Meet Bishnoi people in the Thar desert, Rajasthan, India

Meet Bishnoi people in the Thar desert, Rajasthan, India

adventure travel & photography

Destinations: Pakistan ◦◦ India ◦◦Turkey ◦◦ Egypt ◦◦ Bulgaria ◦◦ Mongolia ◦◦ Bangladesh ◦◦ Jordan ◦◦ Russia ◦◦ Turkmenistan ◦◦ Iran ◦◦ Kazakhstan ◦◦ Japan ◦◦ Hong Kong

Type: Photo stories ◦◦ Places ◦◦ Documentary ◦◦ Black and White ◦◦ Fine Art Prints ◦◦ Seascapes ◦◦ Urban

The story

The jeep brakes in the sparse forest, kicking up clouds of dust. As we walk along a narrow path, my guide explains that we are visiting a Bishnoi family. These people do not live in large communities. A household houses the members of a family and the closest relatives, on average, about 10 people. They all live in one house, surrounded by farm fields, and the nearest neighbours can be many kilometres away.

Interesting are the people of this tribe who live in the Thar desert in the northwestern part of India. Not only because of their distinctive dress and communal way of life but primarily because of the religion they profess - Bishnoism. People who practice Bishnoism are called Bishnoi.

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It is perhaps the most practical, simple and "conservative" sect of Hindu Dharma, whose founder is Guru Jambheshwar Ji. This man used religion to advance his vision and philosophy, proclaiming peaceful coexistence with nature, love and harmony with everything surrounding us. The main postulates, 29 in number, elevate nature and our surroundings to a cult. You feel this as soon as you enter the land inhabited by Bishnoi - a wild, preserved nature, not very shy gazelles and other wild animals moving undisturbed.

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Today's conservationists would recognize the Bishnoi as their ancestors, perhaps rightly so. The teachings underlying the sect and the postulates were so logical and natural that many Muslims and representatives of other communities joined them.

The whole Western world is crazy about the green idea. Additionally, it is a kind of business as well. The Bishnoi practice it humbly on their farms, without much noise, bright posters or million-dollar funds. Comparing the two worlds in this way may not be suitable, but the distances are so small now, and the images before the eyes change so quickly.

Bishnoism teaches love, peace, love of the environment and nature, warmth in relationships, simple living, honesty, devotion, hard work, and external and internal cleanliness.

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At that moment, people in the house stirred. The family men were sitting in a circle around service with several cups, preparing something. The guide explained that it was a cannabis tea (grass tea or pot tea) that has been traditionally brewed in these countries for centuries. People do not smoke, drink alcohol, or stick needles in their veins but drink tea. Socializing around the early morning potion service is integral to the family's daily routine. People shared that this tea gives strength and cures stomach and psychological ailments.

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Like any herb, cannabis can be made into tea. However, I think this information would outrage some more experienced users as a waste of material. In any case, the custom in much of India is to simply pour hot water over the cannabis leaves, let the brew steep for about an hour and a half, and then drink it.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the most essential ingredient in cannabis. It barely dissolves in boiling water, which is why people add a little liquid oil to speed up the extraction of the valuable substance. Alcohol or oil added in small amounts has the same effect. Milk is also used, which contains the fat necessary to extract THC. This turns the drink into bhang.

The local government allows the use of cannabis in this way, and no one prosecutes or punishes anyone. There is a very informative online magazine for the legal use of this beautiful plant - http://www.cannabisculture.com/

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The people invited me to tea, of course, but I declined. I had no idea how my body would react to that drink, and since I was alone, I decided to skip it.

Bishnoi people from the Thar desert in Rajasthan

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