The Banjara (also called Lamani, Lambadi, Lambani) are a community usually described as nomadic people from the Indian state of Rajasthan, now spread out all over Indian subcontinent.
According to Burman the name Laman was popular long before the name Banjara, and Laman Banjaras originally came from Afghanistan before settling in Rajasthan and other parts of India. The Lamans, according to him, are originally from the independent province called Gor in Afghanistan.
Banjaras were traditionally suppliers of bullock and salt merchants. The word Banjara is said to be 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 good they transported across the country.
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 as good omen. During Teej the seedling-baskets are kept in the middle and girls sing and dance around them. Banjaras also celebrate the festival of Holi. 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.
Banjara art is rich and includes performance arts such as dance and music to folk and plastic arts such as rangoli, textile embroidery, tattooing and painting. The 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.
Banjaras speak Banjari language; also called as Gor Boli it belongs to the Indo-Aryan group of languages. It is in many ways similar to Marwari, Lomavren, Rajasthani and Romani. Gor Boli has no script and recorded history. The community as a whole is learning local Indian languages in schools and gradually losing the original dialect. Most Banjaras today are bi-lingual or multi-lingual adopting the predominant language of their surroundings. Efforts are being made to include Banjara language in 8th Schedule of Constitution of India which would help in getting funds for research into the development of this language.
The main deities of Banjara people are Bheema Sati, the saint Sevalal and Mitu Bhukiya. They also follow Hinduism, and worship Hindu gods like Balaji, Jagadamba Devi or Thulja Bhavani, Ganesh, God Shiva, Krishna and Hanuman. 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.
They also worship Peer and Banjara Devi (who are represented by a heap of stones in a forest)and Mithu Bhukiya. Mithu Bhukhiya was an "expert dacoit" of the tribe and is worshiped in a hut built in front of tanda or village with a white flag on top. This practice is gradually losing its importance, because people of the community are more engaged these days in agriculture, government employment and other forms of work. Members of the community are usually barred from sleeping in the special hut built for Mithu Bhukhiya (also spelled Mitthu Bhukhiya).
It is customary among Banjaras to have inter-gotra marriages; intra-gotra marriages are traditionally "proscribed."
The Rathod/Bhukya clan are known by 27 surnames. They are as follows:
- Aaloth, Bhaanaavath, Bhilavath, Degaavath, Depaavath, Devsoth, Dungaavath,
- Jhandavath, Kaanaavath, Karamtoth, Khaatroth, Khethaavath, Khilaavath,
- Kodaavath, Kumaavath, Meghaavath, Meraajoth, Meraavath, Nenaavath, Paathloth,
- Pithaavath, Raajavath, Raamavath, Raathla/Phulia, Ranasoth, Sangaavath and Sotki
The Pawar clan are known by 12 surnames, which are the following:
- Aamgoth, Aivath, Pammar, Baanni, Chaivoth
- Injraavath, Inloth, Jharapla, Lunsavath/Nunsavath
- Pamaadiyaa, Tarabaanni, Vankdoth and Vislaavath.
The Chavans or Chauhans have the following 6 surnames:
- Dumaavath/Kayloth, Korra, Mood
- Chauradiya, Paalthyaa and Sabavat.
The Vadithyas or Jadhavs have the following 52 surnames:
- Ajmera, Baadaavath, Barmaavath, Bhagvaandas
- Bharoth, Bodaa, Dhaaraavath, Dungaroth
- Gangaavath, Goraam, Gugloth, Halaavath
- Jaadhav, Jaloth, Jayt, Kagla
- Kunsoth, Lokaavath, Lonaavath, Loolaavath
- Maaloth, Mohandas, Pipaavath, Poosnamal
- Salaavath, Sejaavath, Tejaavath, Tepaavath
- Teraavath, Tuvar, Undaavath and VaderJhaad.
The Banoths or Aades have the following 15 surnames:
- Aadoth, Ade, Baanoth, Bhojaavath
- Daanaavath, Dharmasoth, Dheeravath, Jaatroth
- Karnaavath, Kuntaavath, Lavori, Mudavath
- Paanaavath, Rupavath and Sabdasoth.
The highest population of Banjara or Lambadi community is to be found in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana states. Together these states have a population of 2.2 million Banjaras who speak the Banjara language along with Telugu. In Karnataka, they are spread in northern parts of the state and Karnataka has second largest Banjara population (1.1 million, as of 2012) in India.
In India, Banjara people were transporters of goods from one place another and the goods they transported included salt, grains, firewood and cattle. During 18th Century, the British colonial authorities brought the community under the purview 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 the state of Tamil Nadu they are Backward Classes (BC) and in Karnataka they are categorized as Scheduled Caste since 1977.
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