Worshipping the 'vanastrees'

Worshipping the 'vanastrees'

Worshipping the 'vanastrees'

In sharp contrast to the world of concrete jungles that our towns and cities have become, is the green heaven of Kyadhagikoppa in Uttara Kannada’s Sirsi taluk, neighbouring the village of Andagi.

This is the world of vanastrees – the women of the forest. Wearing bright sarees, blouses and bangles, these garbed trees are beacons shining in the darkness of environmental hazards.

There is a mutt in the vicinity called Namdhari Guru Mutt which has a sacred grove. This is the abode of the vanastrees. They are the dwarapalakas (gate keepers) of this mutt. It is idyllic. Around the mutt, whenever the wind blows, the dancing trees dressed in their beautiful clothes entrance onlookers with their beauty.

Every amavasya (new moon day), a festival is held. On this day, people from the surrounding areas visit the mutt in droves, bearing gifts in the form of sarees and other vestments, to worship the vanastrees.

Namdhari Guru Mutt is 20 km away from the Sirsi taluk centre. It is renowned for its green-loving ways. Tree worship is common in India and is mentioned in history as well as in legend. At the mutt, all the trees are worshipped collectively.  People from the surrounding areas come to worship the trees in this area and in this manner, the mutt has shouldered the burden of protecting nature.

The system has also inspired a need to conserve nature in all the villages. The founder of this mutt was Avadhutha Kaleshwara Swami. The swamiji, who arrived in Andagi about a decade ago, fell in love with the flora of the surrounding areas. He was known to say that when he attained spiritual enlightenment, he saw holiness in trees. The seer was the first to drape these trees with the holy vestments used for gods in temples. He also inspired worshippers at the mutt to do the same.

Though the seer breathed his last five years ago, the tradition of tree worship has unfailingly continued in the mutt. Worshippers gather there every amavasya, with no boundaries of caste, creed or class separating them.

As usual, the devotees bring vestments for the trees they worship, creating vanastrees in the forest. This ensures that the trees will not be cut down. When wood cutters encounter the garbed trees, they drop their axes and offer a bow of supplication.

This staunch belief of the worshippers has supported the Namdhari Mutt’s movement to protect trees.

With the swamiji’s blessings, the mutt is gaining fame for its unusual, but beautiful practice. Lately, there has been a proposal to build a school for the poor near the mutt.

(Translated by Maya Girish)

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