Our roots are deep in the woods,
Among the mosses, close to springs,
Our spirits soar high in the sky,
Among the birds and butterflies. – Madhav Gadgil
Pune, 15th August 2023: Plant worship is probably the oldest form of religion, the Rigveda says that “plants are those that grew in old times…. much earlier than even the shining ones – ‘devas’, and are different from many different places. Plants have been a source of energy with healing powers, and personified the divine” .The tree is the Lord of the forest, whose praises never fail, a symbol of self-regenerating life and immortality. Trees were called vanaspati – lord of the forest and invoked as deities along with the waters and mountains. A medicine herb, is a goddess born on earth. The Rigveda invokes the forest as Aranyani, a jungle deity.
Trees have heartbeats and roots are like brains that extend underground, the colour green calms us and the forest sharpens our senses. In the era of cell phone addiction, climate change and urban life, many of us fear that we’ve lost our connection with nature. But I’m convinced that our ties linking humans to the forest is very much alive and intact. And if u have right intention for it, you can see, feel, smell, hear and even taste the forests. The environmental activism is not about saving trees – it’s about saving ourselves too. We are forest being and to know it, sit under the nearest tree. In recent years, all over the world, there has been renewed interest in ways to immerse ourselves in nature. Forest bathing, is a therapeutic practice in Japan and prescribed by few other evolved psychologists around the world.
Similar to the worship of the sacred tree is the reverence for sacred groves, dedicated to local deities and /or ancestral spirits. 14000 these sacred groves have been documented as storehouse of remarkable biodiversity. Repositories of unique and rare plants and homes to birds, insects, reptiles and other animal species representing a mini-biosphere reserve. Sacred groves probably represent the single most important ecological tradition ancient cultures revered globally. This conservation is a long tradition of conserving Nature by giving it a spiritual dimension.
There is a strong symbiotic relationship between the biophysical ecosystems and socio-economic Institutions, with strong cultural linkages. Culture and environment have been regarded as complementary yet dynamic. The various cultural connections are expressed through myths and religious practices that celebrate the plants, animals, forests, rivers, mountains and precincts that are so essential to existence. The concept of the sacred in nature has protected much of India’s biological diversity in a fast-changing world. These forests are the property of the gods of the villages in which they reside. Sacred groves are part of our cultural and ecological heritage and must be preserved. Man and nature have coexisted without disturbing the environment in the past. And we must learn from the past.
Will we ever know everything there is to know? In the nineteenth century, lord Acton optimistically thought that one day someone would write a one-time final history of the world that would never again need to be explored and rewritten. He was wrong. Because we will always process facts and events and interpret them in the light of where we are now and the tools that we bring to that understanding. There never will be an ultimate history. And not an ultimate science either. I am hoping that there never will be a day when we know everything there is to know about nature. Prakriti is more alluring with her secrets.
Sacred groves are an area of conservation as well as a spiritual retreat. Sanskrit literature is full of references to forests where wise and holy men lived; sacred groves are the Tapovan that once existed within the forests of Ancient India, where ashrams of rishis were located. The Tapovans were inviolate, unlike the Mahavana where man encountered and hunted powerful predators or the Shreevan, which were exploited for their resource. Other sacred groves go back to the time of pre-agricultural hunting & gathering, societies before human beings settled down to till land or raise livestock.
Nature worship is the foundation of Indian Culture and sacred grove are protected in different states as “Sarana “ in Bengal and Bihar “ Varaan” in Rajasthan, “Devari” in Maharastra , “kavu” in Kerala, Kovil Kadu in Tamil Naidu and in Karnataka , “Kanas” of Uttara Kannada, “Nagabanas” of Dakshina Kannada and “devakad” of Kodagu. It is reported that there are 4,125 sacred groves covering 39,063 hectares in India. Kodagu district in the state of Karnataka is one the greenest regions not only in India, but in the world.
At the dawn of civilization primitive men believed sacredness in stones, trees and animals and woods and thus this was their way of expressing gratitude to and respect for nature for providing them food and services. Images and temples came much later. Sacred groves are perhaps as old as civilization itself, born at a time when pristine religion was taking shape. They exemplify the perceived interlink between man and his natural environment as well as his ecological prudence, provide a cultural identity to each community, represent native vegetation in a natural or near-natural state, and thereby contribute to biodiversity and environmental conservation.
The belief that spirits inhabit remote areas has served to quickly regenerate abandoned & hidden plots into mature forests. The evolution of the belief system attained its zenith with the Bishnois who live in deserts of Rajasthan state of India. The oran i.e. sacred groves at Peepasar and Khejarli villages are revered by them; the former is the birthplace of Guru Jambeshwar-ji, founder of the Bishnoi way of life, and the latter symbolizes the supreme sacrifice of 363 Bishnois who protested the felling of the Khejri tree in Khejarli village in the year 1730 CE by the subjects of the Jodhpur king. The Khejri plant, deer, blackbuck, nilgai & other animals of the Thar Desert have survived till today, it is because of the commitment of the Bishnois, and for them conservation is a religious precept. I am a Bishnoi and everything in nature is more precious than my life. That is the how I was bought up by my parents.
