Historical Events

The Sacrifice Place of Khejarli

Khejarli is a village in Jodhpur district of Rajasthan, India 26 km south east of the city of Jodhpur. The name of the town is derived from Khejri (Prosopis Cineraria) trees, which were abundance in the village.

In this 363 Bishnois, with Amrita Devi Bishnoi sacrificed their lives in 1730 AD, while protecting green khejri trees considered sacred by the community, by hugging to them, this incident is then first event of Chipko Movement in the history. Even sunder lal bahuguna agreed to the fact that he had been inspired by bishnoi community sacrifice. It was a party of Giridhar Bhandari, a minister with Maharaja Abhay Singh, ruler of Marwar (Jodhpur) state who wanted to cut the sacred green Khejri trees to burn lime for the construction of his new palace. Since there was a lot of greenery in the Bishnoi villages even in the Thar Desert, the king ordered his men to get the woods from Khejri trees.

Amrita Devi (Beniwal), A Bishnoi woman, protested against King’s men who were attempting to cut trees as cutting tree it was strictly prohibited in Bishnoi religion. The malevolent feudal party told her that if she wanted the trees to be spared, she should give them money as bribe. She refused to acknowledge their demand and told them that she would consider it as an act of ignominy and insult to her religious faith. She said that she would rather give away her life to save the green trees. It is at this stage she spoke the words: “Sar santey rukh rahe to bhi sasto jaan”, if a tree is saved even at the cost of one’s head, its worth it. Saying these words, she offered her head. The axes which were brought to cut the trees, severed her head from the body. Her three daughters Asu, Ratni and Bhagu were not daunted and offered their heads as well and met the same end. Soon old persons, young men, women including newly married ones and children were sacrificing themselves in a similar way. There was intense pandemonium. As soon as Maharaja learnt it, he ordered stopped of felling trees. By that time 363 Bishnois had already become martyrs.

Honouring the courage of the Bishnoi community, Maharaja Abhay Singh, apologised for the mistake committed by his officials and issued a royal decree engraved on copper plate.

The great martyrs scarified their breathes for religious principle and faith. To remember their greatness and esteem sacrifice, those trees were given a new name after the village’s name and called Khejri. In Marwari Khejri is also called Janty(जांटी) to honor the courage and scarifies of great Bishnoi’s who didn’t even care for their lives to save the Khejri tree. Janty(जांटी) is considered the most divine and pious tree in Rajasthan, which shows locals’ respect for that great lady. In Rajasthan it is considered a sin to cut a green Janty tree, and it is considered a god-tree. In desert or semi desert, most of the lord Balaji temples are built under divine shadow of male Janty tree that is popularly known as जांट. Marwari word जांटी and जांट refers to greatness and contribution of Jat people in Bisnoi sect. Khejri or Janty is also state tree of Rajasthan.

The anniversary of the massacre is observed each year at village, which has now become an important tourist destination.

Lover of wild animals

Bishnois lived with trees and wild animals in the Thar Desert with complete harmony for centuries and have been fiercely protecting the trees & wild life in their areas to follow the teachings of their Guru Jambheshwar Ji.

This was not an easy task especially in the desert where water was a luxury commodity and trees could fetch same extra revenue but for Bishnois protection of wild life was a Dharma (religion).

Bishnois appealed to rulers/kings to make rules for banning tree cutting and hunting in their areas and fought cases in the courts to ensure the rules are followed by all.

But in the arid desert facing continuous droughts, the trees and wild animals were always temptations of others.

Time to time their faith was tested by rulers, poachers and others but Bishnois always protected the wild life even at the cost of their lives by braving the bullets.

Scores of Bishnois have sacrificed their lives for protecting wild life in Rajasthan.

Bishnois are extremely aggressive about their pacifism. Foremost in the community’s pantheon of heroes are men and women who gave up their lives trying to save trees and animals.

On 3 October 1996, Nihal Chand Bishnoi, aged 30! sacrificed his life while chasing poaches to save life of black bucks. A film, Willing to Sacrifice, based on his story won the award for the Best Environment Film at the 5th International Festival of Films, TV and Video Programmes held at Bratislava, Slovakia.