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Khejarli Village Jodhpur

Khejarli is a mute witness to first document and one of the greatest green movement in India.Khejarli or Khejadli 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 in abundance in the village. In this village 363 Bishnois, by Amrita Devi sacrificed their lives in 1730 AD while protecting green Khejri trees considered sacred by the community, by hugging to them, this incident is the first event of Chipko Movement in the recorded history

In 1737 at the village of KHEJARLI, near Jodhpur. The land around this village was, as it is today, makes for a pitiless landscape. Scant rainfall allows but four months of farming. People share the grains they raise with animals in need. Central to their lives is the khejari tree [prosopis cineraria], which is almost the only tree that rises to some height, yielding shade, fodder and ultimately some timber. Gazelles and black-buck roam with abandon, confident that the folks all around are the loving kind. Peacocks amble with leisure. On a warm and sunny morning of September 1737, in Khejarli, a village near Jodhpur, Amrita Devi, a Vishnoi woman and mother of three daughters was busy with her daily chores like churning milk for extracting butter. Her husband like other men folk of the village was away working in the fields. Suddenly she heard the sound of some one cutting a tree. She wondered who had dared cut trees in a Vishnoi village. She left her work and came out to enquire.

Girdharidas Bhandari, a senior officer of Jodhpur State, mounted on a horse, was ordering his men to cut trees. Around him many village elders had gathered. They all urged the officer to stop the cutting of trees in their village as it was against the Vishnoi religion to cut or allow anyone else to cut any green Khejri tree. Girdharidas was adamant, and told the gathering that the wood was needed to burn lime. And conveyed that this was an order of the ruler, so nobody should try stopping him. Amrita Devi’s heart was crying because she knew that this tree had served as the lifeline of her family and many others who were trying to live life in this harsh climate. riven by her emotions she ran and clung to the tree that was being axed. ‘Cut my body before felling the tree’ she cried.

The woodcutters stopped as they did not know what to do but Girdharidas ordered his men to cut off her head. Amrita Devi was mercilessly axed along with the tree. Her bold sacrifice inspired her three young daughters Ashi, Ratni and Bhagu. Following her steps they too clung to the tree and were hacked ruthlessly. One after the other 363 Vishnois sacrificed their lives. For every tree that fell a Bishnoi man, woman or child laid down their life. When the news of this brutality reached the ruler of Jodhpur, he immediately stopped the massacre. But by now the entire Vishnoi community had revolted and they threatened to leave the state if they were not allowed to pursue their faith and religion.

The Maharaja realized the gravity of the situation and apologized for the grave mistake committed by his officer. He issued a royal decree engraved on a copper plate, prohibiting the cutting of trees and hunting of wild animals in any Vishnoi village in Jodhpur State. There is probably no parallel to this, in the history of conservation. Today, in KHEJARLI there is an eerily silent orchard and a temple in it, to commemorate the day those 363 Vishnois engraved a message in the conscience of mankind.

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