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Socio-cultural perspectives to the sacred groves and serpentine worship in Palakkad district, Kerala

Publisher : Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge

Campus : Coimbatore

Center : Environmental Studies

Year : 2008

Abstract : Sacred groves (Kavukal) are seen through out Kerala, having varied forms, cultural practices and belief systems. The vegetation in the groves is highly varied viz. mangroves, fresh water swamps, or other tropical forest types. Deities worshipped in the groves are also highly varied. One such type is the sacred grove dedicated to serpent God and serpent worship is considered to be one of the oldest and most prevalent forms of nature worship in the world. While serpent worship is seen through out India, only in Kerala, people worship serpent in the sacred groves dedicated to them called, Sarpa kavu. The study brought out three broad types of groves in Palakkad, viz. the primitive, the recent and the sacraments devoid of groves. Worship, rites and rituals associated with the grove include both primitive ones like Noorum palum, Kalemezhuthupattu and the Vedic types like Sarpa bali and Payasa homam. Beside these, the myths and beliefs associated with serpent worship are also discussed in detail. The study brings to light the existence of groves devoid of any vegetation, indicating that sacred groves can be relicts from a past socio-cultural epoch, which served to transmit the cultural heritage generations from pre-historic time. Conservation of natural resources in the past involved many taboos, rituals and other religious practices and sacred groves was such a traditional socio-cultural mechanism aiming at nature conservation that integrated socio-cultural aspects for conservation.

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