In the heart of the barren Thar Desert lives a religious sect of Bishnois, who with their compassion and faith have created a sanctuary like destination where beasts, birds, and humans live in awe-inspiring harmony.
When it comes to preservation of flora and fauna, no devotion matches that of the Bishnois’ community. Bishnois have shown it time and again how dedicated they are in following the conservative teachings of their progenitor, which, by the way, are quite simplistic and contemporarily ecologists.
There are only 29 tenets that govern the lifestyle of this religious sect. These twenty-nine principles all boil down to the condemnation of the universal sins like lying, lust, anger, greed, and intoxication, with one noteworthy amendment of compassion towards all living beings, including animals, and even green trees.
Their compassion is outstanding, considering that despite living in the rural areas of a state that is predominated by barren desert, they do not consume meat. In fact, they try to build shelters for male cattle to save them from being slaughtered by other people.
Furthermore, when it comes to compassion, Bishnois know no limit and encompass even trees and shrubs with their kindred spirit. Despite the lack of fuel resources, they do not cut green trees, even modestly, and survive only on the dried broken branches of dead trees and dried cow dung cakes.
Such are the benevolent teachings of the serene people of Bishnoi sect that has created a harmonious habitat in the middle of the Thar Desert.
Many people seeing these easy-going people in their natural habitude may consider them too placid for real action. Some may even attribute their compassion to indolence. However, nothing could be farther than the truth than such speculations are. Bishnois are equally passionate than their counterparts from other religious faiths.
There are several incidences where many Bishnois have sacrificed their lives simply to save that of animals and even trees. In fact, the first ever recorded environmental revolution the Chipko movement of 1973, was inspired by a similar but less fortunate act of Bishnois conducted back in the early 18th century.
The act was initiated by an illustrious Bishnoi woman Amrita Devi, when the royal officials ordered by the then Maharaja of Jodhpur, went to her native village Khejarli, to cut down the green Khejarli trees for the collection of timber. She, along with other 84 villagers hugged the trees to their bosom to protect them from being hacked.
Unfortunately, the officials thought it was a bluff and in their haste cut many villagers who were embracing the trees, and once the bloodshed started it continued till the King himself came to stop the act.
In that fated movement, 363 Bishnois had died to protect their sacred trees and faith. However, it was that very movement that had brought Bishnois in the consideration of administration which then passed a royal decree that restricted hunting and wood-cutting activities in the areas populated with Bishnoi community.
However, as it happens no rule can prevent illicit minds. There have been many acts of illegitimate hunting and tree felling since then, and in order to prevent such acts from happening Bishnois still, have to be vigilant. As a matter of fact, some Bishnois had even earned untimely demise in such unlawful activities.
There is a short film named “Willing to Sacrifice” that portrays the life of the community in brief. The film was awarded for the Best Environment Film at the 5th International Festival of Films, TV and Video Programmes. You can watch the film here to know more about this exceptional community of Thar.