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The Banjara (also called Lamans, Lambadi, Lambhani, Lambani and Gormati) are a community usually described as nomadic people with origins in Rajasthan. They spread gradually into Kashmir, Bengal, Karnataka and Gujarat, and are now found all over India.
The word Banjara is said to be derived from the Sanskrit word vana chara (wanderers in jungle). The word 'Lambani' or 'Lamani' is derived from the Sanskrit word lavana (salt), which was the principal product they transported across the country.
According to some sources Lambadis engaged in the trade of salt, grain and other commodities in remote villages. Because of the fact that they were nomadic tribes they used to cover great distances to places most in need of their merchandise.
In 19th century the British colonial authorities brought the community under the purview of Criminal Tribes Act of 1871 which forced them to give up their traditional occupation of trading. This led to some of them settling down as farmers near mountains and hilly regions, while others were driven into the forests.
Banjaras speak Gor Boli; also called Lambadi, it belongs to the Indo-Aryan group of languages. As Lambadi has no script, it is either written in Devnagri script or in the script of the local language such as Telugu or Kannada. Most Banjaras today are bilingual or multilingual, adopting the predominant language of their surroundings.
Banjara art is rich and includes performance arts such as dance and music as well as folk and plastic arts such as rangoli, textile embroidery, tattooing and painting. Banjara embroidery and tattooing are especially prized and also form a significant aspect of the Banjara identity. Lambani women specialize in lepo embroidery, which involves stitching pieces of mirror, decorative beads and coins onto clothes. Sandur Lambani embroidery is a type of textile embroidery unique to the tribe in Sanduru, Bellary district, Karnataka. It has obtained a GI tag.
Banjara people celebrate the festival of Teej during Shravana (the month of August). In this festival young unmarried Banjara girls pray for a good groom. They 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 a good omen. During Teej the seedling-baskets are kept in the middle and girls sing and dance around them.
Dance and Music
Fire dance and Chari dance are the traditional dance forms of the Banjaras. Banjaras have a sister community of singers known as Dadhis or Gajugonia They are Muslim Banjaras who traditionally traveled from village to village singing songs to the accompaniment of sarangi.
The majority of the Banjara people profess Hinduism. They also worship gods like Balaji, Jagadamba Devi, Bhavani of Tuljapur, Renuka Mata of Mahur, Mahadev, Khandoba and Hanuman. They also hold Guru Nanak in great respect.
Sevalal or Sevabhaya is the most important saint of the Banjaras. According to their accounts, he was born on 15 February 1739 in Sevaghad,Anantapur district in the state of Andhra Pradesh to Bhima Naik and Dharmini Bai, and died on 4 December 1806. A cattle merchant by profession he is said to have been a man of exemplary truthfulness, a great musician, a courageous warrior, a rationalist who fought against superstition and a devotee of the goddess Jagadamba. The colonial British administrators also quote his stories but they place him in the 19th century and identify his original name as Siva Rathor.
The Banjara or Lambadi are considered to be a kshatriyahttps://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/73483/11/11_chapter%25203.pdf&ved=2ahUKEwiOt_yw57PiAhXIb30KHT_VA_sQFjAJegQICRAB&usg=AOvVaw11-3BsR70TWEnP2HLwLgWmcommunity in the traditional Hindu ritual ranking system known as varna.
As of 2008, the Banjara community has been listed as a Scheduled Tribe in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Orissa. They were designated as an Other Backward Class in Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan, and as a Scheduled Caste in Karnataka, Delhi and Punjab.
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- Halbar, B. G. (1986), Lamani Economy and Society in Change, Mittal Publications
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- Naik, Dhanasing B. (2000), The Art and Literature of Banjara Lambanis: A Socio-cultural Study, Abhinav Publications, ISBN 978-81-7017-364-9
- Bhukya, Bhangya (2010), Subjugated Nomads: The Lambadas Under the Rule of the Nizams, Orient BlackSwan
- Satya, Laxman D. (July 1997). "Colonial Sedentarization and Subjugation: The Case of Banjaras of Berar, 1850-1900". The Journal of Peasant Studies, 24:4. pp. 314–336.
- Habib, Irfan (1990). "Merchant Communities in Precolonial India". The Rise of Merchant Empires: Long-Distance Trade in the Early Modern World, 1350-1750. Cambridge University Press. pp. 371–99.
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