Home > Kalākośa > Kalāsamālocana Series > List of Books > Culture and Development SeriesLifestyle and Ecology

know about Janapada Sampada 


[ Previous Page | Contents of the Book | Next Page ]

Symbiotic Relationships Between Man, Animal and Nature

A Study of the Gujar of Garhwal... 

R. S. Negi

1. Objective





Subsistence Dependency

Economic / Commercial Motivation

One or other kind of orientation may lead to different care and management strategies.

  1. raising for subsistence as a source of food production and constituting essential life support of the herd;

  2. maximising products such as milk, meat, wool, etc., for trading.

2. Gaining access to pastures, water and to some extent salt licks. This will necessitate gaining information about the localities where these resources are available; the right to move to such localities; and the right to use the routes leading to such localities.

3. Herd size and composition

  1. Minimum/maximum size according to the objective as well as efficient management depending on natural and manpower resources.

  2. Qualitative status of the herd, which may involve breeding towards improvement for productivity.

  3. Sorting out management problems with the growth of the herd, such as feeding time, watering time, quick depletion of natural resources, scarcity of fodder, and so on.

4. Diversification of the stock. Usually herders raise diverse kinds of animals besides the animals which constitute the base of their pastoralism.This diversification may be for supplementing the food supply or towards logistic support for food production.

5. Disease and curative system and health status of the herd.

6. Allocation and partitioning of resources according to herd size and composition. Political organisation may also come into play in guiding this and ensuring submission to authority.

7. Relationships, with neighbouring populations in the encampment areas and on migratory routes.


All these factors are applicable to Gujar pastoralism, as has already been stated. However, a few points need a little elaboration. First of all, the raising of buffalo herds by the Gujar, its origin, continuance and pastoralism.

It has already been pointed out that the buffalo came under human control at a relatively late stage, that is about 2500 bc, in the Indus Valley. The animal is still found in the wild in the Nepal Tarai and the submountain region of north-east India, where it has no history of domestication for constituting the sole basis of subsistence. In other parts of world such as south China, Indonesia, Mexico, etc., the buffalo is used as a draught animal in agriculture. It is only in India that pastoralism is based on raising buffalo herds.

The Gujar, it is claimed, were a pastoral people who migrated into the Indian subcontinent from Central Asia in the 5th or 6th century ad, when they probably raised sheep and goats. The shift to buffalo raising could have taken place due to ecological pressures and the fact that the animal was already domesticated in north-western India. Later the Gujar are known to have migrated to northern India, specially the marginal areas of Punjab and Jammu, where pasturage was available for their buffaloes. At what point of time and why the Gujar shifted to buffalo raising is difficult to say, but its continuance to present times is an observable phenomenon.


There is one more community, the Toda of the Nilgiris in southern India, which has also adopted the pastoral mode of subsistence based on raising buffaloes. Like the Gujar, the Toda have a near-total dependence on the buffalo for food production, but they are settled in one locality. The Toda supplement their subsistence by practising horticulture and agriculture. There is yet one more significant difference between Gujar and Toda pastoralism. For the Gujar the buffalo is an animal which is their life support both in terms of subsistence and also for cash generation, whereas for the Toda the buffalo is a sacred animal: it does provide life support, but it also has a place in their ritualistic practices. Milk produced by the buffalo has ritual significance and constitutes the only offering to the deity. The Toda also construct a separate house, denominated as the temple, to house the sacred buffalo and the priest who looks after the sacred animal. The milk of the sacred buffalo is taboo to women. The Gujar, on the other hand, do not have any rituals connected with the buffalo or its produce.

Herd Size and Maintenance of Reproductive Base

There is a general apprehension among the Gujar about the increasing number of dry buffaloes and low productivity of milk. Almost 50 per cent of the stock, and at times even more than that, of almost every family remains dry. This has caused a panic situation in a people who have a near-total dependence on their herds. The objective therefore would be

  1. Optimum yield from minimum herd size.

  2. More grazing and fodder resources for lactating females in their prime.

  3. Culling of male animals at a younger age, as large number are not needed for reproduction.

  4. Weeding out of unproductive or dry females past their reproductive potential in the interest of better resource management.

The strategy adopted by the Gujar is to take great care of female calves to maintain a herdís reproductive base, whereas male calves are allowed to wane and die, not being allowed to suckle milk and not being taken care of. Quite often male calves are fed upon buttermilk so that they die. In an average herd of 25 ó 30 female buffaloes, one or two male adults are considered adequate for reproduction.

