Gaddis of Gadderan — Magnificent Children of the Himalaya:
It is a tale from the ancient time. A tribe, known in the ancient literature as Kirat, lived in the ancient kingdom of Bramhapura in the lap of soaring Dhauladhar range of the Himalaya, in a side valley of river Ravi. Their presiding deity– a fierce mountain Goddess, Brahmani, protected the kingdom jealously.
Above Bramhapura, on the peak of Manimahesh mountain lived Lord Shiva. One evening, a yogi (later identified with the historical character of yogi Charpatinath) with his eighty-three disciple came to have a darshan (pay obeisance) of Shiva. By the time they reached Bramhapura, it was dark. So they decided to rest for the night. When this news reached Devi Brahmani she became furious. How could lowly mortals stay in her land without her permission! She immediately came down from her perch and ordered the yogis to leave. But it was dark and the mountainous terrain was unknown to the Yogis; so they prayed to Shiva to save them from the wrath of the Devi. Shiva appeared and was able to appease the Devi with great difficulty under condition that henceforth all pilgrims on way to Manimahesh — Shivas’ abode, would first visit the seat of Devi and offer puja to her. Only then they could proceed to Manimahesh
Thus greatly propitiated, Devi granted permission to the yogis to stay but on condition that they would leave in the morning. When the Devi came back in the morning to check; there were no sign of those yogis; instead she found eighty-four stone Shiva Lingams.
Off course, this is a pure legend except probably the identification of the Yogi; but somewhere in this legend is hidden the story of a silent foray by the people of the plains who populated these mountainous terrains by displacing the aborigines.
The question is, are these the people who in the later ages became known as “Gaddis”? The answer is not simple. Before we answer that, Gadderan – the land of the Gaddis have to be defined.
Gadderan: The area under the modern Bharmaur Community Development Block is usually identified with the ancient Gadderan. According to 2001 census, there are 252 revenue villages under the block, inhabited by 37,240 persons. Gadderan is drained by river Ravi and its numerous tributaries of which Budhil on the east and Tundey on the west, are the main tributaries.
Gadderan is mountainous with altitude ranging from 1330 mt to above 5750 mt. The roughly east-west elongated area is bounded by two well defined snowy mountain ranges — the Outer Himalaya or the Dhaula Dhar range on the south and the Mid-Himalaya or the Pir Panjal range on the north.
Spread over an area of 1,79,728 hectors1 (1779.28 square kilometers) this beautiful mountainous tract boasts of numerous meandering, cascading perennial streams; narrow and steep valleys lined with snow peaks and full of lush green meadows dotted with alpine flowers. The whole tract becomes a moonsiary (field of snow) in the winter.
Origin of the Gaddis: Before we examine the origin of the Gaddis, we have to delve into the historicity of the state of Bramhapura.
During the early Christian era, “From the Indus to the sources of the Ganges, the outer range of the Punjab Himalaya was divided-up among numerous native states, each under its own hereditary chiefs.”2
Bramhapura was such a principality but ruled by whom? It seems that nobody is certain, “There are no sources of information to help us to determine who were the original inhabitants of the mountain area now included in the Chamba State ….. the aborigines of these hills are now represented to a large extent by various low caste tribes, which form a very considerable proportion of the population.”3
The only conclusion is that Bramhapura was ruled by some petty aboriginal chief or chiefs.
According to the Gazetteer, Chamba state was founded about the middle of the 6th century. 4 At the end of 7th century we find that Bharmaur, the ancient Bramhapura, was ruled by a king called Meru or Maru Varman, who traced his descent back to an ancestor called Mushana. It is said, Mushana founded the Varman dynasty.
Now who is Mushana and from where he came is lost in antiquity. But according to bansauli (a genealogy list), there were 26 Rajas from Maru, the
1. Census report 1991.
2. History of Punjab Hill States volume I: J. Hutchinson and J.PH Vogel. Department
of Language and Culture, Himachal Pradesh.
