Friday, 30 May 2014


                                         SACRED GROVES OF RAJASTHAN

Sacred Groves are found from the western part of Rajasthan to the east of the Aravalli range. These groves are known under various names in Rajasthan as sacred groves (deora, malvan, deorai, rakhat bani, oran, etc.), sacred corridors (deo ghats), temple forests (mandir van) and sacred gardens (baugh).

Brandis, as early as 1887, gave initial information on sacred groves of Aravallis. He wrote, 'though very few papers have been published on sacredgroves, this does not mean that such areas do not abound in India'. 

Commenting on the sacred groves of Rajasthan, particularly Rajputana and Mewar area, he wrote that in Pratapgarh and Banswara such groves are common. Here trees of Anogeissus pendula abound. People do not cut wood for personal use. Only dead and fallen trees are removed for religious work such as the repair of the temple or funerals.

Joshi (1995) writing on the ethnobotany of Rajasthan provided interesting insights on tribal traditions of maintaining sacred groves.

Deep N.Pandey and his team in their paper “Sacred Forestry: The Case of Rajasthan, India”, have classified the sacred areas in to sacred groves, sacred corridors, temple forests, sacred gardens and inhabited groves.

Sacred groves in Aravallis and Vindhyas were classified into three major groups.

In the first group they classified groves located near the village and close to a water source. Such groves are also at the top of small hillocks in Aravallis, where people worship Bheruji, Bawsi and Mataji. Khanpa Bheruji, Kukawas Bheruji, Badi Roopan Mata etc. are the example of such sites in Udaipur. In the Vindhyan tract of Kota Bundi, Baran and Jhalawar such groves abound.

The second group of groves is dedicated to Lord Mahadeo. Vegetation of the entire watershed is often protected as groves. Sometimes part of the vegetation in a watershed is protected. Large trees and a water source are the main characteristics of these groves. Water sources developed as open and step wells (Bawdi) may be seen at Ubeshwarji, Kamalnath, Gautmeshwasji,Taneshwarji and Jhameshwarji. Sometimes both groups can also be found in the same village.

The third type may be as a single tree. In Kotra forest range several large trees of Ficus benghalensis are seen. Because of development of aerial and prop roots these trees look like a grove. The tradition of protecting Peepal, Gular and Bargad trees is not only found in Rajasthan but also in other states of India. The tradition is also reported from other Asian and African countries.

In northern parts of Aravallis various forms of sacred groves are maintained. These are known as kankar bani, rakhat bani, dev ouranya, vall and dev bani.Large tracts of tree-bearing land in otherwise desertified western Rajasthan are called Orans

These Orans are identical to sacred groves in Aravallis and they offer similar advantages. 

One of the finest examples of Oran is Ramdeora in the Jaisalmer District in Rajasthan. Species in most of the Orans are Prosopis cineraria, Zizyphus mauritiana and Salvadora sp.In Jaisalmer District most of the Oranssupport Caparris aphylla. Shrubs include Calotropis procera in Jaisalmer and Zizyphus sp. in Jodhpur Districts. 

However, comparatively sacred groves in Aravallis and Vindhyas are larger in area coverage.

Important Orans in Sirohi, a semi-desert district in Rajasthan, include Pichheshwar Mahadeo near Pindwara, Voreshwar Mahadeo in Sheoganj, Sarneshwar Mahadeo near Sirohi (famous for its step-well), Mochal Mataji in Sheoganj (particularly famous for animals like Chinkara and Neelgai), Baleshwari Mataji Oran in Pesua village (famous for a very large Rayan tree) and Varada Hanuman ji which supports several old Prosopis cineraria trees. 


Thursday, 29 May 2014


Krishna's Dwarka

Worshiped as the 8th incarnation of the Hindu deity Vishnu, Krishna is believed to have been born sometime between 1500 and 700 BC in Mathura, just south of Delhi in the modern state of Uttar Pradesh. There Krishna killed the oppressive king Kansa, angering his father-in-law Jarasandh.

Jarasandh attacked Krishna's kingdom 17 times in a lengthy war as he tried to avenge the death of his son-in-law. The people of Mathura, the Yadavs, suffered heavy casualties. Krishna knew that his people would not be able to survive another war with Jarasandh, as the ongoing conflict was not only taking lives but also impacting trade and farming. 

