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|Guru Jambeshwar Bhagwan|
Pipasar, Rajasthan, India
|Occupation||Religious & Social Reformer, Environmentalist|
|Known for||Founder of monotheistic Bishnoi sect|
Guru Jambheshwar (born 1451 in a remote Rajasthani village Pipasar) also known as Jambhoji, was the founder of the Bishnoi sect. He preached the worship of Hari (One God). He gave the message that God is a divine power that is everywhere. He also taught to protect plants and animals as they are important in order to peacefully coexist with nature.
About Guru Jambeshwar
He launched revolution known as Bishnoism at Samrathal Dhora on eighth day of black fortnight of the month of Kartika (Indian Lunar Calendar) in 1485 A.D. Jambho ji, was born in a Rajput family of Panwar clan in a remote village Pipasar in 1451 A.D. He was the only child of his parents i.e. Father, Lohat ji Panwar and Mother, Hansa Devi. For first 7 years, Jambho ji was a silent, introvert child. He also spent a lot of time (27 years) as a cowboy like Lord Krishna (Incidentally both had an identical Birthday i.e. Janmashtami!)
At an age of 34, Jambho ji founded Bishnoi sect. His teachings were in poetic form, known as Shabadwani. Although, he preached for next 51 years, travelling across the country, only 120 Shabads i.e. verses of Shabadwani, are available at present. Even these 120 shabads are a source of great wisdom and are sufficient for an individual to understand and follow his path.
Bishnoism, as mention earlier revolves around 29 commandments. Out of these 29 commandments, 8 prescribe to preserve bio diversity and encourage good animal husbandry. Seven Commandments provide directions for healthy social behaviour. Ten commandments are directed towards personal hygiene and maintaining basic good health. The other four commandments provide guidelines for worshipping God daily.
Bishnoi community observes socio-religious gatherings known as Melas twice a year at Mukam where Guru ji’s mortal frame was consigned to earth in 1536 A.D.
In a nutshell, Jambho ji was a great visionary, who had foreseen the consequences of man’s actions destroying nature for economic development. He saw the need for environmental protection and weaved his principals into religious commandments so that people can internalise those principals easily.
The sect was founded by Guru Jambheshwar (b. 1451) after wars between Muslim invaders and local Hindus. He had laid down 29 principles to be followed by the sect. Bish means twenty and noi means nine. Thus, Bishnoi translates as Twenty-niners. Killing animals and felling trees were banned. Before his death, he has stated that the black buck was his manifestation after death and should be conserved. The Khejri tree (Prosopis cineraria), is also considered to be sacred by the Bishnois.
Guru Jambheswar Ji also known as Jambhoji was born to a Kshatriya family in Pipasar village of Nagaur district of Rajasthan in year 1451 vikrami samwat 1508, Krishna (black) 8th day of Bhadarpad month (the same day of Krishna’s birth). His old father shri Lohat Ji Panwar (parmar) was very sad when commented by a farmer for not having children up to 50 years of age. Then he started tapsya and was blessed by a yogi for a son who will be different from others. Same time his wife Hansa Devi was also blessed by the same yogi for a son.
Considering the blessings of yogi, miracle powers of Jambo Ji, Guru Ji’s shabads, Jambheswar ji is popularly considered Vishnu sawrup (part or incarnation of Vishnu). The young Jambh Raj did not drink milk from his mother's breast and did not speak in early childhood. He told first shabad (Guru chinho guru chinh purohit…..) to a Brahmin called to cure his dumbness.
The young Jambh dev was simple but a genius, kind, liked loneliness and did many miracles. He did not marry and used to graze cows. At the age of 34 he left his home and belongings and started preaching at a sand dune called Samrathal Dhora. He was very keen in social welfare and helping others. In year 1485 there was a worst drought in western Rajasthan area and people started migrating to malwa (MP) with their animals. The kind-hearted Jambha ji was sad to see people’s pain. He then offered his help to the drought affected people to hold them back. People agreed and Jambha Ji helped them with grain, food, fodder, seed, agriculture accessories, etc. He also used his miracles' powers to help people in need.
That period was a dark period of Hindu dharma. Hindus of that area were suffering from external invaders, religion conversions as well as internal bad practices. Hindus were became either irreligious or blind faith or worshiping many god, goddesses in frustration and victimised by hypocrite sadhus. People were involved in malpractices, immoral activities, selfishness, sins, stupidity etc.
To help suffering people of that time and save religion, Guru Jambheswar Ji founded Bishnoism in year 1485 (Vikram samwat 1542, Krishna 8th of Kartik month) on the sand dune (Samrathal Dhora)after performing havan.
Bishnoism was based on main 29 principles and best practices taken from hinduism. Followers had various professions and class accepted Bishnoism by taking pahal (sacred water) and became Bishnois. Guru Ji’s teachings were very simple, logical, practical and effective. He believed in one god and did not believe in statue worshiping or man worshiping or leaving social responsibilities to achieve god.
His way was, “JIYA NE JUKTI AUR MARIYA NE MUKTI” meaning a meaningful way of living and then moksha after death. He travelled a lot to help and teach people and done many welfare works. He was a true & visionary guru, social reformer, follower of non violence, great environmentalist and believed in love and harmony among not only human beings but also among nature.
His teachings are covered by 29 principles, 120 shabads and sandhya mantra. Many kings and reputed persons came in his contact and admired his teachings. He also helped many of them with his blessings.
Guru Jambheshwar Ji left this world at the age of 85 in year 1536 (vikrami samwat 1593, Krishna 9th of Margshirsh month) at Lalasar and his body was buried in village Talwa (now famous as Mukam) of Bikaner. Every year two melas are held here, one on Amawas (no moon night) of Falgun month and another on amawas of Ashvin month.
His teachings were in poetic form known as Shabadwani. Although he preached for following 51 years, travelling across India, only 120 shabads, or poetic verses, are available at present. It is claimed that these 120 shabads are a source of great wisdom and are sufficient for an individual to understand and follow his path
Bishnoi revolves around 29 commandments or Bisno, from "Bees" (Twenty) and "No" (Nine). Out of these 29 commandments, eight aim to preserve biodiversity and encourage good animal husbandry. Seven Commandments provide directions for healthy social behaviour. Ten commandments are directed towards personal hygiene and maintaining basic good health. The other four rules are guidelines for worshipping daily.
Jambhoji stipulated that no trees were to be felled, and hunting was forbidden. His followers, some of whom may have thought of Jambhoji as an incarnation of Vishnu, were also enjoined to have compassion for all living beings, give up all intoxicants, swear by the tenets of ahimsa (non-violence) and satya (truth), and adhere to a vegetarian diet. Jambeswar…
29 Rules or commandments of Bishnoi community
1. To observe segregation of the mother and newborn for 30 days after delivery To prevent infection to the mother and the baby during a stage when both are highly susceptible to outside infections
Also to provide forced rest to the woman when she is very weak
2. To keep woman away from all activities for 5 days during her menstrual periods To provide compulsory rest to the woman
(also, considering the poor hygiene levels in those days or even today in rural India) For woman
3. To take early morning bath daily Personal hygiene
4. To maintain both external and internal cleanliness and remaining content Internal cleanliness means good intentions, humble behaviour, character without envious feelings, etc.
5. To meditate twice a day i.e. morning and evening (times when night is being separated from the day)
Morning meditation to ponder over the proposed activities of day, whether my actions are right, moral or am I going to do something against my life values. Also, to pray the lord for directions and power to move ahead in the life path.
Evening meditation to take a stock of day’s activities, whether I made any mistake? Did I hurt somebody? Whether I spent the day in constructive activities or just wasted this valuable time? Some authors say thrice a day
6. To sing the Lord Vishnu’s glory and reciting His virtues every evening
7. To offer daily oblation to the holy fire with a heart filled with feelings of welfare, love and devotion Daily (preferably morning) oblations with:
- Feelings of welfare of all living being
- Love for nature and whole world
- Devotion to the Lord
8. Use filtered water, milk and carefully cleaned fuel/ firewood To make the water and milk bacteria free! In case of firewood to see that some insects etc. do not get burned with the fuel and pollute the environment
9. Filter your speech! Think before you speak.
10. To be forgiving in nature Forgiveness is a parameter of greatness. This one virtue could uplift a normal person to the standards of great souls of the world. Guru said further, if somebody come to you shouting, become cool like water!
11. To be compassionate Compassion helps in purifying the heart. It is opposite** to the forgiveness (Refer rule 10 and end note) in a sense that in forgiving, we keep our heart and mind cool against some external stimuli, whereas in compassion, we imbibe the feelings of the helpless. We put ourselves in the shoes of victim (of some other external circumstance, assault, stimuli) and acting accordingly.
12. Not to steal Trying to own someone else’s things through cheating, or stealing is theft. Theft is the dirt of the character. It pinches the soul.
13. Not to revile/ condemn someone Reviling means insulting stealthily or disparaging behind the back. This is different from open criticism. Criticism is done openly with an objective of the improvement, whereas the objective of reviling/condemning someone is only to malign the victim’s image/position in the eyes of listener or the community. Condemning is an act of cowards and done out of envy and/or hatred.
14. Not to tell lies A liar can never attain respect of others. It is insult to the gift of speech. There was a time, when even the court used to accept the testimony of Bishnoi men as hard evidence.
15. Not to indulge in opprobrium One should not indulge in any unnecessary/ wasteful debates. All such discussions/ deliberations, which are anti-social, anti-human fall under this category. It is to be noted that the Guru has not proscribed / banned a healthy debate on issues concerning the welfare of all.
16. To observe fast and meditate on no-moon night (and the same day i.e. Amavsya) To provide rest to the body and its internal systems. This day of the month has a special significance from astronomical and planetary science’s point of view. In addition, the regular fading of the moon’s appearance is also symbolic of the perishable nature of life. So in this context, one should not waste his/her energy in the daily routine work but should ‘charge’ his /her energy level and introspect and ponder over the collective welfare
17. To recite the holy name of Lord Vishnu
18. To be compassionate towards all living beings
19. Not to fell green trees
20. To kill the non-perishables! To overcome the non-perishable enemies of human beings – lust, anger, envy, greed and attachment.
21. To partake food cooked by self or other religious person or one who is pure by heart and work
22. To provide a common shelter (Thhat) for goat/sheep to avoid them being slaughtered in abattoirs No Bishnoi should sell a male goat/sheep because these could be used for slaughtering purposes. Hence, he should send them to Thhat’s where the whole community provides feed and shelter for them. In later years, most Bishnoi’s got out of the business of rearing goats/ sheep, etc.
23. Not to have bulls castrated In rural India, bulls are castrated before they are used as bullocks for agricultural purposes. Guru prohibited this activity for his disciples. The underlining feeling behind this commandment is that Bishnoi’s rear the bovines like their son/daughters and getting them castrated through a painful procedure portray nothing but cruelty.
24. Not to partake of opium, or any product made out of opium
25. Not to use tobacco and its products
26. Not to partake of cannabis
27. Not to drink liquor
28. Not to eat meat or non-vegetarian dishes The underlying rationale of this commandment are two pronged
To protect the animals/birds from being slaughtered by creating a market barrier!
To protect the man, the best creation of the nature, from stooping to such low standards as eating meat of dead animals/birds. Scientifically also the structure of man’s teeth, jaws etc. is of not a carnivorous animal but is that of a herbivorous creature. Interestingly, if the meat eating would have been that superior, why even the non-vegetarian people eat meat/ eggs of the herbivorous animals/birds and not that of carnivorous animals/birds?
29. Not to use blue-coloured clothes In ancient India, the blue colour used to be obtained from indigo. Thus it is possible that the Guru wanted to stop destruction of this wild shrub or promote its cultivation in lieu of other life supporting crops.
Blue is the colour of death, poison (Indian Mythology- Lord Shiva). It is also thought that the blue colours do not reflect the harmful ultraviolet rays but absorbs them, which is a major health hazard.
Bishnoism is the most practical, simple, eco-friendly and caring sect of Hindu Dharma founded by great visionary saint Guru Jambheshwar Ji in year 1485 AD (Vikram Sanwat 1542, Kartik month, Krishna 8th) on a sand dune called Samrathal Dhora in Thar desert of Rajasthan, India.
Based on 29 principles (tenets/commandants/rules), Bishnoism was the first sect/religion emphasizing love, peace and harmony among not only human beings but also with mother nature, wild animals and trees. Guru Jambheshwar used religion to convey his message of living peacefully with love, and harmony with other faiths and nature.
Bishnoism teaches love, peace, kindness, simple life, honesty, compassion, forgiveness, hard work, good moral character, internal and external purity.
Bishnoism is a sect with difference which does not believe in statue worshiping, unnecessary rituals, man worshiping, castism but believe in karma, one God (Vishnu) and equal rights. Saint Guru Jambheshwar Ji gave such a simple way which ensures, "JEEYAN NE JUKTI AUR MARIYAN NE MUKTI" means an art of living for this life and then Moksha/heaven after this life.
In addition to 29 rules, Guru Ji's teachings are a blend of best practices of all faiths & religions and are covered by 120 shabads which he said to different people at different time & location in various contexts.
Bishnois are nature lover people and are first environmentalists of India.
The Sacrifice Place of Khejarli
Khejarli is a village in Jodhpur district of Rajasthan, India 26 km south east of the city of Jodhpur. The name of the town is derived from Khejri (Prosopis Cineraria) trees, which were abundance in the village.
In this 363 Bishnois, with Amrita Devi Bishnoi sacrificed their lives in 1730 AD, while protecting green khejri trees considered sacred by the community, by hugging to them, this incident is then first event of Chipko Movement in the history. Even sunder lal bahuguna agreed to the fact that he had been inspired by bishnoi community sacrifice. It was a party of Giridhar Bhandari, a minister with Maharaja Abhay Singh, ruler of Marwar (Jodhpur) state who wanted to cut the sacred green Khejri trees to burn lime for the construction of his new palace. Since there was a lot of greenery in the Bishnoi villages even in the Thar Desert, the king ordered his men to get the woods from Khejri trees.
Amrita Devi (Beniwal), A Bishnoi woman, protested against King's men attempting to cut trees as it was prohibited in Bishnoi religion. The malevolent feudal party told her that if she wanted the trees to be spared, she should give them money as bribe. She refused to acknowledge this demand and told them that she would consider it as an act of ignominy and insult to her religious faith. She said that she would rather give away her life to save the green trees. It is at this stage she spoke the words: "Sar santey rukh rahe to bhi sasto jaan", if a tree is saved even at the cost of one's head, its worth it. Saying these words, she offered her head. The axes which were brought to cut the trees, severed her head from the body. Her three daughters Asu, Ratni and Bhagu were not daunted and offered their heads as well and met the same end. Soon old persons, young men, women including newly married ones and children were sacrificing themselves in a similar way. There was intense pandemonium. As soon as Maharaja learnt it, he ordered stopped of felling trees. By that time 363 Bishnois had already become martyrs.
Honoring the courage of the Bishnoi community, Maharaja Abhay Singh, apologised for the mistake committed by his officials and issued a royal decree engraved on copper plate.
Most of the martyrs were the person's who scarified their breathes for religious principle and faith. To remember their greatness, the tree was given a new name after the village’s name and called Khejri. In Marwari Khejri is also called Janty(जांटी) to honour the courage and scarifies of great Bishnoi's who didn’t even care for their lives to save Khejri tree . Janty(जांटी) is considered the most divine and pious tree in Rajasthan which shows locals respect to the great lady. In Rajasthan it is considered a sin to cut a green Janty tree and it is considered a god-tree. In desert or semi desert, most of the lord Balaji temples are built under divine shadow of male Janty tree that is popularly known as जांट. Marwari word जांट refers to greatness and contribution of Jat people in Bisnoi sect. Khejri or Janty is also state tree of Rajasthan.
The anniversary of the massacre is observed each year at village, which has now become an important tourist destination.
Lover of wild animals
Bishnois lived with trees and wild animals in the Thar Desert with complete harmony for centuries and have been fiercely protecting the trees & wild life in their areas to follow the teachings of their Guru Jambheshwar Ji.
This was not an easy task especially in the desert where water was a luxury commodity and trees could fetch same extra revenue but for Bishnois protection of wild life was a Dharma (religion).
Bishnois appealed to rulers/kings to make rules for banning tree cutting and hunting in their areas and fought cases in the courts to ensure the rules are followed by all.
But in the arid desert facing continuous droughts, the trees and wild animals were always temptations of others.
Time to time their faith was tested by rulers, poachers and others but Bishnois always protected the wild life even at the cost of their lives by braving the bullets.
Scores of Bishnois have sacrificed their lives for protecting wild life in Rajasthan.
Bishnois are extremely aggressive about their pacifism. Foremost in the community's pantheon of heroes are men and women who gave up their lives trying to save trees and animals.
On 03.10.1996, Nihal Chand Bishnoi (30 Yr) sacrificed his life while chasing poaches to save life of black bucks.
A film named, "Willing to Sacrifice" was shown in 5th International Festivals of Films, TV & Video Programs ENVIRON 99 held at Bratislava, Slovakia and won the award for Best Environmental Film. ' ALSO SEE -: Article on Bishnoi published in GEO magazine (French edition) in March 2009
Amrita Devi BIshnoi Award is given every year by Environment ministry of government of India to a person who contribute towards protection of nature and wildlife.
- Bishnois are known to be very violent and aggressive in protecting trees and wildlife. It is said that if you are a hunter, then the worst thing that could happen to you is to be caught hunting by a Bishnoi.
- Unlike most Hindu communities, Bishnois bury their dead instead of cremating them. This is because of the strict prohibition on the felling of trees, the wood of which is required for cremation.
- In October, 1996, Nihal Chand Bishnoi sacrificed his life for protecting wild animals. A film, Willing to Sacrifice, based on his story won the award for the Best Environment Film at the 5th International Festival of Films, TV and Video Programmes held at Bratislava, Slovakia.
- Jambhoji: Messiah of the Thar Desert - Page xiii