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

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  • 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

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.

- Published/Last Modified on: July 27, 2020

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