3. Gazetteer of the Chamba State 1904: Punjab Sates Gazetteer Volume XXIIA: Indus
4. It is difficult to determine with certainty the exact date at which the Chamba State was founded, but probably took place about the middle of the sixth century.
founder of the state to Salavahana or Sahilvarman, whose reign came to an end not later than AD 1060. Allowing an average reign of 20 years, we arrive at AD 540-50 as the approximate date for the founding of the state. The date of founding of the kingdom of Chamba is very important to trace the origin and date of Gaddi entry to this land.
We may also examine the suffix Varman. This suffix is of ancient origin. It was used by the ruling family of Nepal and Kamrup (modern Assam). Varman is pronounced as ‘Varma’, the last ‘n’ being silent and is a Sanskrit word meaning armour – a metal coat formally worn at fighting. The Varma was generally worn by the fighters of the plains especially by the warriors of Rajputana.
So in all probability the Varman dynasty came from the plains. This conclusion, in general, is supported by the experts but they fix the date of the entry of the Gaddis around Bharmaur in the 12th century, “during 12th century … the country was passing through the worst turmoil of internal unrest and external invasion… different Rajput kingdom had arisen in the western and central India after the collapse of Pratihar Empire. … The plundering raids of Muhammad Gazni further aggravated the situation. Under those insecure situations, the nomadic Shepards might have become soft targets for the ruthless loot and killing of their flocks…. most of these Shepard might have crossed Dhauladhar and found out a safer haven in the upper reaches of the Ravi valley.
Whether Gadaria, Gaddi or Gadhiya community had been the ancestors of the Gaddis of this region, may not be known until proper research is made. Nevertheless, it may be said with due certainty that the present day Gaddis are the descendants of one of those casteless nomadic Shepards of the Indian plains who once lived around Barmer area of Rajasthan.”5
5. Gaddi Land in Chamba: Its History, Art & Culture: O C Handa. Indus publishing House.
There are four time frames for the entries of Gaddis in this region.
1. The earliest Gaddi migration came during the reign of Meruvarman (around AD 680c).
2. Brahman and some clans of Rajputs migrated to the upper Ravi valley during the reign of Ajayvarman ( AD 760c-780c)
3. As per as a popular saying among the Gaddis “Ujreya Lahore, te baseya Bharmaur” Meaning, after Lahore was destroyed (possibly by Muslim invasion) Bharmaur was populated.
4. Gaddis of Bharmaur have migrated to this mountainous interior of the Ravi valley in the 12th century and in fact they are the descendant of the old Gadhiyas, who were well spread in the north-western India.
Before concluding, the term Gaddi may be examined. All experts are unanimous that Gaddi is a generic identity6.
“The term Gaddi is a generic name and under it are included Brahmans, Rajputs, Khatris, Thakurs and Rathis”.7
But “the Gaddis …. offer striking contrast in several respects to other inhabitants of the State. …. The Gaddis are a semi-pastoral and semi- agricultural tribe.”8
Thus, we may conclude that Gaddis are a separate clan and they are generic in nature and include all the castes that inhabit this region.
If it is so, then there should be no hesitation to accept that the Gaddis did not populate the upper Ravi valley in and around Bharmour in one single great migration but by emigrational waves that started in the later half of 7th century AD, during the time of Maruvarman and continued till the 12th century AD. As and when the situation in their parent country deteriorated they simply followed the early emigrational footsteps of their ancestors to come to the upper Ravi valley and settle down in their new haven, where the natural barriers of Dhaula Dhar and Pir Panjal range sheltered them from invasion.
6. “All traditional inhabitants of the Gadderan area are now defined as Gaddis. Thus ‘Gaddi’ has come to stay as a generic identity rather than a class and community distinction.” Gaddi Land in Chamba: Its History, Art & Culture: O C Handa. Indus publishing House.
