Bishnoi saves deer, deers in bishnoi village, bishnoi saves wildlife
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Bishnois, The first environmentalists of India

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 living beings”

Bishnois followed these rules despite facing hardship in the Thar Desert.

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 water.

This eco-friendly community has been living with nature with complete harmony and eco bond for centuries following their Guru’s instructions.

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 cutting trees.



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 follow orders.

The axe fell on Amrita’s neck and severed her head from the body.

Her three young daughters were not scared and offered their heads too.

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 involved in

wildlife protection.

(b) The community based organization from rural areas, including Gram Sabha.

Showing exemplary courage or valor for protection of wildlife.

Government of Rajasthan also started, “Amrita Devi Bishnoi Smiriti(memorial) Paryavaran Award” for contribution to environment conservation.

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 farmers land.

Despite being a Hindu sect Bishnois burry their dead to avoid wastage of fire wood used in burning cremations as done by other Hindu communities.

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 protection committee)

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