Khejarli Village of Bishnois, Jodhpur

From Jodhpur we took a tour to Khejarli village 26 km south-east to the city. This village is a mute witness to the first documented and one of the greatest green movement in India.

The story is like this: In the year 1730, King Abhay Singh of Jodhpur was expanding and renovating his fort. He instructed his minister, Giridhar Bhandari to collect the Khejri wood required for the construction. The wood had to be collected from Khejarli village where the trees grew in plenty. What the minister didn’t foresee was there would be stiff opposition from the villagers belonging to the Bishnoi community, to the felling of the trees.

Khejarli village 1
Amrita Devi and her daughters were the first to oppose. They hugged the trees and chanted, “seir, santhe runkh raheb, to bhee sasto jaan.” (it is still a small price to pay if at cost of my head the tree is saved). A King’s order is an order and their heads rolled down. But the villagers were not scared, their place was taken by other villagers, then others and so it went on… The news spread, when King heard the news he came rushing to Khejarli village to stop the merciless slaying of the villagers. By then 363 villagers had sacrificed themselves.

I stood in a trance listening to the story from the guide, a lump in my throat…

Khejarli village 2
Khejarli village 3
The King immediately declared that no trees would be cut, he personally apologized to the villagers; the place was renamed Sahid nagar (Martyr’s town).

The Khejri trees, Prosopis Cineraria (Mimosaceae), are remarkably well adapted to the desert, the roots grow a hundred feet down into the earth to reach water. They have edible pods and leaves that are used for fodder; even the bark can be eaten in times of famine. A board stands there today; to remind the present and the future of this gruesome incident and to inspire to fight to protect trees.

Khejarli village 4
So this was the first Chipko movement (hug the tree to oppose cutting down) in Khejarli village of Rajasthan, but it is the second similar incident in 1973 in a remote village of Himalaya attracted more global attention and support. Every year in September prayers are offered to the martyrs and villagers from other villages too pour in to offer their respects.

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42 Responses

  1. evlahos says:

    very interesting post today

  2. Devika says:

    Hi Indrani!

    Good post..Atleast myths or such remembrances through history would help India be on the track it were..

    I loved the photo of the tree (first one)..i just revel at the turns and twists they take as they grow…

    Good One Indrani!

    wishes!
    devika

  3. Hilary says:

    That’s just beautiful. So well told and illustrated. I learn so much here.

  4. Webradio says:

    Hello !

    Thank You for this lesson of History…

    Very sad, isn’t it ?

  5. Lakshmi says:

    very interesting post as always Indrani ..I liked the way you narrated it

  6. magiceye says:

    wow!
    a wonderful post indeed! thank you for sharing such interesting information..

  7. Kat says:

    Was so touching to read about the chipko movement, the sacrifices, the misuse of King’s authority and the King’s gesture.

    All volunteers who want to save trees, please raise your hand..!!

  8. lisaschaos says:

    Wow, this is so interesting!

  9. Swarna says:

    A Govt water project sets the compensation price for 2884 trees – Khejri and 35 other species – at an average of Rs 750. (Bilaspur Water Supply Project – Resettlement plan)
    We humans do persist with our weird ideas of development….

  10. The tree is beautiful. It is a humbling story though. What amazing dedication these people had to their beliefs of what to stand up for.

  11. Rachel says:

    I love the trunk of that tree — it’s so unique!

    And, thank you for sharing that story. 🙂

    PSF – Cruel and Unusual Punishment

  12. What an amazing looking tree!!

  13. DoodleBunz says:

    I love it. Thank you for the story and explanation of where “treehuggers” came from….I like to fancy myself one of them.
    http://www.doodlebunz.com

  14. Faye Pekas says:

    Amazing story. The first photo looks like two trees hugging each other.

  15. Maggie May says:

    Lovely photos….. fascinating tale. Gruesome thing to have done. Brave though! I don’t suppose any of us would give up our lives for trees!

  16. That is fantastic! Thank you so much, I love when my bad habit of sitting in front of a computer pays off and I actually learn something 🙂

  17. Swarna says:

    That story brings on several lumps – every time. Makes me think – for all our writing and complaining about tree-felling – do we love them enough? – will we do the same if we encountered the situation?

  18. thyme says:

    It is a beautiful story and a beautiful tree. But hearing the story and understanding the message it is meant to convey, I am most impressed by something that seems inconceivable: Is it really possible that on the one hand people would sacrifice their lives so easily, on the other hand people who could be related to them could so easily take those lives? Or is this a purely symbolic legend?
    Maybe I shouldn’t ask.. the answer is obvious from the news everywhere. People are mass-murdered for things less valuable than a tree. (But rarely sacrificing themselves.)

  19. kallu says:

    Great story and great Pics Indrani.

    Swarna, really sad – even the water that would have watered the tree would sell for more.

  20. . . . wow – love the photo of the tree

  21. Steph says:

    Oh that’s so sad! And beautiful.

  22. GMG says:

    Hi Indrani! Sorry for the long delay in coming here, but the last two weeks were too hectic!
    Finally I managed to get to your blog, and see some wonderful pictures! Loved the Demoiselle Cranes! Stunning! Almost as the flamingos in Lake Nakyuru, Kenya…
    And this story is quite touching!!
    Meanwhile Blogtrotter is back to Greece in November 2007! Hope you enjoy and have a great weekend!

  23. Your tales and photos are always just so FASCINATING!!

  24. CC says:

    Incredible tree!

  25. Thank you for the lesson in history. It brought great respect to those who lost their lives!!

  26. MomOf3 says:

    Thank you for such an interesting post! 🙂

  27. Robyn says:

    That was interesting. Thanks for sharing.

  28. wow, really interesting….nice to know about these trees. This post deserves to be on FORT mysore as well.

  29. Cecilia says:

    Wow…very interesting!!!
    Thanks for visiting my blog!

  30. Indrani, thanks for that lovely, heart-wrenching story. What faith, what courage, and as usual middlemen misusing the authority of a good king. You have said the story so well.
    And of course, as usual, great pictures.

  31. That’s a great story about hugging trees. Well sad but interesting. I didn’t know that story at all.

    Thanks for stopping by and reading about Diesel. The mare we had Shadow, she came through the strangles ok.

  32. i b arora says:

    wish we were all as concerned about environment, thanks for sharing

  33. What a wonderful story it is Indrani. If only people still guarded trees that way!

  34. Very interesting read. The way you present the story is simply adorable

  35. Chaitali says:

    Thank you as I was unaware of this story and you have put the gist in so simple words.

  36. dNambiar says:

    That was a story we ought to know. Thank you for telling it to us, Indrani.

  37. Sunaina says:

    The Bishnois were indeed a courageous community to give their lives to save the trees.

  38. Sri Kri says:

    Worth reading.Thanks for sharing the story. So sad to know about the courageous villagers who died for saving the environment.

    Cheers,
    Sriram & Krithiga

  39. Missed out on Bishnoi village during our trip to Jodhpur. Deeply regret not visiting this place after reading the lovely story. Thanks for sharing Indrani 🙂

  40. Quite an interesting chapter from the pages of history. Did they love their trees more than their lives. People are truly difficult to stereotype .. sometimes facts are strangers than tales

  41. Yogi Saraswat says:

    A King’s order is an order and their heads rolled down. But the villagers were not scared, their place was taken by other villagers, then others and so it went on… The news spread, when King heard the news he came rushing to Khejarli village to stop the merciless slaying of the villagers. By then 363 villagers had sacrificed themselves. I think “Chipko Movement” will be inspired from these villagers . Amazing story . Bishnoi society is very committed for their rituals .

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