The natural heritage of sacred groves is a veritable treasure unsurpassed in any other part of the world. They represent variety of vegetation ranging from typically evergreen to dry, deciduous forest types of the Himalayan ranges and the Western Ghats, swamps of coastal plains along western coast, oases of thorny scrub in the Aravalli and scrub woodlands of the Coromandel coastal belt, corresponding to different climatic zones.
Globally, tree worship is recorded. The Roman forest King was the personification of the spirit of the sacred tree the oak, his living dual. Celts, worshipped Jupiter in the form of a tall oak tree. An ancient sanctuary still exists in the name of Nemi in Italy, which comes from the Greek and Latin memos/nemes, ‘a forest enclosing pastures, groves and a group of trees’ considered to be sacred. Sacred groves were common among the Germans & the oldest sanctuaries were natural woods. Sacred grove trees have been reported in Africa since primitive state. There are 200 sacred groves in Kirinyaga district of Kenya protected by Kikuyus.
Ethiopia with traditional beliefs protects these groves. Festival takes place under big trees in a sacred grove. Ghana, Timor, Egypt was also known to worship trees. America, India, Uppsala in Scandinavia has recoded instances of tree Grove being worshipped. In the Genesis story of creation, found in both the Jewish Torah & the Biblical Old testament the tree of knowledge of gereed & revil and the Tree of Immortality were situated in the garden of Shas and ‘yakshis’ are protective guardians of the forest. Yakshis or yakshas means ‘a magical being’, something both terrible & wonderful. It would depend on your action whether yakshis be terrible or wonderful to you.
The sacred trees hold an important place in your nakshatra too. 27 trees of enormous ecological value are allotted to 27 Nakshatras. Like – Ashvini is allotted strychnine tree, Bharani – Indian gooseberry, and Krittika – cluster tig. Zodiac signs have their arboreal equivalents too: Aries Red sanders; Sagittarius Pipal and for Leo its common jujube. Planets too have trees association: For Moon its Flames of forest. Its Pipal for Jupiter or guru, which symbolizes wisdom and the teacher. The pipal tree is a source of wisdom and knowledge and great teachers like Dakshinamurti Shivji Bhagwan and the buddha are associated with the pipal. Starting from Sivaji Bhagwan to all the Rishis till today have attained enlightenment in forests, under trees, in the mountains, near the sacred rivers accompanied by all forms of life around them. Vedas, Upanishads, and life of every evolved yogi took place in the forests, mountains and river banks, which are sacred to Hindus including Buddhists, Jains, Zoroastrians, Parsis, Lakota, Native Americans and Jews.
Everything on earth is sacred according to me. Nature only gives and has given us greatest lessons to learn and lead a wonderful life. None of us deliberately sets out to destroy the environment, and yet you are all caught up in your consumer-oriented lives. We can all rise to the occasion, and do what is needed at our homes, in our communities, for our nation, and our mother earth.
-To get closer to nature in times like this, it can help if we step into the realm of philosophy. Hindu, Jain, Buddhist, and Bishnois are most ecologically conscious communities in the world. My parents passed on the knowledge to me- to treat all forms of life and water bodies above me. Our role in nature is simple. I think the solution lies in designating many more small, small protected areas. We need zones of wild forests to be like the stepping-stones we can use to cross a river without getting our feet wet. If we can create enough of them, wild species could travel freely through our culturally manipulated landscape from one reserve to the next. Few additional duties apart from living our lives, has made our house a paradise for 66 native, and migratory bird species within a year. Water points for bathing and fun for birds; feeding grains for the passerine species; composting and generating insects for insectivorous like Asian paradise flycatcher and many other beauties; butterfly host, and nectar plants; undisturbed nesting places for scaly breasted munia, bulbul, white throated kingfisher; safe roosting place. Everyone can do what we have done and daily miracles will enhance your knowledge 200×200 sqft is the minimum area required for planting a sacred grove. If you have land – make one acre out of every ten acres into sacred grove.
You will experience the real joy of living. If you are born in Bharat and have not experienced the miracles of forests-it’s a life wasted. Your karmas done for others selflessly is ‘Enlightenment’. Trees planted by you, will not only purify yours but also your ancestor’s Karmas. It’s the best deal. Miracles will be part of your daily life. Plants are way more interesting & humorous than your human counterparts. Your intentions play an important role in nature.
I just dreamt of planting a sacred grove(SG) on the day I realized in 2019 it can be planted by anyone. Jan 2020 Dream fulfilled. Sacred grove is flourishing near Khadakwasla Lake (Pune city’s 1st sacred grove)
The land does not belong to me; the people who helped were not my friends or relatives. Mr Dhole – ‘The tree man of India’ gave plants & plan for the SG for free. My husband (A S Bishnoi), daughter (Kanan Bishnoi) & me worked tirelessly to play our part in nature. I have not checked my enlightenment statues yet. But yes all the people who helped are enlightened. I am able to talk to the plants & they convey everything I need to know. Life has become extremely interesting. Even if one of you reading this article can take inspiration from our ancient wisdom & plant native trees & look after them – my time given for writing this article here is worth it.
