Maulichi Rai of Vagheri


Some of the highest peaks in Goa can be found in the Sattari taluka. Vagheri the third highest peak of Goa lies in the village of Keri. Once it was the natural habitat of the Panthera Tigris or stripped tiger and hence the name Vagheri. The stripped tiger is on the verge of extinction and it has almost disappeared from the forests of India, including the Vagheri hill.

Two decade ago the forest department planted various species of exotic trees in the area, under the Social Forestry Scheme, which disturbed its sensitive ecology and affected the wildlife too. Five miles to the east of Vengurla in Maharashtra, at a height of 1200 feet, is a landmark well-known to seamen, which is also known as Vagheri.

But, Vagheri of Sattari, at a height of 725 feet above sea-level, is an ecologically rich hill.

Geologically, a substantial part of Vagheri belongs to the basaltic outflows of the Deccan lavas, and has accordingly the typical landforms consisting of flat-topped summit levels with terraced flanks, and wide-opening valley courses.

Today there are no human settlements on the Vagheri hill, but, there once existed a small village of the Dhanger-gouli community. The Zore clan, which later migrated to places in and around Keri formed a part of this settlement. This forest dwelling community lived in harmony with nature. Some of the elders were ethno-botanists who knew about the medicinal properties of plants and it was these that they used as medicines to cure various ailments. Once nature lovers climbed this hill either from Keri or Thane, but today, the Chorla Ghat road has minimised the walking distance. A one-hour hike will take you to the summit from where you can enjoy a birdís eye-view of Goa. There is a small path that leads to Keri from the top. On the way there is a thick patch of lush-green forest. This is the sacred grove of Maulichi Rai. In the religious and cultural life of Zarme and Keri, this sacred grove occupies the place of gratitude.

As per the local tradition it is believed that Mauli was the goddess associated with the sacred grove. She is the presiding deity of the Kankumbi village of Karnataka. As long as the grove had the presence of Mauli, the spice trees of this rai were known for their rich flavour. But when the goddess left the grove, it is said that the glory of these spice trees also disappeared. Till this day one can find wild species of spice trees like nutmeg, pepper, cinnamon, etc, in this grove. The grove also has many evergreen trees. The presence of lichens, orchids, algae and creepers increases the ecological richness of this grove. During winter a variety of wild flowers blossom which attracts butterflies in large numbers. The stripped tiger, common jezebel and other species of butterflies can also be found here. But prominent among these is the blue tiger butterfly which can be found up till summer. Lack of human disturbance makes this area an important bird habitat. This grove also has a rich diversity of fauna.

In the grove there is a sacred place where seven clay vases (Kalashas) are kept in a row. These seven vases represent the Sapta-Matrikas or seven mother goddesses. Once, the Dhanger-gouli community made offerings here. But today it is the occasional visitor to the grove who prays to the Mauli for blessings. As this grove is far from human settlements, it offers refuge to a wide range of wildlife.

By Rajendra P Kerkar
The Navhind Times, Panorama
Sunday, August 12, 2007

Posted By : Rajendra P Kerkar, india on 03/10/2007

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