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Rabari Man heading a flock grazing expedition

As I travel widely by road, I come across huge flocks of sheeps and goats grazed by these colorfully turbaned gentleman, in the romotest parts of the country and I am amazed at their passion to graze the cattle. They travel all the way from Gujarat and Rajasthan, for a few thousand kilometres on foot, every year, just grazing the cattle. On one such encounter recently, Flocks after flocks I passed by. I found two young girls too grazing the goats along the roads with gentleman and I was wondering how they could cope with such an ardous journey with the gentleman.

A young Rabari girl with her flock

Rabari or Rewari live throughout the Rajasthan, and Gujarat, states in India. There are some Rabari families who also live in Pakistan, especially in the region of Sindh. The word “rabari” basically means the “Path breakers”. This is because hundreds of rajputs migrated to desert in protection of the jaisalmer state against the mughals. Since then, they were left out of the rajput community and were later known as rabari. The Rabari’s main business since then used to be raising cattle, camels and goats; for some traditional-minded families this is still the case.

These Rabari in the past were great warriors, wise men and clan royalty. Rabari clans are called ‘ NAKH ‘. These clans are further sub-divided in SHAKHS [Branches].

The actual Rabari are hun rajput. They invaded India in 507 AD. and ruled from 509 to 511 AD. Their king was Mihrikula, the leader of hun rajput. If we go to the early history their head was ATTILLA THE HUN. Attilla the hun was born in southern part of Russia. Some people also believed that Rabari or Huns Rajput, came to India from the Roman side because Attila the Hun was king of the region at the time.

Somewhere, over the centuries, they became nomadic – camel herders and wanderers. These days the Rabaris are said to be semi-nomadic. Some live in small hamlets of round huts with mud walls and thatched roofs. The women manage the hamlets and are shrewd and intelligent. They sell wool and clarified butter to city merchants and manage all money matters. The women are usually strong, beautiful,tall and well built. The Rabari men are also tall,handsome and well-built. They can often be seen roaming the countryside with their droves. They travel hundreds of miles on annual migration routes in search of new pastures to graze their animals.

Young girls going with the herds is not common. But met two girl on my last encounter.

Rabari girls can be married as young as 15-months old. Most of the Rabari marriages take place on the same day once a year and can be a very extravagant event involving polygamist rites.

Nowadays a very small percentage of Rabari are nomadic. Most of the grazing land is gone in India, because of an increase in human population. After the independence of India, many other opportunities opened up in business and education. So most Rabari at present day have settled down in their original communities, and are engaging in commerce and agriculture. Many have entered into politics. In the state of Gujarat some Rabaris became ministers and member of parliament in Delhi. Education has opened up other avenue for them. So many have become lawyers, engineers, teachers, nurses, dentists, doctors and MOD staff. Not all Rabari live in India now, some who wanted a better life live abroad in countries like Canada, USA, UK, Australia and Italy