Adorning and Adoring

The Sacred Trees of India


  • Louise Fowler-Smith University of NSW



Sacred trees, sacred groves, tree veneration, environment, aesthetics


Sacred trees are found throughout India and venerated by those of varied religious groups, including animists, devotees of local cults, Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains. Since 2003 I have travelled the sub-continent of India, conducting interviews and photographing the aesthetic enhancement of trees as an act of worship. Here, examples of veneration and a selection of the myths, beliefs, and rituals that underlie this practice are provided. These trees, through their adornment by worshippers, become subjects of adoration for not only Indians, but also for outsiders as well. In reflecting on this, the link between the aesthetic and the sacred is shown to have the potential to inspire ethical, eco-conscious, and transcultural responses to the natural world.

Author Biography

  • Louise Fowler-Smith, University of NSW

    Louise Fowler-Smith, Artist & Senior Lecturer

    Director, Imaging the Land International Research Initiative (ILIRI)

    UNSW | Art & Design


    Louise is interested in promoting new ways of perceiving the land in the 21st century. She believes that how we perceive and contemplate the land effects how we respond to the land. Her work investigates the Anthropocene Extinction, environmental justice and climate adaptation and rests at the intersection between the aesthetic approach to art and the ethical. 


ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). 2017. ‘India plants 66 million trees in 12 hours in record-breaking bid to meet Paris Agreement promise’. 9 August. Online:

Amirthalingam, M. 2005. Sacred Groves of Tamil Nadu: A Survey (Chennai: C.P.R. Environmental Education Centre).

Baviskar, Amita. 1999. ‘Vanishing Forests, Sacred Trees: A Hindu Perspective on Eco-Consciousness’, Asian Geographer 18.1-2: 21-31. Doi:

Bhajla, Neeraj, Tapan Mukherjee, and Gian Singh. 1984. ‘Plants: Traditional Worshipping’, Indian Journal of History of Science 19.1: 37-42.

Callicott, J. Baird. 1994. ‘The Land Aesthetic’, in Christopher Key Chapple (ed.), Ecological Prospects: Scienti



How to Cite

Fowler-Smith, L. (2018). Adorning and Adoring: The Sacred Trees of India. Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, 12(3), 261-284.