Rajasthan’s own conservationists: The Bishnoi Community

Jodhpur, the Blue city that everyone fancies is a jumble of the wow’s and the how’s! It’s a canvas full of multiple colours, with a culture so rich and intriguing that you are bound to fall in love with the place, one corner at a time. However, even though Jodhpur tops the list for many tourists who visit Rajasthan, not many are aware of a small village that lies on the outskirts of this city, some 22 km away from the hustle and bustle of Jodhpur. It’s a village that belongs to the Bishnoi community.

The Bishnoi village is a world on its own. Right from when you enter this village, you realize that they have an entire ecosystem where they coexist with each other, living in harmony with nature while pulling off their respective businesses.

Though the majority of the tourists explore the city through half-day trips, I was lucky to spend two days with a family and observed them from close. It was a joint family, with the elder-most dada ji, daadi, her sister (yes, the dual-daadi combo), his son, his wife, and their children. They offered us home-made bajre ki roti with ghee, gatte ki sabji, sangri ki sabji, gud, kadhi, chaanch and loads and loads of tea throughout the stay. In the evenings, we would climb the terrace and sit there, staring at the wide expanse of their village, or maybe just walk up to the nearby forest(desert forests are only bushy and not dense) and spot peacocks and blackbucks.

Below, I’ve listed some key reasons that make Bishnois an extremely unique community.

 

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Bishnois are incredibly artsy and a fond lover of pottery

A potter’s house in the Bishnoi community is an epitome of creativity. Their craftsman on how to spin the wheel and create unique clay pieces with the most basic amenities is extremely intriguing. Every day, they make several pots all at once and have dedicated spaces in corners of their homes for drying their pots or clay creations. These drying posts give an impression of a layer of cannonballs that are usually kept to be sold later. What’s even more interesting is that families in the Bishnoi village usually follow the same occupation for a generation. A potter’s son will eventually grow up to become a potter. Many of their clay creations take inspiration from science, one of which is a unique toy bird whistle, which makes a particular kind of sound when you pour water into it.

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They are extraordinary weavers

Visiting the weavers was another highlight of our stay with the Bishnois. Just like their work, weavers add colours to your trip with their extraordinary sense of artistry. From sarees to bedsheets, to carpets and rugs, their creative weavers make everything. Their unique durry(a thick carpet) is something that one can not only use as a floor-carpet but also as bedding. They are extremely colourful, usually made out of cotton or wool.

Apart from the magic carpet makers, you also encounter artists who are excellent at block printing. Block printing uses the method of carving unique designs into wooden blocks, which are usually dipped in dye and then printed onto the fabric. These artisans also indigo to make their dyes. While carving out these designs, these artists need to be careful with the details and the symmetry of the design.

They love hosting their ‘Amal Ceremonies’

 Undoubtedly the most interesting of all, these amal ceremonies are usually conducted by the male heads of a family. Opium is widely consumed in parts of Rajasthan, and it’s more than just an addiction for these communities. The opium is usually crushed with mortar and pestle and filtered through a special wooden vessel. After which, the men conducting the same consume the filtered opium. Sometimes, guests who are interested to try out opium are also offered to taste.

Usually, the amal ceremony also includes the turban-wearing ceremony. People love watching this extravagance of an affair, where they meticulously drape turban around each other’s heads and even asks the tourists to take turns in trying out the same. Female tourists are usually entertained with an authentic Rajasthani churni that they usually drape like a saree.

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A large part of their day is dedicated to ‘Dairy Business’

The family I lived with was inherently lived on dairy. From personal experience, I realized that women wake up as early as 4 am to set the day for their daily chores, including feeding their cows. The daughter cleans the courtyard while the mother milks the cow. The granny engages in day to day gossip and dresses up at her best to impress the tourists who are going to flock her house in the next few hours.

The daughter spends the next one-hour churning milk and separating ghee, butter, and buttermilk. Many a time, she is seen making tea for ‘n’ number of tourists with the freshly extracted milk. The mother is usually seen making either bajre ka roti that she serves with aanchar and freshly prepared ghee and chaanch or sometimes even a local dish that is savoured by everyone in the house.

Sometimes, daadiji also takes infinite trips to the gaushala to entertain her tourists with her cow-milking capabilities. After consuming a part of which they produce, they even sell their dairy products to the rest of the city.

Bishnois believe in living in harmony with nature

For years, the Bishnois have fiercely fought to protect and live in harmony with their trees and animals. Even in today’s time, the Bishnois have a huge role in protecting wildlife and nature around them. Their story came to the limelight with the famous incident of a Bollywood celebrity hunting a blackbuck and the frequent poaching of these species in the late 1990s. Also, for the Bishnois, the Khejri trees are extremely sacred. Apparently, they paid their lives by hugging over 350 Khejri trees, when their bodies were cut along with the trees by the Maharaj of Marwar, who wanted the wood to build a new palace.

The family I lived with, also fed several animals who came to visit them frequently. Sometimes, few cats pay a visit to savour some fresh milk or some peacocks come to greet the family in exchange for grains. Daadiji even narrated the story of how she once owned a blackbuck, who was extremely dear to him. However, she had to let it go of her pet, owing to the pressures by the government when they started preventing people from keeping blackbucks to protect them. Daadi keeps remembering her family member every day and has even framed their only picture together in her house.

Although I tried to take you on a virtual journey across the Bishnoi village, I can assure you, it’s nothing like experiencing it for real. So if you’re ever in Jodhpur, do pay a visit to this magical village, which is sure to take your breath away! 🙂

6 thoughts on “Rajasthan’s own conservationists: The Bishnoi Community

  1. Jignesh

    Reading this blog, I felt as if I went on the journey with you. Your style of narration is so fluid and makes it all seem very lively. I have read all your other blogs as well and waiting for your next one impatiently ❤️❤️

    Reply
  2. Priti

    Such a gem…the Bishnoi village and the blog…Thank you for the depth in the blog..it indeed was a virtual journey… Cannot wait to explore… Thank you… waiting for the next blog.

    Reply
  3. Archana

    Wow.. This is such a beautifully written blog piece.. entirely lived through every word. Hope to visit the Bishnois soon!

    Reply

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