Agasthya 5.3 The journey of a forest deity
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Centre for Excellence in Conservation Science
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Vanapetchi, Petchimuthu, Petchiammal, Muthupetchi, Vanaraja are very common names in villages surrounding KMTR as these names are derived from Vanapetchi. Of the many old Vanapetchiamman (Vanam means forest) Temples in KMTR hills, our article focuses on the one located in Manimutharu forests. People believe that Vanapetchi has extraordinary power to protect humans, forests and wildlife. Manimutharu Vanapetchiamman has an interesting story on its origin. Not long ago, people living in what is currently the buffer zone of KMTR, depended on the forest for their livelihood and timber extraction was the main occupation. According to legend, a group of people went to Kandamparai (in Manimutharu forest) in bullock cart to cut a big tree. As soon as they started axing the huge tree, blood started trickling from it. However they ignored it and loaded the timber in the cart and proceeded back to the village. Midway when they stopped for lunch, they heard a loud sound from the the timber on the cart but once again they ignored it. Soon they converted it to furniture and sold it in Puliyur village. Again the loud foreboding sound was heard: I am inside, I want to go back to the place from where you cut me. This scared the people who in turn, made a small brick pillar for Vanapetchi in Karuvayal, in Manimutharu forest and started worshipping. After construction of Manimutharu dam water covered the Karuvayal so people could not reach that place. Then, a small temple w a s constructed for Vanapetchi near Manimutharu waterfalls which still stands. Since people could not construct the temple at Kandamparai, the original residence of Vanapetchi, two temples were constructed - one at the Manimutharu falls and the another one at Manjolai.

At the temple near Manimutharu water falls, Tuesdays and Fridays are important worship days. The sacrifice of goat and cock is a common practice. Rituals like infant naming and ear piercing ceremony are commonly conducted too. In the course of time, the temple started attracting visitors from far flung areas. Tamil month of Adi is of special significance when about 5,000 people, mostly originating from villages close-by, camp in the surrounding forests. With cheap polythene replacing traditional banana leaves, accumulation of wastes in forests, streams and the river is emerging as a serious issue in the complete absence of any waste management/disposal system. With Manimutharu falls being a popular tourist spot, many pleasure seeking tourists take advantage of lenient entry policies. Thus, it is not uncommon to see an exponential increase in the number of 'pilgrims' during weekends instead of only Tuesdays and Fridays. Stricter, on-spot vigilance and a universal entry fee must be immediate measures which could help to regulate the inflow. However, to achieve long term goals, collaboration and co-ordination of Forest Departmentalong with District Administration, village panchayats and local NGOs is crucial.



Editorial Team
Editor: Allwin Jesudasan
Associate editor: Rajkamal Goswami
Editorial Review: R. Ganesan, M. Soubadra Devy, T. Ganesh
Design and presentation: Kiran Salegame

Volume 5,  Issue 3
      November 2011

A S H O K A   T R U S T   F O R   R E S E A R C H   I N   E C O L O G Y   A N D   T H E   E N V I R O N M E N T

The journey of a forest deity
-Saravanan A and M Mathivanan
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