Advances in ISSN: 2373-6402APAR

Plants & Agriculture Research
Opinion
Volume 3 Issue 3 - 2016
Role of Sacred Groves in the Conservation of Traditional Values of Odisha
Satabdi Mohanty1, Das PK2 and Sanjeet Kumar3*
1School of Languages, Ravenshaw University, Odisha
2Department of Botany, North Orissa University, Odisha
3School of Life Sciences, Ravenshaw University, Odisha
Received: February 7, 2016 | Published: March 14, 2016
*Corresponding author: Sanjeet Kumar, Department of Life Sciences, Ravenshaw University, Odisha, Email:
Citation: Mohanty S, Prabhat Kumar Das, Kumar S (2016) Role of Sacred Groves in the Conservation of Traditional Values of Odisha. Adv Plants Agric Res 3(3): 00094. DOI: 10.15406/apar.2016.03.00094

Introduction

Blessed with the abundance of natural resources, Odisha, holds the strongest traditions for its conservation. Protection of nature from further depletion due to human activities and the need for sustainable use of natural resources has been a challenge for mankind. Although Odisha remains endowed with vast natural and mineral resources; the hills and mountains, extensive forests, medicinal herbs and wildlife have more or less suffered almost infinite devastations. The leftovers are a result of the preservation of the resources due to conservation oriented cultural and religious traditions. In Odisha, one such notable practice of nature conservation is that of allotting areas of forest or groves to some deities and temples by the rural and aboriginal communities. Such forest patches containing sacred groves are large pieces of traditionally preserved unadulterated forest as a result of socio-cultural beliefs.

As per the definition provided by IUCN, Sacred groves form a part of worshiping nature and are considered as “Sacred Natural Sites”. Although, people associated with such sacred groves are generally illiterate, they have meticulously brought out their traditional customs, rituals, ceremonies and way of forest life. Sacred groves are also reservoirs of many traditional medicines. With this realisation, there has been a rapid development in the study of resources belonging to sacred groves as well as their conservation. These practices are not only for ecological importance but also for socio-cultural and religious significance of the state. Keeping this in view, an attempt has been made to visit some selected sacred groves (Plate A- 1,2) of the state and enumerate the common and endemic biowealth belonging to those groves.

Plate A:Sacred groves of Odisha, 1) Sacred groves in Kapilash, 2) Sacred groves in Khurda.

Biodiversity in sacred groves

Sacred groves are considered as repository of local biodiversity. A good number of studies have been conducted throughout India and the literature provides ample evidences for this statement. The restriction in resource usage and suitable microclimate are thought to be the primary factors for the species richness in some of the sacred groves. The unintentional introduction of new members leads to increase in species diversity in these areas. Studies on sacred groves biodiversity are often concentrated on higher groups of angiospermic flora neglecting the lower groups of plants as well as faunal diversity. There are reports on avifauna, insects, molluscs and reptiles in some of such groves but detailed studies are yet to be done. An overview of the floral diversity studies have shown that regional diversity is well represented in grove system, larger groves often have the relic species of the region. There are frequent changes in floral composition due to various external influences. Grove floral diversity is oftenhighlighted because of the prevalence of endemic and rare threatened members in some of the grove biota.

Beliefs and practices

Typically, such groves are associated with the concept of “presiding deities”. While most of these sacred deities are associated with local Hindu Gods, sacred groves of Islamic and Buddhist origins, and some based on smaller local religions and folk religions are also known. The Hindu tradition considers forests (Van/ Ban) to be of three types - Tapovan, Mahavan and Sreevan. Tapovan are forests associated with penance (Tapas), and are inhabited by saints and rishis. Mahavan refers to the grand natural forests. Tapovan and Mahavan are considered as “Raksha” (sanctuary) for flora and fauna as ordinary human beings are not allowed to enter these forests as per tradition. Sreevan, which means, “forests of prosperity”, consists of dense forests and groves. However these beliefs may not be tenable now and new scientific terminologies have been adopted for such restricted areas. As per religious beliefs, typical recreational activities are also associated with these groves such as jhoola/ jhoolan. In some sacred groves a cluster of five trees often act as representative of five elements; Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Space are also compared. The richness of diversity is probably dependent upon the sacred beliefs & thoughts prevalent in the region.

Sacred grove ecosystem

Sacred groves of Odisha represent diverse spectrum of ecosystems. Sometimes they represent the ancient diversities of that area containing ancient species which are at the verge of extinction [1]. Groves may be located amidst the barren landscapes or grasslands, hill slopes, amidst the agricultural landscapes, coastal plains or deserts. With the rapid ongoing changes in society and land use patterns, some of such groves have lost their identity but nowhere except the groves, one can expect regional ecosystem that can serve as model or replicon of the system existing in these sites. Sacred groves are therefore of great use for the researchers and educators.

Sacred groves of Odisha are also harbours of some unique socio-cultural plants like Saraca asoca (Plate B.1), Mesua ferrea (Plate B.2&3), Memocylon umbellatum , Michelia champaca, Bombax ceiba, Murraya paniculata, Couroupita guianensis etc. They are also rich in some edible medicinal plants such as Phyllanthus emblica (Plate D.1), Dillenia indica, Annona squamosa, Annona reticulata (Plate D.2), Aegle marmelos, Ziziphus mauritiana (Plate D.3), Anacardium occidentale, Mangifera indica etc.

Plate B:Unique floras in sacred groves of Odisha, 1) Flowers of Saraca asoca, 2) Flowers of Mesua ferrea, 3) Flowers of Memecylon umbellatum.
Plate D:Endemic and RET floras of Odisha in sacred groves, 1) Pomatocalpa decipens in Kapilas, 2) Alphonsia madraspatana in Khandagiri-Udaigiri.

Endemics in sacred groves

Groves, at times, act as repositories of rare and endemic plants and animals. A good number of studies have indicated the endemic species distribution in groves from different regions. North-East Himalayan endemic trees like, Acer laevigatum, Drimycarpus racemosus, Litsea laeta, Quercus glauca Ilex venulosa, Citrus latipes are reported from sacred groves of Meghalaya. Western Ghat endemic species viz. Aglaia elaeagnoidea, Diospyros pruriens, Humboldtia brunonis (plants), Loten’s sunbird (Nectarinia lotenia) and the Nilgiri Flycatcher (Eumyias albicaudata) have been found in sacred groves of Kodagu, Karnataka. Similarly, Western Ghat endemic molluscs (Euplecta cacuminifera, Mariaella dussumieri, Nicida liricincta etc.) have been noticed in South Indian sacred groves. In Odisha, Alphonsia madraspatana (Plate C.2) are endemic and found in Khandagiri-Udaigiri caves, Bhubaneswar. A RET (rare, endangered and threatened) plant Pomatocalpa decipens (Plate C.1) has been noticed in narrow patches of Kapilas in Dhenkanal district of the state [2,3].

Plate C:Common edible fruits in the sacred groves of Odisha, 1) Fruits of Phyllanthus emblica, 2) Fruit of Annona reticulata, 3) Fruits of Ziziphus mauritiana.

Threats

Threats to the groves are probably due to urbanization, over-exploitation of resources (like overgrazing and excessive firewood collection), environmental destruction and / or excessive inappropriate uses for religious practices (Figure 1). Though many of the groves are looked upon as abodes of Gods many other have been partially / completely cleared for construction of shrines and temples. Sometimes the floras in the sacred groves are destroyed due to invasion of weeds like Chromolaena odorata and Lantana camara. This has been most common in some of the scared groves located at Bhubaneswar.

Keeping all these in view an attempt was made to study the flora of some selected sacred groves like Kapilas, Taptapani, Gonasika, Hadagarh elephant sanctuary, Khandagiri-Udaigiri caves, Dhauli Stupa, Konark Temple and other small groves of different locations of the state. Authors enumerated the common plant taxa (Table 1) and studied various problems like threats to sacred groves and their ecological impacts [4]. Awareness should be created among the local people and tourists visiting to these sites for protection and conservation of floral / faunal diversities. Scientific measures should be taken for protection and maintenance of the endangered or rare plants in such groves. Initiatives should be taken by the government to protect such green patches available near the religious sites of the state. Let the religious beliefs be the source of inspiration to protect the scared groves of Odisha.

Botanical Name

Family

Groups Purposes

Abrus precatorius

Fabaceae

Medicinal

Acacia auriculiformis

Mimosaceae

Ornamental

Aegle marmelos

Rutaceae

Edible

Albizia lebbek

Mimosaceae

Ornamental

Amaranthus spinosus

Amaranthaceae

Edible

Andrographis paniculata

Acanthaceae

Medicinal

Annona squamosa

Annonaceae

Edible

Annona reticulate

Annonacea

Edible

Anthocephalus cadamba

Rubiaceae

Ornamental

Artocarpus heterophyllus

Moraceae

Edible

Artocarpus lacucha

Moraceae

Edible

Azadirachta indica

Meliaceae

Medicinal

Barleria cristata

Acanthaceae

Ornamental

Bauhinia vahlii

Caesalpinaceae

Ornamental

Bombax ceiba

Malvaceae

Ornamental

Caesalpinia pulcherrima

Caesalpinaceae

Ornamental

Calotropis gigantea

Asclepiadaceae

Medicinal

Cassia fistula

Caeslpinaceae

Ornamental

Cissus quadrangularis

Vitaceae

Medicinal

Combretum roxburghii

Combretaceae

Medicinal

Cynodon dactylon

Poaceae

Cultural

Delonix regia

Caeslpinaceae

Ornamental

Dioscorea alata

Dioscoreaceae

Edible

Ficus benghalensis

Moraceae

Cultural

Ficus religiosa

Moraceae

Cultural

Gymnema sylvestre

Asclepiadaceae

Medicinal

Hibiscus rosa sinensis

Malvaceae

Ornamental

Ipomea aquatic

Convolvulaceae

Weeds

lagerstroemia parviflora

Lythraceae

Ornamental

Mangifera indica

Anacardiaceae

Edible

Melia azadirachta

Meliaceae

Ornamental

Mesua ferrea

Calophyllaceae

Ornamental

Michelia champaca

Michelia champaca

Ornamental

Mirabilis jalapa

Nyctaginaceae

Ornamental

Murraya koenigii

Rutaceae

Edible

Ocimum sanctum

Lamiaceae

Medicinal

Pandanus foetidus

‎Pandanaceae

Ornamental

Pithecellobium dulce

Fabaceae

Ornamental

Plumeria rubura

Apocynaceae

Ornamental

Polyalthia longifolia

Annonacea

Ornamental

Pongamia pinnata

Fabaceae

Ornamental

Psidium guajava

Myrtaceae

Edible

Punica granatum

Lythraceae

Edible

Rauvolfia tetraphylla

Apocynaceae

Medicinal

Saraca asoca

Caeslpinaceae

Medicinal

Streblus asper

Moraceae

Edible

Strychnos nux-vomica

Loganiaceae

Medicinal

Syzygium cumini

Myrtaceae

Edible

Tamarindus indica

Fabaceae

Edible

Terminalia arjuna

Combretaceae

Medicinal

Terminalia ballerica

Combretaceae

Medicinal

Terminalia catappa

Combretaceae

Medicinal

Terminalia tomentosa

Combretaceae

Timber

Ziziphus onoplea

Rhamnaceae

Edible

Table 1: List of common flora found in the some selected scared groves of Odisha.

Figure 1:Some common threats to scared groves of Odisha.

References

  1. Kumar S, Dash PK, Jena PK (2016) Sacred groves of Odisha: role in conservation of floral wealth. Sabujima 24: 7-9.
  2. Mishra BK (2010) Conservation and Management effectiveness of Similipal Biosphere Reserve. Orissa, Indian Forest. India. 136(10): 1310-1326.
  3. Kumar S, Jena PK, Tripathy PK (2012) Study of wild edible plants among tribal groups of Similipal Biosphere Reserve Forest, Odisha, India; with special reference to Dioscorea species. Int J Biol Tech 3(1): 11-19.
  4. Saxena HO, Brahmam M (1995) The flora of Orissa. Orissa Forest Development Corporation Ltd. and Regional Research Laboratory, Bhubaneswar, India.
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