Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Bishnois Safari - part 1

After an early breakfast, a jeep stopped in front of our Jodhpur hotel to take us on a safari tour of the region where the Bishnois people lived. Thought to be the original “tree huggers,” (after a woman was beheaded in 1730 as the tree she was trying to save was cut down) this sect of nature worshippers live mostly in the central desert plains of Rajasthan. Our guide, a native of the region, explained that this community is more accurately called the Vishnois, because they worship the god Vishnu.

The jeep took us over bumpy terrain and narrow dirt roads, with the rather chilly morning December air blowing through the jeep leading us to zip up our layers and put on hoods. The flat, scrubby land was another reminder that we were in the desert. On the “main” road, trucks with overstuffed hauls of goods and grasses precariously passed each other. Men wore turbans and baggy pants known as “jodhpur” and carried a staff. Even in the distance, the pink turbans (indicative of the Jodhpur region) could be spotted. Women covered their faces.

Short acacias were the dominant trees in the area. It was hard to imagine that these gnarly spiny trees were a major source of wood in the region. Occasionally we stopped to view the Chinkara and other types of small gazelles, present in numbers but still rather distant.

Upon seeing some men hauling steel containers strapped to their motorcycles, we inquired about the dairy industry in the region. Each family typically has one or two cows, and one water buffalo. Cows are milked twice a day. The average cow produces 10-12 liters per day - about half of what Holstein cows in the US produce. If the family has extra milk, a “milk man” comes around to collect the milk in steel containers.

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