A Rebari Couple

A Rebari Couple in their home. The rebaries continue to live a nomadic life, spending the greater part of their time with their flocks of camel and sheep in search of fresh pastures and grazing grounds.

Nomadism has been defined as a way of life involving 'repeated shifting of habitat in search of subsistence'. Nomads can either be 'true', 'semi-nomad' or 'semi-sedentary' depending, respectively, on whether their peregrinations are permanent or round the year, combined with some agriculture at their base-camps, or seasonal. Rajasthan has had a substantial incidence of seasonal migrations either as an adopted way of life or a scarcity-induced aberration.

Gadolia Lohars: The Gadolia Lohars (bullock-cart blacksmiths) of Rajasthan form a major and substantial group of nomads. Also referred to as Gaduliyas, they are found in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, western Maharashtra and western Uttar Pradesh. In Rajasthan, an estimate made in 1955 gave their population at about 17,000. The 1931 Census classified them as a functional caste and described them as a sub-division of Hindu lohars or blacksmiths. It also mentioned the tradition according to which they were expelled by the Brahmins of Chittaur. The more romantic version now generally current is that the Gadoliya Lohars left Chittaur at the time of its sack in 1568 and took five vows namely, that they would not enter the fort, build houses and live in them, sleep on cots, light lamps, or keep ropes for drawing water from wells, until such time as the fort again gained freedom. It was in accordance with this version that in 1955 a function was arranged signalling the fulfilment of their vow. It is another matter that they continue to lead a nomadic life or build makeshift 'houses' at what used to be their roadside camping sites while being averse to living in houses specially built for their rehabilitation.

A wandering, artisan class, they stay at a place while there is a demand for their services, and then move on in search of newer clients. The fact of their becoming 'roadside' lohars in many instances signifies the availability at such sites of custom round the year. For itinerant Gadoliyas, the working season begins after the rains, in September, while April-June forms the off-season.