7. History of Punjab Hill States volume I: J. Hutchinson and J.PH Vogel. Department
of Language and Culture, Himachal Pradesh.
8. Gazetteer of the Chamba State 1904: Punjab Sates Gazetteer Volume XXIIA: Indus
Now we may tackle the next question with some certainty, from where they came? Another legend may help us here.
According to a popular belief among the Gaddis, Jaistambha, a prince of one of the ruling family of Rajputana became an ascetic on being driven away from his home, probably due to ascension dispute to the throne. On his wandering he reached Kharamukh in the interior of Ravi valley below Bharmaur and there in a cave sat in meditation for Shiva who was pleased and granted Jaistambha a set of Topa (Hat), Chola (Gown) and Dora (a long cord to be tied on the waste) which later on became the distinct dress of the Gaddis. According to historical sources, Jaistambha was the third and youngest son of Maruvarman and he is known to have collaborated with his father to establish the Bramhapur kingdom.
Thus, it will not be inappropriate to assume that most of the Gaddis came from Rajputana in the first wave and in the later periods from other Indians plains — Lahore and from the corners of the Pratihar kingdom fleeing away from the persecution of the invading Muslim soldiers.9
Gaddi Community as a tribe: According to the Gazetteer, Gaddis are semi-pastoral and semi-agricultural tribe and own large flocks of sheep and goats — their chief source of wealth.
The experts have divided the Gaddis into four classes: (i) Brahmans, (ii) Khatris and Rajput who wear sacred thread, (iii) Thakurs and Rathis who do not wear sacred thread and (iv) a menial class comprising Kolis, Riharas, Lohars, Badhis, Sipis and Halis. This fourth class comprised of the aborigines who were erroneously called Gaddis by the outsider and the appendage has since become permanent. But in the modern day, as I found out, this caste system is not being followed strictly. Even inter-caste marriage between the Khatris and Rajput with the Thakurs and Rathis is being freely accepted.
But in general, Gaddi, if taken as a separate caste, is a result of union of Rajput, Khatris and Thakurs, over hundreds of years –“In Bharmour Tehsil , instead of sub castes following a process of splitting into numerous smaller groups, there is the opposite process of the middle groups of castes amalgamating”10
9. “Chauhan Rajputs and Brahman Gaddis accompanied Raja Ajia Varma to Chamba in 850-70 AD., while Churahan, Harkhan, Pakhru, Chiledi, Manglu and Kundail Rajputs and the Khatris are said have fled to its hill to escape Aurangazeb’s persecution.” Gazetteer of the Chamba State 1904: Punjab States Gazetteer Volume XXIIA: Indus Publishing House.
10. The Brahman and caste Isogamy in North India: Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, London (1955)
All traditional inhabitants of Gadaran are now defined as Gaddis. Thus Gaddi has come to stay as a generic identity rather than a class or community distinction. In The process of socio-cultural interfusion with the native people, the Gaddis, very naturally, have imbibed many customs and tradition of the natives. As a result, their dress, food and living habits have gradually undergone a complete metamorphism.
Though the present-day Gaddi is not ethnically close to the indigenous people but they have developed strong cultural affiliation with the original inhabitants. Thus, in the present context, it will be difficult to call the Gaddis as an indigenous community and to call them a tribe will be a misnomer on the social parameter.
Gaddi village and their house: In recent years, I have found that the most of the Gaddis has shifted their home to the outskirt of Bharmaur and the small village has transformed into a bustling sub-divisional town populated mostly by richer people from the plains. However, if one could take the trouble of walking a few steep kilometers then he would reach a Gaddi village like Malkota, just three kilometer up the trail.
Since flatter sites are rare in this terrain, the villages are built in the linear formation on different terraces, normally, facing the valley. These houses are usually connected by stone paved narrow lanes. In larger villages the houses of the higher caste are clustered together, away from the houses of the lower castes.
