The buck stops here

BlackbuckThe blackbuck tells his story and it is an intriguing one. Did you know they owe their lives to the Bishnois?

Dear Aristotle,

I am a blackbuck from India and we are one of those species that has been hunted down mercilessly by man for pleasure. When one is so close to danger so often, one understands the value of life and all the beautiful things that life offers.

It puzzles me how some who write to you are querulous about what is natural to all living things — creating a dung heap. Why do some of you think it is uncool to talk about it? For me, it is a way to attract female blackbucks. The larger my pile of dung, the more attractive I am to them. Anyway, that is not what I wish to write about. My letter to you is about an incredible community of people who are always ahead of their times.

Just 29!

We owe our lives to a people called the Bishnois. Most of them live near Jodhpur in Rajasthan. What is unique about them is that they ardently follow a religion that preaches protection of nature, conservation and a simple sustainable lifestyle. The most amazing part is that this eco-friendly religion was founded by their guru in early 16th century.

One of the 29 principles the Bishnois ( Bish meaning 20 and noi , nine) follow even at the cost of their own lives is protection of trees and animals. Hear this story. It really happened.

In 1730, Maharajah of Jodhpur ordered his soldiers to fell trees on Bishnoi land. The timber was for the construction of his new palace. But the people there would not allow it. Every member — man and woman, young and old of the community hugged a tree and refused to move; it was a desperate attempt to save their trees. It was in vain, as over 300 people were hacked to death before the king ordered a halt to the carnage.

Makes you want to weep, doesn’t it?

Here is more about these wonderful people.

They bury their dead, for cremation would mean cutting trees. Hunting animals is forbidden on Bishnoi land; only the foolish or the arrogant would dare to raise a gun here. The punishment is swift and severe. These strict vegetarians grow their own food, and rear cattle, goats and sheep. Theirs is a simple, quiet and peaceful life. And so, the buck stops here — the blackbuck that is! Get the pun, eh? Along with chinkaras, neelgais and other endangered animals, we have found a haven in Bishnoi villages, under the fierce protection of its people.

Blackbuck

Reply from Aristotle

BB, a piece of advice to you — stand by your heap. If you walk away, it would turn out to be a whodunit mystery for your females!

Published as part of a series titled ‘Aristotle’s Mailbag’ in Young World, The Hindu, dt. August 13, 2013

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