Meet Bishnoi people in the Thar desert, Rajasthan, India

Meet Bishnoi people in the Thar desert, Rajasthan, India

adventure travel & photography

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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 don't typically live in large communities; on average, a family and their closest relatives live in a household of about ten people. They all live in one house, surrounded by fields, and the nearest neighbors can be many kilometers away.

The Bishnois live in the northwestern part of India in the Thar desert. They're unique not only for their dress and way of life, but also for the religion they practice: Bishnoism.

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Guru Jambheshwar Ji founded the most practical, simple, and "conservative" sect of Hindu Dharma. He used religion to promote his vision and philosophy, which emphasized peaceful coexistence with nature, love, and harmony with all that surrounds us. The 29 main postulates of this sect elevate nature and our surroundings to a cult. When you visit the land of the Bishnoi, you can feel this reverence for nature: it is wild and preserved.

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Today's conservationists can rightly recognize the Bishnoi as their ancestors. The teachings and postulates of the sect were so logical and natural that many Muslims and people from other communities joined them.

The Western world is passionate about the green idea, and it has become a kind of business too. The Bishnoi practice it humbly on their farms, without much fanfare, flashy posters, or million-dollar funds.

Bishnoism teaches us to love, be peaceful, care for the environment and nature, be simple, honest, devoted, hardworking, and clean both inside and out.

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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. Socialising 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, some more experienced users might find this method a waste of material. In much of India, a more common approach is to pour hot water over the cannabis leaves, let the mixture steep for around an hour and a half, and then drink it.

THC is the most important component of cannabis. It is insoluble in boiling water, so people often add a small amount of liquid oil to facilitate extraction of the valuable substance. Alcohol or oil, added in small quantities, has the same effect. Milk, which contains the fat needed to extract THC, is also used, resulting in a drink known as bhang.

It is legal to use cannabis in this way, and no one is prosecuted or punished for it.

The family invited me to tea, but I declined. I didn't know how I would react to the drink, and since I was alone, I didn't want to risk it.

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