Bishnois – the sentinels of nature | Travelogue
Kuldeep Singh gracefully withdraws his hands from the steering wheel of the moving vehicle, extending a warm gesture of greeting. The aged Mahindra jeep exudes a powerful roar and slowly cruises along the outskirts of the sparsely populated four-lane road. The vivid impressions of the ‘Dahad’ series, recently viewed on Netflix, slowly recede into the periphery.
The jeep gradually descends into the adjacent thickets. There is little greenery that travellers from Kerala are accustomed to, characterized by arid Jodhpur forests with only a road marked by tyre tracks.
Kuldeep has his left foot resting on the accelerator of the left-hand steering wheel. Yet, a good part of his body and his head are protruding, scanning for any signs of wildlife around.
"Aap log toh lucky hai saab...."
Kuldeep grunts. “Normally, blackbucks are seen only in the early hours of the day," he says, pointing to the distinctive colours of their horns and bodies. I took expert advice to replace the camera lens.
The conversation moved to old tales involving the hunting trips of Salman Khan, Saif Ali Khan, Tabu, Sonali Bendre and Neelam. Salman was jailed for shooting a pregnant blackbuck. Kuldeep was clearly delighted on hearing that we were familiar with these stories.
He claimed that after that incident, the people of Jodhpur had forgotten to use their firearms. Twisting his moustache, he shared an amusing story of his own rusty gun.
The Bishnois of Jodhpur are not only dedicated to protection of animals but also preservation of trees. The term Bishnoi is derived from the numbers – “bees” (20) and “now” (nine). The Bishnois adhere to 29 principles that encompass various aspects of life, including the ornaments women wear, birds, animals and trees. The central tent of these principles is that nature should not be harmed.
The drive through the picturesque landscape, with sightings of peacocks and other wildlife, was accompanied with a continuous stream of stories Kuldeep narrated. Even as urges us to be silent as birds and animals were startled by human voices and not the sound of a jeep, he kept his conversations flowing non-stop.
(To be continued)