Pastoralists in the Modern World

Pastoral Nomad and their Movements

During the Neolithic revolution, we first saw the practice of nomadic pastoralism. It is when humans made use of animals for domestic purposes and started raising and herding cattle. So now let us learn more about the pastoral nomads of India and their movements.

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Nomadic Pastoralism

The origin of nomadic pastoralism is traced back to the Middle Ages. The first nomadic pastoralist society is said to develop somewhere around 8500 BC to 6500 BC. In India too you will find many such tribes that practice nomadic pastoralism.

Nomads, as we know, are tribes and groups of people that do not permanently settle in one place. They move around from one place to another in no set pattern to look for their livelihoods. They do not possess a permanent house or any other such possessions.

The main feature of nomadic pastoralism is that these nomads have the same occupation, they herd cattle. They use these cattle for secondary purposes as well, such dairy products like milk, furs, hides, leather, manure etc. So pastoral nomads move from place to place looking for pasture for their cattle and to trade their products.

Nomadic Pastoralism in India

Normally pastoral nomads flourish in mountainous or hilly regions. These areas are covered with grasslands, forests, shrubs etc. giving them pastures for their cattle to sustain and survive. Such areas also have a more ideal climate and temperatures for cattle like sheep and goats.

In India, nomadic pastoralism is practised by a lot of tribes in states like Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan etc. Let us take a look at few such tribes.

Nomadic Pastoralism

Gujjar Tribe from Garhwal

Garhwal is in the sub-mountainous range of the Himalayas in the state of Uttrakhand. The Gujjar tribe that is found in the region are pastoral nomads. The tribe was originally from the Jammu region, but they migrated south to the hills of Uttar Pradesh around the 19th century. They were looking for fresh pastures for their cattle.

Now the Gujjars roam around the hills of the Garhwal and Kumaon regions. They head up to the region of Bhabar in the winter which is covered in dry forests. Then in the summertime, they move to the meadows of the Bugyals. This cyclic movements of the tribe between seasons is a feature of many tribes of this region like the Bhotiyas, Sherpas etc.

Dhangars from Maharashtra 

The Dhangars are a prominent tribal community that is found in Maharashtra. In fact, the word “dhangar” is associated with cattle wealth in Sanskrit. The dhangars are traditionally cattle herders, blanket weavers, cow and buffalo herders, butchers and even occasionally farmers.

The dhangars are in the Konkani region in the months of January to June. This is an agricultural area of Maharashtra. The framers of the area supply the dhangars with grains. Before the monsoon hits the tribe migrates to the plateaus, because heavy rainfall does not suite the cattle, especially the sheep.

Gollas Herders of Karnataka

These tribes are found in Karnataka and in Andhra Pradesh as well. They are mostly found in the dry plateau of the regions. The region is semi-arid with very little rainfall. But it is covered in shrub forests and some grass. This provides pastures for the cattle.

The Gollas only herd cattle. They practice no other occupation or do any farming as the conditions are not suitable.

Raikas of Rajasthan

These pastoral nomads live in the deserts of Rajasthan. The tribe has to groups. one is the Maru group that rear camel, and then the Raikas that herd sheep and goats. During the monsoons, the Raikas stay in their respective villages of Bikaner, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur etc. Once the rainy season ends the pastures dry up. So they roam in search of newer pastures and water for their cattle.

Nomadic Pastoralism in Africa

More than half the pastoral population on Earth lives on the continent of Africa. By an estimation, there are about 22 million pastoral nomads in Africa even today. Some of the well known pastoral nomad tribes in Africa are the Maasai, Berbers, Somali, Boran and a few others.

Most of these tribes raise cattle like goats, camels, sheep, donkeys etc. They sell their milk, hides, meat, fur, wool etc to earn a living. Most of these tribes also combine other activities with the cattle herding. They practice agriculture, do odd jobs to supplement their income.

One of the more prominent tribes of Africa is the Maasai. They were a tribe rich with culture and wealth. However just like in India colonialism has created a lot of problems for them. They lost major parts of their fertile grazing lands to boundary disputes between British Kenya and the German Tanganyika.

The British also encouraged the locals to cultivate more land, and they themselves benefited from this. But again this shrank the land available for pastures. By the time the colonial rule ended in most parts of Africa a lot of damage had already been done. The tribes had suffered huge losses.

Solved Question for You

Q: The Banjara tribe is found in which state of India?

  1. Madhya Prade
  2. Andhra Pradesh
  3. Uttar Pradesh
  4. Himachal

Ans: The correct option is C. The Banjaras are the famous tribes of Uttar Pradesh. They are quite popular for their culture and folk music.

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