|Ecosystem Type||Forest, Others → Mountain Ecosystem, Sacred Grove|
|Number of households||-|
|Number of people||1199|
The temple of the goddess Haryali Devi stands about 10,000 feet above sea level, surrounded by a thick forest of banj oak, burans, kharsu, moru, kafal and dozens of other local shrubs and bushes. One can find rare trees like kharso (Quercus semecarpifolia) and morinda raga (Abres spectabilis), Quercus leucotrichophora (banj), Rhododendron arboreum (burans), and Lyonia ovalifolia (anyar). Most of the plant species in the Haryali Devi Sacred Grove had one or other ethnomedicinal importance. Hariyali Devi forest harbors many sacred animal and butterfly species. Capricornis sumatraensis, Cervus unicolor, and Felis bengalensis are some common mammalian species. In addition to these, some reptile species were recorded from this SG. Hariyali Devi acts as seepage tank for Chamoli. During monsoon, water flows out of the grove in the form of six streams, which takes care of water needs in nearby villages.
Climatically there are three distinct seasons: (i) the summer (March-June) with maximum and minimum temperature of 32.3°C and 18.3°C, respectively, (ii) the rainy season (July to October) with maximum and minimum air temperature of 29.3°C and 20.8°C, respectively and (iii) the winter season (November to February) with maximum and minimum air temperature of 24.9°C and 13.2°C, respectively
Hariyali landscape in Garhwal region of the Central Himalaya is sacred for the local communities, for socio-cultural and religious reasons. This landscape with a variety of natural and human-managed ecosystems covers three villages (Jasholi, Kodima and Pavo) with a land area of 21.5 km. Lying within an altitude range of 1500- 2800 meters, this landscape has a total population of 1200. The influence of this landscape on the local communities extends beyond the three enclosed villages of Jasholi, Kodima and Pavo to 15 other villages, influencing over 6000 individuals.
Inhabitants are primarily farmers with agriculture as a major economic activity; they grow a variety of traditional crops- chiefly grains, millets and pulses.
Thakurs are the dominant caste. The priests are either Maithani Brahmans or Chamoli Brahmans.
|Origin||Based on traditional practice|
|Year of Formation||1979|
|Motivations||Religious/cultural sentiments, Wild biodiversity conservation, Agricultural and livestock diversity conservation, Sacred Grove around a temple|
The Devi is a Bala Sundari and is mostly referred to as "Tripuri Bala Sundari"- Tripuri for she is related to all the three main lords in Hindu pantheon, Bala- for she is a girl child. There are three other gods associated with the Devi, referred to as hits (and named differently as Latto Devata and so forth) and for whom temples have been constructed on the three different hill tops surrounding the Hariyali Devi. These gods are said to be the guards of the Devi. The principle structure dedicated to the goddess is the sacred rock piece.
A myth most widely believed is that related to the location of the site i.e. the abode of the Hariyali Devi was known when a cow from the adjoining village- Pavo, suddenly used to vanish at night, also the owner could not understand why the cow was not lactating in the evening. So one night he followed the cow and found her lactating upon a stone. The same night the goddess dictated the procedures and the rituals that have to be followed, in his dreams. As the cow belonged to the village Pavo, the village came to be regarded as goddess' Maika (maternal home). Another village Kodima is goddess' Sasuraal (home of procreation) for the villagers are solely responsible for carrying mother's palanquin and finally the responsibility for carrying out the Puja and finally the rituals has been relegated to Maithani Brahmans (and secondarily to Chamoli Brahmans in absence of the former) of the village Jasholi. This offers an interesting case of division of work among different villages as also the hierarchical importance of each village! All these villages are located in the immediate vicinity of the sacred forest. However, the forest plays a unifying role by associating other far off villages, viz., during Mahayagna (grand ceremony) for the recital of Vedas (sacred texts of the Hindus), only Vashist (the head priest) from Maikoti village of Nagpur Patti (a group of around hundred villages constitutes a Patti) are allowed, who is assisted by acharyas (priests) from Simtoli, Dewal and Kanda villages.
