Bishnoi people: adherents and practitioners of the concept of eco-environmental protection

Bishnoi, born on the edge of the Thar Desert in Rajasthan, India, is the earliest environmentally friendly religious group in India. For more than 500 years, the Bishnois have followed environmental protection creeds for generations, loving and protecting animals, trees and other non-human natural life. Their green environmental protection concept and environmental protection spirit permeate every bit of their daily life, and they have been continued in contemporary society.

More than 500 years ago, a branch of Hinduism, Bishnoiism, was born on the edge of the Thar Desert in Rajasthan, Western India. The founder of the sect formulated 29 creeds, of which 6 are closely related to environmental protection, such as not cutting down trees, not killing animals, and caring for all life. In view of this, the sect is considered to be the first religious group in India to advocate wildlife protection, tree protection and green life. Since the advent of Bishnoiism, generations of Bishnoi people have followed 29 creeds, admired nature, and have a strong spirit of dedication to non-human natural beings. His beliefs have been closely integrated with environmental protection. It can even be said that environmental protection thoughts have been deeply dissolved in his blood. In 1730 AD, 363 Bishnois sacrificed heroically to protect the green trees from being felled by the Royal Army. This incident is regarded as the earliest environmental movement in India. In daily life, Bishnoi people pursue the harmony between man and nature through all possible means.

The origin of Bishnoi and 29 creeds
The western region of Rajasthan, India, is the birthplace of Guru Jambhshwar (1451-1536), the founder of Bishnoiism. Bishnoiism was born out of difficult years. In the pre-industrial society, the climate and geographical conditions of Rajasthan had a great influence on its politics, economy, society, especially religion. The Aravali Range divides Rajasthan into two parts: the northwest and the southeast. The northwest is an arid and semi-arid zone, mainly consisting of arid plains, mobile sand dunes, and the nearby Thar Desert, known as the “land of death.” In such a harsh environment, the number of animals and plants is very limited, and the locals are struggling to survive. How to coordinate the sustainable development of people with the limited natural resources in the area became a problem that needed to be considered and solved urgently at that time. In this context, Bishnoiism came into being.

Guru Jambkhshwar, the founder of the Bishnoi religion, was born in a small village in the Jodhpur region of Rajasthan. He is very wise and foolish. He has not yet begun to speak at the age of 7, and he meditated on the sand dunes while grazing at the age of 34. He had an indissoluble bond with nature early. During the 10-year drought in Rajasthan, he witnessed people cutting down trees for food and feeding animals. As a result, as the drought continued, people, trees, and animals Faced with the predicament of survival, he is sympathetic to the suffering of humans and inhuman natural objects, meditates on the shortness of life, and thinks about how to save all living beings. When practicing, he often had a scene of a desert oasis in his mind: a clear stream flows slowly along the desert, green vegetation and trees grow on both sides of the stream, and desert pedestrians and wild deer drink water in the stream. Slowly, he realized that the key to saving all living beings lies in the harmonious coexistence of man and nature. In particular, people must respect the right of life of green trees and animals from the bottom of their hearts, and protect nature in action. In 1485 AD, Jambhshwar finally found the answer to his puzzled problem for many years-he founded the Bishnoi religion, and at the same time established 29 creeds, trying to realize the relationship between people and people by shaping beliefs. People, people and society, people and nature live in harmony. Bish means 20, noi means 9, Bishnoi means 29, and the name of the sect comes from this number.

Among the 29 creeds, 10 are aimed at personal hygiene and the health of the whole people, such as taking a bath every morning, eating food cooked at home, not eating food cooked or preserved under unclean conditions, filtering water, milk, and firewood ash, Do not use opium, do not smoke and use tobacco, do not take marijuana, do not drink any type of alcohol, etc. There are 9 social behaviors that involve social ethics and positive health, including maintaining humility; eliminating desire, anger, and greed; maintaining good character, contentment, and patience; speaking pure words very sincerely; not stealing; not condemning; no Lie; don’t waste time arguing; forgive, forgive, and forgive sins from the heart. There are 4 items related to worshiping God. The remaining 6 items are closely related to ecological and environmental protection, including sympathy and care for all lives; protecting the environment, not cutting down green trees; not sterilizing domestic animals; maintaining a vegan diet and not eating meat; not wearing blue clothes and not using green indigo Blue is extracted from plants; it provides shelter for animals and does not kill animals to ensure that they can live their lives with dignity. These 6 items all stem from their practical needs for sustainable development. The local economy mainly depends on animal husbandry, and animal husbandry is inseparable from animals. Prohibition of hurting or slaughtering animals helps maintain the sustainable development of animal husbandry, thereby maintaining people’s livelihoods. Similarly, they forbid the felling of green trees, because felling will reduce the animals’ access to feed, especially in desert areas where green plants are scarce.

