The Gaddi - Dhauladhar
Gaddis live in complete communion with nature. I often see Gaddi men with their sheep on my visits to the foothills of Dhauladhar, i.e. Palampur. Khanabadosh as they are often called, come winters, they shift down to the lower regions of the Dhauladhar with their flocks and then upwards when the summers arrive.
Gaddis, originally pahaaris by culture, are now a mix of cultures. While some follow their aboriginal traditions, others embraced Islam for the fear of Aurangzeb loomed large during his times. A number of them left the nation to dwell in the higher grounds of Tibet, and later on, descended down to the lovely hills of Chamba.
The easiest way to identify Gaddi people is through a long strand – dori - they have around their wrist. A symbol of Gaddi tribe, it's worn by both men and women. The dori is 25 yards long and is tied around the wrist, two strands at a time.
Changing times, socio-economic norms, and modernity has brought Gaddis in the face of extinction. Disheartening but true, as the area of grazing pastures slowly shrink, more and more youngsters from the tribe are leaving their traditional dhan (wealth) - what they call their flocks of sheep - and moving to greener pastures of the labour market.
Bishnoi - Jodhpur
While I was in school, I read a story of Bishnois, a tribe of farmers who laid down their lives for the sake of Khejri wood, which was required by the then Maharaja of Jodhpur for the construction of his palace. Even today, the 18th century cenotaph of the martyrs of the Khejarli massacre stands tall in the village of Khejarli.
This strong tribe is known for its love for trees and animals, and have played an important role in protecting the biodiversity of the areas they dwell in. You'll be able to spot all kinds of wild animals – like deer and antelopes – freely venturing in most Bishnoi-dominated areas in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, and Madhya Pradesh.
Now Bishnoi is a famous tribe. The tribe was in news, a few years back, for its protest against the killing of blackbucks. Remember the Salman Khan blackbuck hunting case? Yes, that’s the one!
The people of the Bishnoi Tribe are known for living a simple life. Vegetarians, they pay a lot of attention to their personal hygiene, cleanliness of the surroundings, and their houses. It’s a tribe the whole nation can be proud of.