Culture & Wildlife of Rajasthann
The mighty Thar desert’s relationship with both people and animals has transcended history. Despite its vastness, it is the most populated desert in the world. For millennia, the various tribes of the Thar have lived in harmony with the wildlife of the region, forming special bonds that go without saying in many of these villages. Here we’d like to showcase some of these relationships that the people have with the animals of the Thar desert, experiences that you can see for yourself around our desert camp near Jodhpur. From the Rao Jodha Park in Jodhpur to the conservation efforts around our own desert camp near Jodhpur, these stories have inspired every one of us at some level.
Bishnois are one of the many historic tribes of Rajasthan. Their name comes from the fact that they abide by 29 commandments throughout their life, as were meted out to them by their leader, guru Jameshwar. They are also known as Vishnois elsewhere. Out of the 29 commandments, they strictly adhere to, they have the closest bond to nature. It is believed that once a severe drought had struck the region, and the cause was theorised as being due to humans’ destruction of nature.
Today, the Bishnois are the ones that maintain an equilibrium among the fauna and flora of the Thar. They are the guardians and the ones to disrupt activities like hunting and deforestation of what little scrub jungle there is in the Thar desert. This tradition has gone on for over five centuries and continues on forever. In particular, they protect the chinkara, the Indian Gazelle, and revere the Blackbucks that call the Thar their home. Various protests by the Bishnois to spread awareness about nature have resulted in conservation laws throughout Rajasthan, including legal proceedings against erring influential people. You may have seen pictures circulating online of a woman feeding a baby Chinkara herself; such is the dedication the Bishnois have for nature! A village-walk around our desert camp in Jodhpur would reveal to you many similar sights of love and affection from the Bishnois.
A 45-minute drive from our desert camp in Jodhpur takes you to a village known as Khichan. Until nearly 200 years ago, Kihichan was just an ordinary farming village nestled in the dunes of the Thar. Until a small flock of birds from the far reaches of Eurasia slowly descended upon Khichan to feast on the little available forage. Since then, that number has grown from a few dozen to nearly 12000 birds thanks to the local efforts of the village people. These are the famed Demoiselle Cranes of the Thar that migrate from Mongolia and Eastern Europe to India flying at altitudes of over 20,000 ft. Known locally as Kuraj, the birds were originally fed by one man known as Ratan Lal Malu Jain who used to wait for their arrival every winter silently. As the word spread, donations for the food began to roll in, and today the villagers of Khichan are proud to call the cranes their own. A conservation centre has also been set up, called the Kuraj Sanrakshan Vikas Sansthan. They are protected under law and are left to be undisturbed during their feeding. These birds are enshrined in the folklore of Rajasthan as well. According to a Marwari legend, these birds were signs of good luck, and also carried messages to the local women from their lovers and loved ones in faraway lands
With all these stories around our desert camp in Jodhpur to inspire us, it’s easy to see how our founder, Mr Moti Singh Rathore, was inspired to start Manvar. But his primary source of inspiration has been someone else who was fundamental in protecting India’s wildlife. Moti Singh’s uncle, Mr Fateh Singh Rathore, lovingly called the Tiger Man of India, instilled in Moti Singh, a love for wildlife at a very young age. Combined with an interest in preserving the desert frontier of life on this side of Rajasthan, Manvar was founded in 1999. Today, guests can experience a true desert experience and also the great environs where the wild of the Thar flourishes, both among the people of the Thar and in the wild dunes out in the expanse. A desert safari from our desert camp in Jodhpur will surely give you an idea of the kind of life Moti Singh Rathore is striving to protect.