Sacred groves are mainly constituted of oak forests, which hold great significance in the lives of the hill people by providing leaves for fodder and compost for agriculture. Many of these also contain perennial springs, indicating the significance of these groves in conserving watersheds.
The phenomenon of sanctification of community managed forests started as a movement in the region sometime towards the end of 1980s. Most villages follow a similar process for sanctification. A decision is taken by some elders or respected individuals in the village to devote the forests to the goddess. A letter is written to the goddess specifying the rules and regulations and the time period for which the forests have been sanctified. A religious ceremony is performed in the forests to declare their sanctification. Usually the oak forests (and not the pine forests) falling under the village are sanctified for a specified period of 5 or more years. During the period of protection collection of live biomass or fallen leaves is strictly prohibited, while livestock grazing and collection of dry twigs for fuelwood is allowed. In special cases permission can be sought from the goddess to use some resource for community use. Those who do not adhere to the rules face ill health or misfortune. The goddesses to whom these forests are devoted are among the most feared goddesses in region. Although in some places the belief is that The Haryalidevi Sacred Grove existed in 3138 BC, since the time of Mahabharata.
Hariyali Devi is a robust example of how a sacred grove can support an entire ecosystem through faith.
The villagers protect the landscape due to a myth, which came to support the conservation. According to Bhagwat Puran, Yogmaya was the sister of lord Krishna, and she replaced him in the cell of his parents when Kansa threw her against the wall. She turned into lighting and came to “Hari Parvat” (Hariyali is a Sanskrit word, which means “Green all around” and Parvat means “mountain”) to make her abode. Since then she came to be known as Hariyali Devi and the adjoining forest is called “Hariyali”.
Trees have a very special role in the ethos of the people in Uttarakhand. Species of trees are worshipped as (1) manifestation of gods, (2) representatives of particular stars and planets, and (3) symbols of the natural elements (energy, water, land, and air), each of which has its own independent and rational meanings. The roles of religious and cultural beliefs in protecting trees such as sacred fig (Ficus religiosa), mountain lion (Felis concolor), and southern pocket gopher is common in this region.
Some traditions and myths born out of local indigenous wisdom to conserve biodiversity, include: The doli (palanquin) of the deity Chalda Mahasu is accompanied by high-bred rams which are fed and protected by the villagers, probably for improving their breed. In some sacred places, killing of deer seen in a pair is a sin(Mrigoli).
Worshipping water sources, small canal (gule) and trees is fairly common in the mountains.
Local people look after Hariyali Devi, the forest department’s workload has reduced. “For us it’s just a forest. But community participation goes a long way in preserving it,” says Rajev Dheeman, Rudraprayag Divisional Forest Officer.
|Collective of CCAs||Yes|
|Decision Making Body||Panchayat , Others → Van Panchayat , Others → Council of multiple villages , Others → Members of a clan/sub clan , Others → Traditional system of elders|
|Rules and Regulations||Informal|
|Community activities through the year||Plantations and restoration activities, Religious ceremonies|
Even though the prevalent taboo system restricts the ladies from venturing into the sacred area (which starts about 200 meters below the man temple, around the sacred water source, the womenfolk are however, actively involved in the restoration of the forest, in terms of removal of the litter mass once in a year, with principle role being played by the Mahila Mangal Dal of the village Kodima, who over the last 10 years have been planting some of the fodder species within the forest. It is customary for the adjoining villagers to offer their prayers and offering to the goddess the first lot of the harvest. Women obviously play an obligatory role. However, it would be interesting to study whether menstruating women are excluded from such preparation referred to as Nounaagi.
The forest plays a unifying role by associating other far off villages, viz., during Mahayagna (grand ceremony) for the recital of Vedas (sacred texts of the Hindus), only Vashist (the head priest) from Maikoti village of Nagpur Patti (a group of around hundred villages constitutes a Patti) are allowed, who is assisted by acharyas (priests) from Simtoli, Dewal and Kanda villages.
