Slow Travel Through The Bishnoi Villages Of Rajasthan

Take a leaf from the Bishnois who follow a set of principles that include norms for the protection of animals and trees
A Bishnoi woman in her traditional attire
A Bishnoi woman in her traditional attire

The Bishnoi community lives by 29 strict rules of conduct (bish is 20 and noi is nine), including a ban on felling trees and killing animals. In 1730, Amrita Devi, a Bishnoi woman, laid down her life with several other people from her community, to stop the king's men from felling kejri trees in their area. They can easily count among India's first environmentalists.

The set of 29 principles include several norms related to the protection of animals and the conservation of trees. 

A typical Bishnoi village
A typical Bishnoi

The Villages To Visit

Make a trip down to the Bishnoi village of Khejarli (25 km southeast of Jodhpur), best known as the place where the precedent for the Chipko Movement was established. In 1730, the Maharaja of Jodhpur, Abhay Singh, ordered the cutting down of trees in and around Khejarli for the renovation of the Mehrangarh Fort. In protest, about 360 people, including women, from 84 Bishnoi villages wrapped themselves around the trees, in the hope that they would be able to save them. However, the maharaja's armies ruthlessly went ahead and cut down the trees, along with the people clinging to them. Three hundred and sixty-three people died at that time and today, 363 trees have been planted around the Jambheshwarji Temple in their memory. They can easily count among India's first environmentalists.

A potter in the Bishnoi village
A potter in the Bishnoi

Next, head to the potters' village of Singhasini and watch potters at work using clay and sawdust as raw materials. Nearby is the shepherds' village at Rebari and the Bishnoi village of Guda. Here, you can enjoy tea and conversation with the women and the children of the village and take a peek into their mud houses, whose interiors are cool even in the desert heat. There is something to learn from here about living in harmony with one's surroundings the villagers lives are environment-friendly—they use every scrap of waste, be it to decorate their homes or to make cots.

Demoiselle Cranes are migratory birds and can be spotted at Guda Lake
Demoiselle Cranes are migratory birds and can be spotted at Guda

Also visit Guda Lake, a retreat for birds including the sarus and demoiselle cranes. Apart from blackbuck, nilgai and chinkaras, one may also get to see turtles in this area.

Kankani village is known for lovely terracotta work and block printing. Here you can see how the block-printed cloth that Jodhpur is so famous for is crafted. Salawas, famous for its dhurries, is an obscurely located village, down a bumpy road that takes you nowhere else.

The Information

Getting there: The nearest airport and railhead are at Jodhpur.

When to go: The best time to visit is from October to March, in the winter season, as the rest of the year witnesses scorching hot weather.

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