Gurjar Bakarwals: Introduction, Occupation, Kinship Groups, Locations, Tribes, Languages, Economy (Download PDF)

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Gurjar Bakarwals

  • Mostly-Sunni Muslim.
  • The word Gurjar is derived from the term gaucharana which means to graze cows.
  • Based in the Pir Panjal and Himalayan mountains of South Asia.
  • Mainly goatherds and shepherds.
  • They have remained marginal forces in Kashmir Politics.
  • They have an organized social life.

Derived from the Indic language terms:

  • bakara meaning “goat or sheep”
  • wal meaning “one who takes care of”

Occupation

  • They mainly depend on the availability and utilization of extensive seasonal pastures.
  • Availability of pastures varies from one ecological zone to the other within the habitat.
  • Regional migration with their herds from the Siwaliks to the Middle and Greater Himalayas in summers and downward movement in winter season.
  • They organize their annual migration from winter abode to summer abode.

Three Principal Kinship Groups

The Dera (Household)

  • Basic unit of social structure among the Gujjar-Bakarwals.
  • They describe their grazing and qafila groups in terms of the number of deras.
  • The females are mostly engaged in cooking, washing, fetching of water, upbringing of children, collection of wood, spinning and making of woolen garments.

Dada-Porte (Lineage)

  • Several deras (households) constitute a lineage (dada-potra) .
  • Allotment of the pastures to the lineage and not to the individuals.
  • This lineage may consist of about two hundred persons.
  • Consists of several generations and includes cousins and distant relatives.

Gotras (Clans)

  • The community of Gurjar-Bakarwal is divided into a number of gotras (clans) .
  • The members are the descendants of a common ancestor.
  • This gotra system has been borrowed from their Hindu Gujjars.

Main Religious Activities and Festivals

  • Fasting in the month of Ramzan (Elamadan) .
  • Idul-Fitr
  • Idul-Azha
  • Naoroz
  • Baisakhi
  • The women folk belonging to Jammu and Kashmir perform traditional practices in their homes and also celebrate Baisakhi, Lori and Goverdhan festivals.
  • The Bakarwal Gujjars also follow Hindu mythological figures like Lord Krishna, Rama and Sita as part of their religious identity.
  • The Mangni (engagement ceremony) is generally held at an early age of about eight years.
  • After five years from the date of engagement the Nikah (marriage) usually takes place.
  • Marriages generally take place during the summer season and as per the Islamic procedure.
  • A ceremony called Rukhsati is usually held three or four years after the Nikah.

Locations

  • Entire Kashmir region between India and Pakistan.
  • The Nuristan province of Afghanistan.
  • They are also located in Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand states of India.
Gurjar Bakarwals

Seasonal Movement

  • During winters Gujjars live with their cattle in the low hills of the range Shiwalik allowing their cattle to graze in the forest undergrowth.
  • During the month of April, the Gujjars marched north to their summer grazing.
  • They also cross the Pir Panjal and enter the Kashmir valley.
  • During the September month, they moved again back to the basics of winter.

Banihara Tribe

  • Third Largest community in Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Migratory group.
  • Deals in dairy farming.
  • Also known as Dudhi-Gujjars (milkmen) .
  • They tame buffaloes, sell Dudh (milk) and milk products.
  • They live in Bans (forest) .

Bakarwal Tribe

  • Muslim pastoral tribe situated in Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Known to be part of the larger ethnic group known as Gujjars.
  • They practice Islam in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • They herd sheeps and goats.
  • During summer they take their cattle to Kashmir and Ladakh.
  • During winter they are back once again to Jammu.
  • They were listed in the Scheduled Tribes on April 19,1991 after years of massive protest.
  • They are called dhangar in rest parts of India.

Other Important Tribes in Jammu and Kashmir

Gaddi Tribe

  • During winters Gaddis lived with their cattle in the low hills of the range Shiwalik allowing the cattles to graze in the forest undergrowth.
  • During April, they move north and spend the summer in Lahul and Spiti valley.
  • They cross the Pir Panjal parse and entered the Kashmir valley.
  • During September they moved again back to the basics of winter.
  • The Gaddi Shepherds stopped again at the village Lahul and Spiti thereby reaping the harvest of their summer and winter crops.

