In India, as elsewhere in many parts of the world, a number of communities practice different forms of
nature worship. One such significant tradition is that of providing protectionto patches of forests
dedicated to deities and/or ancestral spirits. These patches of forests are known as sacred groves. The
tradition is very ancient and once was widespread in most parts of the world. The estimated number of
sacred groves in India in about two lakhs. Groves are rich heritage of India, and play an important role in
religious and socio-culture life of the local people. These ecosystems harbour many threatened,
endangered and rare plant and animal species.
The book covers various cultural and ecological dimensions of sacred groves in India, and
describes recent initiatives undertaken by various stakeholders to strengthen this multifarious
About the Author
Kailash C. Malhotra, an anthropologist and human ecologist has taught in Pune University and
Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata. He has carried out extensive research on anthropological and
ecological dimensions among tribals, dalits, nomads and village communities in different parts of the
country. He has authored over 20 books/monographs and has published over 350 research articles in
Indian and foreign journals. He is a fellow of the Indian National Science Academy and Indian Academy
of Sciences, Bangalore. He was President of Indian Society of Human Genetics. He has served as a
member or chairman on various committees of Department of Science and Technology, Ministry of
Environment and Forests, Planning Commission, etc.
Yogesh Gokhale is PhD in Ecology from Mumbai University. He has done extensive
work on sacred conservation practices across the country. His research interests include the interface
of human-nature interactions such as ecological value of various sacred conservation practices, and
national and international policy frameworks such as Convention on Biological Diversity. He is
Associate Fellow with The Energy and Resources Institute, New Delhi.
Sudipto Chatterjee is an MPhil in Environmental Sciences from School of
Environmental Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He undertook the course on Plant
Conservation Techniques at Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, U.K. and was trained on Project Cycle
Management by WWWF International. Ranthambhor Revisited; Forests Fires in India-Lessons from
Case Studies; Natural Resource Management of the Apatanis; Relevance of forest Certification to
Wood Carving Industry of India are some of his publications. He is presently working with Natural
Resource Mangament Unit of Winrock International India, New Delhi.
Sanjiv Srivastava, MSc in Botony, was Assistance Horticulture Officer with Indira
Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya, Bhopal. He was instrumental in the installation of replica of
sacred groves on IGRMS campus, and contributed a great deal in organizing sacred grove campaign in
different parts of the country.
We have great pleasure in publishing the monographs Sacred Groves in India: An Overview written by a
team of experts – Kailash C. Malhotra, Yogesh Gokhale, Sudipto Chatterjee and Sanjiv Srivastava.
Sacred Groves are a form of nature worship and are dedicated to deities or ancestral spirits. These
provide a good example of traditional mode of conserving biodiversity. In an age when our ecology is
believed to be ‘fragile’ and our planet earth is said to be ‘fractured’, the ongoing conservation strategy
by traditional means is an effective way to fight the onslaughts of environmental degradation on the one
hand and to ensure sustainable development on the other. Sacred Groves, an integral part of our
traditional knowledge system, nourish diverse species of trees and associate species, and also act as a
nursery and storehouse of tribal and folk medicines. Our Museum has been in the forefront in not only
documenting intangible cultural heritage of India, but also in emphasizing that culture is an important
input in sustainable development. A very good example of this is the case of Sacred Groves. It was in
1999 when Dr. Kalyan K. Chakravarty was the Director, the Museum had organized the First Festival of
Sacred Groves alongwith an indoor exhibition. During that time an effort was also made to recreate
Sacred Groves from different ecological zones of India by installing them in various sections of the
open air exhibitions within our 200 acre campus at Bhopal. In continuance of such attempts to propagate
the tradition, a traveling exhibition on the theme developed earlier has been further modified to
strengthen the variety of Sacred Groves related to local management practices and knowledge system.
This exhibition has traveled to different parts of the country eliciting good response. I congratulate the
authors for completing the monograph for publication coinciding with the celebration of the Second
Festival of Sacred Groves in our campus in March, 2007. Our Sincere thanks are also due to our
co-publisher Aryan Books International for publishing it within a short time span. We sincerely hope
that this publication will be received well by one and all.
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