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Banjara woman in traditional dress
|Regions with significant populations|
|Andhra Pradesh & Telangana||3.2 million|
|Madhya Pradesh||2.2 million|
The Banjara, also called Lamani, Lambani, Banjara Lambani are a class of usually described as nomadic people from the Indian state of Rajasthan, now spread out all over Indian subcontinent. Like many nomadic castes, they claim to be descended from Rajputs, and are also known as Lakha Banjara means Lakhapati, Banjari, Pindari, Bangala, Banjori, Banjuri, Brinjari, Lamani, Lamadi, Lambani, Labhani, Lambara, Lavani, Lemadi, Lumadale, Labhani Muka, Goola, Gurmarti,dhadi, Gormati, Kora, Sugali, Sukali, Tanda, Vanjari, Vanzara, and Wanji. Together with the Domba, they are sometimes called the "gypsies of India". They are known for coloured dress, folk ornaments and bangles.Their traditional living place, called Tanda, is usually located outside a village (in India).
They are divided in two tribes, Maturia, and Labana.
According to J.J Roy Burman, in his book titled, “Ethnography of a Denotified Tribe The Laman Banjara”, The name Laman is popular long before the name Banjara and the Laman Banjaras originally came from Afghanistan before settling in Rajasthan and other parts of India. He states that according to Motiraj Rethod, the Lamans were originally from Afghanistan and there is an independent province and village called Gor in that country.
Banjaras are traditionally known as suppliers and pack bullock carriers and Banjara word is derived from Sanskrit word vana chara (wanderers in jungle). The word Lambani or Lamani is derived from Sanskrit word lavana (salt) which was the principal goods they transported across the country.
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Banjara people celebrate Teej. The festival, celebrated during the Sharavan month (August), is considered as a festival of "unmarried girls" who pray for a "better groom". Girls sow seeds in bamboo bowls and water it three times a day for nine days and if the sprouts grow "thick and high", it is considered as good omen for their future groom. The bowls with seedlings are kept in the middle and the girls sing and dance circling the bowl. Holi is also celebrated by Banjara people. Singers of the community, known as "Dadhis" or "Gajugonia" perform songs with sarangi".
Folk art of Banjara people include activities like dance, rangoli, embroidery, tattooing, music, painting. Specificly embroidery and tattooing has more significance in the community. Lambani women specialise in "lepo" embroidery on clothes by vowing glass pieces in clothes. "Sandur Lambani Craft" practiced by the Lambani people had received a Registered Geographic Indication tag in India, enabling the community people to exclusively market them in that name.
Banjara people follow Hinduism, and worship Hindu gods like Krishna, Balaji, Jagadamba Devi and Hanuman. They also pray tl Sati Aayi, Seva Bhayya or Sevalal, Mithu Bhukhiya which are gods of their community. They also worship peer and Banjara Devi by praying in the forest, represented by a heap of stones. Of these, Mithu Bhukhiya was an "expert decoit" of the tribe and is worshipped in a hut built in front of Tanda or village with a white flag on top. This practice is gradually losing its importance, mainly because the people are more engaged in agriculture, government employment and other labour. No member of the community is allowed to sleep in the special hut built for Mithu Bhukhiya (also spelled Mitthu Bhukhiya). Seva Bhaya or Seva Lal was a saint and is highly respected by the Banjara people. He protected the women of his community and his story is quoted by British administrators who tagged his period around 1857 A.D. with his original name as Siva Rathode.
Banjara people are "strong believers" of god, and had construed many temples, such as Shri Shiva Anjaneya Swamy Temple. The temple has a Shiva's idol which is believed to be 150 year old.
They speak Banjari language which is also called as Goar-boli which belongs to Indo-Aryan group of languages and the language has no script and recorded history. The community as a whole is learning local Indian languages in schools and gradually they are losing the original dialect and most of them have become bi-lingual or multi-lingual, adopting the predominant language of their surroundings. Efforts are being put to include Banjara language in 8th Schedule of Constitution of India, which may give the language better status to get more funds for research and development.
The most numerous Banjara or Lambadi community is in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana states at 2.2 million where they speak their own dialect along with Telugu. In Karnataka, they are spread in northern parts of the state and Karnataka has second largest population (1.1 million, as of 2012) in India.
In India, Banjara people were transporters of goods from one place to other and the goods they transported included salt, grains, firewood and cattle. During 18th Century, the British colonial authorities brought the community under the preview of Criminal Tribes Act of 1871. By enforcing this act, the British Raj curbed the movement of Banjara people. The stigma attached to this continued until 1952 when the Act was abolished by the newly Independent India.
In some states of India, they are considered as Scheduled Caste while in other states they are categorized as Scheduled Tribe. In the state Rajasthan, they are Other Backward Classes (OBC) category. In Karnataka, they are categorised as Scheduled Caste since 1977. There has been continuous efforts by Government agencies to improve the conditions of community by activities such as building 8622 houses for them during 2009-10.
- Lamani Economy and Society in Change. Mittal Publications. pp. 14–. Retrieved 29 May 2011.
- Dhanasing B. Naik, p.1
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- Halbar, B.G. (1986). Lamani Economy and Society in Change. Mittal Publications, Delhi.
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- Naik, Dhanasing B (2000). The Art and Literature of Banjara Lambanis: A Socio-cultural Study. Abhinav Publications, New Delhi.
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