Dressed in their best: Gaddans flaunt their jewellery
Bharmour! The crown of dawn. The land of gaddis – a nomadic tribe known for its large family. A family of 200 to 1000 members of which 5 to 8 per cent are human beings and the rest consist of sheep, rams and goats. Not to miss their hunter dogs.
At the onset of winters, before the snow would clad the greens of Bharmour in Himachal Pradesh with its white, these gaddis with their copper and silver; and family inclusive, start moving downhill to Kangra, Baijnath, Palampur and Dharamshala regions in quest of green pastures.
There is more to these gaddis than their sheep. They have ballads, songs and even dance imbibed within their life. While the flock busies itself with the grass, the hands of these gaddis deftly move on the khanjari (tambourine), rubaana (a stringed musical instrument) and the flute to muse to the Maheshwar (Lord Shiva) to protect them from all evil and wild.
It all sounds romantic and a stanza from R L Stevenson’s fantasy poem – Vagabond. On the move, they brave the winter’s faded sun and the cold moon under the open sky with a mere chadru (blanket). Selling wood, labour or parting away with one or two members of the flock fetches them a few Rupees enough to fill their belly.
Ma Chattradi Devi
Interestingly, only the gaddans (i.e. females) are allowed to participate in the Sui festivities. Men folk can enjoy the festivities from a kilometre away from the temple. Some believe that the queen still visits the temple during the fair.
Ask a gaddan, how marriages are solemnised in the tribe, she would shyly reply, “Shaadi…? Jaisi sab ki hoti hai.” Marriage in the gaddi tribe is almost a month long affair. One month before the marriage, a tree is chopped down as a good omen and for fuel for the marriage festivities. There is merriment and the tree-felling ceremony is known as Chei.
Marriages are not only an occasion of the two concerned but are also the times to flaunt one’s riches. The gaddis dressed in their woollen chola (gown), dora (a woolen belt) and suthan (tight fit woollen pyjamas), the gaddans in their luanchadi (gown), dora, suthni and reeda, flaunt their jewellery, which mainly consists of chandrahaar, chaunk, chidi, balu, laung, gojru and payal.
When the bride is brought home, the celebrations go on for four days, starting with Navaala – the invoking of Lord Shiva. Ramayan, Mahabharata, Shiv Katha and other mythological stories are sung in the ceremony known as Musaada. While the elderly prefer Musaada, the youngsters dance to the tune of ranshinga, shehnai and dhol.
While, madra, ein, siddu, ghee-maash ki khichdi, kukdi and saag is freely served, the feasting is incomplete without chhaiiwala meat and daduwala meat. Not to forget soor, country liquor brewed with corn, barley, jaggery and the alath herb.
With roads and electricity reaching every nook and corner of Bharmour, the number of sheep owned by a family has gone down as most of them are settling down to farming and government jobs. With the Scheduled Tribe status been accorded to them in 2002, more can be expected for their development. As modernisation is catching up fast, the tribe is losing its customs and rituals.
Pics courtesy: Department of HP Tourism.