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Gojri, varieties of Pashto and Urdu
Sunni Islam

The Bakarwal (also Gujjar - Bakharwal, Bakrawallah and Bakerwal) are a mostly-Sunni Muslim[1] nomadic tribe based in the Pir Panjal and Himalayan mountains of South Asia. They are traditionally, and still mainly, goatherds and shepherds. They are found in the entire Kashmir region between India and Pakistan, and in the Nuristan province of Afghanistan.[2].


The Gurjar-Bakarwals claim a common ancestry from the ancient Gujjar tribe.

Many Kashmiri Muslims including many Bakerwals and Gujjar migrated from the Valley to Punjab due to famine and policies of Hindu Dogra rulers, during the mid-18th Century. They are traditionally Sunni Muslims.


'Bakarwal' is derived from the Indic language[3] terms, bakara[4] meaning goat or sheep, and wal[5] meaning "one who takes care of".[2] Essentially, the name "Bakarwal" implies "high-altitude goatherds/shepherds".


The Bakarwals belong to the same ethnicity as the Gujjars, and inter-marriages take place among them.[6] Bakarwals have clans (gotra) like Gujjars; however, "bakarwal" is also occasionally used indiscriminately to refer to any nomadic shephard group in the foothills, even those who may not belong to a Bakarwal community (qafila group). The Gadaria-Bakarwals have divided themselves into three principal kinship groups:

(i) The dera (household),
(ii) Dada-Potre (lineage),
(iii) the gotra (clan).

The dera is the basic unit of social structure among the Gujjar-Bakarwals. They count their numbers and describe their grazing and qafila groups in terms of the number of deras.

A dera usually comes into existence when a person establishes an independent household, which happens normally after his marriage. Each son, thus, establishes his own dera as he gets married. A dera usually consists of five to six members. There is a division of labour among the members of the household on the basis of sex and age.

Females perform the domestic tasks of cooking, washing, fetching of water, upbringing of children, collection of wood, and spinning and making of woolen garments. On the other hand, males perform tasks like herding of flock and cattle, repairing of tools and equipment, collection of grass, herbs, deer-musk, hunting of wild animals, ploughing and harvesting of crops.[copyright violation?]

The household is, thus, a primary economic unit. A nuclear family is the production and consumption unit. A joint family which is generally large cannot survive on the meagre pasture resource as the transhumance are on the move for about 110 to 130 days in a year.[copyright violation?]

The elders want the eligible married youngsters to shoulder the responsibility of looking after the flock of sheep and goats independently. This would ensure greater security to the herds and sharing all responsible jobs by the adult members.[copyright violation?]

Several deras (households) constitute a lineage (dada-potra). The pastures are allotted to the lineage and not to the individuals. In a lineage, there may be about two hundred persons. Usually, a Gujjar-Bakarwal father divides his property (animal wealth) among his male children as and when they get married.

The lineage, thus, consists of several generations and includes cousins and distant relatives. They share the common pastures. The lineage unit is quite powerful administrative unit. Each lineage has a head who is responsible for the socio-economic and political activities of his group.


As sheep and goat rearing transhumants, the Bakarwal alternate with the seasons between high and low altitudes in the hills of the Himalayas.[2]

While traditionally goat and sheep herders, governmental restrictions, land development, population growth, and advancements in the market economy have caused some Bakarwallah to settle in one place and engaged in other forms of agriculture in addition to animal husbandry.

Legal status[edit]

In 1991 in Jammu and Kashmir the Bakarwal were first recognized as an Indian Scheduled Tribe. As of 2001, the Bakarwal were classified as a Scheduled Tribe under the Indian government's general reservation program of positive discrimination.[7]

They are mentioned in the Afghan National Anthem as one of the integral tribes present in Afghanistan.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Bamzai, Sandeep (6 August 2016). "Kashmir: No algorithm for Azadi". Observer Research Foundation. Archived from the original on 10 August 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c Khatana, Ram Parshad (1992). Tribal Migration in Himalayan Frontiers: Study of Gujjar Bakarwal Transhumance Economy. Gurgaon, India: South Asia Books (Vintage Books). ISBN 978-81-85326-46-7. 
  3. ^ Compare: Gojri, Urdu, Punjabi, Kashmiri, Dogri, Jammu and Pashto language terms.
  4. ^ Sanskrit: बर्कर bakara
  5. ^ Sanskrit: पालक palaka "keeper"
  6. ^ Raha, Manish Kumar; Basu, Debashis (1994). "Ecology and Transhumance in the Himalaya". In Kapoor, Anuk K.; Kapoor, Satwanti. Ecology and Man in the Himalayas. New Delhi: M. D. Publications. pp. 33–48, pages 43–44. ISBN 978-81-85880-16-7.  citing an unpublished paper by Negi, R. S. et al. "Socio-Econmic Asperations of Guijjara and Bakerwal"
  7. ^ "List of Scheduled Tribes". Census of India: Government of India. 7 March 2007. Archived from the original on 7 February 2013.