Adult females past their lactating and reproductive spans are also neglected and are not given any fodder or feed. Such animals are not looked after and are left out to fend for themselves and to die uncared for. By taking recourse to this culling process the Gujar try to manage grazing resources and save on fodder and feed and ensure the reproductive base of the herd.

The Gujar give individual attention to lactating female animals and their female calves. In the event of the death of a calf the buffalo may withhold the flow of milk, which can only be restored by faking. The dead calf is skinned and the skin is filled with husk so that the buffalo takes it to be the calf and releases the flow of milk.

The Gujar let old and weak animals die in the forest. But in case an animal dies in the dera it is dragged out and left out in the open. Dead animals are skinned by Khatik, government (Forest Department) contractors who deal in the hides. The Gujar owner of the dead animal does not get a share of the tender money as all of it goes into the government account.

The case of dung is similar. The Forest Department calls for tenders for the collection of dung accumulated in the Gujar deras, but the Gujar do not get any share of the tender money.


Gujar herds are bred and raised in individual households. This is more or less a result of conscious selection for breeding, since the processes of animal reproduction are similar to those of humans. The Gujar are well aware of them, but, there is a negative aspect which will be evident from observations from the field.

Munalsot, a sizeable river, almost dries by the time winter sets in. A trickle may run down here and there but it is mostly rauknad. Some 2 km up the sot from Chila is a lone dera of Lal Hussain. There are two dwelling units, one of Lal Hussain himself and the other that of his daughter and son-in-law, Yusuf. Yusuf entered Lal Hussainís household about two years ago as a servant, offering his services as an aspirant for Lal Hussainís daughterís hand in marriage. Lal Hussain was satisfied with him and Yusuf was accepted as ghar jawain.

Lal Hussain is 85 years old. It is amazing that the Gujar generally have a correct knowledge of their ages. Even women folk know their ages and those of their children correctly. Lal Hussain remembers that when he was 12 years old his grandfather was still living, at the age of 65. He says that his stock has all been bred and raised in his dera. There has not been any addition from outside. All his stock descends from the buffaloes his grandfather came with, more than 60 years ago, from Himachal Pradesh. However, he says, he is now facing some problems in breeding as more and more buffaloes remain infertile after a few calvings. The milk yield has also come down.

Although no genetic record as such is available, Lal Hussain (as well as other Gujar) has a record in his memory of the number of times a buffalo has calved and the generation of its descendants. Normally a buffalo generation is of 3 ó 4 years, that is, the first calving is after a buffalo has attained the age of 3 ó 4 years, and it is 14 ó 15 months until the subsequent calving. If the maximum age of a buffalo is assumed to be 15 years, the reproductive span may be 10 ó 12 years, during which period it may undergo 7 ó 8 calvings on the average. Lal Hussain in his lifetime has seen about twenty generations of his herd bred in his dera from the original stock owned by his grandfather.

Traditionally the Gujar raise the stock bred in their own deras, and it is a common observance that fertility performance as well as productivity are not as good as they used to be. Both of these attributes may be influenced by a number of factors:

(i) Genetic make-up of the animals.

(ii) Nutrition, which in turn is dependent on the quality of grass and fodder.

(iii) Health status of the animals, that is, freedom from disease.

Although nutritional and health status are important, in this case the most obvious reason for the poor fertility performance and low productivity of Gujar stock seems to be the genetic make-up of the stock. It appears that the stock bred and raised by the Gujar is highly inbred. There is no evidence of replenishing herds by adding animals purchased from outside. There also have not been any efforts to improve or hybridise stock by importing bulls of better breed. It seems that the general practice is that each dera keeps one or two bulls from its own stock for breeding purposes. This close breeding may have resulted in some kind of degeneration which would explain the relatively high incidence of fallowness among stock. There is a reduction in calvings on the one hand and a lowering of milk yield on other. Since Gujar pastoralism is both for subsistence and market-oriented they would be anxious to maintain a certain quantitative level to bring in sufficient income to feed their families and supplement the stock feed.

The Gujar can possibly solve the problem by importing better bulls from outside their own stocks to improve the breed and reinvigorate their stock. Whether the Gujar will take that measure is uncertain since they would be eager to preserve the purity of the breed of the stock which they have inherited from their ancestors (purkha).

