The West Bengal government is all set to declare Chilkigarh sacred grove in Jhargram as a biodiversity rich heritage site after considering the long standing demands from research scholars who felt the need of legislation regarding the conservation of sacred groves in the state.
The Chilkigarh sacred grove, popularly name as Chilkigarh is situated in Jhargram under Jamboni police station limits. It occupies around 60 acres and is composed of relict forest patch in its near-climax stage along the east catchment zone of the Dulung river.
The landmass is considered sacred as it harbours the historically eminent temple of Kanak Durga (the golden deity) and the Raj Palace.
The whole area is maintained and managed by the temple trust. This sacred forest is known to exist long before the Nawab (King) period of Bengal and is said that the Bargees (the raiders) used to take refuge inside the dense forest during the day-time, thus concealing themselves in ambush to strike after nightfall.
Interestingly, the Chilkigarh Kanak Durga temple complex is the largest sacred grove of West Bengal, which has not yet attracted much media attention.
“Sacred groves are traditionally protected forest patches maintained on social and religious grounds and in India there are about 13,720 sacred groves protecting many endangered and rare species of plants and animals virtually without the legally enforcing arms of the forest department” said Professor Ram Kumar Bhakat of the department of Botany and Forestry of Vidyasagar University.
Professor Bhakat and his team of researchers has been carrying out intensive research on Chilkigarh sacred grove since 2003 and found that the Chilkigarh sacred grove is a mixed vegetation of deciduous, semi-deciduous and evergreen species of plants over 60 acres of land which supported 388 species of herbs, shrubs, trees and climbers including 105 species of medicinal plants of which a few were rapidly vanishing from the surrounding forest areas.
Additionally, the grove protected 26 species of animals including amphibians and reptiles.
As early as 2009, Professor Bhakat in one of his articles published in the reputed academic journal Current Science (vol.96, no.2) noted: “Presently there is no legislation regarding the conservation of sacred groves in West Bengal. Thus a sacred grove conservation programme may be initiated taking the concerned scientists, local people, administrative bodies, NGOs etc. into confidence.”
In this regard, the authorities of the newly formed district of Jhargram has recently sponsored a two day national seminar on “Biodiversity conservation & environmental management: The seminar was held in the newly built hall at the Chilkigarh Kanak Durga temple complex where the authorities hinted that the state government would soon declare it as biodiversity rich heritage site.