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Guru Jambeshwar 001.jpg
Guru Jambheshwar also known Jambhaji, is the spiritual leader of Bishnoi sect.

Bishnoi is a religious group found in the Western Thar Desert of India, the desert overlaps areas of Punjab, and Sindh in Pakistan. The name is derived from bis (twenty) and nai (nine) i.e. followers of 29 principles given by Guru Jambheshwar.[1] Guru Jambheshwar gave the message to protect trees and wildlife around 540 years ago, prophesying that harming the environment means harming yourself. He formulated twenty nine tenets. The tenets were not only tailored to conserve bio-diversity of the area but also ensured a healthy eco-friendly social life for the community.

Out of the 29 tenets, 10 are directed towards personal hygiene and maintaining good basic health, seven for healthy social behaviour, and five tenets to worship 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.

In 1730, 363 Bishnoi men, women and children led by Amrita Devi died protecting trees from cutting by the king's men. This incident happened in Khejarli which is a village in Jodhpur district of Rajasthan, India 26 km south-east of the city of Jodhpur. The Bishnois sacrificed their lives while protecting trees by hugging to them.


Bishnoism was founded by Guru Jambheshwar of Bikaner, who was born in 1451, and is buried in Talwa/Mukam in Bikaner. His spiritual name was Jambhaji. He left his followers a scripture in the Nagri character called Shabdwani which consists of 120 SHABDS. Various census of India Bishnois are found in Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab , UP. He left his followers a scripture in the Nagri character called Shabdwani. 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 simple as Bishnois. They don’t allow intercaste marriage. Beside these they were the followers from many other castes like vaishya, agarwals, guptas which are found mainly in uttar Pradesh. Once therir main occupation was business but today bishnois have drastically grown in the fields of IT, ENGG, Government work, defence, Diplomacy and social workers. [2][3][4]

Places of pilgrimage[edit]

The most prominent places of pilgrimage of the Bishnois is situated at village called Mukam in a temple in Nokha Tehsil, Bikaner District, Rajasthan.[5][6] 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.

Protection of flora and fauna[edit]

Bishnois are strong lovers of wild animals. It is because of their protection that in Bishnoi-dominated areas, deer and antelope (such as blue bulls, black bucks, chinkaras and chowsinghas) are seen grazing in their fields despite the fact that the state of Rajasthan where the Bishnois mainly live, faces severe water shortages.[citation needed]

In recent years, the Bishnoi community has launched strong protests against the killing of black bucks by Salman Khan, a Bollywood film star and Saif Ali Khan of son of Mansur Khan Pataudi, a former Indian cricketer.

Cenotaph of Bishnoi martyrs at Khejarli, who laid down their lives in 1730 protecting trees

The Khejarli Massacre[edit]

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 back, 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.[citation needed][5][6]

29 Rules in English[edit]

Their key rules for living are:[7][8]

  1. Observe 30 days' state of untouchability after child's birth
  2. Observe 5 days' segregation while a woman is in her menses
  3. Bath early morning
  4. Obey the ideal rules of life: Modesty
  5. Obey the ideal rules of life: Patience or satisfactions
  6. Obey the ideal rules of life: Purifications
  7. Perform Sandhya two times a day
  8. Eulogise their God, Vishnu, in evening hours (Aarti)
  9. Perform Yajna (Havan) every morning
  10. Filter water, milk and firewood
  11. Speak pure words in all sincerity
  12. Adopt the rule of forgiveness and pity
  13. Don't steal and not keep any intention to do it also
  14. Do not condemn or criticize
  15. Don't lie
  16. Don't waste the time on argument
  17. Fast on Amavashya and offer prayers to Vishnu
  18. Have pity on all living beings and love them
  19. Do not cut green trees, save the environment
  20. Crush lust, anger, greed and attachment
  21. Accept food and water from our purified people only
  22. Provide a common shelter for male goat/sheep to avoid them being slaughtered in abattoirs
  23. Don't sterilise ox
  24. Don't use opium
  25. Don't take smoke and use tobacco
  26. Don't take bhang or hemp
  27. Don't take wine or any type of liquor
  28. Don't eat meat, remain always pure vegetarian
  29. Never use blue clothes

Further information[edit]

  • The Bishnois, ecologists since the 15th century[9] a book by photojournalist Franck Vogel
  • The Bishnois: India's eco-warriors (Rajasthan, l'âme d'un prophète) (52 min, France 5, 2011)[10] a documentary film directed by Franck Vogel and Benoit Ségur.


  1. ^ "The Desert Dwellers of Rajasthan – Bishnoi and Bhil people". 2004. Retrieved 19 Mar 2013. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ Jambhoji: Messiah of the Thar Desert,1998, author M.S.Chandla
  4. ^ The Bishnois,(2001), ASIN: B004HQ08BE
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ "29-Rules". Retrieved 24 January 2014.  External link in |work= (help)
  8. ^ "List of 29 Principles". Retrieved 24 January 2014. 
  9. ^ Bishnois information on
  10. ^ Bishnois film trailer by France 5 TV channel

External links[edit]