What we observe here is close inbreeding which occurs in small animal populations such as the Gujar stocks. Mating pairs share recent common ancestors which means frequent homozygous pairing of recessive genes which often have harmful effects. Their expression may be through by increased incidence of disease and higher mortality rates. There may also be other effects such as decreased fertility performance and lower productivity, as is the case with Gujar stocks.


It has already been mentioned that the Gujar raise a few cattle and horses or ponies, since bullocks and horses or ponies are used as pack animals. Cowís milk is also considered useful for children, pregnant women and the sick. But the Gujar also raise goats for milk as well as meat. This has a degenerating effect on the forest, as the plants and saplings browsed by the goats wither away. There is a feeling among forest officials and environmentalists that the Gujar are doing this deliberately.


The allocation of resources (territory) is based on a twofold system in which both the State and the Gujar political organisation are involved. It has already been stated that the Gujar do not own any land anywhere and their habitation in the forests of the Siwaliks is on the basis of permits. The Forest Department of the government which has the responsibility of forest management, first allots a particular range or coup to a tol of Gujar deras. After that the tol panchayat consisting of the leader (bada numberdar) and the heads of individual deras (numberdars) apportion the territory among the individual deras. The rights of a dera to its space are strictly protected and any encroachment by other deras is punishable by the tol panchayat.

Till recently the simple organisation was effectively and smoothly managing the affairs of the Gujar residing within the forest but due to recent conflicts, dealt with elsewhere, an external agency (NGO), in the name of fighting for the rights of the Gujar in the forest, has been able to influence some of the tol leaders and has thus assumed the leadership role among a section of Gujars for ulterior motives.


As a transhumant population the Gujar have to face the hazards of journeying and camping under extreme climatic conditions. This has an influence on the structure of the population in terms of fertility, mortality, age and sex structure (Negi, 1982), which in turn influences herd management. A detailed analysis of changes in the population structure will be attempted elsewhere.


Gujar daily routine is closely integrated with herd management. The day starts very early for adult males and females. Lighting the hearth is the job of young women in the family, who prepare tea and serve all. The next task is the churning of curdled milk. Fodder is given to the animals and the stalls are cleared of dung. Around 7 a.m. almost all the adults take the herd to the forest for grazing. Often young children also accompany the herd. Division of labour depends on the available labour in a dera. If the family is large, the aged remain in the dera and clean the stalls, fetch water, cook food and mix oilcake and bran for when the animals come back to the dera before noon for milking. Milking is done by all adults. There are no taboos in milking. In the afternoon the work-force is divided. Some adult males (both old and young) may go to the bazar with the milk products and bring back provisions. At 3 ó 4 p.m. the animals are again taken to the forest.

The daily routine of the buffaloes varies from locality to locality, according to the feeding time table. In the Kunao Range the lopping of trees is done in the afternoon and the buffaloes are taken to the lopping area, where leaves are fed to them along with whatever grass is available. The animals stay out in the forest during the night. One or two men also stay with them in view of possible danger from predators, specially tigers. Early in the morning lopping is again done and the animals are fed the leaves. After the feeding the animals are brought to the dera around 10 ó 11 a.m. In the dera all the lactating, pregnant and ill buffaloes are given oilcake and bran, often mixed with water and the leaves of trees. Dry buffaloes are given oilcake and bran in smaller qunatities. After the feeding in the dera the lactating buffaloes are milched. The buffaloes are then taken to water, where they sit in the water for some time.

In the Haldugodam Range the routine is somewhat different. Here the animal do not stay out in the forest during the night. Around 5 or 6 a.m. the animals are fed with pural and then led to the forest for grazing, where the herdsman also lops the leaves of trees. Around 10 ó 11 a.m. the animals come back to the dera and are fed with oilcake and bran before milking. After milking the animals are led to the water and then to the forest for grazing and feeding of leaves. The animals come back to the dera before nightfall.

It will thus be seen that in two different ecological situations the routine of the animals is changed by the herdsmen, who are keenly aware of the different conditions as well as of the availability of resources. In the Kunao area, although desirable flora are available in plenty, the unfavourable weather conditions and drying up of the water holes compels moving out to a locality where the weather and watering conditions are favourable but where desirable flora are scarce. Besides, there is a prohibition on lopping certain kinds of trees, which makes it necessary to change over to a different type of fodder which is available by purchase only.

