KOLKATA: West Bengal's largest sacred grove Chilkigarh was declared as a biodiversity-rich heritage by the state government on Wednesday. Spread over 60 acres in Jamboni block of Jhargram district of West Bengal, the sacred grove contains some 388 species of herbal plants out of which over 105 species are of medicinal values. Besides, the forest also has 26 species of amphibians and reptiles.
The sacred grove is maintained by the Kanak Durga temple trust which, along with the Chilkigarh Palace, is located in the western end of the forest. The forest is flanked by Dulung river in the west. The declaration from the Bio-Diversity Board of the state government comes after long-pending demand from the conservationists in the state to declare the forest as a heritage site for its better protection and upkeep.
The sacred grove dates back to the pre-Nawab era of Bengal and was used as a shelter by Maratha raiders commonly referred to as 'Bargi' in the Bengali folklore. Jamboni Block Development Officer Mohammad Alim Ansari welcomed the decision and said that the move would ensure the preservation of the forest. Though common in Meghalaya, there are very few sacred groves in West Bengal.