Pastoral Communities in India

The Gujar are an ethnic group in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Today, the Gujars are classified under the Other Backward Class (OBC) category in some states in India. However, in Jammu and Kashmir and parts of Himachal Pradesh, they are designated as a Scheduled Tribe under the Indian government’s reservation program of discrimination. Hindu Gujars today are assimilated into several varnas. The origin of the Gujars is uncertain. Many Gujars claim descent from Suryavanshi Kshatriyas (Sun Dynasty) and connect themselves with the Hindu deity Rama.

Historically, the Gujars were Sun-worshipers and are described as devoted to the feet of the Sun-god (God Surya). Their copper-plate grants bear an emblem of the Sun and on their seals too, this symbol is depicted. Also the Gujar title of honor is Mihir which means Sun. Ancient Sanskrit Poet Rajasekhara in his plays styled Gujar rulers as Raghu-kula-tilaka (Ornament of the race of Raghu), Raghu-gramani (the leader of the Raghus) and so forth. [9] The Gujar clan appeared in northern India about the time of the Huna invasions of northern India.

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Some scholars, such as V. A. Smith, believed that the Gujars were foreign immigrants, possibly a branch of Hephthalites (“White Huns”). In the past, Gujars have also been hypothesized to be descended from the nomadic Khazar tribes, although the history of Khazars shows an entirely different politico-cultural ethos Scott Cameron Levi, in his The Indian Diaspora in Central Asia and its Trade, 1550-1900, mentions Kazar (Khazar, could also refer to Kassar) and Kujar (Gujar) as two different tribes with links to Central Asia.

According to some historical accounts, the kingdom with capital at Bhinmal (or Srimal) was established by the Gujars. A minor kingdom of Bharuch was the offshoot of this Kingdom. In 640-41 CE, the Chinese traveller Xuanzang (Hieun Tsang) described the kingdoms of Su-la-cha (identified with Saurashtra) and Kiu-che-lo (identified with Gujara) in his writings. He stated that the Gujaras ruled a rich and populous kingdom with capital at Bhinmal (Pilo-mo-lo).

According to his expositor, M. Vivien de St. Martin, Su-la-cha represents the modern Gujarat, and Kiu-che-lo (Gurjjara), “the country of the Gujars”, represents the region between Anhilwara and the Indus River, i. e. Sindh region. D. B. Bhandarkar also believed that Pratiharas were a clan of Gujars. Some other historians believe that although some sections of the Pratiharas (e. g. the one to which Mathanadeva belonged) were Gujars by caste, the Pratiharas of Kannauj were not Gujars and there was no Gujara empire in Northern India in 8th and 9th century. though from the work of other historians it has been known that Kannauj was capital of Gurjara-Pratihara. Chavdas, also known as Gujar Chapas was also one of the ruling clans of Gujars. Banjaras The Banjara are a class of usually described as nomadic people from the Indian state of Rajasthan, North-West Gujarat, and Western Madhya Pradesh and Eastern Sindh province of pre-independence Pakistan. They claim to belong to the clan of Agnivanshi Rajputs. They are sometimes called the “gypsies of India”.

They are divided in two tribes, Maturia, and Labana. The origin of Banjara community is stated in the area between Bikaner and Bahawalpur, Pakistan. After the fall of the Rajputs, they started spreading across the country. The Banjara had spread to Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and other states of India. About half their number speak Lambadi, one of the Rajasthani dialects, while others are native speakers of Telugu, Kannada,Hindi and other languages dominant in their respective areas of settlement.

Rathod, Parmar, Naik, Chauhan, and Jadhav castes belong to Banjara community in Rajasthan and Gujarat now are in General Seats after the communal rights taken place in Rajasthan for Reservation in 2008 as they were landlords in Amarkot, Fathaykot and Sialkot before Partition of India and Pakistan. They are Scheduled castes in Karnataka and Scheduled Tribe in Andhra Pradesh (where they are listed as Sugali), Orissa, Haryana, Punjab, and Himachal Pradesh. Even though they settled across the country, they still consider themselves as nomad community.

The word “Banjara” must have evolved from Prakrit and Hindi and Rajasthani words “Bana/Ban or Vana/Van” meaning Forest or Moorlands and “Chara” meaning ‘Movers’. The Banjara are (together with the Domba) sometimes called the “Gypsies of India”. The word Banjara is a deprecated, colloquial form of the word of Sanskrit origin. The Sanskrit compound-word vana chara, “forest wanderers” was given to them presumably because of their primitive role in the Indian society as forest wood collectors and distributors.

Their customs, language and dress indicate they originated from Rajasthan. They live in settlements called thandas. They lived in zupada (hut). Now many of them live in cities. They have a unique culture and dance form. On many occasions they gather, sing and dance. Their traditional occupation is nomadic cattle herding. Later they slowly moved into agriculture and trade. The accurate history of Lambanis or Lambadis or Banjaras is not known but the general opinion among them is that they fought for Prithvi Raj Chauhan againstMuhammad of Ghor.

The trail of the Lambadi/Banjara can be verified from their language, Lambadi borrows words from Rajasthani, Gujarati, Marathi and the local language of the area they belong to. The Banjaras are grouped into five gotras, or super-families, Members of the same gotra cannot marry as they are considered brother and sister, a term known as bhaipana (brotherhood). Members of different gotras may marry, and this state is known askai-laageni (not-related). Traditionally, the jaaths of prospective couples are checked by experts known as dhadi bhaat who knew the gotra/jaath system and could identify proper marriages.