In all situations the milking routine is constant. The Gujar milk their buffaloes only once in twenty-four hours, just before noon. After the milking the buffaloes are led to water holes, ponds or rivers, where they are allowed to sit and rest for about an hour every day.

Usually after milking or when they are taken out for grazing in the forest the buffaloes are given rock salt to lick. Intake of salt is helpful in the metabolic process of the animals and at the same time the feeding of salt at the dera is an attraction to the animals, which prompts them to come to the dera on their own at the appointed time.

Rock salt is purchased in the market and boiled in an empty canister. Usually the twigs of the bhoomal (Grewia oppositifolia) are first boiled in water and the fibres removed. To the extract rock salt is added and put to boil. When the solution has cooled it solidifies. The solid mass is then broken into piecess which are given to the buffaloes for licking. According to Kasam Chauhan, a Gujar herdsman, the consumption of rock salt is about 60 kg for 40 buffaloes in 5 months. That is 12 kg per month which comes down to about 300 gm per buffalo per day.

Salt is given to the animals only on two days in a week, Mondays and Thursdays. In some cases it may be given on other days of the week according to convenience, but Mondays and Thursdays are a must.

In the organisation of daily routine, apportioning of time, specially the period between dawn and dusk, is very important. The Gujar do not possess watches and clocks to guide them, but like every pastoral community they have learnt to tell time from natural indicators.

  1. Early dawn is signalled by the position of kirgiti (a constellation of six stars) and the loi tara (morning star) over the dera. The Gujar also recognise that the shrieks of the ghughu (owl) indicate the dawn.

  2. During the day, between sunrise (dhyda chadna) and sunset (dhyda chhipha), they divide the time according to the sunís trajectory through early morning, mid-morning, noon, afternoon, and so forth.

  3. The lengthening and shortening of the shadows of trees also indicates the different quarters of the day.


The Gujarís total dependence on their herds for life support also leads to mutual emotional attachment between man and animal. The naming of a buffalo is an important element of this process. Most of the time the name given to the buffalo (specially females) is after the physical attributes of the animal such as:


Pund (poond)

Completely black



Upright horn and iron colour



Spiral horn (two or three spirals)



Horns bent backwards



One with glassy eyes



One with pointed horns



One horn bent and one horn straight



Horns bent towards the neck and depressed



Forehead, tail and feet half white



Horns bent downwards



Colour brown, mouth white and small udders



One foot white and one horn white at root



Good-looking (beautiful)



White spot on the forehead

The following song is in praise of the desirable attributes of a buffalo:

Saing sunhi de, bang-bang kundalay

Thann keley di phaliyan

Dodh Sunni da semtu mithada

Jau misri di daliyan

Horns or Sunni, the beautiful, are like spirals

and udder like the plantain,

Milk is sweet as a lump of sugar candy.

There is no naming ceremony as such, but female calves (katdi) are given names between the ages of 1 and 3 years. By the time a calf matures and attains reproductive age, that is 3 ó 4 years, she already has a name and answers to that whenever called by her owner. The animal becomes familiar with its name through the feeding of oilcake, bran and fodder, as it is called by name. Here one can see the relationship of dominance and symbiosis between man and the animal. Manís dominance over the herds is to be seen in the submission of the herds to the cultural regime in a context of mutual support. The behaviour of the beast is radically changed through a process of behaviour formation that are influenced by the circumstances of imprinting and nomadization. Imprinting among pastoral animals is given the meaning of learning and socialization, which is different from the meaning originally assigned to it.

Usually the Gujar drink milk by directly suckling the udder of a buffalo. In this process there appears to be a close emotional integration between man and animal. There is a story that has general currency among the Gujar to highlight the process:

Bar baras Jumla ayee bayees jhottee leke

Jumla came home after twelve years along with twenty-two female offsprings.

Once two Gujar were travelling together. Each had a pregnant buffalo with him. On the way one Gujar fell asleep while the other was awake, and at that time the buffaloes foaled. To one was born a male calf and to the other, a female calf. The buffalo of the Gujar who was awake gave birth to a male calf but he changed it with the otherís female calf. They went their separate ways with their respective buffaloes but interchanged calves.