Each house has an open courtyard called khalyan paved with thick slates and enclosed by a parapet wall. It is a multipurpose open space for the household for mooring the cattle and to act as a sunbathing deck for the womenfolk.
Houses are usually two or three stories high owing to the lack of space to expand horizontally. The upper floors are residential. The first floor is called obri, the second floor, bhor and the third, if it is constructed, is called mandeh which is often open in two sides and used for storing grass, firewood etc. In the form of a store room it is called sal. Each floor is, actually, a compact all purpose large hall divided into several functional areas – living, sleeping, store, kitchen etc. However, most of the old house has no toilet and residents usually use open field. But this practice is fast changing. A traditional Gaddi house has no windows to the outside, only a small entrance door on the ground floor.
Gaddi family is not a joint family, “It is unusual for the married brothers’ wives to occupy the same fireplace. Traditional joint families are unusual.” 11
11. Report on Scheduled Castes and Tribes – A study of Gaddi Scheduled Tribes and Affiliated Castes: William H. Newell. Shimla, 1961.
These houses have some unique features which are rarely found elsewhere in the Himalayan interior — every floor of these houses has independent kitchen; except employment of professional carpenter no skilled or unskilled labour is employed from outside the community for construction of a house. The entire construction work is done by community participation. Each household is supposed to provide one male member for the house construction and the host would treat these volunteers with food and sur (home made liquor) in the evening.
Three major ceremonies are observed during the construction of a house: at the time of laying of the foundation, the ridgepole and on completion — house warming.
During the ceremony of laying of the ridgepole a goat is sacrificed and its entrails are suspended from the Veranda (Balcony) as a ritualistic offering to the Griha-Devta (god of the hearth). Though such sacrificial ritual is common in the Himalayan interior but suspending entrails from the Veranda is very typical to Gadderan.
In the house warming ceremony community feasting and rejoicing is the main theme but the blessing of Lord Shiva—the presiding deity, is also invoked through an elaborate puja called nawala.
The religion of Gaddis: Before the arrival of the Gaddis the aborigines of this area worshipped a god known as Pushan who was probably a Sun god. A stone image discovered in the village of Gum12 suggests that the precursors of the Gaddis were Sun worshipper. The long overcoat of the sun god and the cap were adopted by the later settlers with modification.
The Gaddis are, in general, follower of Lord Shiva. The legend that I described in the beginning points to the possibility that the settlers who in the later age were known as Gaddi has brought their religion along with them. It is only natural. But their religion also shows some influence of animism (due to their dependence on nature and natural forces) and as well as the influence of local aborigine gods and spirits. Brahmani – the presiding deity of Bharmaur is worshipped by the Gaddis as well. They also worship Nags, Sidhs and Autars who are being worshiped to ward off their evil influence. Batal, the spirit of springs, rivers and well is worshipped; so is Joginis, the spirit of rocks. Gunga, the spirit of cow-disease is also propitiated. Minor Gods associated with crops like chinia, maize, wheat, pulse and barley are Devi, Chaund, Kailung, Kathura Nag and Sandholu Nag.
12. Gum is a hamlet, situated on the right bank of river Ravi, northwest of Chitrari village.
Different days of the weeks are marked for worshiping different deities. Thus on Sundays and Thursdays Nags and Sidhs are worshipped. Kailung is worshipped on Sundays; Devis on Tuesdays and Thursdays are for paying homage to the Birs.
Goats and sheep are sacrificed on the alter. In addition, Devi is also offered vermilion, bindi (brow-mark), salu( a red chadar), dora ( waist rope) and sur
(home made spirit).
Beliefs and Customs: The Gaddis like every other community have certain beliefs and customs. Ploughing, sowing and reaping would begin only on lucky days – Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. If wheat fails to grow on a terraced field it is not ploughed in the next year and left fallow until a goat is sacrificed there. It is believed, neglect of this ritual will bring death in the family.
For a new field to be taken up for cultivation an auspicious day was first fixed and a he-goat is sacrificed before the plough is put on that field.
Gaddis simply love fairs. The chief fairs are seven in numbers: Basua on 1st Baisakh, Patroru on 1st Bhando, Sair on 1st Asauj, Lahori on 1st Magh, and Dholru on 1st Chet. The dates of Shibrat (in Phagan) and Holi (either in Phagan or in Chet) vary. Excepting Dholru which is a somber affair where, usually, no amusement is allowed, all other fairs are celebrated with fun and dance.
An annual pilgrimage to Manimahesh is held in the month of Bhadon (August). Trek to the Manimahesh Lake (4170 meter) was also organized throughout a fortnight (from Radha-astami to Janmastami – the birth date of Shri Krishna).
How these dates, very important in Vaisnavite tradition, came to assume such importance in a Shaivite religion could be an interesting point for the researchers. I have seen numerous typical Vaisnavite frescos and frieze in the temples of Chamba, particularly the famous ‘Rasmondal’, a circular frieze where lord Krishna is seen dancing with hundred Gopis (consorts of Radha). Probably this is another pointer to the original home of Gaddis (Rajputana), where Vaisnavism is the main religion.
On the bank of the Manimahesh Lake – a glacial lake formed by the glacier of the Kailash Peak (5656 meter), –the abode of Shiva, there used to be no temple or idol. Only a trident representing Lord Shiva used to stand on the bank of the lake in splendid isolation. But when I visited Manimahesh, few years back, I found a white marble idol of Shiva beside the trident. This annual pilgrimage has become an affairs with thousands of pilgrims coming from all parts of India, especially north, to participate.
One peculiar thing that I found is the participation of large number of Kashmiri Hindus. They do not go to Amarnath which is more accessible to them. Though religiously speaking, Amarnath is said to be much more sacred than Manimahesh, the Kashmiris would come to Manimahesh only. When I questioned some of them on this, they simply said, ‘this annual pilgrimage is in their custom for generations’. Despite a pretty tough trek through dangerous terrain and harassment at the hand of border police (ever since terrorism crept in Kashmir, all residents are treated as terrorist and the border police, in the guise of checking, harass everybody) they come only to Manimahesh and never go to Amarnath.
This might point to the possibility that Gaddis have also some strains of ‘Kashmir in their blood’.
The legend of Manimahesh also points to this association. The legend goes like this; Lord Shiva left Amarnath angered and frustrated by the customs of the non-believers around him and took refuse in Manimahesh Kailash. One day a Gaddi with his flock of sheep, in search of pasture, arrived there by chance and discovered the abode of Shiva. Fearing that his hideout will be known to everybody and pilgrims will disturb his peace, he gifted the Gaddi one thousand sheep (this is certainly not the first case of heavenly bribe! Gods bribe the mortals left and right to have their way.) on condition that he will not divulge Shivas’ hideout to anybody. But few days later, on ardent and persistent request of a pious man, the Gaddi divulged the secret and led him to the abode of Lord Shiva. Angry Shiva turned them into stone. But the secret was out forever and the annual pilgrimage begun.
Economic Activities: Gaddi economy is directly controlled by the habitat. It is clearly evident from the land use figure of Bharmaur tehsil. Agricultural activity is backward and pastoral pursuits did not emerge as the main occupation of the whole region. In spite of government incentives for agricultural and horticultural development, Gaddis still practice transhumance as their principal occupation. Since the production of crops within the region is very limited and for short duration; the Gaddis have no alternative but to rear profitable livestock. The ecology and environment of Gadderan is also suitable only for sheep and goat rearing in large number because these animals have the ability to move for long distance in the higher and steep slopes of the Himalaya.
Unsuitable altitude, slope and soil along with scanty rainfall and low temperature are the major limiting factor for the growth of agriculture. Small size of land holding and fragmentation in land holding are also major limiting factors. In Kugti, the highest village, one farmer on an average possess plots scattered over 8 to 10 different places13, making it very difficult to plow.
