Bishnois can be called, the first environmentalist of India
because they have been religiously following rules of
environment & wild life protection & conservation since 1485
when environmentalist saint Guru Jambheshwar ji cleverly made it
religiously compulsory for them in the form of 2 principles(of
29) one, “Not to cut green trees” and , “Be compassionate to all
Bishnois followed these rules despite facing hardship in the
For centuries they have been living in the desert with harmony
with trees & wild life and survived in the harshest conditions
of the arid desert.
Bishnois villages are like oasis in the desert full of flora &
fauna living with human in a complete harmony.
Suffering from regular draughts in the desert and waiting for
rain for years, they sustained themselves by constructing
Kunds(water storage tanks) and collecting & storing rain water.
Despite shortage of water they made sure to have enough water &
millet available in open for wild animals & birds.
Herds of deer, black buck, chinkara & NEEL GAI (blue bull -an
antelope) can be seen in Bishnoi villages roaming without fear.
Bishnois have been crucial to their survival, even allowing them
to eat their crops.
Peacocks can be seen walking freely in the Bishnoi courtyards.
Bishnoi women are known to suckle (breast feed) orphaned deer
calf to save its life.
Bishnois themselves can be hungry & thirsty but they will never
allow an animal or bird to die due to lack of fodder/food or
This eco-friendly community has been living with nature with
complete harmony and eco bond for centuries following their
They appealed to kings and fought cases in the courts to declare
their area hunting free and banned for tree felling. Many of
these official orders exist still now to tell their stories of
love for the Mother Nature. Many Bishnois chased poachers and
faced bullets to save wild life. Many KHADANA(events of
sacrifice) happened in the history to prove their dedication for
the nature & wild animals.
In 1604 AD, two Bishnoi women from Ramsari village, Karma and
Gora, sacrificed their lives in an effort to prevent the felling
of Khejri (Prosopis cineraria) trees, which in Rajasthan are
treated with the reverence that the banyan and peepal (ficus
religiosa) command elsewhere in India.
The biggest KHADANA was in year 1730 when Raja (ruler) Abhay
Singh s/o Raja Ajit Singh needed fire wood to burn lime to
construct his palace in Jodhpur. His advisors advised him that
no where in the desert wood (tree) can be found other than in
Bishnoi villages. Despite an earlier order issued by his father
Maharaja Ajit Singh for banning cutting of trees in Bishnoi
areas, he ordered his team to fell the KHEJARI trees [prosopis
cineraria], from a Bishnoi village called KHEJARLI near Jodhpur.
Armed with king’s order and accompanied by soldiers and workers
having axes on their shoulders, the team leader, Girdhari Das
Hakim reached in the Bishnoi village in afternoon and started
felling trees. The men folks were in the fields for doing their
farming work. When Amrita Devi Bishnoi listened sound of axes
falling on trees, she came out from his hut and saw the men
She requested Girdhari and his team not to cut the trees because
trees are their life and this is against their faith.
Girdhari laughed and continued the tree cutting. When the brave
lady confronted him again then Girdhari tried to bribe her with
money to allow tree cutting.
Amrita Devi replied that receiving money to allow tree cutting
will be a cheating to her faith and Guru Ji.
Girdhari then showed king’s order of tree cutting and threatened
her of dire consequences if she continued to disrupt their work.
The helpless but pious Amrita thought for a while and then clung
to the tree being cut.
Girdhari warned her for the result but the religious lady said,
“SIR SANTHE RUNKH RAHE TO BHI SASTO JAN” means if tree can be
saved at the cost of my head, then this is a good deal and
acceptable to me and thus offered her head .
Like soldiers elsewhere, the king’s men were determined to
The axe fell on Amrita’s neck and severed her head from the
Her three young daughters were not scared and offered their
The news spread like wild fire and Bishnois from nearby villages
gathered at the spot. Village panchayat(local body) was called
and unanimously decided to continue the supreme sacrifice until
tree felling is stopped. The brave Bishnois took bath at the
kund (underground water tank) before proceeding to sacrifice
their life and the massacre continued for many days. When the
news of this brutality reached to the ruler he ordered his team
to stop the massacre. But by that time total 363 Bishnois
already laid their lives.
He then apologized to Bishnois for the grave mistake and issued
orders not to allow felling of trees and hunting of wild animals
in Bishnoi areas.
363 Khejari trees are planted at the spot and a
Cenotaph(memorial) is constructed in the memory of martyrs.
Every year a mela(gathering) is held on SHUKLA DASHMI(moonlit
10th) of Hindi month of BHADRAPAD in the Khejarli village near
Jodhpur, to remember and pay homage to the martyrs.
Recognizing Amrita Bishnoi’s sacrifice, Government of India
(Ministry of Environment & Forests) has instituted the national
award “Amrita Devi Bishnoi Wildlife Protection Award”.
The award is given for significant contribution in the field of
wildlife protection, which is recognized as having shown
exemplary courage and valor or having done exemplary work for
the protection of wildlife in the country. This is highest award
in this field.
The award of Rs. One lakh cash, along with a medallion and
citation is given to:
(a) An individual / institution pertaining to rural communities
(b) The community based organization from rural areas, including
Showing exemplary courage or valor for protection of wildlife.
Government of Rajasthan also started, “Amrita Devi Bishnoi
Smiriti(memorial) Paryavaran Award” for contribution to
Bishnois supreme sacrifice inspired many including Sunder Lal
Bahuguna of Uttrakhand who also launched Chipco Andolan (tree
clinging movement) and this will continue to inspire future
generations of the whole world.
In Abohar tehsil of Punjab, 13 Bishnoi villages have been
grouped together and the Punjab Government has notified the area
as a sanctuary. This is a unique type of sanctuary comprising of
Despite being a Hindu sect Bishnois burry their dead to avoid
wastage of fire wood used in burning cremations as done by other
Bishnois use dead wood and fuel cakes made of cow dung & waste
fodder for cooking food to minimize use of green trees.
Bishnois are practicing naturalists, committed conservationist
and guardians of the wild.
Surely Bishnois can be called the first environmentalist of
India and probably the world’s first environmentalists.
A feature film named, “An Eco Dharma” was shown in Taos Mountain
Film Festival, October 6-8, 2006 and one the merit award.
In 1990 Government of India, Ministry of Environment and
Forests, awarded its prestigious environmental award “Indira
Gandhi Parayvaran Puraskar” (Environment Award) to Sh.Sant Kumar
Bishnoi, President of Bishnoi Jeev Rakhsha Samity(wild life