DECISION MAKING SYSTEMS
The control over the forest currently comes under three institutions created by the government. The Forest Department of the State government controls a substantial part of the forest called the reserve forest. Civil forests are those, under the control of the local Revenue Department, though available for use by the local communities, there are restrictions imposed by the Revenue Department. Panchayat forests are under the direct control of the Village Council and its usage is determined collectively by the villagers. The Biodiversity Forest, within the sacred landscape in a sense, is under dual control. Legally speaking, it is a Reserve forest under the control of the Forest Department. However, within the sacred landscape, the local communities because of their customary beliefs (non-codified), also ensure total protection to Biodiversity Forest (BF). On the other extreme, local communities have free access into the Protected Forest(PF) (civil forest), for obtaining a variety of their needs - access to grazing, collection of pine needles as bedding materials, organic residues for agriculture, fuel wood collection, etc.
Protected Biodiversity Forest (PBF) falls in between with only limited access; this is determined by the Panchayat (Village Council) from time to time. However, part of PBF was as a reserve forest and partly as a civil forest. Traditional institutions related to the sacredness of the landscape as a whole are also non-codified.
A more important cause of concern remains the denigrating or declining effectiveness (read the respect) of the ‘Spirit mediums’. It is thus pertinent that managing the sacred forests for sustainable use requires that traditional religious uses be recognized as legitimate uses, and be respected. Implementing such recognition of, and respect for, traditional values may require the development of new guidance at the local level itself, say by the elders of the community; an important goal to be earnestly implemented by the BMC being thus constituted.
No harvesting of any produce is permitted, and every year in September a special pooja and mela are held at the mandir. Local villages participate actively. Jasholi village is the centre of reverence for Hariyali Devi. Entry to the Hariyali Devi temple is closed to women. Hariyali, Bhumiyal Devta, Jangli Devta and Airadeo are all sylvan deities that have both protector and supervisor aspects. They are benevolent to those who respect the forest and use it wisely. But those who misuse the forest are first liable to be warned by a frightening occurrence. If the warning is not heeded, then calamity can befall the offenders and their family. Depending on the severity of the crime, generations to come may suffer from the punishment of the devta. There are other devtas that are also associated with forests and worshipped at temples dedicated to them. The more prominent ones are Binsar, Latu and Bhairavnath. Some devtas that are worshipped at forest sites without temples are Heeth, Jaman Singh, Deo Singh and Bhau Singh.
Fetching fodder and fuel wood from this forest was strictly prohibited; as the myth prevails that use of tools (knives, sickles etc.) within the forest will invite the wrath of the goddess and the offender will bring disaster to himself and his family. One week before, the villagers stop taking onion, garlic, egg, meat and so forth if they have to enter into the BF (sacred forest). This is practiced to maintain the sanctity of the forest.
Spirit mediums are the authorities ultimately responsible for protecting sacred sites and enforcing rules on their use. Earlier, the locals used to have much more frequent contacts with these spirit mediums. Unfortunately, lately, the mediums are behaving in ways that have resulted in loss of their traditional influence. In short, the system of spirit mediums is under stress, and is experiencing difficulty adapting to the rapid demographic and economic changes.
Taboos imposed on some keystone related plant species, such as Deodar (Cedrus deodara), Paiyan (Prunus cerasoides), Shiling (Osmanthus fragrans), Ratpa (Rhododendron campanulatum), Bil (Juniperus communis) and Raga (Cupressus torulosa), along with the most commonly noted species-Peepal (Ficus religiosa) and Bargad (F. benghalensis). It is important to take note of the fact that in invariably all the cases, these species play pivotal roles in the conservation or sustenance of the ecosystem, at large. In Haryali Devi forests, Deodar is observed as a sacred species by the locals. Fetching fodder or fuelwood from the forest is disallowed. People firmly believe that if someone hurts these trees, whistles or shouts the forest fairies (acharies) will be angered.
a) Women are strictly prohibited from entering the sacred forest due to the belief that they are impure.
