--> Skip to main content

Kavu – Sacred Grove – Worship Places With Trees And Shrubs In Kerala

Kavu is the term widely applicable to worship places covered with trees and shrubs in Kerala where Hindu gods and goddesses are worshipped. The deities are placed in open space in the sacred grove or with small shrines built around them. Kavu is mostly dedicated to Goddess Bhagavati and Nagas. Some Kavu are also dedicated to Ayyappa.

Sacred grove is an age-old tradition especially in Kerala and coastal Karnataka where a path of forest is dedicated to local deities and none is allowed to cut plants or to harm animals or any form of life.

Kavu – Sacred Grove – Worship Places with Trees and Shrubs in Kerala

Some of the famous temples also have a sacred grove within in the temple compound.

Most of trees, shrubs and plants found in the Kavu are noted for its medicinal properties. Sacred groves are a well known source of Ayurvedic medicines.

Kavu dedicated to Goddess has the unique feature of having two kavus namely melkavu and kizkavu.

Some of the traditional folk arts of Kerala like Sarpam Pattu, Theyyam etc are associated with Kavu.

Depending on the main deity, these groves are called as “Sarppakavu, Gulinghankavu, and Bhagavathi Kavu”. In coastal regions, it is generally dedicated to serpent deity and hence known as Sarpakavu (“Sarpam” in Malayalam refers to Serpent) sacred groves dedicated to goddess Durga (Durga kavu) are also common.

Additional Information

The existence of sacred groves in India dates back to ancient pre-agrarian hunter gathering era and their presence has been documented since early 1800's. Believing that trees are the abode of deities and ancestral spirits, many communities set aside sanctified areas of forest and established rules and customs to ensure their protection prohibiting felling trees, killing animals etc. The prevailing belief among devotees is that the presiding deities administer punishment to individuals or entire community in the form of diseases or crop failure. As a result of such restrictions, several endemic and endangered plant and animal species have survived in the sacred groves for so many years.

It has been estimated that total number of sacred groves in the country lie between 100,000 and 150,000 (Malhotra,: 1998)