From the perspective of ecology and ecological civilization, the basic goals of the 29 creeds are: protect the ecological environment and biodiversity, maintain the sustainable development of animal husbandry; promote personal hygiene and physical and mental health, and shape social behaviors of ethics and positive energy ; Ensure that the community forms a healthy and environmentally friendly social lifestyle, and promote the multiplication and common prosperity of human and non-human natural objects in the desert ecosystem for generations. For centuries, under the guidance of 29 creeds, the Bishnoi people have worked tirelessly to protect trees, animals, and nature.

A heroic sacrifice to protect the tree
When many people see Bishnoi who are generous, kind, philanthropic, and have natural habits, they may take it for granted that they are too gentle and dare not take action in protecting nature. Some people even regard their natural habits as laziness. However, these speculations are far from the facts. When facing loggers and poachers, the Bishnoi became extremely brave and showed no signs of weakness. Their enthusiasm and dedication in protecting nature is hard to compare with other religious groups. In order to protect nature, they will even take collective protests. The most influential one is the Hugging Tree Movement in 1730 AD, which deeply demonstrates the strict adherence of the Bishnoi people to 29 creeds.

This movement took place in a local village called Ke Jugli-the name of the village was derived from the Ke Juju tree (its scientific name is Mesquite) that can be seen everywhere in the village. In the minds of the Bishnoi people, the Kojuri tree has important ecological, economic and medicinal value. Like the banyan tree and the linden tree, it is a sacred tree. On a “Black Tuesday” in September 1730, the peaceful and peaceful atmosphere of Kojuli Village was broken by a group of intruders. They were a team sent by King Abuha Singh of Jodhpur to cut down the green. Ke Juerui tree, obtain wood, build a new palace for the king. The logging was resisted by the villagers of Kojuli, headed by the woman Amrita Devi, who adopted a non-violent way of protest-embracing trees with their arms and using their bodies as shields. In order to carry out the king’s order, the royal army tried to kill the resisters. Amrita, with the most determined attitude, hugged the tree tightly and shouted before dying: “It is worth it to save a tree, even if it is beheaded.” Then his head was chopped off by the soldiers with an axe. The officer threatened that anyone who prevented the tree felling would end up here. Amrita’s words and deeds inspired the people in the village. Her three daughters, Aisu, Ratney and Bagu were not intimidated at all. They stepped forward and embraced the tree bravely, but they were also chopped down. Skull.

The news of the death of Amrita and her three daughters quickly spread to 83 nearby villages. The Bishnoi people who heard the news hugged the tree and refused to let go. They were also unfortunately caught by the soldiers one by one. Beheaded. However, the act of voluntary sacrifice has not been interrupted. When the king learned of the courage and mass bloodshed of the Bishnois, he was shocked and rushed to the scene immediately, stopped logging, apologized to the Bishnoi, and declared the place where the Bishnoi lived as a protected area. As of this time, 363 Bishnoi people have died to protect the sacred tree and defend their beliefs. According to statistics, they come from 49 villages, including 294 men and 69 women. Among them, there is a pair in the heat of the conflict. The newlyweds passing by Kejuli Village.

This incident prompted the administrative agency to issue a royal decree banning tree-cutting and hunting in Bishnoi settlements, and engraved it on a copper plate. This decree is still in effect in the region.

Practicing environmental protection concepts in daily life
The Bishnois included animals and plants and other non-human natural life into the scope of ethical care, and they were one of the first ancient communities in the world to regard environmental protection as a religious belief. For more than 500 years, their enthusiasm for environmental protection has never diminished. Not only did they practice 29 creeds in their daily lives, they also kept pace with the times under the inspiration of 29 creeds, and collectively adopted some new environmental protection practices. The peaceful, benevolent and fraternal Bishnoi people have created a poetic habitat on the edge of the Thar Desert where animals, woods and people live in harmony with their firm beliefs.

