Hello friends, welcome to Indian Art & Culture. Today we are discussing the Tribes And Rural Cultures of Gujarat. So Let’s start…
Gujarat is one of the most culturally diverse states in the subcontinent. Known the world Over for its mercantile achievers and industrialist families, Gujarat’s cities are the center for industry and commerce. Yet a large percentage of the population dwells in rural areas, and there are tribal, pastoral, and fishing communities whose lives are similar to those of their ancestors centuries ago. The villages of Gujarat offer a glimpse of India at her vibrant best.
Perhaps the most colorful community o north Gujarat is the Garasia Adivasi. The Garasla Villages of Banaskantha and Sabarkantha district, their major stronghold, comprise houses typically made from mud and bamboo rushes, Orten decorated with line art and wall paintings that are retouched during festivals and celebrations. The women love to dress in colorful clothes and wear artistic silver and brass Garasia girls sport attractive attires and Ornaments jewelry, and some have facial tattoos. The men wear turbans of different colors, kurtas and ear ornaments, and are expert archers. Even today, artisans in villages like Poshina, surrounded by Garasia and Bhil tribal hamlets, artisans make locally grafted bows, arrows, swords, and daggers for the tribal market, terracotta horses and other figurines for the animistic worshipping tribes, and chunky jewelry for both men and women. (Tribes And Rural Cultures of Gujarat)
The Garasias enjoy music, dancing, and festivities and can be seen at their colorful best during Holi and the tribal fairs that occur in the months of March and April in and around Poshina. Of special interest to tribal tourists is the Chitra Victhira fair, 15 days after Holi, during which Garasias and Bhils gather in numbers beyond comprehension at the confluence of three rivers, for ancestor mourning, music dancing, revelry, and match-making. Eloping is not uncommon during the Chitra Vichitra fair. The name Garasia Adivasi has been derived from the terms, Garasia, which means landowner, and Adivasis, which means tribal, and the Garasias still have cultivable land and work on fields, the reason for the importance of the spring harvest in the lite of this tribal community. Garasia Adivasis consider themselves superior to their Bhil neighbors, some of them claiming descent from Rajput men who married Bhil women, and status as Garasias or landowners.
SOUTHEASTERN AND CENTRAL GUJARAT
Like the Garasia Adivasis of northern Gujarat the Rathwa of eastern Gujarat love music, dancing colorful clothes, and attractive ornaments, and are skilled archers. The Rathwas usually live in picturesque village houses, made of mud and roofed with intricately thatched straw, leaves, umber o locally made clay tiles. The interiors Of these houses are embellished with a profusion of faunal figures called norms which they believe have magical properties and ward away evil spirits. The Rathwas Worship at shrines comprising terra cotta horses and other animistic clay figures, placed in a circle around a plaque, and are strong believers in ghosts, spirits, ancestor worship, and the Hindu pantheon. (Tribes And Rural Cultures of Gujarat)
The villages are Scenically situated, next to palm groves, amid agricultural fields or in the heart Of wooded hill Country. 1oday, many of these tribal people have taken employment as mine Workers, 1arm laborers, and watchmen, but traditional handicrafts like wood carving. Langotl weaving, basket weaving, and arrow grafting continue to thrive in this tribal belt, and the men still carry bows, arrows, and guns when they travel. Epithermal Village markets, Called haats, are a daily event in the Hathwa tribal belt of eastern Gujarat and western Madhya Pradesh, with one of the largest being the Saturday bazaar at Chhota Udepur, and the area comes alive with dancing, acrobatics, and a showcase of colorful tribal attires during the fairs of Dussehra and Holi. The Kawant fair offers an interesting insight into the tribes of this region, their attires, ornaments, music, and dancing. Other prominent tribes of central and eastern Gujarat are the Nayakas and different member communities of the Bhil confederation.
Compared to the Garasias and Rathwas, the tribes of the 300 odd villages of Dangs district are less colorfully attired and wear simpler ornaments, but a Visit to this tribal belt offers an insight into centuries-old traditions that are followed even in the 21st century. Music and dancing are a significant cultural aspect of tribal life in the Dangs. The array of musical instruments and the rhythmic yet vigorous tribal dances of the Dangi people are awe-inspiring. The main groups of the area are Kunbis, Bhil tribal groups, Gamits, Varlis, Kukmas, Banjaras, and artisan communities. The tribes of the Dangs are strong believers in rituals, beliefs, superstitions, animistic spirits, magic, witchcraft, and sorcery. The usual houses are made from mud and bamboo. Hunting is usually by bow, arrow, and catapult, fishing by bamboo traps. Most villages have stones inscribed with images of local Gods like the Wagh Deva or tiger Lord. (Tribes And Rural Cultures of Gujarat)
The Dangs Darbar in March-April is an assembly of tribal chieftains, who are still entitled to their privy purses. Surat and Valsad districts too have interesting tribes like the Gamit and the Dodhia Bhil. The attires of the south Gujarat tribes are distinctly influenced by those of the Konkan coastal communities.
The grasslands of Saurashtra and Kutch support a large population of pastoral, fishing, and farming communities whose traditions are no less colorful and interesting. The Bharwad shepherds of Saurashtra are known for their colorful clothing. A unique feature of their culture is that Bharwad men are as fond of colorful attires and attractive ornaments as women. During the Tarnetar fair in August-Sept, pastoral people of Saurashtra gather for religious rituals, revelry, and match-making at Trineteshwar temple.
The Barda and Gir hills of Saurashtra are home to the Maldharis, a pastoral group comprising various cattle owning communities including Rabaris, Bharwads, Charans, and Ahirs. The Maldharis live in hedge-lined hutments called nesses, and during the day men lead their buffalo and other livestock to pasture, while Women attend to the housework, churn butter and make patchwork quilts for household purposes. At night, as smoke from the village fires curl upwards to the skies, the men sing bardic poetry recalling the bravery of the Charan Kanya, a girl who saved her pet calf from the clutches of a lion, the beauty of the Hiran river as it flows through the forests of Gir, and cultural aspects of their lifestyle in the Gir and Barda hills. (Tribes And Rural Cultures of Gujarat)
A unique social group of Gir is the Siddi, a community of African origin that has made Gujarat it’s home from medieval centuries. Siddis were earlier in the employment of the Gujarat sultanate, as mercenary warriors or slaves, and Some rose to become generals, working to protect important ports like Daman and Diu from Portuguese naval invasions. Jafrabad port along the Gulf of Cambay was ruled by the Siddi Nawab of Janjira.
The Siddis of Gir live in hamlets, that would not be out of place in the African bush, and follow many of their traditions and beliefs handed down through generations. Among their many African inheritances is the natural sense of rhythm reflected in their delightful drumming and dancing performances. Bharuch and Kutch are other districts with a sizable Siddi population.
THE COAST AND THE LITTLE RANN OF KUTCH
Along the Gujarat coastline and in the Rann of Kutch are villages and settlements of the Kolis who are traditionally fishing people, and have taken to salt gathering in the Little Rann of Kutch. The Padhars are the fishing people of the Surendranagar reservoirs, some of their most colorful villages being at the Nalsarovar bird sanctuary. Mers and Bhopa Rabaris are colorful people of the Porbandar and Jamnagar district sea coast, and the nearby Barda hills.