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Bishnoi (also known as Vishnoi) is a religious group found in the Western Thar Desert and northern states of India. They follow a set of 29 principles given by Guru Jambheshwar. Jambheshwar, who lived in the 15th century, said that trees and wildlife should be protected, prophesying that harming the environment means harming oneself.
Bishnoism was founded by Guru Jambheshwar of Bikaner, who was born in 1499, and is buried in Talwa/Mukam in Bikaner. He announced a set of 29 tenets, from which the name Bishnoi is derived (bish means twenty, noi means nine). His spiritual name was Jambhaji.[full citation needed][full citation needed] These were contained in a document written in the Nagri script called Shabdwani, which consists of 120 shabds. Of his 29 tenets, ten are directed towards personal hygiene and maintaining good basic health, seven for healthy social behaviour, and five tenets to the worship of God. Eight tenets have been prescribed to preserve bio-diversity 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.
Bishnois are found in Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh. The adherents of the sect are the descendants of immigrants from Bikaner, parts of Haryana and Punjab and are exclusively Jats and Rajputs by caste, though they often abandon the caste name and describe themselves simply as Bishnois. They do not allow intercaste marriage. In addition, there are followers from castes such as the Agrawals and Guptas, most of whom are located in Uttar Pradesh.
Places of pilgrimage
The most prominent places of pilgrimage of the Bishnois is situated at village called Mukam in a temple in Nokha Tehsil, Bikaner District, Rajasthan. Other important pilgrimage places belonging to the Bishnois are Samrathal Dhora (situated 3 km from Mukam), Pipasar, Jangloo, Lohawat, Lodipur, Bhur Tiba and Prachin Vishnoi Mandir Kanth District, Moradabad, Sameliya, Rotu, Lalasar and Jambolav.
The Bishnoi narrate the story of Amrita Devi, a Bishnoi woman who, along with more than 363 other Bishnois, died saving the Khejarli trees. Nearly two centuries ago, Maharajah Abhay Singh of Jodhpur required wood for the construction of his new palace. So the king sent his soldiers to cut trees in the nearby region of Khejarli, where the village is filled with the large number of trees. But when Amrita Devi and local villagers came to know about it, they opposed the king's men. The feudal party told her that if she wanted the trees to be spared, she would have to give them money as a bribe. She refused to acknowledge this demand and told them that she would consider it as an act of insult to her religious faith and would rather give away her life to save the green trees. This is still remembered as the great Khejarli sacrifice. Some Bishnois who were killed protecting the trees were buried in Khejerli village near Jodhpur, where a simple grave with four pillars had been erected. Every year, in September, the Bishnois assemble there to commemorate the extreme sacrifice made by their people to preserve their faith and religion.
The 29 tenets of Bishnoism state:
- Observe 30 days' state of untouchability after child's birth
- Observe 5 days' segregation while a woman is in her menses
- Bath early morning
- Obey the ideal rules of life: Modesty
- Obey the ideal rules of life: Patience or satisfactions
- Obey the ideal rules of life: Purifications
- Perform Sandhya two times a day
- Eulogise their God, Vishnu, in evening hours (Aarti)
- Perform Yajna (Havan) every morning
- Filter water, milk and firewood
- Speak pure words in all sincerity
- Adopt the rule of forgiveness and pity
- Don't steal and not keep any intention to do it also
- Do not condemn or criticize
- Don't lie
- Don't waste the time on argument
- Fast on Amavashya and offer prayers to Vishnu
- Have pity on all living beings and love them
- Do not cut green trees, save the environment
- Crush lust, anger, greed and attachment
- Accept food and water from our purified people only
- Provide a common shelter for male goat/sheep to avoid them being slaughtered in abattoirs
- Don't sterilise bull
- Don't use opium
- Don't take smoke and use tobacco
- Don't take bhang or hemp
- Don't drink alcohol
- Don't eat meat, remain always pure vegetarian
- Never use blue clothes
- "The Desert Dwellers of Rajasthan – Bishnoi and Bhil people". 2004. Retrieved 19 Mar 2013.
- Jambhoji: Messiah of the Thar Desert,1998, author M.S.Chandla
- The Bishnois,(2001), ASIN: B004HQ08BE
- "List of 29 Principles". www.bishnoism.com. Retrieved 24 January 2014.
- The Bishnois, ecologists since the 15th century, a book by photojournalist Franck Vogel
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Bishnoi people.|
- Bishnois information on www.franckvogel.com
- The Bishnois: India's eco-warriors (Rajasthan, l'âme d'un prophète) (52 min, France 5, 2011) - Bishnois film trailer by France 5 TV channel, a documentary film directed by Franck Vogel and Benoit Ségur