13. Eco- degradation and future Pastoralism: Gaddi of Himachal Pradesh: Sumit Mukherjee: Journal, Indian Geog. Foundation (1994).
Position of Gaddi Women in the Gaddi society: To measure any society, the position of its women within that society is a definite indicator. In Gaddi society the women are placed in a far higher position and in any other society of the plains. This came mainly from the economic need.
In Gadderan, agriculture production is limited for scarcity of cultivable land, shorter sowing season, absence of irrigation and severe cold and snow. To compensate the agricultural deficit, Gaddis had to depend on pastoral practices. Presence of naturally rich grazing land facilitated pastoral practices and in pastoral pursuit people have to remain mobile and the male members of the family had to move with the flock. So women with the help of her children take care of the homestead cattle and the absence of the male head of the family for long time freed them to freely associate with whom they like — male and female, from their, as well as from other communities. As a consequence communication between Gaddi women and men are free and very high.
During my visit I have also found that modern Gaddi women are quite literate, some of them even passed high school and are highly vocal. Gaddi women participate in family as well as village social activities in a way that they can not in plains.
Although Gaddis society is patriarchal, the family revolves around the mother. Upbringing of children becomes the sole responsibility of their mother since most of the time the father is out in the mountain, tending the herd.
Gaddi women are strong and courageous as they had to accompany their husband in their winter migration and had to live alone in the house most of the year to bring up their children and to tend to their field and cattle.
The 73rd amendment of Indian constitution in 1992 made it mandatory to elect women in the Panchayat Raj bodies (from the lowest level of the local administrative units, gram Panchayat, to the block and district level) but I found that though women are elected and even work as Pradhan (chief) in many Gram Panchayats of Gadderan, they are only the de-jure chiefs while her husband or any other male political party functionary is the de-facto chief. But in the higher level i.e. at the Panacahayat Samity (Block) and Zilla Parishad (district) level elected women do exercise some power of their own.
In the pastoral society, usually position of women is not very high as has been
reflected by several studies.15
- The Nuer by Evan Pritcahrd and The position of Women in a Pastoral society by Dupire as quoted in Himalayan Ecology, Transhumance and Social Organisation: Gaddis of Himachal Pradesh: Veena Bhasin : Kamla- Raj enterprise: Delhi
But in Gaddi society “women occupy an economically significant place, which is reflected in the generally high position and importance that they have. … The economic value that women have in Gaddi way of life gives them an important and irreplaceable position….This in turn, is reflected in culturally sanctioned statuses and roles i.e., rights, duties, obligations in respect of pre-pubertal, post pubertal, unmarried, married and post-married status”16
Gaddi dress: As I have already said in a previous paragraph dealing with the origin of Gaddi, the male dress of Gaddis were said to have been bestowed on them by none other than Lord Shiva himself. The dress consists of a loose overcoat (Chola) made of wool, a long and strong rope (Dora) of around 150 ft length weighing around 2 kg and a hat (Topa). Under the chola which falls under the knee, they also wear a loose woolen pajama. Their inner garments are usually, made of cotton which suit them perfectly and absorb sweat in their long march with their flock of sheep in the rugged terrain. The Chola contains numerous items in its lappets like needle, thread, and flint-cotton etc. The Chola is tied up with the Dora at the waist in such a way that a special big pocket like space is created to store essential items including the new-born lamb that is carried in that pouch to the grazing ground like a kangaroo mother would carry her newborn in her womb. In the innumerable folds of the Dora are stored a kulhari (an axe), a banssari (flute; Gaddis are famous for their musical flair, particularly of flute), a runka (flint-iron), a mandua (leather pouch), chilam (small smoking pipe), a darat (iron sickle) and other items which are indispensable in their daily life as wanderer. A male Gaddi might carry around 40 kilogram of load in and around his chola. He would carry load (his temporary household) on his back but never on his head. This practice of carrying load on their back and not on their head separates Gaddi from the other pastoral tribes like Gujjar. The Gaddi women would also carry lot of loads, particularly in the winter migration when they accompany their husbands. In fact, in their constant migration for search of greener pastures for their herds, Gaddis would carry their entire family possessions with them which, in any way, are meager.
