Ritual Plants Used by Indigenous and Ethnic Societies of District Banswara (South Rajasthan), India

Shafkat Rana1, Dilip Kumar Sharma2* and PP Paliwal1

1P.G. Department of Botany, S.G.G. Government College, Banswara-327001 Rajasthan, India

2Vardhaman Mahaveer Open University, Kota, Rajasthan, India

*Corresponding Author:
Dilip Kumar Sharma
Vardhaman Mahaveer Open University
Kota, Rajasthan, India
E-mail: [email protected]
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Rajasthan is one of the largest states located in the North-western part of India. The southern part of Rajasthan state comprises of a large population of tribal communities belonging to various ethnic groups. The tribal community believe that some Gods and deities can be welcomed by some special plants or their parts. So they conserve some plant species due to the traditional ritual ceremonies. These forest dwellers live in forests and possess a vast knowledge on various aspects of plants. An extensive survey of a few tehsils of Banswara was documented to the traditional knowledge of plants used by tribal communities. Tribals like Ninama, Nanoma, Damor, Garasia, Bhagora, Charpota, Singada and Katara are residing in the area. These people have strong traditions, cultural activities, beliefs, taboos, totems, performing religious rituals and valuable information about properties and medicinal uses of plants. Different parts of plant (roots, stem, leaves, bark, fruits, seeds, bulb, etc.) or the whole plant/herb is used for the said purpose of rituals and ceremonies. In this study deals with the documents of 36 plant species used by the rural people of South Rajasthan in ritual ceremonies are reported. Out of 36 plants studied, 31 species belonging to dicotyledons and 05 to monocotyledons, under 32 genera being used traditionally by the tribals.


Ethnobotany, Indigenous knowledge, Ritual ceremonies, Tribals of Banswara, Natural conservation, Southern Rajasthan.


India is one of the important biodiversity centers with presence of over 45000 different plant species. Of these, about 15000-20000 plants have good medicinal value. However, only 7000-7500 species are used for their medicinal values by traditional communities [1]. India is a country with the strongest traditions of conservation of nature and land of diverse natural resources. Since time immemorial, conservation of natural resources has been an integral aspect of many indigenous communities all over the world. India has suffered an almost unabated devastation of its natural biological heritage and much of what remains has been preserved through the ages because of a host of conservationoriented socio-cultural and religious traditions. These tribes move around the forest for their day-to-day requirements, cultural activities, beliefs, taboos, totems and performing religious rituals. These people are largely dependent on their traditional system for their information is passed on from generation to generation through the word of mouth. India has suffered an almost unabated devastation of its natural biological heritage and remains conservation-oriented socio-cultural and religious traditions.

The significant tradition of nature conservation is to dedicating patches of forests or groves to some deities and spirits by tribal and rural peoples or sometimes conservation of the rituals. The indigenous people are illiterate but have scrupulously nurtured their traditional customs, folklores, ceremonies and a way of forest life through folk beliefs. Since the Vedic times, the human race has used various plants for ritual purposes. The tribals of South Rajasthan believe that certain plants have good omen characters and some others are ominous. As such, the good omen plants are scared, used in worship and offered to God. They also use them in their social ceremonies to keep themselves fit and prosperous. Very little work has been done on such plants in district Banswara of South Rajasthan. However, ethno-botanical and ethno-medicinal aspects have drawn the attention of several workers in South Rajasthan [2-14]. The Banswara is well known for its scenic beauty, high tribal density, fascinating culture and tradition based on intricate relationship with the nature. These tribes move around the forest for their day-to-day requirements, cultural activities, beliefs, taboos, totems and performing religious rituals. With this realisation, the recent upsurge of interests in studying rituals or medicinal plants.

A significant contribution has been made by several workers on the ethnobiology from various part of world viz. Meghalaya [15], Arunachal Pradesh [16], Bahrain [17], Nepal [18], Biligiri Rangan Hills [19, 20] including India [21]. In Rajasthan Ethnobotanical studies have been carried out by several scientists from different parts of the state namely Alwar [22], Mt Abu [23], Udaipur [24, 25], Eastern Rajasthan [26], Aravalli hills of Rajasthan [27] and Hadoti Plateau SE Rajasthan [28].


Rajasthan is one of the largest states located in the Northwestern part of India (Figure 1). Geographically, it lies between 23º3' to 30º12' longitudes and 69º30' to 78º17' latitudes. Southern part of Rajasthan comprising Banswara, Chittorgarh, Dungarpur and Udaipur districts is the tribal belt. The study area, Banswara district is located in southern Rajasthan with an area of 5,037 square kilometres (1,945 sq mile) in between 23.11° N to 23.56° N latitudes and 73.58° E to 74.49° E longitudes (Figure 2).


