Meet the Bishnoi and their neighbours

On our last day in Jodhpur we hired a driver through our guesthouse owner and went exploring the villages in the outskirts of Jodhpur city. Some of these villages are kind of difficult to reach if you’re travelling independently because of the condition of the roads, so a tour (in our case a jeep safari) with an experienced driver is the safest way to go.

Our driver, Shiva, took us to many places including a Bishnoi village. The Bishnoi are followers of an environmentalist religious movement which considers trees and animals to be sacred.

Our first stop was the memorial of the khejarli massacre. In 1730, 363 Bishnois were killed because they opposed the men sent by mahraja Abhay Singh, whose mission was to cut down some khejri trees that the mahraja intended to use to build his new palace. The sad event become famous as the khejarli massacre (khejarli, from khejri, the name of the tree).

The closest village is called Khejarli, probably after the massacre, and that’s where we stopped next. Shiva took us into a Bishnoi house where we were greeted by a man in white turban, Vakram. “Ramram” he said, instead of Namaste – then he explained that ramram is an alternative way of saying hello, which is used in the countryside.

We then met Rajuram and Dapu, Vakram’s son and daughter. While Dapu went back to her cooking duties, Romana and I were invited to sit on a carpet on the floor in the patio. Rajuram and Vakram offered us some opium tea (yes you heard it right) as welcome drink. He put a small piece of opium in the water and then filtered it and pour some drops of it on our hands – no cups this time. If you are wondering whether it had any particular effects, well… the answer is no.

We were then showed their house. Bishnoi’s houses are made by natural materials, including mud.

We took some pictures, asked some questions about their community and then moved on to Sangasani, a village of potters. Here we met Ushenkan and his two children, Prem and Pamar. Prem and Pamar were so excited posing for pictures that we ended up taking more pictures of them, including one where Prem played “air cricket”, than of their father working on his pottery. Before we left I also took a picture of Akim, father of Ushenkan, whose long muslim style beard and facial expression made him an interesting subject for my camera.

On our way to the next stop, Sotagura, a lot of children saluted our jeep and screamed “hello” to us. Sotagura came across as a peaceful place. Here we got to chat with Rauzi. I loved his yellow turban and the depth of eyes and I had to take a couple of portraits of him.

Finally we visited other places, and got to see a number of typical local activities including block printing and dhurrie making. On our last stop we had a nice lunch made of green beans, cucumber and chapati, rigorously eaten without cutlery and cooked by some dhurrie makers from the village of Salawas.

All in all a very interesting experience that I would recommend to everyone visiting the Jodhpur area. Similar tours can be organized through most guesthouses and agencies in Jodhpur and shouldn’t cost more than 500 or 600 rupees or so per person (the eqiuvalent of 8 euros).

Here’s a gallery of pictures taken during the day. I hope you enjoy them!


Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

  • Nuno Carvalho

    Just add a little about the salute Ram-Ram (राम – राम in Devanagari), Ram is one of the names of God

    • Emanuele

      Sure! Just the other day a hindu guy on the train was explaining to me the meaning of “Ram-Ram”. And he told me that Ram is one of the reincarnation of Lord Vishnu. Still finding my way around Hinduism, but I’m reading an introductory book!

  • Moira

    Excellent! Photos and stories bring me from a somewhat hum-drum world to a vibrant world of travel adventures. Keep it up!

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