So as to avert any further casualty, Krishna left the battle grounds and began to be known as Ranchhodji (one who leaves the battle grounds).

Krishna, along with the Yadav dynasty, crossed Gomantak (Girnar Mountain), and arrived at the coast of Saurashtra at a distance of 32 km from Somnath. According to some references, he arrived near the present day Okha and established his kingdom on Beyt Dwarka.

It is believed that Samudradev, the lord of the sea, blessed Krishna with a land measuring twelve yojanas (773 square km) and Vishwakarma, the celestial architect in Hinduism, granted Krishna's wishes and built him his new kingdom. 

This new capital flourished with such wealth and oppulence that it was called the City of Gold and Krishna came to be known as Dwarkadheesh (King of Dwarka).

Krishna's life goal was to re-establish a kingdom based on the principal of Sat Dharma or 'true religion'. Dwarka, also known as Dwaravati, comes from the words dwara, meaning 'door,' and ka, meaning 'Brahma.' Thus the name refers to the place as a door to union with Brahma, the indescribable ground of all reality, in other words a gateway to spiritual liberation.

Dwarka was reportedly a thoroughly planned city, which had six well-organized sectors, residential and commercial zones, wide roads, plazas, palaces and many public utilities. Public meetings were held in a hall called sudharma sabha (meeting of true religion). In ancient times its flourishing port was considered to be the gateway to the mainland. The city had 700,000 palaces made of gold, silver and other precious stones, as well as beautiful gardens and lakes. The entire city was surrounded by water and connected with the mainland through well-constructed bridges.

After returning from the historic Kurukshetra war between the Pandavas and Kauravas, Krishna found that the Yadav dynasty had declined to a state of deplorable behavior, quarrels and negligency. Slowly the dynasty receded into infighting, and their own self-inflicted demise. Unable to end the bloodshed, Krishna departed to the forest, where he was accidentally shot by an arrow at Bhalka Tirtha and finally left his body in Dehotsargh, where he was cremated by Arjun.

The death of Krishna symbolized the beginning of the Kali-yuga, an age of strife, discord and quarrel. Dwarka submerged into the sea after Sri Krishna left for the heavenly abode and the important Yadava kings were killed in fights among themselves. Arjun brought Krishna's grandsons and the Yadava wives to Hastinapur. Soon after Arjun left, the waves covered the city. Arjun has given this account in the Mahabharata   it is believed that the city was submerged by the ocean and rebuilt six times by different civilizations. The modern day Dwarka is the 7th such city to be built in the area.

There are various theories suggesting the exact location of the original Dwarka. But there are also some archaeological signs to support the belief that the ancient Dwarka lies buried under the present Dwarka and extended up to Beyt Dwarka in the north, Okhamadhi in the south, and Pindara in the east.

The search for the lost city of Dwarka began as early as in 1930's. Marine Archaeology Unit (MAU) of the National Institute of Oceanography took part in this search in 1983. The search was carried out in the coastal waters of Dwarka in Gujarat. The well-fortified township of Dwarkathat extended more than half a mile from the shore was discovered from 1983 to 1990. 

The township was built in six sectors along the banks of a river. The understructure of boulders on which the walls of the city were erected suggested that the land was reclaimed from the sea. Dwarka extended up to Bet Dwarka (Sankhodhara) in the north, Okhamadhi in the south and up to Pindara in the east. The general layout of the discovered city of Dwarka is similar to the one described in ancient texts agrees with that of the submerged city discovered by MAU.

The seven islands mentioned in the Mahabharata have been discovered submerged in the Arabian Sea. The antiquity of the pottery established by thermoluminiscence tests to be almost 3,528 years old and carries inscriptions in late Indus Valley civilization script.

The iron stakes and triangular three-holed anchors discovered here also find mention in the Mahabharata. Among several objects unearthed that further bear witness of Dwarka's association with the epic is a seal engraved with the image of a three-headed animal.

