Conservation through Traditional Knowledge: a Review of Research on the Sacred Groves of Odisha, India

Abstract

Sacred groves are patches of forests protected and used by people for cultural and religious reasons. India has more than 100,000 sacred groves as a result of its high cultural, geographic, and ethnic diversity. Sacred groves can be valuable in conserving biodiversity and in providing ecosystem services. Although numerous sacred forests from biodiversity-rich regions of India, such as the Western Ghats and Himalayas, have been studied, the sacred groves of eastern India are not well documented. We analysed the available literature on the sacred groves of Odisha, a densely forested state in eastern India and home to many indigenous tribal communities that are dependent on forest resources for their livelihoods. There are an estimated 2166 sacred groves across the state of Odisha, concentrated largely in tribal districts. Most of these groves are small, many under one hectare. We conclude that traditional indigenous tribal cultural practices have conserved natural areas in Odisha, but that these areas and practices are under increasing pressure from industrialization, exploitation of valuable forest resources, and expanding agriculture.

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  1. 1.

    These are the Birhors, Bondas, Didayis, DongriaKondhs, Juangs, Kharias, KutiaKondhs, LangiaSauras, Lodhas, Mankidias, PaudiBhuyans, Saoras, and Chukti Bhunjias (Hasnain 1992; Verma 2002).

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Acknowledgments

The authors recognize the DST-INSPIRE Fellowship Programme 2012-2013 (IF-120492) by the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India, for providing financial assistance to carry out this work, and IISER- KOLKATA for funding the doctoral programme at IISER-KOLKATA. We are grateful to S. Banerjee for map assistance.

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Rath, S., Ormsby, A.A. Conservation through Traditional Knowledge: a Review of Research on the Sacred Groves of Odisha, India. Hum Ecol 48, 455–463 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10745-020-00173-1

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Keywords

  • Sacred groves
  • Religious practices
  • Biodiversity conservation
  • Indigenous tribal communities
  • Odisha
  • Eastern India