Hearing the herd : Van Gujjars

Van Gujjar in the forests of Chaupal
Van Gujjar in the forests of Chaupal

Deep in the forests of Chaupal, Bulbul and her assemblage stood free, firm and bright. She was in love with her camping area; the green meadows, fresh air and the cheering weather she had everything to herself. But Ah! No, Bulbul is not an expeditionist or a tourist she is one from the buffalo herd, reared by the Van Gujjars.

Wandering through the forests of Chaupal, Himanshu came across these exuberant nomadic tribe “Van Gujjars” timbered originally in the forests of Shiwalik. Owing to their name ‘Van’ this tribe has forest inhabitants. They have their historical footprints into the states of Himachal as well. Following a periodic annual migration this tribe was camping in the forests of Chaupal this year and had travelled from Paonta Sahib. They spend hot summers in the cool breeze and high pastures of Himalayas and in winters migrate to lower reaches.Van Gujjar in the forests of Chaupal

Apart from their riveting and engaging refugee lifestyle the verity that catches attention is their enlivening relationship with Buffaloes who are the World to them. Buffalo is an extremely prized animal for the Van Gujjars. They are the reason for their migration cycle and the care and love that they posses for their cattle is phenomenal unlike the usual animal-human relationship.

Van Gujjars depend entirely on the milk and milk products from the buffaloes and their supply for upkeep and subsistence , but this does not explain their bond. Barring the economical relationship Van Gujjars share a deep emotional intellect with their herd serving them as minions or assistants. Buffaloes are treated as one of themselves , they are named as their own kin, the name ‘Bulbul’ being an example, this shows their intensity of affection. The birth of a female buffalo is marked as the blessings of good fortune, and even male calves are reared with equal love and care.

Van Gujjar in the forests of Chaupal

Another sterling and the gripping fact that draws attention to this remarkable tribe is that in spite being ardent followers of Islam they are purely vegetarian, never will they slaughter an animal for food or safety while their journey or stay in forests. In case of fury attacks by an animal, they fend off the attacker by making warning sounds and gathering together to woo the animal off.

But these forest dwellers are loosing on their nomadic identity as they face difficulties on the name of environmental protection. They are often evicted from their camping sites and rehabilitation programmes are insisted on them. Adding up, a fixed grazing fee has to be paid to the Government by this tribe as a right to graze their buffalo herd. Many of the forests are being closed by the Govt. and some are being devoted to Wildlife Sanctuaries, the land left is for our world of big fat words Industrialization and Globalization.

Therefore, the ultimate sustainability of these Nomadic people is on an alert. Identification, Awareness and Support might just preserve “Normality” of these less heard admirable tribe

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