(b) Fetching/collection of fodder and fuelwood and the movement of women and Shudras (scheduled castes) have been strictly prohibited in this grove since the Mahabharata period. A temple of the goddess Hariyali Devi is located in this forest patch.
(c) Use of tools in any form (knife, sickle, etc.) on the plants and animals will be a step to hurt the sentiments of Devi (goddess). The forest fairies in turn are angered and their wrath can make a person mad or deformed and also can lead to disaster in the family of the offender.
(d) For a person who starts his journey, if a snake comes across his way, then he has to stop the journey and has to restart only after worshipping the god after an interval of a week.
(e) One week before pilgrimage, the villagers stop eating onion, garlic, egg, and meat.
(f) Anything that is made up of leather is prohibited in the temple and grove.
(g) Killing/hunting of animals and plucking/uprooting of plants are strictly forbidden in the SGs
|Legal Status||Forest Area under IFA → Reserve forest, Forest Area under IFA → Village forest, classified as a reserved forest, local people consider it a sacred grove, an enchanted place, ruled by divinity.|
|Community Forest Resource Rights (CFR)||-|
|Date of filing CFR claim||-|
|Level of CFR claim||-|
|Date of recognition of CFR claim||-|
|Management plan status||-|
|Other Recognised Status||-|
The Sacred Grove is a Reserve forest under the control of the Forest Department.
|Impact on Livelihoods and Subsistence||-|
|Social Impacts||Revival or continuation of cultural/religious associations|
|Ecological Impact||Natural habitat preservation|
|Internal Threats and Challenges||Reduced awareness about biodiversity and its value, Lack of resources and pressures of poverty, Over-harvesting from within the community, Changing socio-cultural practices and aspirations, Outmigration|
|External Threats and Challenges||Restrictive laws and policies , Unwanted development pressures, Negative impacts of tourism, Decline in biodiversity , Climate change impacts, streams are drying up|
Socio-cultural practices have acted as the focal point for maintaining social solidarity as well as ecological diversity in the region. Social solidarity is mainly boosted through different festivals linked to the Goddess, whereas ecological diversity is met through self-imposed restrictions arising out of prevailing myths. BF sacred, being the area where the ruling deity, Hariyali Devi resides. For this reason, BF is totally protected. However, BF is also categorized as a reserve forest of the State Forest Department, and is also expected to be protected for that reason. Here, the interests of the Forest Department and the local communities coincide, though for different reasons. On the other hand, even though PBF also happens to be a reserve forest, the jurisdiction of the local Panchayat (Village Council) is more effective, and regulated use of natural resources is permitted. This suggests a larger role for traditional institutions over governmental ones
There exist a set of associated religious myths and sociocultural practices pertaining to the Goddess Hariyali, who along with associated pantheons, are spread over the landscape. These institutional arrangements along with a number of socio-cultural practices have acted as the focal point for maintaining social solidarity as well as ecological diversity in the region. Social solidarity is mainly boosted through different festivals linked to the Goddess, whereas, ecological diversity is met through self-imposed restrictions arising out of prevailing myths.
