Wildlife and Biodiversity

In India, many holy sites are associated with Nature. Indians worship Nature. Trees like banyan, neem and pipal are worshipped, hills like the Himalayas are considered sacred and all rivers from the Ganga, Yamuna, Godavari, Krishna, Narmada and Kavery are considered holy. Many animals are associated with Gods and Goddesses; they are also manifestations of the Divine.

Due to advancement in technology and increased travel facilities, millions of people have started visiting remote and fragile places on pilgrimage. This has resulted in excess pressure on India’s natural landscapes and wildlife. The country’s tiger reserves are found near temples. The tiger is on the verge of extinction. The Mahabharata says, “The tiger perishes without the forest and the forest perishes without its tigers”.

The tiger is associated with Lord Shiva. It is the vehicle of Goddess Durga, symbolizing immortality and power. The tiger faces several hardships such as being hunted, conflict with communities, shrinking habitats and decrease in food supply. Pilgrimages add to the threat as large groups of people wander in the forests, disrupting the movement of the animal. Waste materials left by pilgrims affect the tiger’s habitat and choke the rivers, posing a serious threat to the tiger population.

Previously tigers could be seen on the road to Sabarimala, but now the numbers have reduced considerably. Devotees may not intend to harm wildlife. But the sanctity of the pilgrimage is lost when hundreds of people move across the forests to reach their destination without understanding the fact that the land and the wildlife are also sacred.

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