The epic mentions that such a seal was given to the citizens of Dwarka as an identification proof when King Jarasandha of the Magadh kingdom threatened the city. Dr Rao of the National Institute of Oceanography and instrumental in conducting much of the underwater excavations said, "The findings in Dwarka and archeological evidence found compatible with the Mahabharata tradition remove the lingering doubt about the historicity of the Mahabharata that was. We would say Krishna definitely existed."

These evidences prove beyond doubt that Kusasthali, a pre-Dwarka settlement did exist in Bet, Dwarka. Archeologists have reached the conclusion that this early settlement of Kusasthali was first occupied and fortified during the Mahabharata period and was named Dwarka. When they realized that the narrow terraces were not sufficient for the increasing population, a new town was built a few years later at the mouth of the river Gomati. This planned port city was also named Dwarka, further giving credibility to the fact that the Mahabharata was not a myth but an important source of history. 

Wednesday, 28 May 2014


                                  PARASHURAM KUND 

Like most pilgrim centres in other parts of India, Parashuram Kund in Arunachal Pradesh, situated on the Brahmaputra plateau in the lower reaches of the north of Tezu in Lohit District, has been a source of spiritual inspiration of a multitude of devotees since time immemorial.

The origin of the kund is associated with Parashuram’s matricide described in the Srimad Bhagvat, Kalikapurana and in the Mahabharata. One day, Renuka, mother of Parashuram, went to fetch water. While returning, she felt drawn towards King Chitranatha playing with celestial nymphs. Consequently, she was late in returning to the ashram. Jamadagni, her husband, worried over her delay as it was getting late for the midday worship. 


On perceiving through his divine power the reason for her delay, Jamadagni was so enraged that, on her arrival, he asked his sons to kill her. None of his six sons except Parashuram could oblige. He immediately beheaded his mother. The handle of the axe which he used, however, clung to his hand. 

Pleased with his son, Jamadagni desired Parashuram to ask for any boon. Parashuram asked six boons and one was for the immediate recovery of his mother. However, this did not wipe out his sin. He was told that the only way to wash off his sin was by taking a dip in the Brahma Kund. Only then would the axe stuck to his hand drop.

Parashuram ultimately came to the Brahma Kund in present Lohit District and made a passage for the kund to come out by digging the bank of Brahma Kund. The spot where the axe dropped from his hand came to be known as Parashuram Kund. The Kalika Puram states that a mere bath in the kund leads to emancipation. The waters of the kund are considered as sacred as the waters of the River Ganga. 

The site of the Parashuram Kund as established by the sadhu was in existence till 1950 when the old site was completely changed by the earthquake that shook the whole of the North-East and the kund was completely covered. A very strong current is now flowing over the original site of the kund but massive boulders have in a mysterious way embedded themselves in a circular formation in the river bed thus forming another kund in place of the old.

On Paush, Makarsankranti day which normally falls in Mid-January every year, an endless stream of pilgrims come to take a dip in the kund in spite of the biting cold wind. At midnight, the auspicious ceremony of Makarsankranti begins and devotees start bathing in the kund.

Though there is scarcity of accommodation pilgrims bear the hardships bravely and spend the nigh around the temple, wherever they can find space to rest their tired bodies and spend the night. Sadhus of different sects from as far off as the hills of Uttar Pradesh remain at the kund for two nights after their holy bath singing devotional songs. There is also some recreation in the form of a mela (fair) organized on the bank of the River Lohit.

From the data available it is clear that regular approach routes to the kund were in existence for centuries but in 1826 when the British Administration took over this area, and introduced Inner Line regulations, pilgrims could not move into the interior at liberty. Even today one has to obtain entry permit to cross the inner line check posts. The office of the Deputy Commissioner Lohit District issues these permits for pilgrimages on the occasion of Makarsankranti. Arrangements are also made to issue entry permits for pilgrims at Dirak and Sunpura check posts during this period.

The kund is 165 kilometres form Tinsukia, the nearest railway station, 97 kilometres via Tezu. A fleet of the State Transport Department of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh make elaborate arrangements for playing buses form Tinsukia to Namsai, Wakro and Tezu. 

Tuesday, 27 May 2014


                                                            M. Amirthalingam


Parbatisarovar is the tank attached to the Loknath temple which is situated about 3 kms from the Jagannath temple. The main deity of the temple, Shri Loknathji is the guardian of Shri Jagannath Temple’s treasure house.