The Gaddi women wear a frilled Ghagra (long skirt) which flows from their waist and comes to their ankle and a full sleeve blouse (Top) which falls at the waist. The Gaddi women also would use Dora but of lesser length and weight. They are fond of ornaments and use earrings, bangles, long necklace etc.
16. Himalayan Ecology, Transhumance and Social organization: Gaddis of Himachal Pradesh: Veena Bhasin: Kamal Raj Enterprise, Delhi.
The Gaddi damsels are considered one of the most beautiful of all the hill women for their rosy complexion, sharp feature, oblong face and graceful supple body. Though their men-folk spent most of the year wandering away from the home, Gaddi women are famous for their proverbial modesty and chasteness. They also work as hard, in fact, harder, as her male companion and travel all over the mountain with his husband, particularly in the winter.
Gaddis are very genial in nature and so the Gaddis are addressed as a mittar (friend) among the hill people.
Beside his flock of sheep and goat, a Gaddi aspire for a lovely Gaddin, as the folksong says:
Gaddi charanda bhedan
Gaddani dindi dhupa
Gaddi jo dinda bhedan
Gaddani jo dinda rupa.
Gaddi tends goat,
Gaddin adore (Shiva) with incense.
Gaddi is blessed with sheep,
Gaddin with beauty.
But in my stay in and around Bharmaur I could see lots of beautiful Gaddin but had not seen a single Gaddi damsel in her traditional dress. I was very keen to see a Gaddi girl in her traditional dress. So I requested my local contact to take me to a Gaddi village and show me, at least one Gaddi girl in her traditional attire.
He took me to Malkota, a Gaddi village three kilometer up in the mountain from Bharmaur. There I met Pinki Thakur and her sister along with their mother. They were wearing salwar-kamiz, the ubiquitous feminine dress of north India. Though their mother is illiterate, both the sisters are educated in English medium school and Pinki is fluent in Hindi and English. We talked mostly in Hindi. We were taken to the first floor and were offered fresh apple and tea.
They were quite amused to hear my request but agreed to don their traditional dress and jewelry. Surprisingly, they started to pull out trunks after trunks from a heap of trunks stacked high in the room where we were sitting. The traditional dress came out of a large trunk which lay at the bottom of the stack, indicating that they hardly wear the dress. On my query, I was told, they wear their traditional dress only on special functions since now-a-days people look down (!) on those who wear traditional Gaddi dress. I was really shocked. The juggernaut of modernity that is sweeping the plains has even entered the inaccessible inner Himalaya with the progress of connectivity and accessibility. I have seen local lads wearing jeans and T-shirts on the street of Bharmaur with CD player dangling from their waist and earphone plugged in the ear, swaying with latest ‘Bollywood’ item.
We waited a long time for the fashion show to begin and as Pinki and her sister came out in the tradition dress simply dazzling in their finest jewelry, I started to click away my camera.
To conclude: we may say that the Gaddis by tradition have adapted to a mountainous, rugged environment primarily through pastoral practices and secondarily through agriculture.
Historical conditions and events influenced their society so is also the ecological conditions. The area remained comparatively isolated till 7th century and probably after that point in time Gaddis came to settle in this region in waves till 12th century.
But the juggernaut of modernity, commercialism and market economy has irrevocably changed the simple ‘Gaddi way of life’. Now all modern facilities accompanied with their vices can be found in Churasia – the cultural and religious hub of the Gaddis.
Gadderan, no doubt, has been reaping the benefits of the ‘Schedule Tribe’ tag and consequent economic development. But on the way Gaddis seem to be on the verge of losing their identity as an indigenous and a unique community.