My Journey with the Rabaris of Gujarat

Updated: Mar 17, 2019

I first interacted and photographed the men and women of the Rabari community in 2013 in a town called Arambhada near Okha in Gujarat . Completely enamored by the preservation and display of traditional lifestyle ,culture, social practices and the various legends behind the tribe, I kept coming back for more. I have now visited this region atleast eight times in last five years and always found it brimming with character and legends. My jorney with the Rabaris is about 6year old to date !

Rabaris of Gujarat
A Rabari woman

The Rabaris consider themselves to have been sent by Godess Paravati on the earth. According to the folklore, Goddess Parvati created the first Rabari to tend to a camel she created. The camel was created out of the dust and sweat from the feet of the meditating Lord Shiva . Camel and cattle herding is thus considered a pious profession amongst the present day Rabaris. The older folks in the village love to narrate this story to everyone who cares to listen. They pride over their herds of animals, and seek permission from Matadevi (Godess Parvati) for many important matters.

My journey with the Rabaris was largely in Navi Dhrevad, Arambhada and on settlements along the highway from Porbandar to Jamnagara and Okha.

A rabari man
A Rabari man in his traditional wear

The origins of this tribe is unknown. Historians believe that they either migrated from Iran via Afghanistan and Baluchistan about a thousand years ago. Other school of thought links them to the present day Rajputs. Either way, the Nomadic pastoralists, have lived in the Northwestern part of the Indian Subcontinent for almost a millennium. They are further divided into 133 sub castes and as on present day mostly live in Gujarat and Rajasthan.

The people of the community are cattle herders. Initially , they used to rear only camels, but now the herds comprise of other animals such as goats, sheep and buffalos .

The men are engaged in cattle grazing and moving around for greener pastures , women of the tribe are worldly-wise , and are engaged in doing intricate embroidery, handling village issues and money matters. They also participate in trading milk and other items to cooperatives for other necessary household items.