Mission Devrai

This weekend, Pune is witnessing another unique festival. This time it is about sacred groves. I had narrated about, another special festival titled Hornbill festival in another blog some time back. Talking of sacred groves, couple of my memories ran down. One is related to visiting a sacred grove near Pune around Tamhini ghat, and other is of the film titled Devrai(which means sacred grove in Marathi). The former memory was an experience of the sacred grove itself. And the later was experiencing, the complexities and mystic nature of human mind. The film depicted person affected by mental illness called schizophrenia. The association of state of mind and sacred grove was apt one. I could recall my state of my mind when I was inside sacred grove. Plus, I could associate with the message in the movie, due to my volunteering in mental health area.

Sacred groves(देवराई in Marathi) are part of forest near the village, maintained and taken care of by locals of that village with the faith that associated deity resides in it. India has old tradition of maintaining sacred groves. As it is well known that villagers around forest depend on the forest for their livelihood. When a certain area is identified as scared grove by villagers, they are will ensure that the area is not disturbed by them. Now as you can imagine, turns the area into a dense forest with rich bio-diversity, which remains untouched or is away from human intervention. Sacred groves, of course, not strictly, Indian phenomenon. One can find them in Africa, or even native Indian communities in north American countries. Wiki has a nice and detailed article on sacred groves and this site gives details of all known sacred groves in India. They are also considered part of ethnobotany related studies.

Mission Devrai organized this festival to spread awareness about sacred groves. The rapid urbanization is posing great threats to these community reserves. There is enough awareness and protection extended towards forest areas identified as national parks, state parks or reserves or sanctuaries. But sacred groves are not having this protection, being community reserves, and rapid urbanization is causing threat to their existence. Here detail on the program.


I believe this festival would be great success, and also timed aptly, right around wild-life week. I am sure this will help spread awareness about sacred groves and its heritage, significance to society. BTW, there is another environment related festival being organized in the city, this week, which is focused on rivers, particularly Mula and Mutha rivers of Pune. It is called Muthai Festival. You can find more details here. I sometimes wonder, as a society, not sure if we are headed in the right direction; as we are feeling the need of organizing the festivals centered around rivers. River pollution and also encroachment of river banks, posing the greatest threat. And, on the other hand we are talking of building smart cities-not sure how without taking care of some basic things. Some food for thought, may be!


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