Nowadays, you can see large Bishnoi communities on the edge of the Thar Desert. They are like oasis in the desert, with green trees surrounding the village and many animals roaming freely. Antelope is the most common animal in the Bishnoi community. According to legend, Guru Jambkhshwar claimed that after his death, he would become an Indian blackbuck and return to his original place after the cycle of life. The Bishnoi people have held a high respect for the Indian blackbuck for generations, and perhaps they are hoping that they can also become blackbucks in the next life. They believe that deer is also a sacred animal and can communicate and interact with deer. If a Bishnoi woman encounters a young deer that has lost its parents, she will raise it as her own child, and even feed it with her own milk. They love any animals that enter their communities, such as Indian gazelles, vultures, partridges, peacocks, and the endangered black-crowned heron bustard, and they have found a safe haven here. They allow wild animals to graze and even crop on their farmland. They reserve feed for the animals in advance in case of emergency. They give part of the precious water to the animals during the heat. They are vegetarians and prohibit the slaughter and consumption of animals. The animals they raise usually die of old age and are buried in the soil after death to nourish the limited vegetation in the desert. They are well versed in the laws of operation of the food chain and will not hunt down their natural enemies in order to protect a certain species. Their careful care of animals has resulted in their immense trust in them. Some animals seem to have an aura and choose to stay in the community to live with them.

Bishnoi not only love animals, but also green trees, and even protect them with their lives. They believe that cutting trees is shameless and an insult to their religious beliefs. They actively plant and cultivate shrubs, bushes and other green plants in the desert. They respect and protect Kejushu, because the difficult living conditions have made them realize that Kejushu is not only their main source of supplementary food, but also a source of feed for their livestock, but also a green barrier for wind and sand fixation. They grow stubbornly in the desert together with Ke Juishu. They try to conserve natural resources and will not obtain fuelwood by cutting down green trees. They mainly use the dead branches of dead trees and dried livestock manure as fuel sources. In the sacrificial ceremony called “Hafan” (a ceremony in which sacrifices such as grains and ghee are made into a sacred fire to commemorate special moments such as birth and marriage), the materials used by the Bishnois to make the sacred fire are not Wood, but coconut shell. Bishnoi women never cut down trees for fuel or food. One step further than the creed of “no tree cutting” is that they patiently walked for hours along lakes and grazing areas, looking for and collecting animal dung. The Bishnoi people prohibit the use of blue in dressing or other aspects, because blue mainly comes from indigo dye, and indigo dye needs to be extracted from green bushes. The fundamental purpose of prohibiting the use of blue is to protect the green trees. In addition, they believe that blue not only absorbs the harmful rays of the sun, but is also related to death and illegal behavior. Therefore, the usual clothing of Bishnoi men is white, which is their ideal choice.

Other details of life also highlight the ecological concept of the Bishnoi people. The Bishnoi people live a simple, self-sufficient life like a primitive tribe. They pay attention to the cleanliness of houses and courtyards, and usually live in simple circular huts, which are ventilated and clean. They often scrub the floors of huts and courtyards, and put cow dung on the mud to repel pests. They cook with an earthen stove. They have well-functioning traditional water collection systems, especially rainwater collected through underground tanks. They have built granaries in the courtyard to store excess grains. They filter water and fuelwood ash so as not to harm the microorganisms in them. Although they live in poverty, men, women and children all exude a healthy atmosphere. They actively explored and adjusted the cultivation methods of crops to adapt them to the local environment and successfully planted a variety of crops such as millet, wheat, carrots, radishes, and sesame seeds. Under the difficult environment, they not only achieved adequate food and clothing in material life, but also achieved ample spiritual life. In a sense, the various environmental protection strategies they adopt in their daily lives are not only suitable but also inspiring.

The continuation of the spirit of environmental protection in contemporary times
The Bishnoi people’s firm environmental protection concept and persistent environmental protection spirit continue to reverberate in the new era.

Given that the Bishnois pioneered the “tree hug” strategy in the environmental protection movement in 1730, it is generally believed that this inspired the contemporary “tree hug movement” in India. In the Himalayas of Uttar Pradesh, India in the 1960s, severe deforestation not only caused soil erosion, water depletion and floods, but also led to a decline in agricultural production and endangered the survival of local people. In 1970, flooding caused by deforestation killed more than 200 people. This disaster made the locals aware of the dangers of deforestation. In April 1973, the first “tree hug” protest in the 20th century took place near Mandal village in the upper Araknanda Valley of Uttarakhand. When the government allocated a large piece of woodland to a sports goods manufacturing company, the villagers were extremely angry. Environmentalist Changdi Prasad Bart led the villagers into the forest, embraced the trees, and stopped felling. After the protests lasted for many days, the government cancelled the company’s logging permit. After that, the “tree hug movement” quickly spread to the entire Himalayas of India like a spark, saving hundreds of thousands of trees.

