Khejarli Village of Bishnois, an Offbeat Destination from Jodhpur

From Jodhpur we took a tour to Khejarli village 25 km south-east to the city. Khejarli village is a mute witness to the first documented and one of the greatest green movement in India.

Silence at Khejarli Village of Bishnois

When we arrived at the site, there was absolute silence interrupted now and then by peacock calls. The caretaker of the place greeted us with folded hands. He showed us around the place and recalled the story he heard from his seniors.

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 that there would be stiff opposition from the villagers belonging to the Bishnoi community, to the felling of the trees.

Khejri tree at Khejarli village

Khejarli village 1 Khejri tree
Amrita Devi, a female villager, 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

King Abhay Singh immediately declared that no trees would be cut, he personally apologized to the villagers. The place was renamed Sahid Nagar (Martyr’s town).

Khejri Trees

The Khejri trees, Prosopis Cineraria (Mimosaceae), adapt very well to desert conditions. Roots of Khejri trees grow a few hundred feet down into the earth to reach water. They have edible pods and leaves that are used for fodder. Even the bark is consumed in times of famine. Khejri tree yields a pale to amber coloured gum with properties similar of gum acacias, and used for medicinal purposes. Bark and leaf galls are useful too, especially for tanning. Since all the parts of the tree are useful, locals, especially the Bishnois, revere it. The other names for the tree are: kalp taru, king of desert, and wonder tree.

Khejarli village 3

Khejri Tree leaf

363 Shahid Nagar, Khejarli Village

So, this was the first Chipko movement (hug the tree to oppose cutting down) in Khejarli village of Rajasthan. However, it is the second similar incident in 1973 in a remote village of Himalaya attracted more global attention and support. Chipko Movement, initiated by a group of Sarvodaya workers (followers of Mahatma Gandhi’s disciple Vinoba Bhave), originated in Chamoli.

Temple for martyrs at Khejarli

Bishnoi temple in honor of victims of Khejarli Massacre

Cenotaph at Khejarli

Cenotaph commemorating the Bishnoi villagers who sacrificed their lives in 1731 AD protecting trees

Khejarli village 4

363 Shahid Nagar

A board stands there today in honor of the martyrs. The faded yellow board is the lone reminder to the present and the future of this gruesome incident. And  it also inspires to fight and protect trees. Every year in September, the villagers offer prayers to the martyrs. Villagers from other villages too pour in to offer their respects. There is no doubt places like this opens you up in a strange way!

How to Reach Khejarli Village

Take the route to Khejarli Village from Jodhpur via RJ SH61. The distance is approximately 25kms and time to travel is approx. 45 minutes. Jodhpur is well connected by air, road and rail.

Khejarli Village of Bishnois

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42 Responses to “Khejarli Village of Bishnois, an Offbeat Destination from Jodhpur

  • very interesting post today

  • 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

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

  • Hello !

    Thank You for this lesson of History…

    Very sad, isn’t it ?

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

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

  • 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..!!

  • Wow, this is so interesting!

  • 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….

  • 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.

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

    And, thank you for sharing that story. 🙂

    PSF – Cruel and Unusual Punishment

  • What an amazing looking tree!!

  • 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

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

  • 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!

  • 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 🙂

  • 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?

  • 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.)

  • Great story and great Pics Indrani.

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

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

  • Oh that’s so sad! And beautiful.

  • 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!

  • Your tales and photos are always just so FASCINATING!!

  • Incredible tree!

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

  • Thank you for such an interesting post! 🙂

  • That was interesting. Thanks for sharing.

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

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

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

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

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

  • Chaitali
    1 year ago

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

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

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

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

    Cheers,
    Sriram & Krithiga

  • 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 🙂

  • 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

  • Yogi Saraswat
    11 months ago

    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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