Balti Tribe

  • An ethnic group of Tibetan descent Celtic communities settled in Scandinavia.
  • Lives in the Kargil region of India.
  • The Balti language belongs to the Tibetic language family.
  • The Baltis are 60 % Shi ′ a, 30 % Sufia Imamia Nurbakhshia and 10 % Sunni.
  • They also live in Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan and major urban centres of Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad/Rawalpindi.

Dogra

  • Descendants of the Aryans.
  • Settled on the southern hilly tracts of Kashmir stretching up to the Punjab Plains.
  • They speak Dogri language.
  • Dogra Rajputs ruled Jammu from the 19th century.
  • Dogra Regiment was among the various regiments of the British Indian Army.
  • The Indian Army consists of Dogra Regiment.

Brokpa

  • Known to be the descendants of the Dards of Chilas in the Gilgit region.
  • Predominantly Muslims with a significant minority following Vajrayana Buddhism.
  • Located in the areas of adjoining Drass valley.
  • They donot consume dairy and poultry sources because of religious taboos.

Changpa

  • High altitude pastoralists.
  • A semi-nomadic Tibetan people.
  • Found mainly in the Changtang in Ladakh and in Jammu and Kashmir.
  • They raise mainly yaks and goats.
  • Phalpa are the nomadic people belonging to LadakhChangpa.

Beda Tribe

  • Live mostly in the Ladakh region.
  • They practice their traditional occupation of musicianship.
  • Follow Muslim faith.
  • Some of them are Buddhists.

Sippi Tribe

  • Belong to Hindu religion.
  • Mountainous tribes.
  • Mostly shepherds.

Mon Tribe

  • Small tribes.
  • Mainly concentrated in the Leh district.

Gujjars

  • Mainly inhabit in the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Delhi, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Maharashtra.
  • Alternative spellings include Gurjara, Gujar, Gurjjar, Gujjar and Gojar.
  • They mainly follow Hindu and Muslim religions.
  • They regard themselves as equivalent to the Jat, Ahir and Rajput in social status.
  • Tall, strong and sturdy people with fair skin color and sharp features.
  • They belong to the category of semi-nomadic tribes.
  • The main occupation is herding of goats, sheeps and buffaloes.
  • Keep on moving from one place to another and therefore have very rare permanent settlements.
  • Mostly reside in shacks or huts made of grass, wood or bamboos depending upon the availability of raw materials.
  • The Banhara Gujjars live in “Kullas” made from special type of grass.
  • The settled Gujjars mainly live in “Kothas” .
  • Bakarwals live in temporary Doharas and Tamboos.
  • To sustain their living, they sell milk, ghee and their cattle.
  • Gujjars have given their names to several places in Pakistan:
    • Gujranwala
    • Gujjar Nallah
    • Gujar Khan
    • Gojra and Gujrat

Languages Spoken

  • Hindi
  • Urdu
  • Kashmiri
  • Dogri
  • Pahari

Traditions and Customs

  • Strictly follow old traditions and customs.

Custom of Early Marriages

  • Girls are married at an age of 14 – 15 years.
  • Boys at 17 - 18 years.
  • Wears traditional dresses.

Men Wear Turbans on Their Head

  • Mughal style
  • Long and loose ‘Kurtas’ or shirts with ‘Salwars’
  • Vest-coat called ‘Basket’ (over the shirt)
  • Wrap ‘Chaddar’ or shawl around their shoulders to save them from cold

Women Wear Loose ‘Kurta’ (Shirt)

  • Collars and cuffs
  • Suthan ′ or ′ Salwars ′ in Churidar style
  • Flaunt vest-coat over ‘Kurta’ like men
  • Wrap a ‘Chaddar’ around their heads (Neelak)
  • Fond of jewellery like necklace, nose rings and ear rings (made of silver)

Foods

  • Depends mainly on milk products besides cereals, wheat and maize.
  • Mostly vegetarians.
  • Other favourite dishes include Maki ki Roti Ganhar and Sarson ka Sag, Lassi, Kalari, Karan etc.

Economy

  • An exploited component with Gujjar politics.
  • Poor economic condition.

The basic characteristics involve:

  • Labour Class
  • Agriculture Class
  • Service Class
  • Business Class
  • The business class deals with milk and milk based products, mutton and woollen products apart from other business related activities.
  • The Artisans class is involved in professional handicrafts, handloom and all semi-skilled activities.

