Priscilla Kibbee

I love to travel all over the globe shopping for textiles to add to my wearable art. I have taught quilting to school children in Nepal, seminole patchwork to seamstresses in Thailand, and jackets and embellishment to quilters in Turkey where I also served as a judge at 2 of their International Quilt Shows. I have created garments for 5 Fairfield and Bernina Fashion Shows and teach classes on embellishment and wearable art. Lately I have been leaning more toward making art quilts.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Jodhpur, The Bishnoi Villages

On my last day I hired a driver and headed out to the desert and some of the Bishnoi villages. I had done the same thing on a trip about 5 years ago and had a wonderful time.

For centuries, the Bhil and the Bishnoi cultures have coexisted in the Rajasthan desert of central India. Though they live diametrically opposed lifestyles and have vastly different philosophies, they are drawn together by a bond much stronger than their differences: the struggle to survive in this harsh and unforgiving land.

The name “Bishnoi” (“Twenty-nine”) represents the number of principles espoused by their prophet, Lord Jhambheshwar. Despite being born a Khstriya, the second highest Hindu caste, he disapproved of the caste system and created a classless community into which all were accepted. The only requirement was to live by his 29 life principles including no killing or eating of animals, no cutting down of living trees and no alcohol consumption.

In 1730, the ruler Raja Abhaya Singh sent his soldiers to fell trees for the fort he was building. He needed fuel for his limestone kiln. Amrita Devi, stood in the way. She explained to the soldiers the importance of trees to their faith and survival. Then she argued. A crowd soon gathered and joined her in dissuading the soldiers. When everything failed and the loggers began their preparations, Amrita Devi hugged a tree and asked them to cut her before they cut the tree! And lo, it was done! A shocked and outraged crowd, was roused to action. One by one, they followed Amrita Devi, hugged a tree, dared the king's men and were cut dead. The carnage continued; an unending line of Bishnois choosing to die for their love of trees and nature. When a bewildered king finally arrived at the scene and stopped his men, 363 lay dead. Silence enveloped the moment with eloquence. There is probably no parallel to this, in the history of conservation.
Today, in Kejarli there is an eerily silent orchard and this is the temple dedicated to it, to commemorate the day those 363 Bishnois engraved a message in the conscience of mankind.

While this looks like a swimming pool it is really a cistern and people come here for water which I am told they squeeze through cloth to purify (It looks green). And there is a memorial on the grounds to the 363 people who died in the massacre.
Our next stop was a "typical" Bishnoi house although this one was a bit upscale for tourist visits.
Dead trees gathered for fuel
A new baby
An oven
wall decorations
The kitchen
Grinding millet. It takes ten turns of the heavy wheel for a large pinch of millet. Its ground every morning before meal preparation.
A stop at the local pottery shop. I bought a mask.
A demonstration of course.

And next door a demonstration of block printing. After which the printer tried to sell me a variety of material which was quite obviously machine printed. As if I wouldn't know the difference.
The pottery shop.
In all of my trips through Rajasthan I have never seen anything like this. A huge group of camels at a watering hole.

The owner or herder came over and wanted a bit of baksheesh (bribe) for being allowed to take the photos. Fine with me.

Then we were off to a rug weaver. The area is famous for their rugs and this was also our lunch stop. No, the photo isn't fuzzy. It is smoke from the fire where the weavers wife and mother were cooking lunch.

You don't eat with the women of course...I learned that during my times in Nepal. The man serves you and keeps refilling your dish until you cover it with your hands to signal you are finished. Note the hand blocked fabric.
Then the weaver and his mother demonstrated the weaving process.

And, of course, tried to sell me a rug or two.

Then it was back to Jodhpur and my wait for the evening overnight train to New Delhi. Fortunately it wasn't raining this time. And I had the better first class car this time with only four to a closed cabin. Very spacious and comfy.

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