Maldharis are descendants of nomads who periodically came from Pakistan, Rajasthan and other parts of Gujarat, and finally settled in the Banni grasslands. The Maldhari have been living in the Banni grasslands for nearly 700 years.
These semi-nomadic herders spend eight months of the year criss-crossing sparse pasturelands with their livestock including sheep, goats, cows, buffalo, and camels in a continual quest for fodder. During the monsoon season, the Maldhari generally return to their home villages as more new grass grows closer to home during the rains. For villages in some areas, weddings are traditionally held just one day each year, on the date of the lord Krishna’s birthday Krishna Janmashtami, which falls in the midst of the monsoon.
Some girls in some regions are kept from going to school and expected to spend the early years of their life stitching elaborate garments for their wedding day, or, if they’ve been married off as children, as many are, for the ceremony performed when each moves in with her husband, normally when she is in her early twenties.
In different regions, they belong to different castes. There are 8,400 Maldharis living in Gir Forest National Park who are mainly Charan, and their villages are known as ness. The Gir Forest National Park is the last home of the Asiatic lion.
The Maldharis of northern Gujarat are known by different names in different parts. In Kutch, the Maldhari are found mainly in the Banni region, near the town of Bhuj. Here some forty Sindhi speaking Maldhari hamlets are home to several tribal communities including the Halaypotra, Hingora, Hingorja, Jat, Junejas, Mutwas and Me.
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