Northeast India is said to have the most forest cover in the country. In terms of the percentage of forest cover in relation to total geographical area, Mizoram ranked No. 1 with 90.68%. But in recent years there has been a decrease in forest cover in the region mostly due to human activities particularly because of shifting agriculture that has been practiced by local farmers. The eight States of the Northeastern region (NER) have witnessed loss of green cover to the extent of 549 square km.
Sacred groves on the other hand have help to maintain the forest cover in the region and is a safe haven for many species of both flora and fauna. A sacred grove or sacred woods are any grove of trees of special religious importance to a particular culture and the Northeast have a number of sacred groves that are kept alive based on their ancient beliefs and traditions that have sustain the ecosystem in the region.
Let’s have a look at the sacred groves located in five states of the Northeast.
1. Arunachal Pradesh
Local Term– Gompa Forests (Sacred Groves attached to Buddhist monasteries)
The Gompa Forest Areas (GFAs) in Arunachal Pradesh are a few of the sacred groves managed by Lamas and the Mompa tribe and are attached to the Buddhist monasteries. Around 101 sacred groves have been documented in the state. These sacred groves are dedicated to local deities such as Ubro or Ubram and Thouw-gew.
Local Term- Gamkhap, Mauhak (sacred bamboo reserves)
The worship and protection of forests called Umanglai, because of their associated deities, are still practiced by the modern Manipuris who preserve their ancient tradition. These groves are locally known as Gamkhap and Mauhak (sacred bamboo reserves). A total number of 166 sacred groves have been documented in the state.
Local Term- Pandam
Sikkim, one of the smallest state of the country also harbors some sacred areas with religious and historical background. All the sacred groves are attached to the local monasteries (Gumpas), dedicated to the deities and managed by the Gumpa authority or Lamas, or often by the village community. There are around 19 sacred groves in Sikkim.
Local Term– Ki Law Lyngdoh, Ki Law Kyntang, Ki Law Niam
The sacred groves in Meghalaya also called as ‘law Kyntang’, ‘Law Niam’ and ‘Law Lyngdoh’ in Khasi hills, ‘Khloo Blai’ in Jaintia hills, and ‘Asheng Khosi’ in Garo hills are owned by individuals, clans or communities, and are under direct control of the clan councils or local village Dorbars/Syiemships/Dolloiships/ Nokmaships. There are as many as 79 sacred groves in Meghalaya alone.
The Lawkyntang in Mawphalng is one of the most popular sacred groove of Meghalaya. A few grove are also found in the Garo hills.
Local Term- Than, Madaico
The forest dwelling tribes like Bodo and Rabha have tradition of Sacred Groves locally called Than.The Sacred Groves of the Dimasa tribe are called Madaico, the size is generally not more than an acre. Groves are also found in the plains of Brahmaputra in Assam. The Vaishnav monasteries like Shankaradeva maths distributed all over the State, also have Sacred Groves. A total of 40 sacred groves can be found in Assam.
Compiled by TNT Desk