Pilgrims undertaking the Girivalam path in Tiruvannamalai are in for visual surprise this year, as their journey is dotted with artistic wood carvings ordered by the district administration. From intricately carved animals to musical instruments, dead trees along the path have been given new life as they draw curious visitors to the Girivalam path.
Over the last two years, environmental activists have fought tooth and nail to protect trees in this pilgrimage site. In 2016, they fought the Highways Department that wanted to fell trees to widen the path for pilgrims. An interim order from the National Green Tribunal (NGT), directing that not a single tree be cut came as relief to activists in December. A year later, another battle awaited them in the form of a Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) Department which ordered the axing of 545 naturally grown trees. And in 2018, 70 trees were poisoned, allegedly by traders looking to set shop in the area.
"I have, however, assured the court that no more trees will be cut along the Girivalam path," says Tiruvannamalai Collector KS Kandasamy. "We didn't even want to remove the dead trees. So, I brought wood carvers from Puducherry to begin work on the trees close to four months back. After they completed the first tree, I was very happy with the final product and so was the public. So we decided to proceed with the rest," he adds.
According to the Collector, the carving work is already complete on 30 trees and the Collectorate is looking to finish another 20 within the next few months.
"There is already good response to the existing trees with crowds gathering to see the work. The chemical treatment of the trees before the carving takes close to a week by itself. The artisans have all been staying in Tiruvannamalai and working on them," he explains.