After twelve years the Gujar whose female calf was changed visited the Gujar who had changed the calves. In the morning the guest sat under the udder of his hostís buffalo to drink milk straight from the udder. The moment the pahali dhar was in his mouth he exclaimed, "It is my buffalo". The thought crossed his mind that his host had changed the calves at the time of birth. A dispute arose and they took it to the king. The king listened to both and decided to put them to the test. He threw a feast to which both men were invited. Secretly the king had several maunds of barley fed to buffaloes. The barley was then extracted from their excreta (buffaloes cannot digest barley). The barley thus collected was ground into flour, out of which halwa was cooked and served to the guests. Everyone ate the halwa with relish except the Gujar who was laying claim to his buffalo. The king asked him why he was not eating. The Gujar said, why should one eat something which has already been eaten? Realising the Gujarís ability to discriminate, the king ordered that his buffalo Jumla, along with her twenty-two progeny, should be returned to him. On this the Gujar was so happy that he sang the song:

Barah baras Jumla ayee bayees jhottee leke

It is, however, noticeable that such attachment is demonstrable mostly with female calves and lactating adults, evidently for economic reasons. The male calf is unwanted.

Knowledge System

The Gujar have a fairly good knowledge of the various diseases their buffaloes suffer from. These diseases are not peculiar to Gujar buffaloes as the livestock of the region as a whole suffer from them, but what is of special interest is that the Gujar over the generations have preserved the knowledge of a curative system which is traditional and indigenous. Earlier little medical assistance was available, as there were very few veterinary hospitals or dispensaries within easy reach of the Gujar. The situation is somewhat better today as, apart from veterinary hospitals in bigger towns such as Dehradun, Saharanpur, Haridwar and Rishikesh, there are dispensaries in the smaller towns where the Gujar can take their buffaloes for treatment. But this course of action is only taken recourse to when their own curative system has failed.

When the characteristics of a disease are evident, the Gujar try their indigenous curative system. Various diseases and their cures are thus described by the Gujar:

  1. Khurpaka (foot-and-mouth disease). It is an acute and contagious disease of hoofed animals. The characteristics are well recognised by the Gujar, who treat the diseased animal with a decoction of kaduwi (Pierasma quassioides).

  2. Galghontu (Haemorrhagic septicaemia). The characteristics of this disease are recognised as choking and the release of excessive saliva. The buffalo is unable to eat. Young calves are afflicted with greater frequency. The traditional cure is to singe the undersurface of the throat.

  3. Nakada/thanela (mastitis). Swelling of the udders and drying up of lactation. The buffalo is fed with red chilli powder mixed with oilcake and bran.

  4. Taku (epifemoral fever). Dryness in the nostrils and hardening of the udders as a result of no lactation. The buffalo may also become lame. The Gujar try to treat this fever by administering a mixture of powdered carem seeds and sal ammoniac in water.

  5. Rinderpest. The Gujar describe this as blood dysentery. Rinderpest is a usually fatal and the animal generally dies within one or two days of contracting the infection. It is characterised by high fever, diarrhoea and lesions of skin and mucous membrane. It is also known as cattle plague and in epidemic form causes devastating loss of livestock. The Gujar do not know of any effective indigenous treatment and cure is sought through serum injections.

  6. Surra (trypanosomiasis). Often fatal, infectious disease caused by a bood infecting protozoan parasite, Trypanosoma evansi, transmitted by the bite of horseflies. The disase is characterised by fever, anaemia and emaciation. The Gujar recognise these characteristics and also (i) watering of the eyes; (ii) neck hanging to one side; (iii) muddy urine; and (iv) bouts of unconsciousness.

According to the Gujar, who consider the disease a sure killer, there is no effective cure. Nevertheless they try a mixture of jaggery, pepper, cumin and powdered fenugreek seeds in water or milk, but ultimately fall back on modern medicine based on antibiotics.

In addition to the various diseases caused by organisms, the Gujar are aware of the afflictions caused by various weeds including lantana and poisonous grasses or creepers. They have indigenous prescriptions in which concoctions of roots and tubers as well as a mixture of ash and whey are administered to the afflicted animal.

Decrease in the milk yield of a buffalo or even stoppage is sometimes ascribed to the evil eye, which the Gujar call tokala. The remedy for this is to burn carem seeds, chillis and loban, etc., in a iron pan and make the affected buffaloe inhale the fumes. In addition, some incantations are uttered and a talisman is tied around the neck of the animal.

