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Conservation & Restoration of Sacred Groves

Conservation & Restoration of Sacred Groves


A sacred Grove comprises patches of natural vegetation – from a few trees to several acres – that are dedicated to local deities or tree spirits. These spaces are protected by local communities because of their religious beliefs and traditional rituals that run through several generations.

In order to restore and conserve the sacred groves which are endangered or on the verge of extinction, CPREEC commenced its conservation and restoration programme in 1993-1994. Till date CPREEC has successfully restored 53 sacred groves in the States of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.

India has a long tradition of conserving nature by giving it a spiritual dimension.There is a strong symbiotic relationship between the biophysical ecosystem andsocio-economic institutions, with strong cultural relations binding them. Culture andenvironment have been regarded as complimentary, yet dynamic. The various culturalconnections are expressed through myths and religious practices that celebrate plantsand animals, forests, rivers, mountains and precincts that are so essential for existence.

The sacred groves are an undisturbed patch of vegetation left on the outskirts ofthe villages in the plain or a part of a forested area. They are dedicated to local folk deitiesor ancestral spirits that are protected by the local people through traditions and taboosincorporating spiritual and ecological values, and are called sacred groves. These grovesare found all over the country with local names and associated deities

  • 53 SACRED GROVES RESTORED in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka
  • Over 3.5 Lakhs of Saplings planted in about 200 acres

The local villagers are involved in conservation and maintenance. After restoration, sites are handed back to the village

List of Sacred Groves Restored State & District wise

1. Velliyur
2. Veeraanathur
3. Aiyaneri
4. Poondi

5. Daamal
6. Nenmeli
7. Thaiyur
8. Kunnam

9. Pavithram
10. Paavupattu
11. Hasanamaapettai
12. Maynallur

13. Peraambur
14. Sittannavaasal
15. Annavaasal
16. Vadavaalam
17. Ilayaavayal
18. Karambakkudi

19. Paappaapatti
20. Thimmanatham
21. Koodal Senkulam

22. Kollangudi

23. Perunkottur

24. Sirunamalli
25. Putteri
26. Nambirajapuram
27. Arunkundram
28. Nelvaay

29. Poigaipatti
30. Kannudayanpatti

31. Thiruppugalur

32. Punnainallur
33. Vennaatrangarai
34. Paapanaasam

35. Mannaargudi

36. Bannaari

The Nilgiris
37. Masinagudi

38. Thiruvaamaathur
39. Siruvangur

40. Inam Meenaakshipuram

41 Rameshwaram


43. Mallam

44. Yerpedu
45. Ramagiri
46. Gurramkonda
47. Eguapalyam

48. Odhiveedu


49. Chikkade
50. Haravu

51. Doddahejjur

52. Karahalli
53. Kallukote




One of our most successful projects has been the Nenmeli eco-village project, which has inspired us to initiate similar programmes in other villages.

Nenmeli is a village in the Kanchipuram district of Tamilnadu, about 70 km from Chennai. In 1995,the people of Nenmeli approached CPREEC seeking assistance for solving the acute water problem in their village. Our organization took up the challenge to reverse water scarcity and environmental degradation at low cost.

Nenmeli, originally a watershed, had turned into a barren wasteland due to extensive deforestation. There is a small hillock in the middle of agricultural lands overlooking two artificial tanks. During the rains, the soil got washed off into the two artificial reservoirs, which silted up. Soon there was no water in the village and the people migrated to Chennai in search of work.

CPREEC with community participation first contoured the hillock and bunded it with locally available rocks and stones. The site was fenced with trees and the pits were mulched to retain moisture. The two water tanks were desilted. The lands attached to the village temple, were converted into sacred groves. Another 5.5 acres of land, adjoining the temple land was also afforested. Local women were involved in the establishment of a herbal garden in these lands. They were also trained to plant and manage their own kitchen gardens, vermicompost their biodegradable waste and construct smokeless chulhas. CPREEC installed a community smokeless chulha in the village school. They were also taught to prepare simple herbal kits with the medicinal plants available.

CPREEC also took up the initiative of promoting conservation through environmental education and awareness creation. Books, pamphlets, and posters were developed and distributed to the local people. Informal meetings were organized to sensitize the community on environmental issues. CPREEC’s video-on-wheels and cultural programmes supplemented the education programme to make the subject more interesting.

Today, Nenmeli appears green with trees and medicinal plants. The wells have eight feet of water in the hottest and driest summers. It serves as a model village for watershed management and biodiversity conservation.

Students visiting the model village at Nenmeli


India has always revered our environment since ancient times. The five sacred elements or panchaboothas – air, water, land, fire and space – were inviolable. Nature was revered in the form of sacred forests and trees, sacred gardens and mountains, sacred rivers and tanks and sacred animals. By regarding all creation as sacred, nature was protected.

Sacred groves represent an ancient Indian conservation tradition, protected by local people out of reverence and respect, fear and sentiment and consist of a shrine with a water reservoir, the entire grove surrounded by a forest or thicket of trees. The threat to these natural repositories threatens human existence.

CPREEC has been restoring degraded sacred groves in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamilnadu as part of the ‘Awareness through Action’ programme initiated in 1994. Sacred groves that are endangered or in near extinction condition and are in need of restoration are identified and selected by C.P.R. Environmental Education Centre (CPREEC) for restoration. Appropriate species suitable to the area were selected and planted with the cooperation of the temple authorities and local villagers.

Awareness raising programmes were conducted for school students, teachers, villagers, priests and women on the importance of sacred grove conservation. Saplings were also distributed to school students to motivate them and their parents to raise and nurture trees.


The effort to conserve sacred groves is now catering to the understanding and beliefs of the common masses. The establishment of nakshatra vanapavithravana and navagrahavana in various parts of India from the Jharkand in the north to most of the southern states is a step in this direction. CPREEC has also taken initiatives in this regard. The nakshatra-rasithottam at the Meenakshi temple lands at the KoodalSenkulam near the Madurai airport is one of the first of its kind by an educational centre.

The 27 species of plants corresponding to the twenty-seven stars of the Hindu zodiac calendar have been identified and public can plant a sapling of tree of their birth star and pay for its maintenance. This novel effort in encouraging community participation in preservation of plants as well as nurturing a religious element has found adaptation in many other temples, private institutions and even public parks.

  • 2018 – Religion and Ecology
  • 2018 – Ecological Studies of Sacred Groves in Five Agro-Climatic Zones of Tamil Nadu, State Forest Research Institute (SFRI), Tamil Nadu Forest Department, Government of Tamil Nadu 
  • 2012 – 2017 – All India Coordinated Research Project (AICRP) on Sacred Grove Eco-System Services Assessment in Inland Plains of Tamil Nadu for Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change (MoEF&CC), Government of India
  • 2012 – Inventory of Sacred Groves and Preparation of Management Plan for Forest Department, Government of Tamil Nadu 
  • 2011 – National Conference on “Conservation of Sacred Groves to protect local Biodiversity” 
  • 1998 – National Conference on the “Conservation of Sacred Groves and Ecological Heritage Sites of India”, in Chennai
  • 1997 – Seminar on “ Ecological Traditions of Tamilnadu” in Chennai


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