Figure 1: Location map of rajasthan and district banswara


Figure 2: Location map of study site in district banswara

The region represents a rugged terrain undulated by short ridges at west. The eastern part of the district is occupied by flat-topped hills of the Deccan trap. The district has the southern end of the Aravali Mountains, the drainage system belongs to the Mahi river and its main tributaries are Anas, Chap, Erav, Hiran and Kagdi. Banswara has plenty of rainfall and on the whole has a salubrious climate. Banswara has high varied physiographic from plateau lands to hilly tracts. Due to heavy rainfall (averaging around 1000 mm per annum) with plenty of humidity, it becomes one of the richest spot for the growth of varied vegetation includes variety of trees, shrubs, herbs, climbers and grasses. The subtropical evergreen forest of Banswara consists of mixed tree growth with Tectona grandis L. f. nom cons. as a predominant species followed by Anogeissus latifolia (Rxb. ex DC.) Wall. Ex Guill & Perr., Diospyros melanoxylon L. Roxb., Madhuca indica J.F. Gmelin, Dendrocalamus strictus (Roxb.) Nees.and Ficus religiosa L. in this region.

On account of the district’s unique location character, an overwhelming majority of tribals, the forest-fringe villages not only depend on the surrounding medicinal plants for home remedies but also protect these plants through village sacred groves and uses in rituals.


The proposed study was based on personal interviews of various groups like village headman, spiritual leader, priest; teachers etc. of tehsil Ghatol, Bagidora, Kushalgarh, Garhi, Anandpuri and Aspur (District Banswara and Dungarpur) who could give correct information and mode of uses. The field tours for study were made at regular intervals in years 2011–2013 in order to cover the tribal areas in different seasons to collect the maximum information at the time of marriage ceremonies, local fairs at Ghotia Amba, VEneneshwar and Local HAATS. The data obtained in local language (Baagri) collected through questionnaire from different localities and villages was compared and cross linked so as to ascertain their validity and integrity. During the study, daily activities were closely observed and interpersonal contacts on different rituals ceremonies were established by participating in several social and religious ceremonies. The collected specimens were identified taxonomically with the help of Flora of India [20], Flora of Indian Desert [23], Flora of North East Rajasthan [30], Flora of Upper Gangetic Plain and the Adjacent Siwalic and Sub Himalaya Tract [31]. The verification and authentification of collected data were made in the light of standard literature [32, 33]. In the course investigation two years, the three sacred groves were surveyed. Identification of plants was done on the basis of for local uses, a cross discussion of tribals were interviewed and cross interviewed for final conclusion of study.


In the present study of district Banswara (Rajasthan) documented of 36 plant species used by the rural people in ritual ceremonies are reported. Out of 36 plants studied, 31 species belonging to dicotyledons and 05 to monocotyledons, under 32 genera being used traditionally by the tribals (Table 1). To prevent the damaging habitat fast regenerative capacity is needed. So there a great need to in dulge in the doctrine of development through conservation which will lead to development without causing any harm to the resources thus leading to conservation [35]. Many plants species are utilised by Tribals in different Traditional Magico-religious. Plants ways but this does not affect their conservational aspects [12,13,35-37]. Like all other indigenous tribal communities, tribes of Banswara Ninama, Damor, Garasia, Bhagora, Katarahavea close association with nature and have developed an indigenous knowledge of environmental protection as well as biodiversity conservation. Various cultural and religious rites and rituals are also performed except for medicinal purpose; none of the plant species is harmed in any way [38, 39]. It was observed in this study that different parts of plant (roots, stem, leaves, bark, fruits, seeds, bulb, or their extracts or by-products etc.) or the whole plant is used as various cultural, religious rites and rituals purpose.

Table 1: List of plant species used in rituals in district Banswara of south Rajasthan

