Nomadic Wonders- The Kutchi Rabari Tribes
A great, great while ago, when the world was full of wonders, numerous tribes were born, each with their own array of customs and lifestyles, purely their own. Historians and travelers alike have often glorified them through exercises of bonfire storytelling, a ritual much primeval like the tribes we speak of. And much so today, we bask in the magnificence of the legacy and stature they left behind.
The Rabari tribe is a phoenix risen from the ashes of this rich bequest of clans. Originating somewhere from the Nothern region of Gujarat and moving on to the Sandy areas of Jaisalmer, The Rabaris were a quintessential ethnic group of nomads. Hailed as one of the most interesting clans of discussion, the Rabaris have been in existence for a hundred years now, only with a change in the way they lead their lives.
Spotting a Rabari tribe is easy; they are differentiated by the way their womenfolk dress themselves. Yes, the Rabaris get their identity through their women! They are usually clad in long, heavy jewelry and overhead black scrapes. Legend states, that a king once fell in love with a Rabari girl. Upon her refusing his proposal, the king vehemently threatened to kill them. The Rabaris fled overnight with the help of Muslim commoner. However, the commoner was killed in rage by the king. The Rabari women are known to wear black as mourning for the man’s death. The Rabaris being devout Hindu groups, it is frequently believed that the incident could bridge gaps and demolish Hindu-Muslim disparities.
However, the Rabaris were famous for their wide range of metallic jewelry, ranging from earrings to bands. The most famous artifacts for the historians’ delight are the Nagali earrings of the Rabari tribes residing in Kutch. Shaped like spirals, they were said to be closely inspired by snake bodies.
In contrast to the interesting lifestyles of women, the Rabari men were rather frugal dressers. They often appeared in dhotis and double-breasted waistcoats, essentially white-coloured. Their ears were adorned with nothing but golden earrings and they advocated an air of authority by carrying around sticks everywhere.
The craft of embroidery is a live, breathing example of the culturally rich Rabari traditions. Their women, diligent artisans and experts at designing, gave birth to detailed textile traditions, regarded a frivolous expression of their rampant inventiveness. It started as more of an afternoon ritual; the women would sit together and create embroidered trousseaus, bags, Ghagros (Rajasthani womens’ skirts), Kanchalis (blouses), Ludi (veil), clothes for children and auspicious torans. Even today, designers hail the tribes’ legacy as an elixir; an immortal source of information. The designs are heavily inspired by the picturesque, mountainous regions that the Rabaris resided in, surrounded by hills and forests. They also actively flaunted mythology through their designs, etching them in our minds for life.
Seldom a fan of sitting around fires and sharing lively anecdotes, the story of the Rabari tribe, however, remains a close memory, and an immortal source of inspiration for a mind that craves fine art.