Traveling to Rajasthan has been the highlight of my Adventures in India. In this colorful state, are endless places to explore. From the big cities, to the smaller villages, to all the various tribes and castes who continue to live in peace among one another. I love Jodhpur, the “Blue City” where I spent 4 days. But just as exciting & unique as this Blue Treasure Haven, is a village located right outside (25 kilometers) of Jodhpur with even more hidden gems, is the Bishnoi Villages.
The word Bishnoi is a religion started by Guru Jambheshwarin (of Bikaner, Rajasthan) in the 15th century, which means 29, and it refers to a mix of Hindu and Muslim principles that the religious sect observes, with a focus on nature and preserving wildlife. In 1730, 363 Bishnoi men, women & children died hugging, protecting trees that were going to be cut off by the King’s men. They are literally the Tree-Huggers of India, as even today, they protect plants and all living things. Needless to say, they are a peaceful bunch of people, who are vegetarians, hard workers, and enjoy opium & chai tea on their leisure time.
The Bishnoi have ultimate respect for deer, blackbuck (antelopes), and cows, believing them to be ancestors, and protect them from hunters.
I arranged a half day trip through Chhotaram Prajapat, a family-owned Homestay & Safari Tour Company. Chhotaram picked me up from my guesthouse in his Jeep along with my tour guide Ravin Mathur. Our first stop was at a Guda Bishnoi Lake for Bird Sighting. The climate and timing was perfect as we spotted Siberian Cranes during their Winter Migration.
After the beautiful bird sighting, we visited a home, where the head of household demonstrated how to prepare Opium through water pipes. This was not the first time I was offered Opium in Rajasthan. I had been offered just a day before at the Desert Camps 60 kilometers away, prepared in the same format. As tempted as I was to try, I had to kindly decline, since I was traveling alone and if anything bad were to happen.. oh boy, there’s no telling where I’d end up! (next time!)
Legal Cultivation of Opium is permitted in India for “Medicinal Purposes”, just like Marijuana is in parts of the US. That is not to say that it is all ‘legally used’, but is common in Rajasthan. The Villagers offering us opium upon arrival as their way of being hospitable, just like Chai Tea is offered in the rest of India.
The man begins with a small dry Opium flour ball the size of a grape, and mashes it into powder. He places the powder through the left side of pipe, as he slowly drips water through the sieve. Repeats a few times, and then drips the liquid onto his hands (or to any guests). Before consuming the opium, he prays to Lord Shiva for good wishes.
Bishnoi 29 key rules for living are:
- Observe 30 days’ state of untouchability after child’s birth
- Observe 5 days’ segregation while a woman is in her menses
- Bath early morning
- Obey the ideal rules of life: Modesty
- Obey the ideal rules of life: Patience or satisfactions
- Obey the ideal rules of life: Purifications
- Perform Sandhya two times a day
- Eulogise their God, Vishnu, in evening hours (Aarti)
- Perform Yajna (Havan) every morning
- Filter water, milk and firewood
- Speak pure words in all sincerity
- Adopt the rule of forgiveness and pity
- Don’t steal
- Do not condemn or criticize
- Don’t lie
- Don’t waste the time on argument
- Fast on Amavashya and offer prayers to Vishnu
- Have pity on all living beings and love them
- Do not cut green trees, save the environment
- Crush lust, anger, greed and attachment
- Accept food and water from our purified people only
- Provide a common shelter for male goat/sheep to avoid them being slaughtered in abattoirs
- Don’t sterilise ox
- Don’t use opium
- Don’t take smoke and use tobacco
- Don’t take bhang or hemp
- Don’t take wine or any type of liquor
- Don’t eat meat, remain always pure vegetarian
- Never use blue clothes