The blackbuck, also known as the Indian antelope, is an antelope found in India, Nepal and Pakistan. The blackbuck is the sole extant member of the genus Antilope.
In stark contrast to people like Bollywood star Salman Khan and the cricketing legend Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi who have put themselves on the wrong side of the law for allegedly killing black bucks, members of the Bishnoi community in Rajasthan prefer to kill themselves to save the rare antelope.
Importance for Bishnoi
The Bishnois of Jodhpur consider the black buck to be the reincarnation of their religious Guru Bhagwan Jambeshwar also known as Jambaji. They can even sacrifice their lives to save this creature.
Bishnoi said, “We are God-fearing and gentle but when it comes to protecting the black bucks they can be quite aggressive. They are renowned for their ecological sense and religious sentiments.”
This includes compassion for all living beings, cleanliness, devotion, vegetarianism, truthfulness etc. Around 1643, a prominent person from the Bishnoi community, Buchoji, is stated to have given his life to protest against the felling of trees for the purpose of propitiating the Goddes Holi.
According to Bishnoi folklore, Jambaji is believed to have instructed his followers that black buck was to be revered as his manifestation. When these animals, which are voracious eaters, raid the crop of the Bishnios, they prefer losing the crop than raising sticks or stones to drive them away.
Mentioned In Hindu Mythology
The animal is mentioned in Sanskrit texts as the Krishna mrig. According to Hindu mythology, the blackbuck draws the chariot of Lord Krishna. The blackbuck is considered to be the vehicle of Vayu (the wind god), Soma (the divine drink) and Chandra (the moon god). In Tamil Nadu, the blackbuck is considered to be the vehicle of the Hindu goddess Korravai.
In Rajasthan, the goddess Karni Mata is believed to protect the blackbuck. In the Yājñavalkya Smṛti, Sage Yagyavalkya is quoted stating “in what country there is black antelope, in that Dharma must be known”, which is interpreted to mean that certain religious practices including sacrifices were not to be performed where blackbuck did not roam.
According to the scriptures, it is to be sat upon only by Brahmins (priests), sadhus and yogis (sages), forest-dwellers and bhikshus (mendicants). Blackbuck meat is highly regarded in Texas In an analysis, blackbuck milk was found to have 6.9% protein, 9.3% fat, and 4.3% lactose.
The blackbuck is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List.
During the 20th century, blackbuck numbers declined sharply due to excessive hunting, deforestation and habitat degradation. Some blackbucks are killed illegally especially where they are sympatric with nilgai. Until India’s independence in 1947, blackbuck and chinkara were hunted in many princely states with specially trained captive Asiatic cheetahs. By the 1970s, blackbuck was extinct in several areas. Nevertheless, populations in India have increased from 24,000 in the late 1970s to 50,000 in 2001