Forests in Indian Mythology
From Kalidas’ ancient play, Vikramuurvashiiya to the Hindu Epics, mentions of sacred forests crop up time and time again. Fast track to present day India, and there are a number of spots in nature that are considered blessed by locals and are even protected by law. The belief behind a grove or an entire forest being revered is that the people consider it a place where a deity resides. That’s why indiscriminate logging and destruction is strictly prohibited.
In Rajasthan, 1 lakh hectare of forest area is considered sacred by communities and a fine example is the woodlands, locally called Oran, surrounding Mata Karni Devi Temple near Bikaner. The locals ensure that the trees are well looked after and this is their way of giving praise to a higher cosmic power.
Uttar Pradesh’s Vrindavan is a sacred place for devotees of Krishna. It is said that Lord Krishna played in the surrounding forests as a child. Currently, two small groves, Seva Kunj and Nidhivan, still exist. Also, there are a number of stories throughout the Epics that shed light on Ram and Sita’s travails through forests and even an account of Sita being looked over by the trees, when both Ram and Laxman were not around.
In the North-east where Buddhism is quite prevalent, Arunachal Pradesh has over 100 sacred clumps of flora. They are called Gompa forests as they are attached to the Buddhist monasteries in the state. Even the Sikhs hold certain trees sacred. The search for sacred forests and groves in India will take you all across the country.
Nature plays an important role in Hinduism, and other religions, and the Mahabharata has a mention of purification by flora, as well. At the end of the day, India is a country well known for its forests with divine connections.