In almost all cases, be it a disease, infection, affliction by poisonous grass or weed or affection by the evil eye, the Gujar first resort to incantation maulavi or a knowledgeable Gujar followed by indigenous curative methods. Modern medicines such as injections and other antibiotic prescriptions come last.

The Gujar are anxious to maximise milk yield and therefore give individual attention to their buffaloes, specially lactating ones. They are also anxious to ensure optimum fertility performance of their female buffaloes through their reproductive life spans and have indigenous prescriptions to make them conceive in every event of heat. When a buffalo fails to conceive they feed the animal with oilcake of linseed with bran and tie a talisman around the neck of the animal, chanting incantations.


After a calving a buffalo is given special feed, consisting of boiled urad, jaggery and fenugreek, for three days. The buffalo is also fed with its own fresh milk mixed with oilseed and bran. The milk yield of a buffalo on the average is 6 ó 7 litres and it lactates from one-and-a-half years to two years. However, the yield descreases continuously during this period. For the first six months it may be 7 ó 8 litres. On completion of one year the yield may be 4 ó 5 litres,and it may come down to 1 ó 2 litres at the end of two years.

Female calves are allowed full feed for the first six months while male calves are allowed only half feed. Gradually the feeding, even of female calves, is reduced and they only suckle the udder of the mother buffalo briefly before milking to make her release milk. If a calf were not to suck her teats first, the buffalo would hold up her milk. After milking, the calves are allowed to suckle for the remainder, when the teats become soft and empty. The feed of calves is supplemented by oilcake, bran and other fodder. Male calves are allowed very little milk deliberately as part of the culling process.

The Gujarís dependence on milk is so great that they want the maximum yield. Towards that end they often take recourse to cruelty. When a calf dies either naturally or through culling, the mother buffalo may withhold milk. In that event the Gujar resort to:

  1. Fuke dum deve, vaginal irritation in which the tail of the buffalo is inserted into its vagina to make the animal release its milk. Sometimes a man may insert his hand to cause great irritation. This is done only by the few who know about it.

  2. Administering posterior pituitary injection to the buffalo, which makes her release milk.

Both these operations are defined as cruelty and are punishable criminal acts. In the first case there may be imprisonment up to 6 years and a fine of Rs. 10,000. In the second case a fine of Rs. 2,000 may be imposed. However, according to veterinary doctors, rarely is a case of cruelty registered against a Gujar. They live in forest areas where it is not easy to lodge a report against them even though it is well known that they indulge in such acts of cruelty. In the Chila region it was reported that a vendor visited Gujar deras every morning with post pituitary injections which were sold for fifty paise apiece.

Cosmology and Belief System

According to Gujar belief, God (khuda) created the whole universe in six days. On the first day he created the angels, on the second day the earth, on the third day the sky, on the fourth and fifth days the stars, moon and sun, and on the sixth day humans and animals.


God created seven skies (heavens) one above another. The stars occupied the first sky. In the second and third reside the angels (farishtas). In the fourth sky there is a house near a berry tree where spirits live and from where they go to hell or heaven, wherever assigned. In the fifth sky there is a big pond the water of which is extremely hot, and when the farishtas strike the water with sticks, lightning flashes across the sky which falls on sinful trees and plants (trees and plants that do bad deeds, that is, cause harm to humans and animals) causing them to wither away. The sixth sky has a cold-water pond from which rise three streams: first the Gangaji, second the river of Baghdad Sharif and the third theNeel (Nile) river of Misr (Egypt). As these streams rise in heaven their waters are considered sacred. In the seventh sky resides the sun, who has seven eyes. The sun is on a throne around which 600 angels keep circling, which gives the impression that the Sun circles the earth. After death every mortal has to pass through the seven layers of skies to attain bahisht (heaven).


The Gujar believe that there are seven earths one beneath the another, just as there are seven skies. It takes 500 years to cover the distance between one layer and another. In the first layer are humans, demons and animals, in the second there are suffocating fumes; in the third the sloves of hell; in the fourth the sulphur of hell; in the fifth the serpents of hell; in the sixth the scorpions of hell; and in the seventh the Devil and the Angel. Our earth, that is the layer on which humans live, is held by an angel on its shoulder. The angel is on a rock of jewels (mani) which is balanced over the horns of a heavily built bullock. According to the Gujar our earth is like the lap (anchal) of a mother on which humans live and die. It is also believed that earthquakes are caused by the movements of the bullock on whose horns all else is balanced.