 Loknathji (in the form of a linga) always remains submerged in the water from the natural spring at Parbati sarovar.  Loknathji is also known as Bhandar Lokanath.

RohiniKunda is located inside the temple of Lord Jagannath. It is one of the ‘Pancha Tirthas’ (five holy spots), the other four being Swethaganga, Indradyumna sarovar, Markandey sarovar and Tirtharaj Mahanadhi (Puri sea).

Swetha Ganga

SwethaGanga is a small tank to the west of the Jagannath temple. On the banks of the tank are two small temples, one dedicated to Sweta Madhava and the other to Matsya Madhava, both incarnations of Lord Vishnu.

There is urgent need of a programme to revive the temple tanks. They have to be properly maintained by annual desilting.  Polluting the temple tanks should be discouraged by meting out strict punishments. The inlets and the outlets should be regularly cleaned and maintained.  Gardens and parks should be established around the tanks which can be used as recreation space by the public.  The maintenance of the tanks should be entrusted to local people’s committees. Unplanned development and growth of the urban areas around the temple complexes should be stopped. 

The temple tanks have traditionally been considered as a sacred space and used not only for religious purposes but also as a source of water in times of drought.  It has been one of ancient practices of water conservation in India.  It is time that we revive the ancient systems of water management that have served us so well over the centuries. 


Patratu Valley

Jharkhand is a state in eastern India which was carved out of the southern part of Bihar on 15 November 2000. The name Jharkhand means 'the land of forests”.
The state of Jharkhand is a part of Biodiversity rich regions of India because of its diverse physiographic and climatic conditions. The forest for the most conform to the type- Tropical Dry Deciduous Forest, Moist Deciduous Forest, Dry Peninsular Forest and Dry mixed Deciduous Forest.

The forests of the state form catchments of the three main rivers- Koel, Damodar and Subernekha. State is also rich in wildlife. The species found represent a wide range of taxa for both plants and animals. This can be attributed to a variety of terrain and land forms (including water bodies). Various ethnic groups such as Munda, Ho, Oraon, Santhal, Paharia, Chero, Birjea, Asura and others have influenced their ecosystems in varying practices of agriculture and pasture.

The existence of Jharkhand is for the tribal cause who like the Hindus also worships in lot many places. These sacred sites therefore can be regarded as their temples. The tribals worship primarily in major water holes known aschuiyan, caves called as kho, megaliths locally known as sasandiri, birdiri,haragarhi. jaangraha or jaanbagha et al and also in their sacred groves known as Sarnas

Sarna is a cluster of trees where the adivasis would worship in various occasions. Such a grove among many others must house at least five saal (shorea robusta) trees also known as sorjum, held very sacred by the tribals.

The origin of the word Sarna lies in mystery, but the noted scholar on tribal matters,the late D.B.Kisku of Dumka who has authored more than five books on the Santals and is also an authority on tribals' history, believes that  the adivasis had migrated from Sumeria/Chaldea, where among many other goddesses they also worshipped  Goddess Anna or Anu. 

Arriving in India thousands of years ago they carried Goddess Anna too with them along with other deities who they later 'placed' within their Sarnas.

Sarna therefore can be understood to have stemmed from the confluence of two words Sar or the Sal trees and Anna or the goddess Anna. Sarna therefore can be regarded as the sacred grove of Sar(sal) trees where the Goddess Anna resides.

The non-tribal Hindus also worship in such Sarnas in many villages of Jharkhand although these villages may not house a single adivasi family today. The adivasis having moved away from these villages left behind their sacred Sarnas which the Hindus later began worshipping naming them Mandar as on today. Mandar may be a mutilated form of the Sanskrit term Mandir or temple.

Many anthropologists believe that the Mundas arrived in Jharkhand first (this claim is of course shunned by the austric Asurs who believe that they had arrived in Jharkhand prior to the Mundas) claiming their khunkatti. The Mundas cleared the woods and left a cluster of the primitive forest as a memory and began worshipping it as their Sarna.

Sarnas in Jharkhand are the new target of destruction resulting from mining and other destructive activities on going in Jharkhand and in many other states as no one has respect for the tribal way of life, their temples and heritages. 

 source :