In India, probably few communities revere nature as much as the Bishnois, who have upheld the torch as environmentalists for many centuries now.
A community whose subsistence depends on conserving nature, the Bishnois have proven time and again that they are willing to go any extent to protect the environment. Even if it means sacrificing their own lives.
There is no better example of this than Amrita Devi Bishnoi. To defend nature, she and over 300 others laid down their lives in 1730. Among those who died that day included three of her daughters as well.
But such sacrifice would later lay the foundation for the historic ‘Chipko Movement’ in the 1970s.
With such stalwart examples in mind, we can add another name to the list – a septuagenarian from the same nature-loving community, who has single-handedly planted over 27,000 trees across 10 acres of land.
A native of Ekalkhori village near Jodhpur, Ranaram Bishnoi has been defying his age for many decades now, in his crusade to turn the barren desert adjoining his village totally green.
So how does he do it?
Every alternate day, Bishnoi travels three kms to a huge sand dune, climbs over it to collect water from his friend’s tubewell in a large earthen pitcher, carries the pot all the way back and waters the trees he planted.
Today, indigenous varieties of trees like Neem, Rohida, Fig, Khejri, Kankeri, Babool and Bougainvillaea stand tall in the dune, transformed by Ranaram many years back.
“The plants are god-like for me, and by serving them, I feel accomplished and relieved. Sometimes, I also take the women of my house along. Sometimes I take the girls of the village to help water the plants, and pay them Rs 2 per plant from my pocket,” said the 78-year-old to The Hindu BusinessLine.
The eco-warrior says his inspiration came from a community festival at Mukam in Bikaner that had taken place over fifty years back.
There, he had heard speakers emphasise on how life for a Bishnoi should centre on the environment and its conservation.
“That day transformed me. While returning, I brought some plants from Bikaner and planted them in the vicinity of my village,” he said.
Ranaram’s undying love for the environment and his crusade for its conservation is a remarkable example that each one of us should take home and apply in our lives too.
If the man can transform a sand dune in a desert with such dedication, think of what we all can do together!
(Edited by Vinayak Hegde)