It is said that God created fire by means of the friction caused by rubbing the green boughs of two trees. Fire is considered sacred, but there is no fire worship as such.


The Gujar say that according to the holy Kuran, water separates heaven (sky) and earth. God has created all living beings with water as an essential in all creatures. Six different kinds of water have been described by the holy Kuran: the waters of rain, rivers, waterfalls, wells, oceans and ice. Water has been sent by Allah from jannat (heaven) to cleanse the earth as well as for the growth of trees and plants.


Gulamuddin says that the Gujar equate the eclipse with indebtedness. It is said that once the sun and the moon incurred heavy debts which could not be redeemed in time. That indebtedness is said to be the cause of solar and lunar eclipses. At present the Gujar suffer from heavy indebtedness at the hands of the banias with whom they have their economic transactions. This has overshadowed their lives. Perhaps this feeling is equated with the phenomenon of eclipse and hence the myth. There are some who believe that the sun and the moon are proud of their brightness and therefore God, to break their egos, covers them for some time. It is a sort of punishment meted out to the sun (dhyda) and the moon (chaan) by God, and any child or calf born during an eclipse may become disabled. That is why expectant mothers and buffaloes are kept hidden during the eclipse.


Haji Mir Ali (78 years) narrates a belief that a mother had two sons, Suraj (sun) and Chand (moon). Suraj was cunning, disobedient and hot-tempered, so the mother gave him a curse that he would remain thus burning hot. But Chand was sweet-natured and obedient, so the mother blessed him so that he would shine during the night and that people would feal happy and joyous seeing him. Another version of the legend is as follows:

Moon and Sun were two sons of a mother. One day the mother asked Moon and Sun to scratch her itching body. Sun got a thorny bush to scratch the body of his mother, which left many marks. The mother cursed him that he would always be ablaze, "You will rise every day blazing and inflaming and set blazing and inflaming. No one will be able to look at you." On the other hand the Moon soothed his motherís body with a soft cotton swab. She was happy and blessed him and said, "you will always remain cool and people will feel soothed in your shade". Since then the mother has lived with the moon and is visible as the black spot on it.


About the stars the Gujar belief is that there are seven types of stars in the sky: Johra, Amreekh, Jhal, Samsukmar, Mustari, Kutub tara. However, they have little or no knowledge about the orientation of these stars except Kutub tara and Loi, which are known to be time indicators.


  1. On doomsday the letters of the Kuran will be reversed. The sun will face towards the earth (at present it has its back towards the earth) and this world will come to an end.

  2. After a dead man is buried, angels call him out and he sits up in his grave. Then judgement is pronounced as to whether he will be sent to heaven or to hell. After he has served his term in heaven he is sent back to the earth.

  3. Small children should not be left alone in the house, otherwise spirits will possess them.

  4. If the shade of a tree falls on a pregnant woman it can have a bad effect on the unborn child, including still birth.

  5. Ganga water is considered sacred. A buffalo may contract khurpaka ijar if its feet do not come in contact with Ganga water. Sprinkling of Ganga water on its feet cures the disease.

  6. It is a sin to point the feet towards a cemetery or towards Makka and Madina.

  7. Before leaving the dera the Gujar say, "God, in your care" (Allah tere hawale).

  8. Performing Haj cleanses one of all sins.

  9. When a person is possessed by evil spirit (jinna) he stamps his feet and hands on the ground and starts behaving as though he is mad. A maulavi can cure him by exorcism. Sometimes a chicken has to be sacrificed.

  10. If dogs or jackals wail it may bring illness or some ill-event.

From Nomadic Pastoralism to Sedentarisation and Rehabilitation

In 1976, when I first had the opportunity to make a quick survey of the Gujar of the central and western Himalayas, a trend of change from pastoral nomadism to sedentarisation was clearly noticed. In the Kashmir Valley the Gujar were settled during the time of Maharaja Ranbir Singh, who started settling the Gujar from Jammu in the Valley. In the Jammu region there was a noticeable difference between the Dudh Gujar, who followed pastoralism with transhumance, and the Zamidar Gujar, who were settled on land and practised agriculture. Among the Dudh Gujar also, a change towards agro-pastoralism was noticed. In Himachal Pradesh and the Uttar Pradesh hills the trend towards sedentarisation was evident from the fact that the winter encampment areas were becoming larger and larger and taking on a semi-permanent shape, as quite a number of them were not abandoned as in the past. There was clearly a preference for remaining in the Siwaliks for easy availability of grazing for their herds within the forest area and access to market centres for their produce. The desire for change was also expressed by the Gujar themselves as they wanted to have a settled life so that they could enjoy the fruits of development, their living conditions could improve and their children could get education. However, they wanted the permanent settlement within the Reserve Forest area and already had voiced their demand for land in Asarodi and Mohand Forest Ranges of the Siwalik Forest Division of Dehradun (Negi and Raha, 1982).

