Bishnoi villagers sacrifice lives to save trees, 1730


Save sacred trees from being cut down by the king's soldiers for a new palace

Time period notes

Campaign lasted approximately 5 days

Time period

(1730), 1700 to (1730), 1700



Location City/State/Province

Khejarli, Marwar region, Rajasthan state
Jump to case narrative


Amrita Devi


Bishnoi villagers in Khejrali and surrounding villages

External allies

Not known

Involvement of social elites

Not known


Maharajah of Jodhpur and his soldiers

Nonviolent responses of opponent

Not known

Campaigner violence

Not known

Repressive Violence

363 Bishnoi villagers were beheaded after they refused to let go of the trees they were hugging.


National-Ethnic Identity



Group characterization

Bishnoi villagers

Additional notes on joining/exiting order

Joining order not known

Segment Length

Approximately 20 hours

Success in achieving specific demands/goals

6 out of 6 points


1 out of 1 points


3 out of 3 points

Total points

10 out of 10 points

Notes on outcomes

The Bishnois successfully protected their village's sacred khejri grove, even ensuring its protection by state law.

The Bishnois continue to practice their religion in the Marwar region.

The campaign grew from a few alarmed villagers to 363 people willing to risk death.

Database Narrative

The Bishnoi faith is a religious offshoot of Hinduism founded on 29 principles, most of which promote environmental stewardship. Bishnois strictly forbid the harming of trees and animals. The religion was founded by Guru Maharaj Jambaji in 1485 AD in the Marwar (Jodhpur) desert region of western Rajasthan, India. Jambaji witnessed the incessant clear-cutting of trees during times of drought to feed animals, only to see them die eventually as the drought continued. He also recognized the importance of trees within his local ecosystem (keeping animals alive) and banned cutting down green trees and killing birds or animals. Jambaji's spiritual reverence for nature led to a tradition of harmony with the local ecology: in the middle of an arid desert region, the Bishnois are famous for cultivating lush vegetation, caring for animals, and collecting drinkable water.

In 1730, almost 300 years after Guru Jambaji's 29 principles were recorded, the maharajah (king) of Jodhpur wanted to build a new palace. He sent soldiers to gather wood from the forest region near the village of Khejarli, where Bishnoi villagers had helped foster an abundance of khejri (acacia) trees. When the king's men began to harm the trees, the Bishnois protested in anguish but were ignored by the soldiers, who were under royal orders.

Amrita Devi was a female villager who could not bear to witness the destruction of both her faith and the village's sacred trees. She decided to literally hug the trees, and encouraged others to do so too, proclaiming: “A chopped head is cheaper than a felled tree.” Bishnois from Khejri and nearby villages came to the forest and embraced the trees one by one to protect them from being cut down. As each villager hugged a tree, refusing to let go, they were beheaded by the soldiers. This voluntary martyrdom continued until 363 Bishnoi villagers were killed in the name of the sacred Khejarli forest.

Once word got back to the King about this activity he rushed to the village and apologized, ordering the soldiers to cease logging operations. Soon afterwards, the maharajah designated the Bishnoi state as a protected area, forbidding harm to trees and animals. This legislation still exists today in the region.

In memory of the 363 Bishnois, who died protecting their dear trees, a number of khejri trees are planted around the area, which is still notably lush and rich with animal life. The Bishnoi sacrifices became the inspiration for a much larger Chipko movement that is still growing today, in which villagers physically embrace trees to save them from logging.


The Bishnoi tree martyrs were influenced by the teachings of Guru Maharaj Jambaji, who founded the Bishnoi faith in 1485 and set forth principles forbidding harm to trees and animals. (1)

The Bishnoi sacrifices became the inspiration for a much larger Chipko movement that is still growing today, in which villagers physically embrace trees to save them from logging. (2)


Gottlieb, Roger S. “Bishnois: Defenders of the Environment.” This Sacred Earth: Religion, Nature, Environment. Psychology Press, 1996.

Kamat, Jyotsna. “The Bishnoi Community.” Geographica India. Online.

Sankar, Anand. “Serene silence.” Business Standard. New Delhi, March 9, 2008.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy

Blaine O'Neill, 12/12/2010