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Bishnois have made wildlife and environment protection their daily leitmotiv. Love animals Don't cut green trees And you won't face adversity in life Guru Jambheshwar (1451-1536 AD)

Bishnois : environmentalists by Creed A photo story by ŠFranck Vogel/LightMediation Contact - Thierry Tinacci - LightMediation Photo Agency - +33 (0)6 61 80 57 21 thierry@lightmediation.com


2499-34: Every morning and evening, Bishnoi used to feed flocks of wild gazelles (chinkaras), peacocks, parrots, pigeons...some are even hand-fed. It is compulsory to feed wild animal for a bishnoi, and it's even truer near bishnoi temples. They donate twice a year wheat or another cereal to the temple for the animals (in total they are supposed to give 10% of their revenue to wildlife). Since more than 520 years wildlife and trees have been protected by those people, sometimes by giving their lives, and it's quite easy to understand that wild animals are strolling near bishnoi farm houses and temples. It's a way to be protected from poachers and even dogs.


2499-01: Every Bishnoi family donates wheat, millet or any other cereal to feed birds and deer. They are supposed to give 10% of their income to wildlife which is nowadays rare. In 2008, during Jamba festival,

2499-02: Rana Ram, a 67 year-old uneducated Bishnoi, follows strictly his guru's environmental principles. Known in his community as the "Tree friend", he is a simple farmer who uses most of his

2499-03: Lalu Ram Bishnoi brings a gazelle orphan near the herd to try to find a step mother. It happens sometimes but it's seldom.

2499-04: Every morning and evening, Bishnoi used to feed flocks of wild gazelles (chinkaras), peacocks, parrots, pigeons...some are even hand-fed. It is compulsory to feed wild animal for a bishnoi, and it's even


2499-41: During Jamba pilgrimage around 200 000 Bishnois take sand from lower area to enlarge the pond and build huge sand dunes near the temple as their guru told them: "build dunes to break the wind". The pond water is salty and people take bath before to pray near the Havan (holy fire).


2499-05: While a wild gazelle is strolling around, pahal (sacred water) is distributed after Havan by Swami Vishudha Nand Bishnoi at Jajiwal Dora temple. 30 days after child birth, Pahal is performed for mother and

2499-06: After taking care and bottle milk feeding two chinkara fawns (Indian wild gazelles), whose mother was killed by a dog 4 days ago, Danu Ram Bishnoi embraces them like his own children. Since

2499-07: Bishnois waiting the police near a dead wild gazelle on the road from Jodhpur to Jaleli (Rajasthan). Everything looks like a car accident but 2 bloody holes in the deer stomach seem to give

2499-08: Bishnois waiting the police near a dead wild gazelle on the road from Jodhpur to Jaleli (Rajasthan). Everything looks like a car accident but 2 bloody holes in the deer stomach seem to give


2499-14: Mukam mella is Bishnoi major pilgrimage. Twice a year Mukam becomes a huge place of worship and socio-religious gatherings. About 300 000 to 500 000 of them - some by foot - come and worship the place where Guru Jambheshwar did meditate for 7 year and died in 1536. He was buried in Mukam where a huge marble temple was build...like a little Taj Mahal. Havan (holy fire) and Pahal (sacred water) are performed throughout the 3 days of the festival. Huge havan are also performed in Mukam and near the temple at Samrathal Dora. Bishnoi walk clockwise around the fire and through ghee and coconuts into the fire. During the festival they visit 3 holy places in a range of 15km: Pipasar (place of birth), Samrathal Dora (dune where he founded Bishnoi sect), and Mukam (place where he died and was buried in 1536). At the age of 34, Guru Jambheshwar founded Bishnoi religion at Samrathal Dora, a sand dune near Pipasar in 1485 A.D. He preached for the next 51 years, travelling across the country, his 29 commandments. Out of these 29 principles, 8 focus on wildlife and environment protection to preserve biodiversity, 7 give the bases for good social behaviour, 10 are directed towards personal hygiene and good health, and the 4 remaining provide guidelines for worshipping God daily.


2499-09: The 26 sept 07, Mr. Bhoda (Forest Wildlife Range Officer) took statement of witnesses (all Bishnois) in the Jamba Forest house for the killing of 2 deers by a car on the Chaku-Jamba road. On 5th

2499-10: May 3rd 2004, Vijay Laxmi Bishnoi (22 years) from Rampura village heard the screams of a deer while working in the fields. She followed the voice and saw some poachers fleeing after killing a deer on

2499-11: Twice a week, Ganga Ram family is praying on his grave in Cherai (village near Phalodi). He was murdered while trying to save a wild gazelle from poachers the 12th August 2000, and was buried

2499-12: Omprakash Bishnoi, advocate and famous poet among Bishnoi community, created like many others his NGO to preserve wildlife and trees. He works with Khamu Ram Bishnoi, judicial assistant, who


2499-03: Lalu Ram Bishnoi brings a gazelle orphan near the herd to try to find a step mother. It happens sometimes but it's seldom.