Inspired by Amrita Devi’s fearless spirit of not being afraid of sacrifice, the Indian government has established two important environmental protection awards in its name, namely the “Amrita Devi Bishnoi Heritage Award” and the “Amarita Devi Bishnoi Heritage Award”. “Mrita Devi Bishnoi Wildlife Conservation Award”, the former is used to commend those who have made or are making outstanding contributions to environmental protection and biodiversity conservation, and the latter is mainly awarded for performance in the field of wildlife protection People who show great courage and make important contributions.

Now, Kejuli Village has become a famous historical and cultural heritage. In 1988, the Indian government officially designated Kojuli Village as India’s first national environmental protection memorial. There is a solemn martyr’s monument on the site as a memorial to the 363 Bishnoi people who lost their lives in the massacre. In order to cherish the memory of the martyrs and inherit the spirit of environmental protection, later generations have planted a large number of Kojicola trees in this area. Nowadays, there is a large lush forest in this area, which is like a paradise.

The times have changed drastically, but the determination of the Bishnoi people to protect the environment has not changed. Many scholars, intellectuals and leaders in the field of environmental protection have appeared in the Bishnoi community today. They have not forgotten their ancestral training, explored a series of novel environmental protection strategies, and made important contributions to the protection of local wildlife and natural resources. . An animal protection organization named “Bishnoi Tigers”, which was born in the 1990s, is their major pioneering work in the field of environmental protection. The organization consists of about 1,000 Bishnoi adults. They actively rescue injured wild animals. If an injured animal is found, it will be sent to the Jodhpur Rescue Center immediately. After the animal has healed, it will be released back. They live in a wild environment; they are not afraid of sacrifices, they use the bravest determination to deal with poachers, and transfer the captured poachers to the forest management department in accordance with the law, and they know how to go through judicial procedures in environmental crime cases. In the past 20 years, at least 14 “Tiger Team” warriors have given their lives to protect wild animals.

The “Tigers” once caught and demanded severe punishment of Salman Khan, India’s top Bollywood movie star. In 1998, during a hunting event in Jodhpur, Salman killed a black antelope entirely for pleasure. This behavior aroused strong protests from the locals, because the blackbuck is not only an endangered state-level protected animal in India, but also an object of their adoration. In 2006, Salman was sentenced to 5 years in prison and a fine of 25,000 rupees (approximately US$560) by the Jodhpur District Court for poaching 8 years ago. This is the most severe since the promulgation of the Wildlife Protection Law in India. A verdict of. This incident indirectly increased the international visibility of the Bishnoi people.

The “Dam” (which means holy place) worshipped by the Bishnois has become a place for telling ecological stories and spreading ecological ideas. The village of Kejuli is a Dham. Each dham not only reflects the religious philosophy of Bishnoiism, but also tells specific stories and anecdotes related to the holy place. Each dam has its own environmental protection story. These stories are all related to the environmental protection activities that Master Jambhshwar has engaged in during his life, such as planting trees, restoring tree vitality, maintaining sacred groves, building ponds, rational water use, Set up breeding areas and shelters for birds and other animals. The Holy Land spreads the Bishnoi people’s environmental protection concept by telling vivid environmental protection stories. Holding large-scale commemorative activities in the Holy Land is more helpful to cultivate the public’s awareness of environmental protection.

The environmental protection concepts and practices of the Bishnoi people influence other communities. Rajput and Jat are two communities that are more heavily influenced by the Bishnois. In the past, these two communities had an aggressive attitude towards animals, and believed that hunting was an extreme and exciting sport. However, in recent years, they have changed their minds, began to learn from the Bishnoi people, and actively carried out some projects aimed at protecting nature and wild animals.

The Bishnoi people have a history of worshiping nature for more than 500 years, and they can be regarded as one of the most harmonious communities or tribes living with nature. They believe that non-human natural life such as trees and animals are sacred and respect and respect them from the bottom of their hearts. Therefore, they plant green for generations to protect animals, and create an oasis in the desert where humans and non-human natural objects share. . The environmental protection concept, environmental protection practice and environmental protection spirit of the Bishnoi people have become a cultural symbol and spiritual style, setting a benchmark for contemporary people in handling the relationship between man and nature.