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Village Safari


Village safari through Bishnois village JODHPUR:

Village safari around the Jodhpur area and Luni we take guests in jeeps to visit the villages and family compounds of a group of people called the Bishnois, which in Hindi means ''29,'' the number of precepts in their long-dead founding guru's list of commandments. They are vegetarians and the world's earliest conservationists. One of the precepts is to protect animal life, and consequently they live surrounded by the Blackbuck who, though wild, lack the fear of man. Bishnois are for over half a millennium, the Bishnois have evolved their life-style into a religion that fiercely protects the environment. It is not a religion that has a heritage of myths, miracles, a book, ornate temples or priests. The Bishnois, estimated to be around 6 million, spread over Rajasthan, Gujarat, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, are a practical, wise people whohold lessons for everyone.

Founder Jambaji born in 1451, cleverly packaged a set of 29 rules by which his followers must live. He was born in Nagaur, Rajasthan, in a Rajput clan, given to warring and conquests. He saw poverty and social discord. Convinced that man can succeed only by taking care of nature, and not by coveting the fruits of another man's labours, Jambaji walked the barren wilds of Rajasthan, showing how man can live in peace even in those lands, provided he cared.Never cut a green tree, but wait for a tree to age and die and then use it as timber. Bury your dead simply, so that the earth assimilates the flesh - and you save too, the wood needed for a casket or a cremation. Practice cleanliness and a high level of hygiene, for these will guard you from disease. Protect wildlife - they too play a role in maintaining soil fertility and in holding the balance of harmful and beneficial life forms. Conserve water for use by man and animals, by building tanks everywhere. Of course, practice vegetarianism and be addicted to nothing - alcohol, tobacco or even tea! Do not expect or seek, alms or subsidy, from king or government; believe in self-help! Let women, those founts of life, wear bright clothes of red or orange and the men white, as a symbol of undiluted devotion to the faith. If ever you must choose to be violent, may it be in defense of a tree, an animal or your convictions; for this, even embrace death with cheer.

29 rules:

Such was Jambaji's list of rules to live by, totaling 29 in all. From that number 20 [bis] plus 9 [no], comes the name of the religion. You can hardly find a more secular creed than that! And the Bishnois have been true to their master's wishes. You can see them, living their values, in several villages near Jodhpur. The mud floors are plastered with cow dung to keep vermin away. The interiors are airy and clean. Men, women and children exude robust good health. There is a granary to guard their rations, and a sump for stored water . There is an easy paced dignity to life here.Throughout their long history, they have shown their readiness to die for their beliefs. 

The most celebrated episode took place as recently as 1730 in the village of Kejarli, near Jodhpur. The land around this village was, as it is today, makes for a pitiless landscape. Scant rainfall allows but four months of farming. People share the grains they raise with animals in need. Central to their lives is the kejri tree [prosopis cineraria], which is almost the only tree that rises to some height, yielding shade, fodder and ultimately some timber. Gazelles and black-buck roam with abandon, confident that the folks all around are the loving kind. Peacocks amble with leisure.

Defiance and devotion:.

To this scene, in 1730, the ruler Raja Abhaya Singh sent his soldiers to cut the trees for the fort he was building. He needed fuel for his limestone kiln. Amrita Devi, stood in the way. She explained to the soldiers the importance of trees to their faith and survival. Then she argued. A crowd soon gathered and joined her in dissuading the soldiers. When everything failed and the loggers began their preparations, Amrita Devi hugged a tree and asked them to cut her before they cut the tree! And do, it was done! A shocked and outraged crowd, was roused to action. One by one, they followed Amrita Devi, hugged a tree, dared the king's men and were cut dead. The carnage continued; an unending line of Bishnois choosing to die for their love of trees and nature. When a bewildered king finally arrived at the scene and stopped his men, 363 lay dead. Silence enveloped the moment with eloquence. There is probably no parallel to this, in the history of conservation.

Today, in Kejarli there is an early silent orchard and a small temple in it, to commemorate the day those 363 Bishnois engraved a message in the conscience of mankind.Such are the Bishnois! So gentle that that their women are known to suckle orphaned baby-deer, and yet fearless of blood-letting if it came to defending their faith! The safari returns to the hotel for supper before dark, having visited weavers potters & sheppereds in their beautiful homes built out of the earth of the desert and painted with simple designs, and participating if you like in a welcome ritual called the opium ceremony


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