Updated: Mar 18, 2019
Maharashtra is one state that I have visited very often. The Hatkar Dhangars are effortlessly recognizable both in the madness of the metropolitan and the tranquility of the villages.
Traditionally, the Hatkars are distinguished from other Dhangars by their red turbans, earrings, a coarse blanket and a staff that they carry along with their sheep.
They are sheep herders and can be seen along with their many sheep. The men look for greener pastures during the day while women take care of other chores
The Harkar dhangar women wear a considerable number of rings, necklaces, nose rings and ankle bangles. Women also wear vermilion that covers their forehead in a long horizontal line which is a sign of a married woman. This is a dispatch from how women typically wear vermilion in other parts of the country.
Depending on seasons, the Hatkar Dhangars can be seen taking the flock of sheep and almost their entire households and moving between cities. They roam around the area with their sheep and horses moving and looking for pastures . Their horses are loaded with the minimal belongings they own. This is the typical scene of seasonal migration.
As cities are growing and concrete is replacing grassland making the task of finding pastures increasingly difficult. Often fights break out between farmers and the Hatkars since cattle graze at some farmers territory. The Hatkars live in their homes only for 4 months in a year before starting to move again .
As summer approaches and pastures vanish, they carry their livelihood, sheep, goods and children on their horses and migrate . During this migration they live and cook in open . 'Bajra'/ millet is their main food and they cook in makeshift stoves primarily using firewood for energy.
It is not uncommon to see large flock of sheep and their red turbaned herders in the outskirts of the cities of Pune and Mumbai. Sometimes when in cities they change the red turban to the more 'fashion forward' white cap.
On busy roads , one can often notice these shepherds with their sheep.
The next time you notice these sheep blocking your way on a busy highway, remember they have a long distance to go and the highways have taken what was previously their's!- The lost green pasture
As narrated by Navtej Singh