After about fifteen years, when the present pilot survey was undertaken among the Gujar in the Garhwal region, there was a partial change in which a sizeable number of Gujar deras gained permanent to semi-permanent status in the Siwaliks and the lower regions of Garhwal. For instance, 42 families have been settled in Kunao and about 25 families in Chila, remaining in the Siwaliks all the year round. They have given up the practice of seasonal migration to high altitudes. In the Siwalik forest also there are a number of families who have either given up seasonal migration or follow it partially in the sense that only a few members of a family migrate while the rest remain behind in the winter encampment area. Gradually the transhumant mode of subsistence is being abandoned due to the multifactoral changes which have already been discussed. However, the most important change has come in the relationship between man and animal on the one hand, and man, animal and nature on the other. The relationship has been rendered exploitative and parasitical due to the phenomenal growth of human and animal populations and depletion of resources due to overutilization.

The pastoral Gujar have perceived the change in this relationship and would like to readjust the adaptive strategy. As a matter of fact they have started making efforts in that direction. Reduction in the number of migrant deras to high altitude pastures is a step in the process of sedentarisation. Taking up horticulture and agriculture in their semi-permanent winter encampment areas is another step towards giving up nomadic life. It is true that the Gujar are yet reluctant to completely give up the pastoral mode of subsistence, but they are aware that it is no longer a successful adaptive strategy as it used to be, and in the changed situation needs either to be modified or given up altogether.

At present the Gujar are heavily dependent on nature, in other words forest and pasture, in both winter and summer encampment areas. But there are limiting factors. They are constrained both in the Rajaji National Park area in the Siwaliks and in the high-altitude areas where the entire region of Rawain, Rupin and Supin (Tons valley) has been declared a Protected Area (Govind Pashu Vihar). The Forest Department, in the interest of conservation of natural resources and environmental protection, is gradually imposing restrictions on issuing of permits to the Gujar both in the Siwaliks and in high-altitude pastures. They would rather have the Gujar move out of the forest and also give up their transhumance. The Gujar for the time being have choosen an easier option, amounting to deception with the connivance of minor forest officials. They do not disclose the actual number of livestock, always giving a lower figure. As for humans, there has not been an accurate census and only estimates of the population are available. The strategy is to keep the figures at a level which may be considered sustainable in the forest environment. But this play cannot work for long and the Gujar will have to be pursuaded to settle. However, while doing so they should be taken into confidence and their rehabilitation outside the forest area must be done in a manner that allows them to pursue their life-style and also enjoy the fruits of development. At present the Government of Uttar Pradesh has a rehabilitation scheme for the settlement of 512 Gujar families in the Pathri Reserve Forest area about 20 km south of Haridwar, an isolated patch of 2,400 ha of planted forest immediately south of the Siwaliks. The rehabilitation scheme at Pathri envisages giving them pucca houses and space for raising six buffaloes per family, who would be stall-fed. There is to be provision of water and other amenities. The Gujar will also be alloted land for cultivation, which would initially supplement their subsistence and gradually may become their primary occupation. Houses and other amenities for 512 Gujar families have already been created at considerable cost.

Table 2.10

U.P. Government Scheme for the Rehabilitation of the Gujar of the Rajaji National Park


House construction for 512 families Rs. 40,000 / unit.



Cattle shed and store  Rs. 2,500/ family



Roads 4 km



Two tube wells with electric connection



Drain for irrigation



Demarcation and levelling of land



Community hall and school






Drinking water (handpump/3 families)



Food subsidy at 25% Rs. 4,212 for 6 buffaloes or 3 years







[ Previous Page | Contents of the Book | Next Page ]

HomeSearchContact usIndex

[ Home | Search  |  Contact UsIndex ]

 [ List of Books | Kalatattvakosa | Kalamulasastra | Kalasamalocana ]

© 1998 Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi