On the World Environment Day, one of the most inspiring stories of environment protection. Story of one of those rare incidents in the world, when people sacrificed their lives for the sake of the environment. A story that happened more than hundred years ago before the famed ‘Chipko Movement’ of Uttarakhand led by legendary Sundarlal Bahuguna. This particular story is from area just bordering India’s great Thar Desert in Rajasthan. This story is from close to Jodhpur, from a place made famous by that infamous episode of Bollywood actor Salman Khan and others hunting a black buck and then finding themselves under the wrong side of law.
A place where sights like this are common and so pleasing-
This is story of Khejadi Kalan, a village 25 kms from Jodhpur on the Sardarsamand road where on a monsoon day almost 190 years before 363 people laid their lives to save trees. A memorial at that place is the reminder of that heroic story. An incident unparalleled in environmental history and what more, that historic movement was led by a woman Amrita Devi Vishnoi.
Vishnois of this area are firm believer of protecting every life including trees. That is how Salman Khan landed in trouble when he along with his fellow actors hunted down a blackbuck. Since there are no predators or big wild cats here in this area, hence the deers and especially the blackbucks have a free run here. You can see them running everywhere around.
But the Vishnois of this area are equally sensitive to the plant life. Thats how that historical event took place. The then king of Jodhpur Abhay Singh ordered cutting down of Khejadli trees to get prepare limestone for the construction of his fort. He asked his minister Girdhar Bhandari to get the wood. But the local Vishnois will not let them do that. Vishnois of 84 villages got together to challenge the King’s order. They decided that they will embrace the trees and won’t leave them even if their heads are cut down. And, they actually laid their lives, not just one but 363 of them. When the news of this people’s revolution reached the king, he had to bow down. He then ordered a total prohibition of cutting down trees in the land of Vishnois. The tradition still continues.
People in this region are so much sensitive about tress that although they are hindus, they bury their dead because they will not like to burn wood with dead bodies on the pyres. The martyrs of that revolution were also buried and there is a memorial at that place today. Peacocks and the blackbucks welcome people in the area, although not many tourists coming to Jodhpur go there or even know about it. Seldom their operators or hotels will tell them about this place. But it is something not to be missed when visiting Jodhpur.
Very close to Khejadi Kalan is another village Guda Vishnoiyan, which has now been converted into a eco tourism spot. This place has rich density of black bucks because of a big pond, which is also home to many migratory and domicile birds and turtles.