Their Needs

  • Education to shun their out dated rituals such as child marriages etc.
  • Reservation in jobs along with latest teaching techniques in animal husbandry and agriculture.
  • Their needs are for better health, literacy, stability and a reliable source of income.

Beliefs

  • Gujjars were the original inhabitants of Gurjia or Georgia.
  • They reached Gujarat crossing Iraq, Iran, Central Asia, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
  • Gujjars were earlier Rajputs.
  • After losing to Aurangzeb they changed their religion to Islam.
  • With the invasion of various Muslim groups in India and Pakistan in the eleventh century, the Gurjar Hindus converted to Islam.
  • Their wanderings took them into Pakistan and Afghanistan.
  • Tribal migrations also occurred at the time of India Pakistan partition in 1947.
  • Muslims migrated to Pakistan while the Hindus flocked to India.

Van Gujjars

  • Found in the Shivalik hills area of Uttarakhand.
  • They follow Islam.
  • They have their own clans similar to the Hindu gotras.
  • A pastoral semi-nomadic community.
  • Buffalo-herders inhabiting the foothills of Himalayan states like Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
  • This community has been in conflict with the forest authorities due to increased poaching and timber smuggling incidents in a reserved park.
  • They were asked to shift to a resettlement colony at Pathri near Haridwar.

Hindu Gujjars

  • Mostly found in Indian states of Rajasthan, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab Plains and Maharashtra.
  • Hindu Gujjars were assimilated into various varnas in the medieval period.
  • They worship the gods and goddesses like Shiva (Destroyer) , Vishnu (Preserver) , Kali (wife of Shiva) , Durga, Krishna (who has pastoral attributes) , Rama (righteous prince) , Hanuman (the monkey god regarded as a protector against danger) .
  • They celebrate all Hindu festivals like Holi (festival of colours) , Diwali (festival of lamps) , Dussehra and Janamashtami (Krishna՚s birthday) .
  • Teej and Mavasa are the other festivals celebrated.

Muslim Gujjars

  • Mostly found in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Indian Himalayan regions such as Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Garhwal and Kumaon divisions of Uttarakhand.
  • The Muslim Gujjar of Himachal Pradesh also are made up of two subgroups – the Bhatariye and Bhanariye.
  • A mullah, imam or maulavi performs all rituals relating to life cycles.
  • They celebrate Id-ul-Fitr, Id-ul-Zuha, Shab-I-qader, Miraj-alam and others.

Sikh Gujjars

  • Found only in India.
  • Part of the Rajasthan people cluster within the South Asian Peoples affinity bloc.
  • Primary language is Gujari.
  • Primary religion practiced is Sikhism.
  • Punjabi Gujjars worship the sun as Surya Narain.
  • They also worship:
    • Sitala (goddess of smallpox)
    • Pyareji and Baba Sabha Ram
    • Kheda Devta
    • Khota
    • Satti and Bhumia

Status of Gujjars

  • Classified as Other Backward Class (OBC) in some of India՚s States and UTs.
  • They are also categorised as a Scheduled Tribe in Jammu and Kashmir and some parts of Himachal Pradesh.

Other Tribes in India

Tribes 1

  • Bagri Tribes
  • Banjara Tribes
  • Ahir Tribes
  • Asur Tribes
  • Bodo tribes
  • Hmar Tribes
  • Bhutia Tribes
  • Andamanese Tribes
Bagri, Banjara, Ahir, Asur, Bodo, Hmar, Bhutia, Andamanese

Tribes 2

  • Khasi Tribes
  • Bhil Tribes
  • Gaddi Tribes
  • Dhodia Tribes
  • Angami Tribes
  • Chakmas Tribe
  • Oran Tribe
  • Chenchu Tribe
  • Santhal Tribe
  • Chechu Tribe
  • Jarawa Tribe
Khasi, Bhil, Gaddi, Dhodia, Angami, Chakmas, Oran

Tribes 3

  • Gujjar Tribes
  • Khond Tribes
  • Munda Tribes
  • Naga Tribes
  • Gonda Tribes
  • Lalung Tribes
  • Chamar Tribes
  • Toda Tribes
Gujjar, Khond, Munda, Naga, Gonda, Lalung, Chama

- Published/Last Modified on: April 8, 2020

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