2499-13: Since 2005, Khamu Ram Bishnoi, Judicial Assistant, Rajasthan High Court at Jodhpur, has declared war on plastic bags. He attends every major Bishnoi festival to hang streamers and surveys from

2499-14: Mukam mella is Bishnoi major pilgrimage. Twice a year Mukam becomes a huge place of worship and socio-religious gatherings. About 300 000 to 500 000 of them - some by foot - come and

2499-15: Just before the storm an old men is pouring ghee (clarified butter) to offer it to the Havan (holy fire) during Jamba pilgrimage. Bishnois walk clockwise around the fire and throw ghee and coconuts into

2499-16: In Dhansu village, Haryana, a man prays Guru Jambheshwar. Bishnois have to be barefoot and cover their heads in temples and near holy fires.


2499-08: Bishnois waiting the police near a dead wild gazelle on the road from Jodhpur to Jaleli (Rajasthan). Everything looks like a car accident but 2 bloody holes in the deer stomach seem to give another story: poachers killed it and throw it on the road to simulate an accident. Bishnois would give their lives to save wild gazelles by tracking down the murderer. In Rajasthan, wild gazelles are protected and anyone who kills one will be jailed for at least 5 years if it's an accident and more if he's a poacher. That's why poachers often use fast jeeps and it's difficult to catch them with motorbikes. Nevertheless, since a couple of years, many Bishnoi families use mobile phones and it becomes easier to call a friend 5 km away to tell him to stop the car with the poachers!


2499-17: Near Lohawat village, Bishnoi women harvest ripe millet by hand, dressed with colourful red saris and veils to cover their head and face .. only for married ones. As Guru Jambheshwar told them to

2499-18: A herd of blue bulls grazing in ripe crops is a big problem for most of farmers, not for Bishnois. They would never kill a deer but rather give part of their harvest to their "children" (black bucks, blue bulls,

2499-19: Near Lohawat village, Bishnoi women harvest ripe millet by hand, dressed with colourful red saris and veils to cover their head and face ... only for married ones. As Guru Jambheshwar told them to

2499-20: Rajender Delu Bishnoi is one of the richest Bishnoi in Punjab mainly through kinnow farming - a variety of citrus fruit grown in Pakistan and north India, which resembles mandarin oranges. He donated a


2499-11: Twice a week, Ganga Ram family is praying on his grave in Cherai (village near Phalodi). He was murdered while trying to save a wild gazelle from poachers the 12th August 2000, and was buried near the gazelle he could rescue. He was awarded posthumously in 2001 by the President of India, the First Amrita Devi Bishnoi National Award for Wild Life Conservation. Since the 15th century, Bishnois are known for their love of wildlife and many of them have been giving their lives to save endangered animals especially Indian gazelles and antelopes, which are endangered species.


2499-21: Khejarli temple head priest, Swami Heera Nand, explains what happened in 1730 AD when 363 Bishnois gave up their lives to save trees. Two paintings displayed in the temple depict the scene. "Abhaj

2499-22: At Khejarli pilgrimage, in September each year, almost every Bishnoi family buys a little tree from the nursery near the temple to bring home in order to plant it near the house. It is the traditional way

2499-23: At Khejarli pilgrimage, in September each year, almost every Bishnoi family buys a little tree from the nursery near the temple to bring home in order to plant it near the house. It is the traditional way

2499-24: In the harsh Indian Thar desert, Hajari Ram Bishnoi plants a Khejari tree... most sacred tree since their guru used to teach in his shadow near his house in Jaislan. From now on, he will share his own


2499-17: Near Lohawat village, Bishnoi women harvest ripe millet by hand, dressed with colourful red saris and veils to cover their head and face .. only for married ones. As Guru Jambheshwar told them to love and take care of wildlife, Bishnoi family devotes a part of its harvest to their "children" (black buck, gazelle, peacock, pigeon,...) in order to maintain balance in the desert.


2499-25: A Bishnoi woman watering a tree in her courtyard near Abohar in Punjab. As it is custom for married women, she wears a red veil to cover her head. The yellow circle means that she gave birth to at

2499-26: In the beginning of the 19th century, a Bishnoi family (the Godara) came to that "no man's land" in the Thar desert.. today a small area in Punjab, at Rajasthan border - and settled down. They converted

2499-27: According to one of their 29 rules, Bishnoi carpenters never cut green trees. They wait for trees to die on their own or fall during a storm. Khair trees (Capparis decidua) and Khejari tree (Prosopis

2499-28: A Bishnoi woman prepares curd (dahi) by separating cream from milk then warms it up. After cooling down the milk, she adds a bowl of curd from the day before that will transform milk to curd.


2499-24: In the harsh Indian Thar desert, Hajari Ram Bishnoi plants a Khejari tree... most sacred tree since their guru used to teach in his shadow near his house in Jaislan. From now on, he will share his own water with the tree up to 2 years. That's about the time it needs to grow old alone.


