Image by Franck Vogel

The Bishnoi community of Rajasthan is the kind of community the makers of the movie Avatar would have been inspired from. These worshippers of nature, live by only one code of conduct and that is to live and let live, without bringing harm to any of Mother Earth’s creatures. From creating havoc in one gun loving film star’s life to living each day following the 29 principles revolving around loving and protecting the environment, this community is the role model India and the world needs if we seriously want the Earth to live on.

Lord Jambeshwar’s Path

In the state of Rajasthan in India there are almost 10 lakh Bishnois living in villages around Jodhpur. Though they are Hindus they follow the principles laid down by Lord Jambheshwar who is believed to be an incarnation of Lord Vishnu – the creator of Earth. It is only natural therefore, for them to preserve and protect every natural creation.

Legend has it that Lord Jambeshwar was born in the Rajput clan, the brave warriors of Rajasthan, but he chose to protect the environment instead of destroying it. From the age of 8 till he was 34 years old, he lived the life of a cowherd and then laid down the 29 principles of the Bishnois.

Bishnoi literally means beesh – 20 and noi – 9. It is the name itself that proclaims the importance of the 29 principles in every Bishnois life.

In Love with Nature

The Bishnoi community does not cut trees. They gather the dried twigs from the forest for their fire and even do not burn a wooden pyre as Hindus would, to cremate their dead. They bury them instead.

In Bishnoi villages it is easy to find vultures, partridges, peacocks and the endangered Great Indian Bustard roaming around without fear. The bishnois even allow deers like the blackbuck and chital to roam around and graze in their farmlands.

“It’s the belief of every Bishnoi that the first right to the harvest goes to the blackbucks, nilgais and chinkaras. Whatever is left by them belongs to us,” says a guide Om Prakash Lol who gives inquisitive tourists a tour of the village.

In the village of Jajiwal, a Bishnoi temple doubles up as a rescue shelter where deer claves orphaned or otherwise are taken care of by the priest. Some are sent back to the wild, while some make the temple their home.

Poachers’ Nightmare

The modern day Bishnoi community has become the fiercest conservator. All in the community including women and children consider it their duty to protect the forests and animals from poachers. Hunters fear these daring individuals who armed with a simple bamboo stick and a lot of courage push each and every trespasser away whose intention is to kill wildlife or rob the forests of their natural wealth. When they capture a poacher, they hand him to the forest authorities.

Presently, the community has formed a new group called the ‘Tiger Force’ comprising of 1000 plus individuals spread across villages, committed to save the environment. It is this force that chased and caught the Indian star who was hunting a blackbuck.

Environment Martyrs

Gangaram Bishnoi took four bullets on his chest, trying to save a blackbuck from poachers. In his village home a tiny memorial is placed where he lies buried next to the blackbuck he tried to save. The man left behind aging parents, a wife and two children but they do not cry in grief but proudly display the President’s award for bravery awarded to this brave son of the soil. It is not a single instance but a way of life often repeated in the community. They do not mind losing their lives, if it can save what many might call a ‘mere’ animal.

Spreading the Knowledge

Sadly, not many Bishnois are in prominent positions in the forest departments of India although protection of nature is like a genetic trait. The main reason behind this is lack of education.

Bishnois might not understand the global jargons like global warming and climate change but they do understand the pivotal role nature plays in the sustenance of life on this planet. While literacy of the community is very important, it is really not to bring them at par with the modern world. Education of the community is needed so that these nature lovers can come out in the open and spread their ideologies across the world and we get to learn a thing or two from them.

The world needs not 100,000 but 1 million and more Bishnois.

Related Stories:

Villagers give up their Land for Elephants

One Man Making Desert Lands Greener

Two Endangered Species make Rare appearrence in Rajasthan

Article reference: DNA  Image via Yamunablog

About Atula Gupta

Atula Gupta is the Founder and Editor of Her work has appeared in a number of international websites, dailies and magazines including The Wire, Deccan Herald, New Indian Express, Down to Earth and Heritage India on issues related to environment and its conservation. She is also the author of Environment Science Essentials, a set of books for school children. She hopes this website provides a platform for people to be aware about species in the verge of extinction and heighten their conservation efforts.

3 thoughts on “Bishnois: Environment Crusaders by Birth

  1. I have had the good fortune of having many Bishnoi students in my class during my growing years in Rajasthan and I could not agree with Atula more – it is an amazing tribe. How I wish all of could take some lessons from these simple people who live truly in harmony with Mother Nature – most of the problems on our planet would disappear, if only we respect our environment the way these simple people do.

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