Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Great Khejari Sacrifice

Bishnois who are world famous as the first ecologist of the world have a simple slogan ‘Never cut a green tree, but wait for a tree to age and die and then it is better to use it as timber.’ They hold the strict religious principles regarding the protection of the conservation of this natural property. They don’t even hesitate to sacrifice their life to stand on these principles. As there is strict prohibition on felling of trees in their religion so unlike most of the Hindu community they bury their dead instead of cremating them. By doing this they save the wood which is required for cremation.

The story of Amrita Devi is famous among Bishnois who sacrificed her life to save the Khejarli trees. This event took place in 1730 when soldiers of Maharaja Abhay Singh of Jodhpur reached the nearby region of Khejarali to cut trees for the wood required to construct the new palace of Maharaja. This region is filled with a large number of trees and got the name after the tree Khejari. At that time Amrita Devi was at her home along with her three daughters. When she heard this news, she went to the spot and protested against the Mission of cutting trees. She tried to explain the importance of the trees to their faith and survival. But everything was in vain. The party told her that she would have to give them money as a bribe if she wants to save the trees. Amrita Devi refused this demand and told them that it would be rather an act of insult to her religious faith and she would even give her life to save the green trees. When everything failed Amrita Devi hugged a tree and told the soldiers to cut her head before cutting the trees. Without thinking anything the soldiers also slash her head. Three of her daughters also offered their head and were killed. Soon a crowd gathered there and joined in dissuading the soldiers. Other people also followed it and hugged a tree. Then the axes that were bought to cut the trees were used to sever their heads. The massacre continued for many days. Thus around 363 people including young and old, men and women, married and unmarried, rich and poor sacrificed their life to save the life of trees.

The tree felling party threatened with this event and left for Jodhpur with unfulfilled mission. When the Maharaja learned about the event he immediately ordered to stop the felling of trees. Till that time around 363 people have been added to the list of martyrs. Maharaja Abhay Singh honored the courage of Bishnoi community and apologized for whatever mistakes his officials had committed. He ordered a copper plate with his order engraved on it. These orders included the strict prohibition of cutting of green trees and hunting of animals within the revenue boundaries of Bishnois villages.

The event is still remembered as the great Khejarli sacrifice. Today also there is a silent orchard, with a small temple in it, is present in Khejarli that commemorate the day when the sacrificed Bishnois engraved a message in the conscience of mankind. The Bishnois gather there every year in September (Shukla Dashmi of the Hindi month of Bhadrapad) to memorize the extreme sacrifice made by the people to preserve their faith and religion.

1 Comments:

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