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Sacred Groves and Local GodsReligion and Environmentalism in South India$
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Eliza F. Kent

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199895465

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199895465.001.0001

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A Road Runs Through It

A Road Runs Through It

Changing Meanings in Malaiyali Sacred Groves in Tiruvannamalai District

(p.58) 2A Road Runs Through It
Sacred Groves and Local Gods

Eliza F. Kent

Oxford University Press

Chapter two focuses on sacred groves in the foothills of the Kalrayan mountains of western Tamil Nadu. Maintained by an upwardly mobile Hinduized tribal community (scheduled tribe), the forested shrines here are gradually being cleared as part of the community’s self-improvement efforts. Tar roads have recently connected Malaiyali villages to regional centers, creating new educational and employment opportunities and exposing residents to new norms and values. Young people now view the taboos surrounding forested shrines as old-fashioned and their relatively simple structures as troubling signifiers of community backwardness. The construction of built structures in the groves at the expense of the surrounding forest may thus be a manifestation of community self-assertion. Joint Forest Management schemes in Malaiyali sacred groves have also, perhaps inadvertently, led to their conversion to agriculture. Similar trends nationwide have led some environmentalists to seek new ways to support the conservation of sacred groves.

Keywords:   scheduled tribe, kalrayan, malaiyali, self-assertion, self-improvement, joint forest management, tiruvannamalai, roads

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