Rabari Tribe in Gujarat – Nomadic Cultural Heritage of India

0 Flares 0 Flares ×

Gujarat is one of the state in India to see the indigenous tribe or nomadic communities. Rabari Tribe is one of the prime attractions of this area. Checkout their culture, traditions, costumes,  attires & festivals in this post.

Rabari is one of the such nomadic tribes living in Gujarat as well as in Rajasthan. The hunger of their sheep and goats always keep Rabaris on move in India. It is a purely shepherd community, however nowadays some of them especially in Patan area are doing farming as well. In a Gujarat Tribal Tour, Rabaris are seen on the road with their animals and families wearing traditional dresses.

Rabari Lady in her camp lighting the fire for cooking.
Rabari Lady in her camp lighting the fire for cooking.

The ladies light fire for cooking, carry water and pack the luggage on camels in their beautiful skirts, rattling jewelry and shining veils, which is to hide their fabulous beauty. Males are dark, tall and handsome.

During on our trip, we came to know some myths or may be truth about their origin. Some say that they are decedents of Rajputs. Some claim Rabaris are children of God – a dancing God, looked after by Lord Shiva. There is also a belief that Huns from Central Asia attacked India in 04 th century and wiped out Gupta dynasty and Rabaris are their children. But there is no proof of any such claims.

While driving during a Gujarat Tribal Tour towards Kutch, we see many caravans of Rabaris. Because Kutch is a desert region and they come to mainland Gujarat in the search of grass for their cattle. During the monsoon season, they move back to their native villages.

In the same way, we encounter many of their camps and caravans near Rajasthan border as the Rabaris from Rajasthan also come to Gujarat with their sheep and goats. It is a journey for food and their families are always with them. The Rajasthani nomads are mainly in red turban hence it is very easy to recognize them.

Experience of a Rabari Tribe Camp

In our journey during a Gujarat Tribal Tour, we sat with a family in their camp and they informed us that they used to follow their animals from Pakistan to Afghanistan to India. But due to partition of India and Pakistan and also these days the borders are sealed, therefore their migration is very much restricted. The borders are very painful line for nomads because they believe that their camels still put nose towards Pakistan when there is green grass.

But now, their movement is strictly within the country. The best way to experience their  is just to sit with a camp of Rabaris and hear their stories from elders.

Rabaris are biggest transhumant community of India and march a rough circle via northwestern regions of the country. A trip mixed with some destinations of Rajasthan & Gujarat can give you the better understanding of this tribal community. Due to the dry season, which is quite long roughly ten months, families along with flocks leave their native Gujarati or Rajasthani homes and travel towards South.

In search of water and fodder, Rabaris cross Gujarat and sometime if there is a drought they even move to Maharashtra. From one season to another, they walk almost 1000 miles in a year. They can only eat, when their herds eat.

They live one of the toughest life but still carry their smile and always remain hospitable and warm.

Rabaris Tribal People with their herds in a field near a village in Kutch.
Rabaris with their herds in a field near a village in Kutch.

Due to the growth of Indian economy, they are facing challenges as the land is now becoming less for their animals, water is a problem and there is pressure on them to settle down. One of our lady traveler from USA on a Gujarat Tribal Trip asked them about these issues and a man relied “we are Rabari, which means – Goers on the trail.

They greet each other with Ram-Ram instead of normal greeting Namaste. Ram or Rama is most respected Hindu God and by this greeting they pay their respect to Lord Rama. From their turban till shoe, they dress very traditionally. Tribal tour of Gujarat is never complete without looking their nicely built quilts – which they always carry with them while moving on the paths.

Rabari Arts & Crafts

One of the most beautiful thing about these tribes of India is that they produce most of clothes, pots or any other household items on their own. Craftsmanship in these community has evolved with centuries of practice & they produce some lovely items.

During a trip, you can notice that Rabari Tribe women are very good in embroidery, mirror work and applique. These ladies are expert in needlework. They wear bright colored dresses thus it is very easy to spot them from far in the dull background of India.

These women wear ornaments made of silver, ink and lac (A tree resin). Married women wear white bangles from elbow to shoulder. Even, the young girls wear some jewelry like toe rings, anklets, earrings, nose rings and bracelets.

Most interesting thing to notice is the tattoos on their body, especially on women – which are very prophylactic. You will find snakes, scorpion and some other signs on faces, claves, throats and forearms.

A Kutchhi Rabari Tribe lady with tattoos on her neck.
A Kutchhi Rabari lady with tattoos on her neck.

During your trip to these tribal area of Gujarat, when you go closer to Pakistan in Kutch region, you will find Black Rabari as the women hear wear black dresses. They have given up colorful dresses as they are still in mourning of their most revered deity Lord Krishna. During Gujarat Tribal Tour, you get to stay in many of the palaces of erstwhile kings known as Maharajas.

After independence Indian Government abolished the feudal arrangements and now these Maharajas are hoteliers or businessmen. When you discuss with a local Maharajas about Rabari, they can tell you in details as they come and camp on their fields so they knows these tribe from decades.

In reply to a tourist during one of our gujarat tribal tour, a Maharaja answered “It is a very tough life they are living. It is very hard to camp for ten months and it requires huge courage.”

The extended families of Rabaris from the one village or relatives always move and camp together and they always care their animals as one team. They believe in unity and there is strength in it.

The struggle of Rabaris is going on in this rapidly changing era and they are always on move at this never ending path and so as we – always ready for Gujarat Tribal Tour to find more about this hardworking Rabari Tribal community.

Further Reading –

Read some of our other interesting post on cultural heritage of these tribal communities –

At Hidden Treasures of India, We have been organizing tribal tour of Gujarat since 2008 and we have taken guests from all around the world to these tribal areas.

Checkout our Gujarat Tribal Tour Program to get more details about the route, attractions, activities & other relevant information.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

0 Flares Facebook 0 Twitter 0 Google+ 0 Pin It Share 0 0 Flares ×