Rabari Nomads

Posted on July 21 2017

Rabari Nomads

What a delight and a privilege to see the Rabari at the beginning of the annual herd migration.  Although being waved at to put our cameras away rather than in friendly greeting, it is possible that the delight was pretty one sided !
 

 

For almost a thousand years this tribe of nomadic people have roamed the desserts and plains of what has now become Western India.  Whilst many have now succumbed to modern life, living in and on the edge of towns, there are still a few who live their traditional pastoralist life in tents or under open skies, whilst tending their herds of cattle, camels and goats.

 

In Hindu mythology, it is believed that whilst the great God Shiva meditated, Parvati was keeping the dust and sweat from his brow.  To keep her amused,  Shiva moulded the first camel from clay but as he breathed life into it, it kept running away and so Parvati made the first Rabari man to guard it and keep it safe.  For the Rabaris keeping animals is a near sacred occupation and they see themselves as custodians as much as owners of their herds.  

 

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They believe they are the special children of Parvati and seek her advice in all important things, including when to begin their annual herd migration.  The tribe is matriarchal with the women conducting the majority of the business affairs whilst the men manage the herds.

 

With animal herds as their only true assets, wool is inevitably in plentiful supply and is a useful by-product which has given rise to a rich tradition in spinning, weaving and dyeing.  A future blog post will discuss their textiles and love of decoration in greater detail.