocate
conservation priority only on what is considered useful or
important by the most, the case for not so important and not
so relevant needs to be made.

In this paper I attempt such a case. I argue that the concept
of sacredness is at the very root of our civic consciousness
and whenever any boundary of sacredness is violated, we are
reduced to that extent in our civil consciousness. Our humane
urge to relate to all that we adore, respect and some times
even fear (of losing) provides some basis of what we consider
sacred. But memories of some one we love and respect seems to
ascribe sanctity and sacredness to any thing and every thing
that we attach that memory with. Is sacredness then only a
function of individual ability to recall, revere and relate to
one’s memories? Obviously, sacredness goes beyond individual
criterion and concern for adorable past. Communities and
cultures define sacred symbols that grow with time and also
erode with time. Collective memories, myths, legends and
spiritual code of conduct evolve over a period of time
sanctified through sanctions, material as well as moral.

The traditional ecological knowledge systems continually

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 lifelines for forest-dwelling
communities since ancient times. One method for conservation
of this green resource was the creation of sacred groves,
usually dedicated to a local deity. A traditional means of
biodiversity conservation, these groves can be considered the
ancient equivalent of natural sanctuaries where all forms of
living creatures are given protection by a deity. No one is
permitted to cut any tree or plant, kill animals and birds, or
harm any form of life in this area. Ancient Indian texts have
many references to sacred groves, for example, Kalidaasa’s

Today, there are only about 1000 square kilometres of
undisturbed sacred groves, scattered in patches all over the
country. Only the groves in the remote and inaccessible areas
remain untouched. While religious taboo protected the groves
near towns earlier, today they are protected with the means of
barbed wire fencing or hedges.

The decline of sacred groves can be attributed to the change
in social values and religious beliefs as a result of
modernization and urbanization. The expansion of the market
economy, which places heavy demand on resources such as
timber, is another major cause. For most villagers, economics
is easier to understand than ecology.

Sacred groves vary in size from a few trees to dense forests
covering vast tracts of land. These groves are important today
as they are banks of genetic and plant diversity that have to
be preserved and sustained. These areas often contain species
that have disappeared from the regions outside the grove. The
extant groves are proof that the forests exist not only
because there are regulations but also because there are

The Sacred Grove (at Burning Man). Photography by Bryan Frazier  

The Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids is committed to the
harmonious relationship of humankind with all the Earth.

Part of this commitment is expressed in the Sacred Groves an
Planting Programme effort to plant groves of trees in their
natural habitats the world over.  

Sara Albuquerque, New Mexico
I planted my sacred grove in a side alcove of our urban backyard.  When we moved into our home about five years ago, this area, about ten by twenty feet, had been used as a dog run, and then as a wood storage area.  There was a lot of work to be done to make it a place in which I wanted to spend time, but now the trees are growing and after numerous rituals and meditations there, it has a truly magical feel about it.  Here's a brief description:  The area is surrounded by chainlink fence, on which grape, Virginia creeper and trumpet vine grow.  Over the entrance at the south side I've placed an arbor which is now covered with vines.  At the west side, I've placed a wooden bench.  This area is shaded in the afternoon, a blessing in the summer here.  Mornings are cool at all times of the year and the rising sun feels wonderful when sitting in meditation.  It's been a bit of trial and error to find out what trees will do really well in this area, as it's sheltered, and therefore beastly hot on summer afternoons.  Currently I have two cherry trees, a pomegranate bush, a chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus), a Japanese maple, a smoke tree (sorry, can't recall the botanical name), a mugo pine, a western redbud, a fig tree, a desert willow, a Japanese yew and a blackhaw viburnum.  Other plants include white sage, garden sage, kinnikinnick, pennyroyal, horsetail, lamb's ears, cotoneaster, iris, and ivy.  Entering the grove from the south, there is a circular ritual space, about eight feet in diameter, and a curved pathway that leads to the back of the grove, where I have a small altar dedicated to the resident gnomes.       

We will be moving in the spring (2002) and my greatest sadness is leaving this very special place behind.  I hope the next residents of our home will feel as inspired as I do when they enter there.       

Blessings on your grove planting endevours!  

Sacred Groves as Zones of Peace  

This initiative seeks to re-establish the traditional
character of the 'Kataragama' initiation and pilgrimage by
creating a sanctuary for the living tradition in the
Okanda-Kudimbigala area, within the Yala East National Park,
part of Deviyange Kaele or God's Own Forest.

Any geographical site, from a simple shrine or meditation room
to a national park or an entire community, may become a
sanctuary if there is a consensus among the people who use
that site that it should be free from weapons, intimidation,
terrorism, anger, coercion, bullying and abuse of all kinds
whether verbal or physical. This is the essence of the
Kataragama region's traditional atmosphere of inherent grace
and mercy.

Like a plant nursery, a Sanctuary or Sacred Grove may be
regarded as a sheltered environment where peaceful thoughts
and acts may grow strong enough to be carried forth and
transplanted into the surrounding social environment. As
nurseries of consensus or training grounds for new generations
of peaceful, responsible citizens, sacred groves must play an
important role in the revitalization of Sri Lanka's
traditional culture of peace.

Sacred groves have been an important part of Asia's and the
world's cultural and spiritual heritage since early humanity
first recognized the sanctity of the earth everywhere, but
especially at certain sacred sites. The time has come to
re-establish a traditional sanctuary, to realize a sacred
grove or Heritage Conservation Zone, and the Kataragama region
in terms of its cultural, religious, mythological and
historical prominence is its logical home.

Until relatively recent times, there was felt to be little
need for eco-cultural sanctuaries or formal codes of
acceptable conduct at sacred sites or shrines. However, with
the steady intrusion of secular values and with the unbridled
growth of commercial activity reaching into every nook and
cranny of society including sacred areas, a consensus is now
emerging concerning the need to protect threatened cultural
treasures - traditional communities and their practices.

As planners and facilitators, the aim of The Living Heritage
Trust is to tap Sri Lanka's greatest sustainable resource -
the cultural heritage of its people - and to harness it fully
to achieve peace-education, non-violent conflict resolution
and long-term sustainable development for the benefit of
generations to come.

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Nonduality: The Varieties of Expression Home

Jerry Katz
photography & writings

The wind carves shapes into the beach sand

Search over 5000 pages on Nonduality: