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Vishnois At Khejarli Environment Fair.jpg
Bishnois performing haven with kopra and ghee at Khejarli Environment Fair.
ClassificationSub sect of Vaishnavism and a caste acc to the Indian Constitution
GuruGuru Jambheshwar
Mantra"Bishnu Bishnu Tu Bhaj Re Prani"
Original stateRajasthan
Populated statesMajor:
Uttar Pradesh,
Madhya Pradesh
RegionWestern India
PopulationAround 10,00,000

Bishnoi (also known as PrahladPanthi) is a community found in the Western Thar Desert and northern states of India. They follow a set of 29 principles/commandments given by Guru Jambheshwar (1451-1536).[1] They are a sub-sect of the Vaishnav Sampraday[2]. As of 2019, there are an estimated 10,00,000 followers of Bishnoi Panth residing in north and central India.[3] Shree Guru Jambheshwar founded the sect at Samrathal Dhora in 1485 and his teachings, comprising 120 shabads, are known as Shabadwani. He preached for the next 51 years, travelling across India. The preaching of Guru Jambhoji inspires his followers as well as the environmental protectors.[4][5] Bishnoi Community consist of people from all the North Indian castes but most of the Bishnois are from Jat and Rajput castes of Rajasthan.[6]



Guru Jambheshwar gave his followers 29 precepts, bis means 20 in the local dialect and noi means nine in the local dialect, which became the "Bis+Noi" name for the Religion.[3] In local dialect, it is often said, “Untees dharma ki akhadi, hirday dhario joye, Jambheji kirpa kari, naam bishnoi hoye” which means those who will follow these twenty-nine principles by heart, Guru Jambhoji will bless them and they will be a Bishnoi.[1][7]


Bishnoi Panth was founded by Shree Guru Jambheshwar (1451-1536), also known as Jambhoji. Some people have used the term Vishnoi, meaning followers of Vishan, the all mighty one god, while most refer to themselves as Bishnoi. Shree Guru Jambeshwar himself did not refer to Vishnoi but does mention Vishan. Adherents are also known as Jambeshwarpanthi because of their devotion to their Guru; Jambeshwar.[8]

Shree Guru Jambeshwar announced a set of 29 tenets.[8] These were contained in a document called Shabadwani, written in the Nagri script, which consists of 120 shabads. Of his 29 tenets, ten are directed towards personal hygiene and maintaining good basic health, seven for healthy social behaviour, and four tenets to the worship of God. Eight tenets have been prescribed to preserve bio-diversity - although most adherents are unaware of that, or such things as global warming, as a concept[8] - and encourage good animal husbandry. These include a ban on killing animals and felling green trees, and providing protection to all life forms. The community is also directed to see that the firewood they use is devoid of small insects. Wearing blue clothes is prohibited because the dye for colouring them is obtained by cutting a large quantity of shrubs.[citation needed] Most of the followers of this sect were from Jat and Rajput castes.[9]

29 rules or principles[edit]

The 29 principles of Bishnois are as follows:[citation needed]

  1. Observe a 30-day state of ritual impurity after child's birth and keep mother and child away from household activities.
  2. Observe a five-day segregation from households activities such as cooking food, serving water, etc. while a woman is in her menses.
  3. Bathe daily in the morning before sunrise.
  4. Obey the ideal rules of life: Modesty, patience, or satisfactions, cleanliness.
  5. Pray twice every day (morning and evening).
  6. Eulogise God, Vishan, in the evening (Aarti)
  7. Perform Yajna (Havan) with the feelings of welfare devotion and love.
  8. Use filtered water, milk, and cleaned firewood or use cooking fuel after removing living organisms around it.
  9. Speak pure words in all sincerity.
  10. Practice forgiveness and kindness from the heart.
  11. Be merciful with sincerity.
  12. Do not steal nor harbor any intention to do it.
  13. Do not condemn or criticize.
  14. Do not lie.
  15. Do not indulge in dispute/debate or conflicts.
  16. Fast on Amavasya.
  17. Worship and recite Lord Vishnu in adoration.
  18. Be merciful to all living beings and love them.
  19. Do not cut green trees, save the environment.
  20. Keep away from Crush lust, anger, greed, and attachment. Use one's strength for right cause and fight for righteous till last breathe. This will take one to the heaven while living or after death.
  21. Cook one's own food and keep it pure from all surroundings.
  22. Provide shelters for abandoned animals to avoid them from being slaughtered in abattoirs.
  23. Do not sterilize bulls.
  24. Do not use or trade opium.
  25. Do not smoke or use tobacco or its products.
  26. Do not take bhang or hemp.
  27. Do not drink alcohol/liquor.
  28. Do not eat meat, always remain purely vegetarian.
  29. Do not use violet-blue color extracted from the indigo plant.

Places of pilgrimage[edit]

The Bishnoi have various temples, of which they consider the most holy to be that in the village of Mukam in Nokha tehsil, Bikaner district, Rajasthan. It is there where the Major Bishnoi Temple is.[10][11]

Khejarli massacre[edit]

The Bishnoi narrate the story of Amrita Devi, a member of the sect who inspired as many as 363 other Bishnois to go to their deaths in protest of the cutting down of Khejri trees on 12 September 1730. The Maharaja of Jodhpur, Abhay Singh, requiring wood for the construction of a new palace, sent soldiers to cut trees in the village of Khejarli, which was called Jehnad at that time. Noticing their actions, Amrita Devi hugged a tree in an attempt to stop them. Her family then adopted the same strategy, as did other local people when the news spread. She told the soldiers that she considered their actions to be an insult to her faith and that she was prepared to die to save the trees. The soldiers did indeed kill her and others until Abhay Singh was informed of what was going on and intervened to stop the massacre.[12][13]

Some of the 363 Bishnois, who were killed protecting the trees, were buried in Khejarli, where a simple grave with four pillars was erected. Every year, in September, i.e., Shukla Dashmi of Bhadrapad (Hindi month) the Bishnois assemble there to commemorate the sacrifice made by their people to preserve their faith and religion.[7][14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Desert Dwellers of Rajasthan – bishnoi and Bhil people". 2004. Archived from the original on 16 December 2019. Retrieved 19 March 2016.
  2. ^ Worshippers of Vishnu fall under the vaishnav sampraday of hinduism
  3. ^ a b Akash Kapur, A Hindu Sect Devoted to the Environment, New York Times, 8 Oct 2010.
  4. ^ "When Amrita Devi and 362 Bishnois sacrificed their lives for the Khejri tree". Sahapedia. Retrieved 1 June 2021.
  5. ^ Devi, Parnashree (13 October 2012). "Bishnoi Community : The Ecologist". My Travel Diary. Retrieved 1 June 2021.
  6. ^
  7. ^ a b Mehra, Satya Prakash. "Nature Conservation is my Religion". The Viewspaper.
  8. ^ a b c Jain, Pankaj (2011). Dharma and Ecology of Hindu Communities: Sustenance and Sustainability. Routledge. p. 52. ISBN 978-1-40940-591-7.
  9. ^ Menon, Gangadharan (3 July 2012). "The Land of The Bishnois - Where Conservation Of Wildlife Is A Religion!". The Better India. Retrieved 1 June 2021.
  10. ^ Jain, Pankaj (2011). Dharma and Ecology of Hindu Communities: Sustenance and Sustainability. Routledge. p. 53. ISBN 978-1-40940-591-7.
  11. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 6 August 2014. Retrieved 2014-07-27.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  12. ^ Jain, Pankaj (2011). Dharma and Ecology of Hindu Communities: Sustenance and Sustainability. Routledge. p. 51. ISBN 978-1-40940-591-7.
  13. ^ "The Bishnois". Retrieved 20 August 2017.
  14. ^ "Global Nonviolent Action Database". Retrieved 22 April 2017.

Further reading[edit]