S. No. Botanical Name Family Local Name Use of Part Purpose on celebrations
1 Acacia nilotica (L.) Willd. Mimosaceae Babuliyo Whole
Used in Havan, aahuti etc.
2 Adansonia digitata L. Bombacaceae Gorakh Whole
Holly plant used in worship
3 Aegle marmelos L. Corr. Rutaceae Bel Leaves Offered to Lord Shiva
4 Annona squamosal L. Annonaceae Seetaphal Leaves
and Fruit
Used in Religious
5 Annona reticulate L. Annonaceae Ramphal Fruit Used in Religious and
marriage ceremonies
6 Azadirachta indica A. Juss Meliaceae Limmro/
Leaves Used in Reception
7 Butea monosperma (Lam).
Fabaceaea Khakhro Flowers Used in worship of loard
shiva, Holi/Dhulandi festival
8 Calotropis procera (Ait.)Ait. F. Asclepiadaceae Aakro Flowers Offered to the Lord Shiva
and Hanuman
9 Calotropis gigantia (L.)R. Br. Asclepiadaceae SafedAakr
Flowers Offered to the Lord Shiva
and Hanuman
10 Cannabis sativa L. Cannabinaceae Bhang Leaves Offered to Lord Shiva in
11 Catharanthus roseus (L.) G. Don Apocyaneceae Sadabaha
r/Barama si
Flowers Offered to God and godess Laxmi
12 Citrus aurentifolia (Christm.)
Rutaceae Limbu/
Fruit Offered in various festivals
13 Cocos nucifera L. Arecaceae Nariel Fruit Used in many religious and
social ceremonies
14 Cucurbita maxima Duch. Ex
Cucurbitaceae Kolu fruit Sacrifice after worship
15 Curcuma longa L. Zingiberaceae Pitti Rhizome Marriage ceremony
16 Cynodon dactylon(L.) Pers. Poaceae Dub Leaves Ritual, offered to lord
Ganesh or different deties (Pooja)
17 Datura innoxia Mill. Solanaceaea Dhaturo Flowers Offered to the lord Shiva
18 Emblica officinalis Gaertn. Euphorbiaceae Amrai Whole
Holly tree is worshiped
19 Ficus benghalensis L. Moraceae Vadla Whole
Holly tree, worship of
20 Ficus religiosa L. Moraceae Peeplo Whole plant Holly tree and ladies worship on the occasion of
Sheetla Saptami
21 Hibiscus rosasinensis L. Malvaceaea Jassus Flower Offered to goddess Kali
22 Lawsonia inermis L. Lythraceae Mehndi Whole
Marriage and religious
23 Madhuca longifolia (Koen.)
Mac Bride
Sapotaceae Mahudo Whole
Religious belief
24 Mangifera indica L. Anacardiaceae Ambo/Ke rry Leaves In marriage ceremony and
Festival auspicious, garland hung around gate
25 Musa paradisiaca L. Musaceae Kelo Leaves Ritual
26 Nelumbo nucifera Gaertn. Nelumbonaceae Kamaliyo Flower Offered to the lord Shiva
27 Nerium indicum Mill. Apocynaceae Kaner Flowers Used in Festival and Fairs, they wear its flowers at
28 Ocimum basilicum L. Lamiaceae Marva Whole
Holly plant to pray loard
Saligram (loard Vishnu)
29 Ocimum tenuiflorum L. Lamiaceae Tulsi Whole
Holly plant, used in fast
worship of the lord Vishnu
30 Pandanus fascicularis Lam Pandanaceaea Kevdo Leaves Ladies worship, holly plant
31 Prosopis cineraria (L.) Druce Fabaceaea Khejdo Stem Used in Havan, aahuti etc.
32 Saccharum officinarum L. Poaceaea Ganna Whole
Plant/Ste m
Holly plant, used in worship of goddess Lakshmi
33 Saraca indica / Saraca asoca
(Roxb.) Wilde
Caeselpiniaceae Asha-Pala Leaves Used in making Toran in
marriage ceremony
34 Santalum album L. Santalaceae Sandan Wood Worshiped in various
35 Sesamum orientale L. Pedaliaceaea Meetu Tel Seeds Used in Puja and havan
36 Ziziphus mauritiana Lam. Rhamnaceae Ber Leaves Used in Festival and

It was also reported that these plants or plant parts used in various cultural and religious rites and rituals are of medicinal uses also and tribals try to live in contacts of these plants for their better health as well the spiritual promotions. The use of such plants in ethnomedicine was reported previously [40, 41]. The conservation and protection of medicinal plants against over exploitation by domestic and foreign commercial interest without benefits accruing to the nation are clearly our priorities [42]. The uses of such plants in various cultural and religious rites and rituals are a mode of conservation of natural wealth of earth. As we are trying to conserve by different ways as in situ, botanical gardens, germplasm banks etc [43-46]. The present note is prescribed here to focus on good omen plants.


Various religious beliefs and myths are attributed to conserve the biodiversity of the region. Tribal communities of Banswara have a cultural ecological heritage in the form of this in-situ conservation practice, the knowledge of which needs to be preserved and appreciated. Their presence in agricultural lands; grazing, fragmentation of the grove-owning families and erosion of cultural and religious beliefs and taboos are the major reasons. Therefore, there is an urgent need not only to protect rare, endangered and medicinal plants, but also to revive and reinvent such traditional practice of nature conservation and environmental management.


Authors are grateful to Prof. B.L. Chaudhary, Ex-Vice Chancellor, M.L.S. University, Udaipur, Rajasthan for their constant help throughout the progress of this work. We are also thankful to Prof. Ashok Sharma, vice-chancellor, VMOU, Kota, Prof. RS Khangrot, Principal, Agrawal P.G. College, Jaipur and P.G. Department of Botany, Shri Govind Guru Government College, Banswara (Rajasthan) for valuable support and academic guidance. Authors are highly thankful to the traditional knowledge and technical assistance provided by Sh. Bhoodeo Bhatt, villagers of area especially Sh. Mavji, Sh. Partha, Sh. Maniya, Sh. Kodarmalji, Sh. Nathu and Sh. Prabhu and forest officials during the course of studies.


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