Savina Levi Fragliassi is an Italo-Venezuelan applied ethnologist with an artistic background, currently based in Paris.
“The Bishnoi – in marwari, bish means twenty and noi nine – derive their name directly from the twenty-nine commandments of their founder Jambeshwar. They form a community originally located in Rajasthan. Today, the Bishnois are listed as a Hindu cast. It is very likely that at first it was a sectarian phenomenon. In the West, the Bishnois are collectively described as first ecologists.
The purpose of my fieldwork was to plunge into the complexity of the defini- tions forged by the Westerners (eco-warriors, dharmic-ecologists) and by the Bish- nois themselves. My hypothesis is that some Bishnois exploit this Western image in order to reposition themselves in the Indian society.
A reading of the sacrificial phenomenon, in the light of Muslim influences, could better inform us about the concept of martyr in the name of Nature. The word sacri- fice (balidan) in old rajasthani, is found in the very ancient bishnois poetic sources and it is associated with a large number of stories. Even today, the political impor- tance of these sacrifices are revitalized during the various fairs.
To conclude, the Bishnois are fully skilful in co-produce and reformulate concepts from others and reintegrate them in their representation system. The know- ledge circulates between the Western world and India in a continuous flow by producing return effects. The Bishnois are an example of lucid receptivity in the capacity to exploit the image that the others have of them.”