Red for Green: The Bishnoi sacrifice for the Khejri

Khejri tree painting
© Waleed.ALKhusaibi (CC BY-SA 4.0)

9 /11 has become a household date, even a term, for the whole world — even for those who were not born in 2001. I was in New York when this tragedy that drastically changed human relations across the world took place. It was an epoch-making day of violence on innocent thousands, which has divided human history pre and post-9/11. But almost three centuries before that, in 1730 AD, on the very same day, India witnessed the very violent demise of 363 innocent people. But those were not accidental deaths, but rather deaths that they courageously embraced as the price paid for keeping their fellow beings alive! In honour of them, September 11 was declared as National Forest Martyrs’ Day in 2013. 

A painting inside the Bishnoi temple at Kherjali that depicts the sacrifice of Amrita Devi and her daughters.
A painting inside the Bishnoi temple at Kherjali that depicts the sacrifice of Amrita Devi and her daughters.

The Thar Desert in Rajasthan has very scanty and erratic rainfall (maximum annual precipitation of 500 mm). The scrubby and rare vegetation here has some saving grace like the evergreen Khejri (Prosopis cineraria), the state tree of Rajasthan, revered as shami from Vedic times. It is considered a kalpa vriksha of the desert, with several uses for humans (shade, edible pods, nitrogen-fixing, soil-binding, fuel, cattle fodder), and as a habitat for several animal, bird and insect species.

Cover of the September 2022 issue of The Teenager Today - Teachers' Day Special

Subscribe to The Teenager Today print / digital editions to read the full article.

J. Prasant CMI, holds a Ph.D. in Social Work (Community Development). He served as the Principal of Sacred Heart College, Thevara, Kochi, for many years. An environmentalist, his work focuses on environmental education, organic farming, bio-diversity and waste management. In 2021, he travelled across India on a motorbike as part of the Trust-Green-Peace campaign.

J. Prasant

J. Prasant CMI, holds a Ph.D. in Social Work (Community Development). He served as the Principal of Sacred Heart College, Thevara, Kochi, for many years. An environmentalist, his work focuses on environmental education, organic farming, bio-diversity and waste management. In 2021, he travelled across India on a motorbike as part of the Trust-Green-Peace campaign.