Holy Oak Tree: Worship of Oak tree!!!

Trees are being worshipped since ages in India.Trees and herbs form integral part of rich cultural, social and traditional beliefs in different parts of the Indian subcontinent. If we go through ancient Vedic texts, Upanishads and Puranas, we can find mention of worshipping trees or plant parts in the texts. Infact every festival or traditional custom in India involves certain element of plant part. I have come across trees of different species being worshipped at temple premises, but today, it was for the first time, I saw an Old Oak tree being worshipped in an ancient temple near Mussoorie, Uttarakhand. As Oak tree (Quercus leucotrichophora) is a significant tree species in the lesser Himalayas, I was fascinated with the view of such an important tree species being worshipped here by local people.

©Worship of Oak tree, Naag Devta Temple, Mussoorie

It was the occasion of Shivaratri (ancient festival dedicated to Lord Shiva), I decided to offer prayers, which led me to visit an ancient temple of Naag Devta Mandir (Serpent God) near Mussoorie. When one follows Mussoorie-Dehradun roadway, just after crossing ITBP (Indo Tibetan Border Police) building, there is a small road leading towards Hathipaav road .The Naag Devta Mandir is situated few kilometres ahead of this picturesque metalled mountain road.

©Outside temple of Naag Devta, Mussoorie

After reaching temple outskirts, there is a small pathway leading to the temple, which is built on a small hillock. The view from the temple is very scenic, which is surrounded by mountains and terrace farmed agricultural fields. The pleasant Himalayan breeze enthralls ones mind and soul with serenity and spiritual bliss. I offered my prayers to the deity and was doing parikrama. And I noticed an Old Oak tree tied with holy religious threads. I found that devotees worship the Oak tree and light earthen lamps and incense sticks and offer water. It was a indeed beautiful sight and I was mesmerized with the faith, trust and belief associated with the Oak tree. Being a student of forestry, I was aware of significance of this ecological importance of this forest tree species, but today’s experience gave me religious and spiritual insight of Oak tree.

©Terrace farming, somewhere near Temple, Mussoorie

Trees are worshipped not only in India but also in different parts of the world. In Europe, few aspects of Animism (ancient form of religion) can be observed, where trees are worshipped. In Germany, few of the oldest temples or sanctuaries are amidst tree groves. If we go through the history of different folk religions, folk lores in different parts of the world, we can find that there is the mention of trees often being homes of ‘tree spirits’. The term ‘druid‘ is possibly derived from the Celtic word for Oak. During my visits to various nooks and corners of India, I have come across many trees of different species being worshipped at religious premises. These temples, dargahs and churches are surrounded by age old trees and thickets making the place naturally serene, mystic and spiritual.

©Oak tree (Banj Oak) in religious threads

Oak trees are members of Beech family and are beautiful and marvelous. Besides being an ecologically important tree species, they provide food and shelter to various species of birds, insects and animals. They provide fodder, help in water and soil conservation, sequester carbon. But somehow, this tree is facing challenges in its natural habitat due to human made reasons. The rapid urbanization and expansion of the Mussoorie and adjacent areas is paving way for ecological as well as habitat degradation. Many foresters and researchers have found that there is high rate of mortality in some of Banj oak trees due to livestock grazing, lopping, extraction of fuelwood and various other biotic pressures. The mortality of this species is a matter of great concern which needs proper monitoring and research to find out the actual cause of the problem and also develop mitigation strategies to prevent the loss of the Himalayan legacy of Oak forests.

©New leaves of Oak trees in spring season

The Oak tree in the ancient Naag Devta temple embarked new insight in me towards conservation, faith, belief and hope. I hope these ancient age old trees and temples restore our conscience and motivate us towards nature conservation and humanity.

©Deity in Naag Devta Temple, Mussoorie

Thank you!!!!


Picture courtesy



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Published by Dr. Chandrima Debi

Hi, I am Chandrima Debi. I am a Doctorate in Forestry and an independent researcher. Ever since childhood, I experienced deep-rooted connection with nature, forest and wildlife. I have written various research articles, case studies based on geology, forests, medicinal plants, biodiversity and conservation. Through this blog I share my experiences with nature and forests around us and aid towards the protection and conservation of biodiversity, wildlife and the values associated.

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