An Indian festival that has a bloodcurdling past-what’s the story

This Indian festival is not about Holi or Diwali or Dussehra. Neither is it about the Camel Fair of Bikaner or the Jallikattu of Tamil Nadu.

Image result for location of Khejarli village

Ladies and gentlemen, today I will tell you about an amazing Rajasthani fair that celebrates our trees, animals, and environment.

Welcome to my blog yet again.

The amazing Indian festival of Khejarli Mela

More than 200 years ago, a band of men and women laid down their lives to protect their trees from the killer chops and axes of the Jodhpur king.

If you thought that the proud Rajasthanis are ready to lay down their lives for only their honor, then you should revise your opinion.

Some of them, called Vishnois or Bishnois, are also ready to die for the trees, birds, and animals!

But I am digressing from the main topic.

It so happened that in 1731, the king of Jodhpur decided to rebuild his fort. He wanted to repair his walls and for this, the masons had to prepare concrete. Making concrete required wood for burning.

Some people say that Maharaja Abhai Singh of Jodhpur wanted a new palace to be made.

Now the best place to get the firewood was the Khejarli village, a small hamlet located 26 kilometers south-east of the city.

The Raja sent one of his officials, Giridhar Bhandari, to the village to get the firewood.

Sorry, you can have our lives though!

New temple of Guru Jambeshwar in Khejarli
This is the temple of the spiritual guru of the Bishnois, Sant Jambheshwar.

When Bhandari reached the village to get the wood, he was stopped from entering it by them. The villagers of Khejarli considered the trees to be their children and could not even bear the thought of cutting them down.

Much discussion happened between the king’s men and the villagers but no result was coming out.

Finally, Bhandari offered them a bribe; he hoped that this inducement would change the opinion of the villagers.

A festival of Donkeys!

But, he was soon disappointed. A  woman, Amrita Devi, told him that the king would have to kill her and her three daughters before chopping off the trees. She then hugged the trees and her kids followed the same.

The king’s soldiers were not impressed by this sight and the three women were promptly killed by them

This news spread like wildfire in the surrounding villages and horrified the villagers who then began arriving in Khejarli in large numbers. Each one of them was bursting with anger and had it not for their Guru’s teachings, the soldiers would have been lynched.

But they decided to do something more heroic.

Like a Glue

All the villagers decided to protect their ‘children’ by sticking to them. Either death for the villagers, or life for their trees.

Men, women, and children simply clung to the trees, not bothering about the blows being rained by the king’s men. You can imagine the pain and suffering those noble souls went through to protect their trees.

That day, more than 380 people died in saving their dear trees.

When the king heard about this massacre, he promptly ordered his men to stop then and there. Probably his conscience got the better of him. He then ordered that henceforth, no more trees were to be cut in the Khejarli village.

To this day, nobody is allowed to cut any tree in this village. That gruesome event is celebrated each year in the month of Bhadrapad or August as the Khejarli festival.

You can also read this story >

This then is the short but beautiful story of the Indian festival of Khejarli. Men and women from this community come together to pay respects to their fallen ancestors. They worship in the temple of Guru Jambhoji Maharaj, the spiritual guru of the Bishnois.

I guess this incident later laid down the foundation of the modern environment movements in India.

And thanks to these selfless acts, India’s environment is still intact. What do you say?

Male Nilgai
Thanks to those 383 villagers who died defending their trees, today Khejarli is a thriving mini forest. This is a male Nilgai. Image Credits-

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