The care of sacred groves is an ancient practice that has been known around the world, one which seems to have existed since prehistoric times. It is a place where one can go to clearly experience the essence of Mother Nature and acknowledge what is beyond our limited perspectives.
Because humankind is losing its connection to nature, GreenFriends decided to begin with the protection of sacred groves in Kerala, along with planting new ones. When Pujitha in Spain heard about this, she firmly decided the same should be done in her country.
“I felt deeply that I wanted to plant them,” she explains. “The work I am doing with the trees gives me much more than I could have ever dreamed. I understand their language and they have made me love them and nature even more.”
The groves are seen as a tribute to the trees and a place of respect for nature, a small gesture of acknowledgement and gratitude for the generous support we get. They are an area of seclusion that is for respite, calming of the mind, refreshing of the spirit and consolation in moments of anxiety.
There are now five different groves in Spain under the name Govinda Sacred Groves. With more than 600 people taking part in initial plantings and then teams assembled for ongoing care, 512 trees are slowly growing. They include oak, savin, juniper, hawthorn, hackberry, alder, walnut, elm, ash, fig, pine and cypress.
Each tree species represents a different quality that people have seen in it throughout history. For example, oak trees teach strength, cypress trees represent immortality, ash trees carry wisdom, and olive trees radiate hope. But early on, Pujitha realized that organizing the project was more than she could have predicted.
“I could not believe it because at first everything seemed difficult,” she explains. “The trees we planted have not grown much, but every time I see them, I feel like they are my children!”
First came the extensive process of approaching municipalities for land to plant the trees. They have to provide terrain from a minimum of 4,000 square metres to 10,000. Next, the area has to be enclosed and if not, then a metal fence placed around to protect the trees from animals and severe weather.
Terrain has to be prepared by conditioning it with the needed earth along with required fertilizers. After that comes digging holes for the saplings that are about 80 cms by 80 cms. A water source also has to be provided for regular irrigation. If natural sources are not sufficient, then tanker trucks must be scheduled to bring it.
Another important goal is to take the concept beyond just planting trees and emphasize a commitment to adopting them. In order to restore respect for nature, people need to realize our duty to care for it and show gratitude for all that our world provides in order for us to exist.
“When human beings systematically plunder natural wealth for selfish reasons, the natural order gets disturbed,” Amma often explains.
“If we are not ready to change, nature will teach us. The only thing is, we may not be able to bear the brunt of the teaching. Mother Nature has blessed humankind with her bounty. But if we forget our responsibilities, if we give free rein to our desires, nature will retaliate. Nature’s boons will turn into curses.”
In planting the sacred groves in Spain, Pujitha says she has started to see an awakening in some of the people taking part.
“It is so funny because at the beginning when I talked about wanting to plant trees, many people looked at me and seemed to think ‘what a whim this lady has’,” recalls Pujitha. “Now I feel their respect and consideration. Even this week, a Spanish insurance company will give all those born in their clinics a tree that we will plant in the baby’s name.”
Laura is one of the volunteers who is taking part in care of the groves. She explains, “I think my deepest experience has been to feel, as a guardian of the grove, part of a larger creation between the human and the natural. It starts with the process of getting in touch with the people who are adopting the trees. Every time we make a call, I am then able to watch how Nature shares with everyone equally, without establishing a difference between us.”
Laura has seen how this also inspires the same between people. “We share not only about the tasks of forest care, but also open a space in which interpersonal relationships are promoted, experiences are shared and good times are enjoyed.”
At this time the groves are in Marazuela, Bernuy de Porreros, Marugán, Hontonares de Eresma and Cabañas de Polendos. For Pujitha, though, the experience has gone beyond the groves to all trees that she sees because she feels a connection to them. In the grove, she has begun to observe how their relationship to each other works.
“A sacred grove for me is an entity, a single spirit. I don’t see different species. I feel many trees supporting each other.”