Wanting to visit a sacred grove in the thick forests of the Western Ghats, we started trekking from the nearby tribal village. The trail lead us through deeper and darker jungle.
Beautiful wild flowers dotted the forest floor.
It is taboo to take anything away from a sacred grove except photographs. Even a dead tree is not cleared- it will turn into humus in due course and replenish the soil.
Leeches started affixing themselves to our feet! Our guide had carried a packet of salt, which he sprinkled on the leech. Soon it fell to the ground. In these jungles it is advised to apply neem oil to your foot before venturing. The leeches obviously hate the taste of the oil. You are also advised to wear sandals because leeches can get into your shoes and create havoc.
The sacred groves have been protected and looked after by the local villagers since hundreds of years. They contain most of the native trees some of which are really old. New species of flora and fauna are constantly being discovered by scientists in these groves. In February this year, a mysterious frog which is seen only for 4 days in a year was discovered by scientists.
The forest department also conserves the sacred groves.
The river Aghanashini flows unimpeded through the thick rain forests of the Western Ghats before she joins the ocean. The tides make her water saline at the estuary, where salt has been harvested for hundreds of years. This salt known as Sanekatte Salt, is prized by naturalists and Ayurveda practitioners because this salt is believed to contain special medicinal properties as the river flows through the herbs of the forest.
The Kaemferia shown above has a spicy scent. It is hidden in the underground all through winter and comes to life in the beeginning of monsoon season. No wonder it is called the 'Resurrection Lily'. Its local name is Nela Sampige. The tubers are used in Ayurvedic medicine.
Aerides orchid shwn above is another harbinger of the monsoon season. It is known as the garland made by the mythical queen Draupadi when she had to spend 12 years in the forest. Unlike Sita, who made long garlands, Draupadi did not have enough time to make lengthy ones.