The Rabari Army

Granite hills, mustard fields and the lake in between surrounds this large expanse of land, in Jawai. An occasional splash of red adds a dash of colour and vibrancy to this land. The word Rabari is derived from ‘Rehaan’, meaning – a person who shows the path.


According to legend Lord Mahadeva, an incarnation of Lord Shiva, created the first camel for the amusement of his lover, Parvati. In order to look after the camel, he created a caretaker and called him a ‘Rabari’.


The famous ‘camel man’ of JAWAI – one of the most photogenic Rabari’s and an excellent sport – Photograph by Adam Bannister


Our Desi Rabari Commando’s on their lookout duty at camp
Our Desi Rabari Commando’s on their lookout duty at camp – Photograph by Adam Bannister

The community is involved in raising cattle, camels, sheep and goats. They are semi nomadic and have been travelling since ancient times using traditional routes to find greener pastures for their herds. The women along with being leaders of the household conduct the business of crafting local jewellery and artwork. The men move and travel with their herds to different places, thereby celebrating being single each day of every season. They return home for some time in the year in order to get some rest.


This community has been tolerant to leopards taking away and feeding on their livestock, as they consider it to be a spiritual offering to the gods. This is one of the main reasons, that the Jawai region still remains a habitat of harmony, for both leopard and man.


Do find out the length of these turbans and accept our challenge to tie one correctly!


Father and son enjoy a selfie moment at Sena Village – Photograph by Adam Bannister

The Rabari men wear minimalistic, simple clothing that is comfortable. They choose to wear white, as it is airy and is a suited colour to beat the scorching heat, of the sun of Rajasthan and the plateaus they travel through. They wear a red, white or yellow potio or turban that not only prevents them from heat strokes, but also acts as a safety helmet when they trek the hills around with their herds. The elders in the community generally wear a white turban as a symbol of retirement, if they decide to do so.


Manju, a very energetic Rabari girl, who spends some time at camp during her vacation learning flower arrangements and culinary arts

Manju, a very energetic Rabari girl, who spends some time at camp during her vacation learning flower arrangements and culinary arts – Photograph by Adam Bannister

Rabari women and men are a fashionable lot. The ethnic safari jacket they wear is called a ‘borla’ and the comfortable loincloth is called a ‘pacheri’. Men and women traditionally did get tattoos made on their faces and still wear a lot of jewelry. The women also wear heavily embroidered traditional clothing from a young age. When they get married, they are presented with ivory bangles that they must wear on their lower arms. Another set of bangles is added to the upper arm once a woman is welcomed to her husband’s home. These days the bangles are now made of strong plastic or occasionally wood.


They wear their own handmade hiking shoes called Kutidar Jooti’s. These shoes are so strong that not even a thorn gets through them. Young boys also wear the traditional attire. However, with the rise of media, movies and literacy, the youngsters can be found wearing western clothes much of the time. As they grow up, they wish to go to bigger citites like Mumbai, Delhi or Ahmedabad in search of work and entertainment. There are a few boys who follow the old traditions and continue being true Rabari’s. According to village elders, the concern of every Rabari household is if their next generation will continue to preserve and display the culture and identity of the community.


During this season at JAWAI, we connected even more closely with this charismatic community and have encouraged youngsters to continue their legacy. While camp was closed in the summer, we provided vocational training to some of the young boys in New Delhi. Along with honing their skills, they also got a chance to explore the city, travel by the Metro, enjoy movies and interact with different communities from other parts of India. Most of them enjoyed their work-vacation in New Delhi but realized that the charm, beauty and warmth of their villages can never be replaced by the glamour and madness of city life.

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