The Bishnoi community is a religious sect founded by Guru Jambheshwar in 1485 who commanded 29 rules or principles for his followers and hence the name Bishnoi - Bish, meaning ‘20’, and Noi, meaning ‘9’ in their local dialect.
What makes the Bishnois stand apart is their fierce love and loyalty for the environment and wildlife. They realized the importance of natural life centuries before global warming has forced us now to look back on our actions and make amends. They have complete intolerance for hunting and cutting trees. Despite being a Hindu community that worships Lord Vishnu, they bury their dead instead of cremating them as cremation involves felling of trees for firewood.
To understand more about their culture, heritage, and way of life, join a Bishnoi Village Safari tour when in Jodhpur. The village is about half an hour from Jodhpur city. A distinct feature of Bishnoi women is the large circular nose-rings adorned by every married Bishnoi lady. Jodhpur is known as the Blue City and ironically, the Bishnois do not wear the color blue as a huge quantity of shrubs needs to be burned to obtain the blue dye.
The villagers live in mud huts with thatched roofs. These huts are locally called Dhani. The floor of the huts is overlaid with cow dung to keep away vermin and also to keep it naturally cool. Another interesting fact is that Bishnois grow opium for religious purposes. And as they’re fond of it, they usually greet visitors with Amal, an opium drink.
As part of the tour, you get to visit the distinct attractions that are a part of the Bishnoi community. These include the Shepherds Village, Weavers Village, Potter’s Village, Khejarli, Kankani, Gudha village, and the Guda Bishnoi Lake.
Shepherds Village, as the name suggests, are the families whose livelihood mainly is grazing cattle. Here you can get a first-hand experience of a rural lifestyle.
Weavers Village in Salawas is the land of magic carpets. The age-old tradition of weaving is still kept alive in villages as this. Locally called Dhurry, these rugs are weaved out of cotton or wool.
Potters Village in Singhasni offers the finest works in pottery. The potters use clay and sawdust as raw materials. You can watch them at work and even try a hand at creating your own clay masterpiece.
Kankani or the block printers village showcases lovely terracotta work and the art of block printing.
Gudha Village and the Guda Bishnoi Lake is where you can witness nature at its finest. The kindness of the villagers towards animals is returned as you will spot cranes, blackbucks, chinkaras, peacocks, antelopes, rabbits, and numerous species of birds here.
Khejarli is a historic site and marks a landmark movement in Bishnoi history. The village got its name from the Khejri tree which was found in abundance here. In the year 1730, the Maharaja of Jodhpur, Abhai Singh, ordered these trees to be cut for the renovation of the Mehrangarh Fort. Amrita Devi Bishnoi and her three daughters offered their heads in return for mercy towards the trees. She quoted, “Sar santey rookh rahe to bhi sasto jaan” (If a tree is saved even at the cost of one’s head, it’s worth it).
Despite this sacrifice, the royal party went about carrying out their orders which sparked off a protest which led to the Bishnoi villagers embracing the trees in the hope of saving them (a precedent of the 20th century Chipko Movement).
However, the ruthless royal party continued the chopping and ended up mercilessly killing 363 Bishnois before they gave up. 363 trees have been planted in their memory around the Jambheshwarji Temple. Honoring this brave act and in remorse for the crime caused by his officials, Maharaja Abhai Singh issued a royal decree stating that cutting trees and hunting animals within the boundaries of Bishnoi villages is strictly prohibited.
A visit to Bishnoi will certainly make you realize that living even by the simplest of means can be satisfying. For an off-the-beaten-track experience, it’s a definite must-visit. You can either opt for a half-tour from Jodhpur which ends with a traditional vegetarian lunch with a family and costs about INR 1000-1500 per person or you can spend a night at a homestay for an authentic village experience.
How Far Is Bishnoi Village From Jodhpur?
The Bishnoi Village is about 22 km away from Jodhpur, and the trip would take you about 30 minutes.
How Far Is Desert From Jodhpur?
Jodhpur is located within the Thar Desert. But if you’re looking for sand dunes, consider visiting the village of Osian, which is about 70 km away.
What Do The Bishnoi Eat?
Millet chapatis with sangari, the fruit of the Khejri tree, and kair, a local berry, form the staple diet of the Bishnoi. The community abstains from eating meat.
Is Jodhpur A District?
Yes, Jodhpur is one of the largest districts in Rajasthan and is located in the west-central part of the state.
Is Jodhpur Worth Visiting?
Jodhpur is a city that’s steeped in Rajasthani history and culture. Apart from that, its location in the Thar Desert and the blue houses of the old city makes Jodhpur quite unique from the other cities in the state.
How Many Days Are Enough For Jodhpur?
Two days would be sufficient for you to explore Jodhpur in its entirety. Here’s the itinerary:
Day 1 - Visit the Umaid Bhawan Palace and Museum during the day, the Mehrangarh Fort, and Jaswant Thada in the afternoon.
Day 2 - You can explore the blue streets of the old city, and go shopping for souvenirs.
Which Desert Is In Jaisalmer?
Jaisalmer is located well within the Thar Desert, also known as the Great Indian Desert. You can read all about this city here.
Where Do The Bishnois Live?
The Bishnoi community lives around western Rajasthan, close to the Thar Desert.
Which Animal Is Worshipped By Bishnois Of Rajasthan?
The blackbuck is worshipped by the Bishnoi community as they believe it to be the reincarnation of their Guru Jambheshwar.
Who Led The Bishnoi Movement?
The Bishnoi Movement was started by Guru Jambheshwar, who laid down 29 principles that one should follow, which also included rules to protect wildlife and saving the environment.