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Lambani – The Afghani “Lavana” Merchants Tribe of India

lambani tribe

The Lambani were mainly a tribe of Rajasthan and had alternative names like Lamani, Lambadi, and Banjara. “Laman” is a word of Sanskrit origin derived from the word lavana (salt) and by now the Laman Banjaras have spread their roots across the Indian sub-continent. They are a nomadic tribe and are believed to have migrated from the Gor province of Afghanistan. They were originally bullock and salt merchants.

lambani tribe

The Colors Lambani’s Bring

The Laman banjaras are people having a lot of aesthetic knowledge. They have a culture that bears the beautiful traditional aspects of both the Afghani and Indian cultures. They celebrate festivals like Teej and Holi. The traditional Muslim banjaras travel from one place to another singing folk songs with their sarangis in their hands.

The banjaras have a rich culture when speaking the context of performing arts. They have inherited traditional dance and music from their ancestors. They also excel in the art of rangoli making, tattooing, and painting. A prized art form of the Lambanis, which also forms a part of their tribal identity, is the kind of embroidery practiced by them. They have a skilled hand in stitching small glass mirrors, coins, and decorative beads onto the clothes which they embroider.

The language of the Lambanis is a part of the Indo-Aryan group of languages. They speak what is known as Gor Boli and sounds similar to Romani, Lomavern, Rajasthani, and Marwari. Although what they speak is their traditional language, no written dialect has yet been traced for the language. Most of the Lambanis have adapted to the regional language and are losing fast in their native language. The government, however, is taking interest in preserving the language.

Our Temples, Our Gods

Apart from following their individual Gods and deities they also follow Hinduism. They worship their Gods which include saints Like Seva Lal and a dacoit named Mitthu Bhukhiya. The Hindu Gods worshipped by them include Hanuman, Krishna, Shiva, Ganesh, and Balaji.

Seva Lal, originally named Siva Rathode, is known to be a saint who protected the women of the tribe. Mitthu Bhukiya is worshipped in a hut built towards the front of the village of the Lambanis. This hut has a white flag atop it and no one is allowed to sleep in it.

They also worship Peer and Banjara Devi. Goddess Shakti is also worshipped.

The clothes that adorn Lambani people

banjara tribeThe women of the Lambani tribe wear baggy skirts called Ghagra or Phetiya. It is often paired with a short-sleeved blouse called Kanchali. The kanchali is tied at the back. Some also don thick aprons that have beautiful embroidery on it. It is tied at the waist. These dresses always have mystic and cryptic symbols and designs embroidered onto it together with beads, glass mirrors and shells stitched on it. They also use a cloth as a veil to cover their head. Jewelry also forms a very important part of their attire.

Lambani men wear turbans. The khamish and lungi are worn by them too. Their footwear includes joothies. A cotton or woolen shawl is also used by them. During winters they carry with themselves blankets made out of sheep wool.

The roof above our head

The Lambanis were wanderers a long time back, but later on, they were asked to settle down by the Government. They are residing in many areas all around India now, mainly Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Goa and of course Rajasthan. They maintained their identity where ever they went. They used to live in their own personalized kind of settlements known as Tandas which is named after the headman of the group.

Since the Laman banjaras were a tribe who mixed little with the other tribes they had their own secluded villages. The traditional huts of the Lambanis have only one room and the door as an outlet. They also had their cattle tied outside their huts. They had a joint family pattern of living which determined the majority of their decisions concerning their lifestyle.

What we Ingest: Lambani’s Food

The Lambanis eat chapattis which are known as Bati in their regions. Another important part of their diet is formed by Daliya made from a mixture of cereals. Earlier they averted the consumption of non-vegetarian food. But after the succession of British Raj, many of them turned towards non-vegetarian foods and even alcohol. Spicy food is a favorite among the Banjaras.

The days we lead

Rarely known information about the Lambanis is that they formed a part of the Kshatriya clan (warrior clan) of ancient India. After Mughals invaded India and took the reins of the country in their hand the Lambanis were forced to convert. They soon migrated to South India and other parts of the country.

When they returned to Rajasthan they found that other tribes had already settled in there. They went to other parts of the country, from Uttar Pradesh to Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Haryana. They took up other jobs comprising of cattle husbandry and farming. They speak a number of languages like Telugu, Kannada, and Hindi and of course their specific regional languages.

The tribe has managed to keep up with the progress of the country and many of the Lambani tribal have found respectable jobs. The younger generation has even got further and received many professional degrees and work as engineers and doctors. However, most of their customs are still the same. Believably they still don’t marry within the same gotra because they believe that men and women of the same gotra are brothers and sisters. The “Rathod/Bhukya”, “Chavan”, “Pawar”, and “Vadtya” are the Goth or Pada (gotra) of the Banjara.

Colorful Lambani Dress
Lambani Dress

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