2499-29: After 30 days, each baby becomes a Bishnoi by drinking holy water (pahal). Relatives come to celebrate the event but women stay with the mother whereas men gather in the dhani (a kind of hut only

2499-30: Swami Vishudha Nand, 37 year-old Bishnoi priest, takes care of a wounded peacock. A strange noise made him rush out of Jajiwal temple but even by shouting and throwing stones the dogs did already

2499-31: Mangilal Bishnoi owns a small clothe shop near Bishnoi Dharamshala in Jodhpur and as a good Bishnoi he built a bird house and a little platform to feed birds in the tree outside his shop. As Guru

2499-32: During the Wildlife week (1-7 October 2007), the Forest department represented by its District Forest Officer, M. Bhadu Bishnoi, organizes many contest for Jodhpur school children at the zoo. Besides


2499-33: Priest Vishudha Nand performs Havan (holy fire) daily at dawn and dusk while blackbucks, gazelles and peacocks stroll around fearlessly. They trust Bishnois who protect and take care of them

2499-50: Just before the storm a woman is pouring ghee to offer it to the holy fire during Jamba festival. It's their medium to communicate with their God (Vishnu) and Guru...

2499-35: Rajender Bishnoi (28 years), wildlife office employee, saved 2 days ago a little gazelle fawn from dogs. He took it home in Kherpur village (Punjab) and is now feeding and taking care of its broken leg. His

2499-51: Havan (holy fire) are performed throughout the 2 days of Jamba pilgrimage but not at night because mosquitoes would be attracted by the fire and therefore be burnt. Not acceptable for those animal


2499-30: Swami Vishudha Nand, 37 year-old Bishnoi priest, takes care of a wounded peacock. A strange noise made him rush out of Jajiwal temple but even by shouting and throwing stones the dogs did already bite quite badly the bird. "He'll die in 20 min...", says Swami after taking him inside the shelter. While he sprays antiseptic on wounds a motherless fawn smells grippingly around.


2499-37: Every morning and evening, Bishnoi used to feed flocks of wild gazelles (chinkaras), peacocks, parrots, pigeons...some are even hand-fed. It is compulsory to feed wild animal for a bishnoi, and it's even

2499-38: Ashok Bishnoi (49 years), wildlife officer in Abohar sanctuary, is the grand son of Sand Kumar Bishnoi, founder of "All India Wildlife Protection by Bishnoi Community". He seats very proudly near his

2499-39: Still under construction, the new Bishnoi temple in Jamba welcomes twice a year 200 000 to 300 000 Bishnois who gather and worship the place where their Guru created a pond. In April 2008, Bishnoi

2499-40: In Pipasar (Rajasthan), Guru Jambheshwar's place of birth (1451 AD), Bishnoi walk clockwise around the fire and throw ghee (clarified butter) and coconuts into the huge fire while praying. The fire is


2499-49: Omprakash Bishnoi prays Guru Jambheshwar for an orphan gazelle he just brought to Lohawat temple.

2499-42: During Mukam pilgrimage, Bishnois take with their scarf or plastic bags sand from lower areas and build huge sand dunes near the temple as their guru told them: "build dunes to break the wind and

2499-43: During Mukam pilgrimage, Bishnois take sand with their scarf from lower areas and build huge sand dunes near the temple as their guru told them: "build dunes to break the wind and save biodiversity".

2499-44: Khamu Ram had a dream: "Remove polyethylene (plastic bags,...) from pilgrimage areas". He decided therefore alone with his own money to educate people. Since 2005, he hangs banners all over the


2499-36: Every morning and evening, Bishnois used to feed flocks of wild gazelles (chinkaras), peacocks, parrots, pigeons...some are even hand-fed. It is compulsory to feed wild animal for Bishnois, and it's even truer near temples. They donate twice a year wheat or another cereal to the temple for the animals. In total they are supposed to give 10% of their revenues to wildlife. Since more than 520 years wildlife and trees have been protected by those people, sometimes by giving their lives, and it's quite easy to understand that wild animals are strolling near Bishnoi farm houses and temples. It's a way to be protected from poachers and even dogs.


2499-45: Bishnois men dry their scarf, turban and clothes after their morning bath in Jamba pond. They are now ready to go near the havan (holy fire) to offer ghee and coconuts, and pray both Lord Vishnu and

2499-46: The night before Mukam pilgrimage begins, small havans (holy fire) are performed near the main marble temple. Twice a year Mukam becomes a huge place of worship and socio-religious gatherings.

2499-47: Havan (holy fire) are performed throughout the 2 days of Jamba pilgrimage (except at night because they don't want to kill mosquitoes). Bishnoi offer clarified butter (ghee) and coconuts to the fire.

2499-48: Still under construction, the new Bishnoi temple in Jamba welcomes twice a year 200 000 to 300 000 Bishnois who gather and worship the place where their Guru created a pond. In April 2008, Bishnoi


Bishnois : environmentalists by Creed Harsh and dry, with temperatures over 50°C, Indian Thar Desert or "Land of the Dead" is yet the most populous in the world. The secret of this survival lies obviously in people's lifestyle: Bishnois of Rajasthan are protecting trees and wildlife by creed as their guru taught them 500 years ago. Every form of life around them is a member of their family that deserves care and affection: demoiselle cranes are sisters of their women, endangered black bucks antelopes are their sons, oxen members of their family, and Khejari trees their holy men. In our world where environmental issues are always more pressing, Bishnoi age-old traditions can certainly teach us something. Often called the "world's first environmentalists", they follow 29 principles laid out in 1485 by their guru Jambheshwar, when he founded the Bishnoi sect after a severe drought. The name is derived from Bis (meaning 20) and Noi (9). Several of those rules are dedicated to environmental protection and compassion for living being. Indeed, each family plants every year new trees, uses only dry wood for its needs, creates a water tank to collect rainwater and devotes a part of its harvest to their "children" (black buck, gazelle, peacock, pigeon,...) in order to maintain balance in the desert. Such is the dedication of those strict vegetarians that they nurse ill or injured animals and never keep dogs for fear that they could prey one. Whereas Bishnoi women are known to breast-feed motherless fawns, almost every year a man dies while chasing violently a poacher or defending a beautiful black buck. As a result, trees are flourishing and antelopes are still grazing fearlessly within their settlements in the desert. This little community - less than a million - got briefly Indian media attention in 1998 when Bollywood superstar, Salman Khan, killed two black bucks near Khejarli, their most holy sanctuary where 363 Bishnois gave their lives to saves Khejari trees from Maharaja's axes in 1730. The actor was chased and arrested by Bishnois and handed over to Indian justice. After several corruption attempts and appeals, he was sentenced to 5 years of jail by the

Court in 2007. Surprisingly, a movie based on that case is planned by the Bollywood studios?and might highlight Bishnoi's crucial role in protecting the environment. Long before the Green Movement in the West, Bishnois were there in the desert, living in harmony with nature, ready to give their lives to protect it. As said Amrita Devi, first to offer her head to Maharaja's soldiers: « Sar santey rookh rahe to bhi sasto jaan », a chopped head is cheaper then a felled tree.


Captions 2499-01: Every Bishnoi family donates wheat, millet or any other cereal to feed birds and deer. They are supposed to give 10% of their income to wildlife which is nowadays rare. In 2008, during Jamba festival, men hurry up to collect the grains to put them in a safe place just before a huge storm. Twice a year, Jamba (a Bishnoi village near Phalodi) become a festival place where 200 000 to 300 000 Bishnois gather and worship the place where Guru Jambheshwar founded a pond. The water is salty and people take bath before doing Puja (prayers) near the Havan (holy fire). The place is like an oasis in desert. 2499-02: Rana Ram, a 67 year-old uneducated Bishnoi, follows strictly his guru's environmental principles. Known in his community as the "Tree friend", he is a simple farmer who uses most of his money to buy trees from nurseries and plant or gift them to schools and public place. He planted around 22.000 trees in 38 years and if wells were dry he went with his camel 15km to get some water for his crops...He even managed to have 3 by 6 meter plot with grass at home. Every morning and evening, he feeds wild gazelles and birds near his house in Akel Khori, a little village deep in the Thar desert in Rajasthan. In 2002, he was awarded by the State of Rajasthan for his deeds. He is a relative of Khama Ram Bishnoi, the man who wants to clean the desert from "polyethylene" or plastic. 2499-03: Lalu Ram Bishnoi brings a gazelle orphan near the herd to try to find a step mother. It happens sometimes but it's seldom.

2499-04: Every morning and evening, Bishnoi used to feed flocks of wild gazelles (chinkaras), peacocks, parrots, pigeons...some are even hand-fed. It is compulsory to feed wild animal for a bishnoi, and it's even truer near bishnoi temples. They donate twice a year wheat or another cereal to the temple for the animals (in total they are supposed to give 10% of their revenue to wildlife). Since more than 520 years wildlife and trees have been protected by those people, sometimes by giving their lives, and it's quite easy to understand that wild animals are strolling near bishnoi farm houses and temples. It's a way to be protected from poachers and even dogs.

2499-05: While a wild gazelle is strolling around, pahal (sacred water) is distributed after Havan by Swami Vishudha Nand Bishnoi at Jajiwal Dora temple. 30 days after child birth, Pahal is performed for mother and child. The baby becomes a Bishnoi after drinking the sacred water. The 1st Bishnoi rule is also to observe segregation of the mother and newborn for 30 days after delivery 2499-06: After taking care and bottle milk feeding two chinkara fawns (Indian wild gazelles), whose mother was killed by a dog 4 days ago, Danu Ram Bishnoi embraces them like his own children. Since 500 years, Bishnois have made wildlife and environment protection their daily leitmotiv. Unfortunately, a couple of days later the babies died, as did Danu Ram in a tragic rickshaw accident with a truck six month later on March 25th 2008. 2499-07: Bishnois waiting the police near a dead wild gazelle on the road from

Jodhpur to Jaleli (Rajasthan). Everything looks like a car accident but 2 bloody holes in the deer stomach seem to give another story: poachers killed it and throw it on the road to simulate an accident. Bishnois would give their lives to save wild gazelles by tracking down the murderer. In Rajasthan, wild gazelles are protected and anyone who kills one will be jailed for at least 5 years if it's an accident and more if he's a poacher. That's why poachers often use fast jeeps and it's difficult to catch them with motorbikes. Nevertheless, since a couple of years, many Bishnoi families use mobile phones and it becomes easier to call a friend 5 km away to tell him to stop the car with the poachers!

green on the picture) was driving 4 Bishnois around 8pm when a deer jumped on the road and got killed. After restaring, another one jumped and got killed too. The four Bishnois caught the driver and brought him to the police, where a Range Officer got him to a magistrate in Phalodi. Since killing a protected specie is a serious offence, he got immediately 15 days of jail (5 to 20th july 07). He is now on bail, as well as his car, and investigations are still running. The trial will last 2-3 years and if the magistrate finds him guilty he'll go back to jail for 3 to 7 years + 25 000 Rs penalty + loss of the car, which becomes government property. Since it's an accidental case, the driver should get only 1 year...

2499-08: Bishnois waiting the police near a dead wild gazelle on the road from Jodhpur to Jaleli (Rajasthan). Everything looks like a car accident but 2 bloody holes in the deer stomach seem to give another story: poachers killed it and throw it on the road to simulate an accident. Bishnois would give their lives to save wild gazelles by tracking down the murderer. In Rajasthan, wild gazelles are protected and anyone who kills one will be jailed for at least 5 years if it's an accident and more if he's a poacher. That's why poachers often use fast jeeps and it's difficult to catch them with motorbikes. Nevertheless, since a couple of years, many Bishnoi families use mobile phones and it becomes easier to call a friend 5 km away to tell him to stop the car with the poachers!

2499-10: May 3rd 2004, Vijay Laxmi Bishnoi (22 years) from Rampura village heard the screams of a deer while working in the fields. She followed the voice and saw some poachers fleeing after killing a deer on the outskirts of her village. A newly born deer was also lying injured. She immediately brought the fawn to her house and as the deer refused to drink milk from the bottle, she decided to breast feed it like her two-year-old son. She did rear the fawn more than 3 months. It is seldom but every year till now such noble acts happen in Bishnoi village.

2499-09: The 26 sept 07, Mr. Bhoda (Forest Wildlife Range Officer) took statement of witnesses (all Bishnois) in the Jamba Forest house for the killing of 2 deers by a car on the Chaku-Jamba road. On 5th July 2007, Durga Dan Charan (in

2499-11: Twice a week, Ganga Ram family is praying on his grave in Cherai (village near Phalodi). He was murdered while trying to save a wild gazelle from poachers the 12th August 2000, and was buried near the gazelle he could rescue. He was awarded posthumously in 2001 by the President of India, the First Amrita Devi Bishnoi National Award for Wild Life Conservation. Since the 15th century, Bishnois are known for their love of wildlife and many of them have been giving their


lives to save endangered animals especially Indian gazelles and antelopes, which are endangered species. 2499-12: Omprakash Bishnoi, advocate and famous poet among Bishnoi community, created like many others his NGO to preserve wildlife and trees. He works with Khamu Ram Bishnoi, judicial assistant, who decided 3 years ago to teach his community how to clean the desert from plastic bags! In India, like in Europe, you get a plastic bag for everything you buy and since there are neither trash bins nor programs to inform people about environment pollution, the problem is getting unsolved. 2499-13: Since 2005, Khamu Ram Bishnoi, Judicial Assistant, Rajasthan High Court at Jodhpur, has declared war on plastic bags. He attends every major Bishnoi festival to hang streamers and surveys from dawn to late at night with his loud-healer to inform while he collects wasted plastic from the sand..., and all that with his meager civil servant salary. "For several years now plastic bags are given with every sold item and people throw them away like former banana leaves" Guru Jambheswhar did not expect that while teaching his 29 rules 500 years back. Since nobody took care of the problem, Khamu Ram Bishnoi dedicated his life to fight for it. In October 2007, he managed to give cotton bags - provided by a seed company - to pilgrims to collect sand from a holy pond near the Samrathal dune, where the Guru founded the Bishnoi religion in 1485. Most pilgrims accepted and thanked him. A huge achievement against plastic pollution awarded by the

Bishnoi community. The holy places are now cleaner but with 100 000 to 500 000 people per festival there is still a lot of work to spread the message and make his dream come true ! In December 2008, he was invited to the International Planetworkshops in Courchevel in France, which brought him even more credit. He seems to be writting the 30th rule ! 2499-14: Mukam mella is Bishnoi major pilgrimage. Twice a year Mukam becomes a huge place of worship and socio-religious gatherings. About 300 000 to 500 000 of them - some by foot - come and worship the place where Guru Jambheshwar did meditate for 7 year and died in 1536. He was buried in Mukam where a huge marble temple was build...like a little Taj Mahal. Havan (holy fire) and Pahal (sacred water) are performed throughout the 3 days of the festival. Huge havan are also performed in Mukam and near the temple at Samrathal Dora. Bishnoi walk clockwise around the fire and through ghee and coconuts into the fire. During the festival they visit 3 holy places in a range of 15km: Pipasar (place of birth), Samrathal Dora (dune where he founded Bishnoi sect), and Mukam (place where he died and was buried in 1536). At the age of 34, Guru Jambheshwar founded Bishnoi religion at Samrathal Dora, a sand dune near Pipasar in 1485 A.D. He preached for the next 51 years, travelling across the country, his 29 commandments. Out of these 29 principles, 8 focus on wildlife and environment protection to preserve biodiversity, 7 give the bases for good social behaviour, 10 are directed towards personal hygiene and good health, and the 4 remaining provide guidelines for worshipping God daily. 2499-15: Just before the storm an old men

is pouring ghee (clarified butter) to offer it to the Havan (holy fire) during Jamba pilgrimage. Bishnois walk clockwise around the fire and throw ghee and coconuts into the huge fire while praying. The fire is supposed to purify air to give better access to their guru. April 2008 was exceptional in many ways...Indeed, the first day of the festival (April 5th) at 6 pm a huge sand storm followed by heavy rain and finally a hail storm knocked the Bishnois down. They thought their Guru was not happy with them and some did pray under the pouring ice near the holy fire that was put out by the storm! It was an apocalypse scene in the desert. Everybody was looking for a shelter... The second day at 6 am a young man drowned in the pond and died (the water got higher at night). Since there was not lifeguard neither any help provided by officials to the family the crowd protested so violently that the police had to urge. Finally, the political meeting was cancelled! 2499-16: In Dhansu village, Haryana, a man prays Guru Jambheshwar. Bishnois have to be barefoot and cover their heads in temples and near holy fires. 2499-17: Near Lohawat village, Bishnoi women harvest ripe millet by hand, dressed with colourful red saris and veils to cover their head and face .. only for married ones. As Guru Jambheshwar told them to love and take care of wildlife, Bishnoi family devotes a part of its harvest to their "children" (black buck, gazelle, peacock, pigeon,...) in order to maintain balance in the desert. 2499-18: A herd of blue bulls grazing in ripe crops is a big problem for most of farmers, not for Bishnois. They would never kill a deer but rather give part of

their harvest to their "children" (black bucks, blue bulls, gazelles, peacocks,...). If herds start to devastate the crops, Bishnois would eventually chase them a bitÉthey are only supposed to share 10% ! 2499-19: Near Lohawat village, Bishnoi women harvest ripe millet by hand, dressed with colourful red saris and veils to cover their head and face ... only for married ones. As Guru Jambheshwar told them to love and take care of wildlife, Bishnoi family devotes a part of its harvest to their "children" (black buck, gazelle, peacock, pigeon,...) in order to maintain balance in the desert. 2499-20: Rajender Delu Bishnoi is one of the richest Bishnoi in Punjab mainly through kinnow farming - a variety of citrus fruit grown in Pakistan and north India, which resembles mandarin oranges. He donated a large amount of money for the new temple in Jamba. His family was the 2nd to migrate from Rajasthan to Punjab in the 1850's. 2499-21: Khejarli temple head priest, Swami Heera Nand, explains what happened in 1730 AD when 363 Bishnois gave up their lives to save trees. Two paintings displayed in the temple depict the scene. "Abhaj Singh, Maharaja of Jodhpur, wanted to build a new royal mansion for which lime was required. Lime stone was available, but it needed to be burnt before use. He sent his soldiers to cut trees in near Bishnoi villages. People protested but it didn't matter until Amrita Devi hugged a Khejari tree and said: "A chopped head is cheaper then a felled tree". Saying these words she offered her head. 363 Bishnois from 84 villages in total gave up their lives either being haxed by soldiers or committing suicide (after taking a bath). When the king heard about


this human sacrifice, he stopped the operation, and apologized for the mistake committed by his official and gave the Bishnois state protection for their belief. The statement was written on a copper plate: no tree cutting, no wildlife killing near Bishnoi villages." Maharaja Gaj Singh (interview in 2007) remembers his childhood when nobody was allowed to kill animals in that area. They had other places for game-killing. He agreed also that something must have occurred, even if nothing is registered, but people at that time might have exaggerated figures.

2499-22: At Khejarli pilgrimage, in September each year, almost every Bishnoi family buys a little tree from the nursery near the temple to bring home in order to plant it near the house. It is the traditional way to pay respect to the 363 people who gave up their lives to save trees from Maharaja of Jodhpur's axes in 1730 AD. A memorial was also built to commemorate the event. Like in every pilgrimage, Bishnois offer ghee (clarified butter) and coconuts to the holy fire. It's their way the pray and communicate with their guru. 2499-23: At Khejarli pilgrimage, in September each year, almost every Bishnoi family buys a little tree from the nursery near the temple to bring home in order to plant it near the house. It is the traditional way to pay respect to the 363 people who gave up their lives to save trees from Maharaja of Jodhpur's axes in 1730 AD. A memorial was also built to commemorate the event.

2499-24: In the harsh Indian Thar desert, Hajari Ram Bishnoi plants a Khejari tree... most sacred tree since their guru used to teach in his shadow near his house in Jaislan. From now on, he will share his own water with the tree up to 2 years. That's about the time it needs to grow old alone. 2499-25: A Bishnoi woman watering a tree in her courtyard near Abohar in Punjab. As it is custom for married women, she wears a red veil to cover her head. The yellow circle means that she gave birth to at least one boy, which is still very important in India. A green circle would mean only girls. The courtyard and the wall are covered with cow mud and often painted. Bishnoi women used to clean the house and courtyard twice a day and the cow mud is refreshed twice a year. 2499-26: In the beginning of the 19th century, a Bishnoi family (the Godara) came to that "no man's land" in the Thar desert.. today a small area in Punjab, at Rajasthan border - and settled down. They converted the desert to fertile land by planting many trees and using irrigation. Since there is much more water than in Rajasthan, Bishnoi families from Punjab have higher yields and are therefore richer. They're also used to plant Kinnow tree, a kind of mandarin orange, in wheat fields. 2499-27: According to one of their 29 rules, Bishnoi carpenters never cut green trees. They wait for trees to die on their own or fall during a storm. Khair trees (Capparis decidua) and Khejari tree (Prosopis Cineraria) have been traditionally protected by the Bishnois of Rajasthan, a remarkable phenomenon in the field of conservation, both of vegetation and soil. Khair provides strong

and durable wood that is resistant to white ants and therefore used by Bishnois for their house frameworks. It lastly also produces a fruit that is edible both fresh and preserved. 2499-28: A Bishnoi woman prepares curd (dahi) by separating cream from milk then warms it up. After cooling down the milk, she adds a bowl of curd from the day before that will transform milk to curd. 2499-29: After 30 days, each baby becomes a Bishnoi by drinking holy water (pahal). Relatives come to celebrate the event but women stay with the mother whereas men gather in the dhani (a kind of hut only for men). 2499-30: Swami Vishudha Nand, 37 year-old Bishnoi priest, takes care of a wounded peacock. A strange noise made him rush out of Jajiwal temple but even by shouting and throwing stones the dogs did already bite quite badly the bird. "He'll die in 20 min...", says Swami after taking him inside the shelter. While he sprays antiseptic on wounds a motherless fawn smells grippingly around. 2499-31: Mangilal Bishnoi owns a small clothe shop near Bishnoi Dharamshala in Jodhpur and as a good Bishnoi he built a bird house and a little platform to feed birds in the tree outside his shop. As Guru Jambheshwar - portrait behind Mangilal taught his people, Mangilal protects wildlife and takes care of injured animals. He saved that pigeon from dogs and took care of his broken wing for a couple weeks and now he plans to give it freedom in some days. 2499-32: During the Wildlife week (1-7 October 2007), the Forest department represented by its District Forest Officer,

M. Bhadu Bishnoi, organizes many contest for Jodhpur school children at the zoo. Besides essay writing, wildlife quiz, animal voices and many other contests there was the painting one: Dipika Aseri (12 years) got the 3rd price for her nice peacocks. It a very good way to make children from other castes sensitive to environment and wildlife protection. 2499-33: Priest Vishudha Nand performs Havan (holy fire) daily at dawn and dusk while blackbucks, gazelles and peacocks stroll around fearlessly. They trust Bishnois who protect and take care of them since 500 years! The holy fire is used to purify air and people's mind to ease prayers to Lord Vishnu and Guru Jambheshwar. After morning bath, one of Bishnoi 29 rules, they seat - head covered with turban - near the Havan and offer ghee (clarified butter) and coconuts as a gift to God. 2499-50: Just before the storm a woman is pouring ghee to offer it to the holy fire during Jamba festival. It's their medium to communicate with their God (Vishnu) and Guru... 2499-35: Rajender Bishnoi (28 years), wildlife office employee, saved 2 days ago a little gazelle fawn from dogs. He took it home in Kherpur village (Punjab) and is now feeding and taking care of its broken leg. His nephews Vikram (12 years) and Amandeep Bishnoi (9 years) are coming regularly to visit the deer. 2499-51: Havan (holy fire) are performed throughout the 2 days of Jamba pilgrimage but not at night because mosquitoes would be attracted by the fire and therefore be burnt. Not acceptable for those animal lovers. The holy fire is lit at sunrise and Bishnoi pilgrims walk


clockwise around it and throw ghee and coconuts into the fire. Twice a year, Jamba (Bishnoi village near Phalodi) become a place where 200 000 to 300 000 Bishnois gather and worship the place where Guru Jambheshwar prayed and founded a pond. In our world where environmental issues are always more pressing, Bishnoi age-old traditions can certainly teach us something. Are we ready to listen? 2499-37: Every morning and evening, Bishnoi used to feed flocks of wild gazelles (chinkaras), peacocks, parrots, pigeons...some are even hand-fed. It is compulsory to feed wild animal for a bishnoi, and it's even truer near bishnoi temples. They donate twice a year wheat or another cereal to the temple for the animals (in total they are supposed to give 10% of their revenue to wildlife). Since more than 520 years wildlife and trees have been protected by those people, sometimes by giving their lives, and it's quite easy to understand that wild animals are strolling near bishnoi farm houses and temples. It's a way to be protected from poachers and even dogs. 2499-38: Ashok Bishnoi (49 years), wildlife officer in Abohar sanctuary, is the grand son of Sand Kumar Bishnoi, founder of "All India Wildlife Protection by Bishnoi Community". He seats very proudly near his grand father "Indira Gandhi Environment Prize". The highest award for environment given for the first time to a Bishnoi by India's Prime Minister in 1992. 2499-39: Still under construction, the new Bishnoi temple in Jamba welcomes twice

a year 200 000 to 300 000 Bishnois who gather and worship the place where their Guru created a pond. In April 2008, Bishnoi experienced an exceptional ice storm during the festival that put out the holy fire! 2499-40: In Pipasar (Rajasthan), Guru Jambheshwar's place of birth (1451 AD), Bishnoi walk clockwise around the fire and throw ghee (clarified butter) and coconuts into the huge fire while praying. The fire is supposed to purify air to give better access to their guru. 2499-49: Omprakash Bishnoi prays Guru Jambheshwar for an orphan gazelle he just brought to Lohawat temple. 2499-42: During Mukam pilgrimage, Bishnois take with their scarf or plastic bags sand from lower areas and build huge sand dunes near the temple as their guru told them: "build dunes to break the wind and save biodiversity". Some, mainly farmers, build near holy places tiny dunes with a branch on top to give them more crops. Nowadays, some "modern" Bishnoi businessmen are doing the same...to get more money. Getting rich is not taboo in Hinduism. 2499-43: During Mukam pilgrimage, Bishnois take sand with their scarf from lower areas and build huge sand dunes near the temple as their guru told them: "build dunes to break the wind and save biodiversity". Some, mainly farmers, build near holy places tiny dunes with a branch on top to give them more crops. Nowadays, some "modern" Bishnoi businessmen are doing the same...to get more money. Getting rich is not taboo in Hinduism. 2499-44: Khamu Ram had a dream:

"Remove polyethylene (plastic bags,...) from pilgrimage areas". He decided therefore alone with his own money to educate people. Since 2005, he hangs banners all over the festival sites and is shouting in his megaphone to stop people throwing "polyethylene" everywhere. Some people don't understand and become aggressive and politicians don't seem to be very helpful. Nevertheless he managed to involve some students, and a seed company, which gave him free cotton bags. Those bags are given to the pilgrims to collect sand and ground near Samrathal Dora and throw it on the top of the sand hills. A huge achievement against plastic pollution! In December 2008, he was invited to the International Planetworkshops in Courchevel in France, which brought him even more credit. He seems to be writting the 30th rule ! 2499-45: Bishnois men dry their scarf, turban and clothes after their morning bath in Jamba pond. They are now ready to go near the havan (holy fire) to offer ghee and coconuts, and pray both Lord Vishnu and Guru Jambheshwar, who founded a water pond in the middle of the desert according to their faith. 2499-46: The night before Mukam pilgrimage begins, small havans (holy fire) are performed near the main marble temple. Twice a year Mukam becomes a huge place of worship and socio-religious gatherings. About 300 000 to 500 000 of them, some by foot, come and worship the place where Guru Jambheshwar did meditate for 7 year and died in 1536. He was buried in Mukam where a huge marble temple was build...like a little Taj Mahal. 2499-47: Havan (holy fire) are performed throughout the 2 days of Jamba

pilgrimage (except at night because they don't want to kill mosquitoes). Bishnoi offer clarified butter (ghee) and coconuts to the fire. Every day of their life they pray that way: alone, with family, at home,... 2499-48: Still under construction, the new Bishnoi temple in Jamba welcomes twice a year 200 000 to 300 000 Bishnois who gather and worship the place where their Guru created a pond. In April 2008, Bishnoi experienced an exceptional ice storm during the festival that put out the holy fire!


Bishnois : environmentalists by Creed