Amrita Devi: Story of a warrior and supreme sacrifice


Even before environmentalism was recognised, there is a true story which shatters the heart but fills it with inspiration as well. Almost 300 years ago, Amrita Devi lived in a village called Khejarli. It is a small village near Jodhpur in Rajasthan. The village got its name from Khejadi trees which grew there.
The people of this village were dedicated to taking care of trees and plants. They believed that plants and animals can survive without humans, but humans cannot survive without plants and animals.
When Amrita was young, she would get up early in the morning and greet trees. She used to hug them and talk to them. She thanked them and told them that they were beautiful. Like her other children would also hug the trees.
Now Amrita was a grown up. As usual, she went to greet the trees. She saw that there were strangers with axes in their hands. They were sent by the king to cut the trees for wood. The wood was needed for the building of the King’s palace.
Amrita was shocked. She went to a tree that was about to be cut and hugged the tree. The king’s men threatened her and shouted at her. But she did not let go. After seeing Amrita, her daughters and hundreds of villagers hugged the trees as well. She said that to save the tree she would have to sacrifice her life, it would be a good bargain. The adamant men nonchalantly cut through her body to cut the tree. Her three daughters were utterly shocked but did the same as their mother to save the trees. They also met the same end. Their heads were severed to cut the trees.
The news spread like wildfire. The head council decided that for every tree to be cut, a Bishnoi volunteer would sacrifice his or her life. 363 Bishnois became martyrs that day. The soil of Kehjrali became red with their blood of sacrifice.
When the king got to know this, he was shocked that people gave up their lives to save the trees. She apologised to the community and issued a decree on a copper plate prohibiting the cutting of trees within and near Bishnoi villages. The protection is valid even today.
For them every plant or tree is a living being just as humans. The Khejarli sacrifice inspired many environmental movements in history. In the remembrance of Amrita Devi Bishnoi, the Government of India has instituted a national award in her name, Amrita Devi Bishnoi Wildlife Protection Award. Her supreme sacrifice will always be remembered.


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