– Nature or prakriti means making or placing before or at first, the original or natural from or condition of anything, original or primary substance. Our ancestors were one with nature; one is that which manifests in all meant that everything is related to everything else. Our ancient sages, our ancestors, observant of truth, rejoicing together with the gods, discovered the hidden light. The god and creation are same. Nature is venerated all over India. Every village has a sacred grove nearby or temple which has sacred garden & sacred tree. Rivers and lakes are revered & the mountains are the dwelling place of the gods. Nature is manifestation of DIVINE.
The Hindu belief in the cycle of birth, death & rebirth, requires Hindus to give all species equal respect & reverence, for they may be reborn as an animal, bird or insect in another life. So, next time if you see a plant or animal being hunt – protect it- it may be anyone close to you. Trees has been companion to humans since ages and ensured our connection to divinity speeding up our spiritual realization. In Hinduism, there are no dos and don’ts. There is No god who sits in judgement & waste their time.
It is all cause effect. One has to bear the consequences of one’s behavior -Good/bad. God is kind & Loving not judgmental. People are responsible for their Karmas. We have a definite code of environmental ethics. According to it; humans may not consider themselves above nature, nor can they claim to rule over other forms of life.
-While it is true that what we are today is a result of our past deeds, it also follows that we are the makers of our future by the way we act today. Have a intention to do what is right for nature and you will be guided. You will get ideas, you will meet people who will guide u, you will come across books which will enhance
-“Humans, animals & plants are equal & sacred- and thus appropriately placed to take on contemporary concerns like deforestation, intensive farming of land & animals, global warming and climate change. Your small action will create a butterfly effect and world will be better place for nature. Many people no longer notice these wonders of living planet earth. Not because our senses have atrophied-they all still work just fine, as the many different examples will show you-but rather because of strange scientific worldview that erects unnecessary barriers between us and our fellow life forms. Over here we have people, and over there we have nature.
Over here reason runs the show, while over there a sophisticated, mindless, and apparently almost mechanical system runs its course. The realization that we are still a part of this wonderful system and that we function according to the same rules as all other species is, thank god, gradually making headway. And it’s only when it comes to the fore we realize that what we are conserving is not just other forms of life but, first and foremost, ourselves. So next time when you hear an altruist say; save the earth. You know what he or she means; save yourself.
Continuous exploitation of resources in the name of progress, selfish interests of few and lack of ethical media coverage to safeguard nature, individual daily efforts in-service of environment is very important. And remember cause and effect theory of karma, your reward for contribution towards mother earth shall be granted in ways you cannot imagine. The realization that we are one tiny part of nature and need to be play our part for its restoration, will uplift our consciousness many folds.
The positive message from all this is that not only can we win back the original forests but that it could also steer the climate in the right direction. And to achieve this we don’t even need to do anything. Quite the opposite in fact. We need to leave things alone – on as large a scale as possible. Nature is intelligent – it will revive & flourish within few years. But looking at the greedy & mischievous humans. – it won’t work. They will open Nature real estate & reclaim it from nature without paperwork for free.
So each one of you have to be guardian, preserver, and creator of nature – Then only our role will be fulfilled. And your daily action will create the ripple mother earth awaits. You can plant native saplings, nurture & protect it for any one of the following reasons;
if you worship something – then plant & Sprotect
If you love someone with all your heart – then plant & protect
If you are a mother/father – then plant & protect
If you love your mother/father – then plant and protect
If you have friends who enhance ur life – then plant and protect.
If you are a yogi – I don’t need to tell you. You know what’s best for nature & you must be already doing it.
Contact Mr. Dhole for getting native sapling and plan for sacred grove for free. Or plant your ghanvan.
Sacred Grove (deorai/devrai) Plantation: – Minimum 100 X100 ft or 200 X 200 ft (ideal) land is needed. And you don’t need to cut the existing tree of that area. You have to remove the invasive plants. Final step is to contact Mr Raghunath Dhole for saplings and plantation guidance.
Urban forest or “Ghanvan” plantation: – Any piece of land in any shape or size is eligible for it. This is dense forest and secluded habitat for birds, Honey bees, butterflies and other insects. And you can contact Mr Raghunath Dhole for saplings and plantation guidance. His number (Mr Dhole)-9822245645. He supplies to all parts of India.
These are my learnings from sacred groves about our role in nature. I have been fortunate to visit 90%. of the sacred groves of our beautiful and evolved nation. Visit the nearest one – and it will bathe you in its wisdom. You will never be same after breathing in the magical ether present in the groves. Life is simple; Do your righteous purushartha till last breadth and die happily.