Biodiversity Conservation - Challenges for the Future

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Sacred Groves of Himachal Pradesh: A Traditional Community Practice of Biodiversity Conservation and Testimony of Religious Beliefs

Pp. 89-96 (8)

Vandana Thaplyal and Ashok Verma

Abstract

The harmony between human and nature is maintained through civilizations by practicing reverence, recognition and appreciation. Nature has been worshipped and the anthropogenic arrogance of excessive use of natural resources has been prohibited or else mankind has faced the vagaries of nature. The communities have considered biodiversity as one of the important aspects of sustainability of mankind and have marked landscapes with mythological importance as sacred groves. The patches of dense vegetation or natural areas which have ethnic and religious values are known as sacred groves. These sacred groves are protected by communities through local taboos and sanctions. In sacred groves a range of traditions and cultural values are manifested. Traditionally, wild species were protected and conserved in the sacred groves with often strict penalties for breaking customary laws on the use of resources within the groves. In Himachal Pradesh, the sacred groves are called Dev Van or Devta Ka Jungle and are dedicated to a particular deity. The paradigm shift in customary practices and modernization has threatened the future of these sacred groves. There is a need to exercise ethical concern towards these landscapes of rich biological diversity. A holistic approach, cutting across multidisciplinary subjects has been adapted to document sacred groves. A total of 514 sacred groves have been documented considering biodiversity, culture, religion and history of the landscapes.

Keywords:

Biodiversity, communities, endemic plants, GPS, Himachal Pradesh, medicinal plants, sacred grove.

Affiliation:

WWF-India, Field Office, Bishop Cotton School, Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, India.