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”


  • 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.


  • 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

Gurjar Bakarwals

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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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)


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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

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

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

Gujjar, Khond, Munda, Naga, Gonda, Lalung, Chama

- Published/Last Modified on: April 8, 2020


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