Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The twenty-niners or sex, drugs and..... - Rajasthan Part 3!

So in India we have seen the amazing, the wonderful, the wild, the crazy....but on our Bishnoi village tour we came upon a way of life which verged on the unbelievable!

The Bishnoi live their lives following the 29 rules laid down by their leader. Bish meaning twenty and noi meaning nine.  They seem a gentle, non-violent sort of tribe, striving to exemplify a sustainable way of life  in the dry, near desert conditions in Rajasthan. They are highly protective of their environment and live in small compounds to ensure the nature around them is preserved. In fact, they will guard the environment quite literally with their lives. In the 1730's apparently 363 Bishnoi lost their lives while hugging some trees destined to be felled. They drop their firewood on the floor three times before tossing it on the fire to ensure no spiders meet a blazing end.  They will never kill a tree for firewood, only using wood from already dead trees. They apparently will even breast feed orphan deer, such is their love for flora and fauna. They, I imagine, were the first true environmentalists - their history dates back to 1450. That all sounds reasonable, if perhaps a little extreme. They also are purely vegetarian and don't take alcohol.

As Rajasthan is so dry they can only farm for two rainy months of the year when they grow green lentils, millet and sesame. The remaining ten months while the women tend the cattle and sell some milk, the guys apparently get high. This is where it gets a little hokey.

They indulge in an opium tea drinking ceremony 4 or 5 times a day - which apparently is taken for energy, and dedicated to Shiva. Opium is banned in India except for medicinal purposes but the Bishnoi have a special dispensation for religious purposes.

The poppies are grown just north of Udaipur and the poppy milk then boiled with sugar/jaggary to solidify. We actually got to handle it - that felt quite risqué as its the nearest I've been to hard drugs!
First the hard opium/sugar chunk is ground into powder, mixed with water and then filtered three times through a leather bag.
It is then offered to Shiva, by means of some religious chanting:
And then poured onto the open hand and drunk. The open hand is a symbol of hospitality. Apparently an opium fix was given to weary travelers. now revitalized for the rest of their trip!!
Historically the Bishnoi also had a village "stud". The stud system was apparently still in action up to to fifty years ago. The most handsome member of the village was 'obliged' to sleep with as many women as possible, as many times as possible for a decade.

Such a hard life........

I did ask whether there were not whole villages of opium addicts and apparently there are. We did pass an "opium rehab facility" on our travels. So not such a "happy" lifestyle as may initially appear. This blog is a little tongue in cheek as the problems of opium addiction in Western Rajasthan, especially in the villages, whether through lack of education, easy availability, relatively low cost, or an escape from harsh living conditions are considerable. Apparently women working in the fields, quarries or factories who have no daycare bring their babies to work and to keep them quiet may slip them a quick nip of poppy juice. Starting at that age, what chance...........

1 comment:

  1. Oh my! Fascinating stuff Helen. Great pictures too!