This kavu once belonged to an old Nair family called Tharavadu. In the memory of the people of centuries ago, this Nair family abandoned the grove as they felt that it was unlucky for them. Since then the grove lay without ownership until the 1970s, when the local community took over its management.
In the past many years the community members had been collecting fallen wood for fuelwood purposes from the grove and grazing their cattle on the outskirts of the grove. Despite being not owned by anyone in particular, the sacred grove was respected by all members of the surrounding villages. People also feared the wrath of the deity if they disturbed the grove in any way. This fear was one of the contributing factors towards the conservation of this grove over many decades.
Around 1970, the Hindu families (from all castes), residing within a 4 km radius of the sacred grove formed the Aravanchal Shri Bhagavati Kavu Committee. Presently 400 Hindu families are members of this committee. A general body meeting is called once a year, wherein an executive committee comprising of nine to thirteen members is elected through voice vote. The executive committee members in turn elect the president, vice-president, secretary, joint secretary and treasurer. The objectives of this committee as stated by Shri K.M.K. Nambeeshan, Secretary, Aravanchal Shri Bhagavathi Kavu Committee is ‘for wildlife protection and to conserve/protect a place where we can bathe and worship nature’. Although the committee holds meetings in formal office building, it is interesting to note that the committee members arrive at decisions related to the management of the sacred grove through application of divination techniques, which means passing resolutions after applying to the local deity. This brings a curious mix of tradition and modernity to the management of the grove.
Although Christian and Muslim families in the vicinity of the sacred grove do not become members of the committee, they co-operate in the management of the kavu and adhere to all laws and rules. Women are not permitted to be executive committee members. Traditionally, women were not even allowed to enter the kavu.
The active interest that Mr. Nambeeshan has taken in the management of the sacred grove has resulted in the participation of the forest department too. Recently, a 15 sq m tank was constructed with monetary aid from the forest department. Certain rules and regulations are strictly followed by the local community:
1. Strict observance of entry and exit into the kavu as per the Hindu calendar.
2. Entry is open to pilgrims only during certain times of the year.
3. No leaf litter/dead branches are permitted to be taken away from the grove.
4. Only during Theyyam festival is fallen wood from the grove collected and burnt for the purpose of the ritual.
5. Grazing of cattle is also not permitted within the grove limits.
6. Grass from the sacred grove is auctioned once a year, although this does not bring in much money to the kavu committee.
7. Photography is not permitted inside the grove, or of the Theyyam dancers, as they are believed to be possessed during the dance.
8. Women are not allowed to enter the grove during menstruation.
Finances for the management of the sacred grove come from donations and offerings of the devotees and local residents. Villagers believe that some funds from the Dewaswom Board5 have been allotted to them, though the committee had not received them yet. Once a year, the committee auctions off grass cut from the grove; the amount goes to the committee fund. However, all these methods of income generation have proved to be insufficient for the kavu trust, which is a constant source of worry for the members.
A water tank has been constructed recently with the help of funds collected from the community members and the forest department. The committee hopes that this tank will not only be useful to the villagers for bathing purposes but also be a source of water for the wild animals during summer.