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|Classification||Sub sect of Vaishnavism and a caste|
|Mantra||"Vishnu Vishnu Tu Bhan Re Prani"|
Bishnoi (also known as Vishnoi) 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 (also known as Guru Jambhoji, Guru Jambha) (1451-1536). As of 2019, there are an estimated 600,000 followers of Bishnoi Panth residing in north and central India. 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 environmental protectors. Bishnoi sect admitted members from a variety of communities including Jats, Bania, Charans, Rajputs, and Brahmins.
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(Vishnu's name in local dialect), while most refer to themselves as Bishnoi. Adherents are also known as Jambeshwarpanthi because of their devotion to their Guru; Jambeshwar.
Shree Guru Jambeshwar announced a set of 29 tenets. 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 and encourage good animal husbandry. These include a ban on killing animals and cutting 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. They are called the first eco-warriors due to their pro-active approach in conserving ecological balance and protecting the environment.
29 rules or principles
The 29 principles of Bishnois are as follows:
- Observe a 30-day state of ritual impurity after childbirth, and keep the mother and child away from household activities.
- Observe five-day segregation from households activities such as cooking food, serving water, etc. while a woman is in her menses.
- Bathe daily in the morning before sunrise.
- Obey the ideal rules of life: modesty, patience, or satisfactions, cleanliness.
- Pray twice every day (morning and evening).
- Eulogize God, Vishnu, in the evening (Aarti)
- Perform Yajna (Havan) with the feelings of welfare, devotion and love.
- Use filtered water, milk, and cleaned firewood or use cooking fuel after removing living organisms around it.
- Speak pure words in all sincerity.
- Practice forgiveness and kindness from the heart.
- Be merciful with sincerity.
- Do not steal nor harbour any intention to do it.
- Do not condemn or criticize.
- Do not lie.
- Do not indulge in disputes or conflicts.
- Fast on Amavasya.
- Worship and recite the name of Lord Vishnu in adoration.
- Be merciful to all living beings and love them.
- Do not cut green trees, save the environment.
- Keep away from lust, anger, greed, and attachment. Use one's strength for the right cause and fight for righteousness till the last breath. This will take one to heaven while living or after death.
- Cook one's own food and keep it pure from all surroundings.
- Provide shelters for abandoned animals to avoid them from being slaughtered in abattoirs.
- Do not sterilize bulls.
- Do not use or trade opium.
- Do not smoke or use tobacco or its products.
- Do not take bhang or hemp.
- Do not drink alcohol/liquor.
- Do not eat meat, always remain purely vegetarian.
- Do not wear blue attire of blue colour as this colour is extracted from the indigo plant.
Places of pilgrimage
The Bishnoi have various temples and mausolea, of which they consider the holiest to be that in the village of Mukam in Nokha tehsil, Bikaner district, Rajasthan. . There sacred sites of the Bishnois are locally known as Sathri or Dhām, located in places that have some connection with Guru Jambheshwar. The Bishnoi poet Govind Ram has said that Sathri means a place that has been ‘purified by the feet of Jambho ji’. Later on, some significant places came to be called Dhām. “Open-air shrines located in fields or under trees are called Thān. During those periods of time when the thān is associated with some kind of miracle or super-natural event, the shrine is called dhām.”  Main eight shrines of the Bishnois are collectively called Ashtadhām.
Peepasar dhām, in Nagaur, is the birth place of Shri Guru Jambheshwar Bhagwan, Ialso called ‘avatār sthal’ - the site of reincarnation. The place has a residence of Thakur Lohat ji, childhood home of Jambho ji and an old Khejri tree. On Janmashtami, also the birthdate of Hindu deity Krishna, is celebrated at Peepasar.
Muktidham Mukam , in Nokha District in Bikaner, is the most important religious place of the Bishnoi community. Jambho ji's last rites were performed here. Bishnois believe that Guruji is still resting here. A marbled beautiful temple is built here which is also called "Taj Mahal of Rajasthan'. An old Khejri tree under which Jambho ji’s body was buried is considered sacred and devotees circumambule around it. To enter the temple one has to the head as a mark of respect.
Samrathal Dhora dhām is situated less than three kilometres south of Muktidham Mukam. This is a site where maximum sermons of Shri Guru Jambheshwar Bhagwan were delivered. It os also the site of the origin of the Bishnoi sect. There is a temple at the Samrathal Dhora and one sacred pond.
Lohawat is situated in south of Phalaudi, Jodhpur. There is a legend that Jambhohi gave darshan to the Jodhpur prince Maldev. This place also has a temple.
Janglu is a village in Nokha, Bikaner. The Bishnoi temple in this village is of special significance as it has a collection of personal use objects of Jambho ji. There is also a fire altar in the village in which a Havan was performed by Jambho ji.
Rotu village situated in Jayal tehsil of Nagaur district. It is forty five kilometer north of Nagaur. Guru Jambheshwar is believed to have visited the village. A huge shrine of Jambho ji is erected here. A plaque of Jambho ji, called khanda that belonged to his devotee and contemporary Dudoji is preserved in this temple.
Jambha dhām or Jambholav is situated near Phalodi in Jodhpur district. This site is known for practical application of teachings of Guru Jambho ji . He got a holy pond dug, which came to be popularly known as - Jambha Talaw or Jambh Sarvovar. In common parlance it soon became Jambholav. It is a religious place, almost a pilgrimage site, for Bishnoi community. A fair is held annually on the Chaitra Amavasya following the Indian lunar calendar.
Lalasar is situated South-east of Bikaner. This is the place where Guru Jambho ji left for his heavenly abode. His body was later taken to Mukam. A grand temple is constructed here very recently through huge community funding.
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.
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 the trees.
- Chipko movement
- Guru Jambeshwar University of Science and Technology
- Guru Jambheshwar
- Amrita Devi Bishnoi National Award
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