In Rajasthan we took private trips by both camel cart and jeep to explore the timeless culture of the villages on the fringes of the Thar desert. We had lunch with a farmer and his 13 daughters, who shared their simple home and invited us to join them in an opium ceremony; then travelled to a Bishnoi village across scrubland and shallow dunes dotted with khejri trees and graceful chinkara gazelle. Both the chinkara and the trees are revered by the Bishnoi tribe, who are even known to bury dead gazelles and mark their graves. Bishnoi translates as ‘twenty-niners’, which refers to the number of principles they live by, two of which are to protect trees and ‘all living beings’. Their fierce affinity with nature, and their aggression in its protection since 1485, has led them to be thought of a the first environmentalists.
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