Nowadays the Banjarpoint website (coded by two Banjara software engineers) fulfills a similar function with gotra/jaath webpages to identify which can marry which. In Banjara community marriages will take place for a week with many celebrations. Like Sagai, etc. MALDHARIS Maldharis are nomadic tribal herdsmen who live in the Gujarat state of India. The literal meaning of Maldhari is “owner of animal stock”. They are notable as the traditional dairymen of the region, and once supplied milk and cheese to the palaces of rajas.

Maldharis are descendants of nomads who periodically came from Pakistan, Rajasthan and other parts of Gujarat, and finally settled in the Banni grasslands. The Maldhari have been living in the Banni grasslands for nearly 700 years. These semi-nomadic herders spend eight months of the year criss-crossing sparse pasturelands with their livestock including sheep, goats,cows, buffalo, and camels in a continual quest for fodder. During the monsoon season, the Maldhari generally return to their home villages as more new grass grows closer to home during the rains.

For villages in some areas, weddings are traditionally held just one day each year, on the date of the lord Krishna’s birthday Krishna Janmashtami, which falls in the midst of the monsoon. Some girls in some regions are kept from going to school and expected to spend the early years of their life stitching elaborate garments for their wedding day, or, if they’ve been married off as children, as many are, for the ceremony performed when each moves in with her husband, normally when she is in her early twenties. In different regions, they belong to different castes.

There are 8,400 Maldharis living in Gir Forest National Park who are mainly Charan, and their villages are known as ness. The Gir Forest National Park is the last home of the Asiatic lion. The Maldharis of northern Gujarat are known by different names in different parts. In Kutch, the Maldhari are found mainly in the Banni region, near the town of Bhuj. Here some forty Sindhispeaking Maldhari hamlets are home to several tribal communities including the Halaypotra, Hingora, Hingorja, Jat, Junejas, Mutwas and Me. The pastoral Maldhari community live a simple life.

They live in small mud houses deep in the forests, with no electricity, running water, schools or access to healthcare. They earn a living by producing milk from their cattle. They have developed a local breed of buffalo that is well known in India for its high productivity and strong resilience to the harsh conditions of the Banni. [4] The Banni Buffalo was recognized as the 11th breed of buffalo in the country in 2010, the first one to be registered post independence. The breed registration process was carried out through the Maldharis themselves. They grow vegetables and collect wild honey.

Their main sources of cash income are sale of high quality ghee, milk, wool, animals and handicrafts. [3] They trade their produce in the local market for essential items like food grains. Most are unable to count or use money and are illiterate. GADDI The Gaddi are a tribe living mainly in the Indian states of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir. They are Hindus and belong to several castes including Ahir, Brahmin, Rajput,Dhangar, Khatri, Rana and Thakur. The language (dialect) spoken within the tribe is Gaddi. Old people used the Tankri script.

Gaddi is a generic term used for all of the indigenous population of the Bharmaur area of Chamba districtand some regions of Jammu and Kashmir The Gaddis include Savarnas – such as Brahman, Rajput, Khatri, Thakur, Rathi and the non–savarnas like Hali, Rihare and Dom (Rose 1919). Although all are categorised asscheduled tribes by virtue of either their living in a scheduled area or having semi-nomadic lifestyle, the non-savarnas are included separately as scheduled castes. There is custom prevalent among the savarna of calling themselves as Gaddi whereas calling others by their respective caste names.

The Gaddi Rajputs are divided into Kapoor, Thakur, Rana, Chauhan and Rathi or Khatri. The Rathis and Khatris are few in number and are regarded on the same level as that of Rajputs. The Rathis are lower than the Rajputs, but since they are numerically small, they form a part of the Rajput community. Each group is largely an endogamous. Each section is further subdivided into a number of exogamous gotras which are of two types the anderla (or the rishi gotra) and baherla (or the territorial gotra) denoting the place of origin Gotra.

The practice of writing ‘Singh’ as their surname is not common among Rajput Gaddis. The communities perceive its superiority and are regarded as high in social hierarchy and the fact is acknowledged by all neighboring communities. They are also aware of the varna order and the Rajput, Rathi and Khatri communities align themselves with the Kshatriyas. There is no restriction on anyone marrying within the village provided gotra exogamy is maintained and that there is no common relative from the Father’s or Mother’s side up to three generations in the family one is marrying into.

Restrictions exist in marrying into the families in which a sister or a daughter has been married with the exception in cases of economically poor families, where marriage by exchange is practiced. Hypergamy and consanguineous marriages are not permitted, where, levirate and sororate permitted. The family is of joint type, with father, mother, and unmarried and married sons and daughters and their children living in the same house. The interpersonal relations in the family are that of love, cordiality and mutual respect. The head of the family is the eldest male member and ommands great respect. His decision on all family matters is final, but it is usually arrived at after taking all factors into account. Conflict and confrontation rarely comes up, but if ever occurs, it is usually due to checking the freedom of youngsters and on property matters. Avoidance is observed between a woman and her husband’s elder male relatives for about a year after marriage, after which it is not strictly observed. Joining relationship exists between a man, his wife and their younger male and female relatives.

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