Partial degradation of the landscape, principally surrounding the sacred forest, remains the agro-ecosystem. Interviews and community meetings suggested that a lack of knowledge of and agreement about the exact boundaries of sacred forests may be important factors leading to their degradation. Local residents have different perceptions of the boundaries of sacred forests, and may interpret the boundaries of the "sacred" in ways that suit them. Some of the major threats to sacred forest, remain the following: (i) decline of the traditional institutions, (ii) declining trend in imparting the 32 traditional basic education, (iii) lack of interest in transmitting traditional knowledge-base by the elders to the youths, (iv) Urbanization, and its offshoots, i.e., mixing of cultures and hence the dilution of the traditional culture, among others, example:
1.Impact of the development, especially the road construction and urban settlement cause the degradation of sacred areas. When a need for space is expressed, sacred sites are often the soft targets. For the common folks, development primarily is defined by accessibility to transport through construction of roads. The latter very often runs very close to the periphery of the sacred forest. Means of communication endangers the traditional belief systems, principally the taboo system that governs the very accessibility to these sacred sites. 2.Construction work in the name of promoting tourism: This factor denotes one of the cardinal sins, resulting in not just the desecration of the sacred sites, but most importantly (and of greater consequence) has resulted in loss of the traditional ties with the resident forest deity, since the same has been now replaced by the (sanskritized) common deities of the plains, i.e. Radha-Krishna or Shiva-Parvati. This fact becomes all the more conspicuous when one encounters the festivity and reverence with which the locals throng to the sacred forest of Jhakar Sem, while at the same time are completely dissociated with the Sanskritized and more famous site of adjoining Jageshwar temple complex! Hence, for the above-mentioned facts, it is pertinent on the part of the policy makers, and more importantly for those who wish to develop the site for eco-tourism, that any developmental activity, inclusive of those harnessing the potential of tourism, that denigration in faith in sacredness, or dilution in prevalent customary taboo system is NOT overridden with sole motive of making ‘ecotourism’ profitable! While, it would seem impossible to guarantee the same, efforts should be made to highlight the precise ‘intrinsic value’ of the traditional belief system vis a vis conservation of the sacred forest.
Despite having a tradition of a strong system of management, awareness about the need of such a management and a strong interest in conserving the resources, most communities have found it extremely difficult to decelerate the process of degradation. Increased government interference, increased petty local politics, migration of able-bodied youth from the
villages, among other reasons have led to the breakdown of the van panchayat, and lath panchayat systems in most villages resulting in unregulated and indiscriminate use of the resources in these forests. Increased human and cattle populations juxtaposed with the depletion in available resources have caused a situation of desperation strong enough to overcome the fear of the wrath of the deity and sacred groves are now gradually being violated. Consequently, resource depletion, drying-up springs, loss of lives and property due to frequent landslides and flash floods, migration of youth to the plains in search of employment, and increased hardships for women have become a way of life for the people of Uttarakhand. It is under these circumstances of helplessness, when solutions were forthcoming neither from within the community nor from the government, that dozens of villages in Kumaon region of Uttarakhand decided to turn to the goddess of forests. Forests, which were being managed for local use, are now devoted to the goddess of the forest for protection.
There is a need of an active support base of experts towards;
a. Conceptualizing a mechanism whereby a sustainable exploitation of the forest resources could be harnessed
b. Educating the stakeholders of the vital need to preserve their age-old traditional knowledge-base, pass on the same to the younger generation; emphasize that culture can only be conserved if practiced.
c. It is important that information related to policies governing conservation, and else, which would directly affect the stakeholders be informed to them on a regular basis. In this effort the Biodiversity Management Committee (BMC) could (and should) play a vital role. The government agencies should therefore endeavour to facilitate such reciprocal interactions.
d. It would be vital on the part of the State Biodiversity Board that it ensures that i. The financial support given to the BMC, is utilized judiciously and scientifically, keeping the long-term conservation goals in sight;
ii. Help strengthen BMC and facilitate greater equity and transparency in their decision making; iii. Facilitates the adaptation of appropriate ecologically friendly technologies to enhance the livelihoods of the communities.
iv. Develop sound, equitable models of eco-tourism
v. Marketing of the NTFPs will necessitate an interface (BMC?), facilitating that the stakeholders solely garners the profit, rather than the prevalent intermediaries. And finally,
vi. BMC should endeavour to make local education more sensitive to their own culture, ecosystem surrounding them.
In brief, education should be pro-nature in approach and action.
Creation of a BMC.
|Data Source||From publicly available sources|
|Year of Study||-|