Brief Details of Rabari


The word bhopa is derived from the words 'bhumi palak', i.e. ruler of the land and Rabari is a one who is wealthy. The word Rabari may also mean the one who is beyond rules and regulations. However, the exact etymology of these words is not clearly known. Bhopa is the short name used for a group of Rabaris who are referred as Bhopa Rabari. The government records and the literature refer to them as Bhopa or Rabari who have eight endogamous groups viz., Gujarati, Kutchi, Vaghed, Debar, Panchal, Venu, Jhalawadi, Bhopa and Sorathiya. They had migrated from Rajasthan via Kutch to Okhamandal and now most of the Bhopa Rabaris are, distributed in the Okhamandal region of Jamnagar district. They speak a language which is a mixture of Gujarati, Kachchi and Marwari words and Pharasi; it is popularly known as a language, by the community name, i.e. Bhopa. This Bhopa tongue is used while communicating with the family members other kin and the community members, but Gujarati admixed with Kachchi with the members of other communities. They use Gujarati script. A Bhopa male or female can be identified by their dress. There are specific ornaments for young, adult and old males which differ with regard to their marital status and number of children. The population according to census 2001 was 15,417 out of which 8,027 were male and 7390 female. The literacy among women is very low, Total 4,733 were literate out of which 2,996 were male and 1,737 female.

Most of the Bhopa are vegetarian. Those who are non-vegetarian eat mutton, egg, chicken and pork. The staple foods are bajra, jowar, and rice taken along with all kinds of pulses and vegetables. Palmolin or ground nut oil is the cooking media. Milk, products are consumed daily by a majority of the community members. They have elaborate prescriptions related to taking certain food items during the festivals and fairs specific to them. Shift to vegetarianism is an important change noticeable amongst the Bhopas. Consequently there has been an increase in the consumption of pulses and vegetables.

The different groups of Rabari enjoy an equal status and the differentiation of these groups is largely based on territorial affiliation and to some extent on social aspects for the different groups practice considerably different customs and follow divergent practices. The Bhopa have different clans (ataks) such as Mordav, Ganghor, Luna, Gujar, etc. The ataks which have the same kul-devi are considered fraternal ataks. These, ataks mainly regulate the marital alliances between the different groups. Bhopa as a group of Rabari are included in the their-tasili cluster of communities like Bharwad, Charan, Ghedia Koli, Ahir, Rajput, Lohar, Sutar, etc. All the their-tasili groups have commensally relations but not the connubial ties. Because of this, they are considered equivalent to Rajputs, so, placed in the Kshatrlya Varna. Other communities in the area also consider them to be Kshatriyas.

The members of the Bhopa Rabari community do not inter marry with any other group of Rabaris. Two members of the same atak or the members from two brotherly ataks cannot marry. Consanguineous marriages are not allowed amongst the Bhopa. Sagai (the betrothal ceremony) is arranged at an early age. The marriageable ages for the boys and girls are fifteen to eighteen and fourteen to fifteen years respectively. Marriages are arranged by negotiation. Levirate and sorrorate are permissible. Polygyny too is permissible. Earlier, large bangles made of elephant tusks were worn by the married women but they are, no longer in use and as such they have ceased to be the marriage symbols. Married women can be identified by the dress patterns and also by their observance of laz (veiling of face) before the elder affinal relatives. The amount of bride-price is heavy and sometimes it reaches an amount of Rs. 40,000/-. Residence after marriage is patrilocal. Divorce is now-a-days permitted and divorces are reportedly preferred by the girl's parents for they can accumulate more money through bride-price payments. Apart from the bride-price, the ornaments, if any, are returned to the husband and these payments are made by the party who would like to get married with' the divorced woman. Divorce cases are settled by the elders of two households involved and only, in rare cases they are taken to caste elders. Remarriage of divorcees, widows and widower are permitted. There has been an increase in the amount of bride-price to be paid and reportedly, there are less numbers of females in the community reportedly, in relation to males. There has been an increase in divorce cases.

Majority of the Bhopas live in nuclear families since within two to three years of the marriage of a son, a vertically extended family splits. However, even after the split the sons have to share the social and economic obligations and responsibilities of the natal family in each and every aspect and sphere, otherwise they stand disinherited: So, the joint family ties are unbroken till a long time in an individual's life-cycle. Inheritance follows male lineage. Succession and descent are reckoned in the male line, the eldest son succeeds the father. Elder brother-in-law and father-in-law observe avoidance relations with daughter-in-law and son-in-law avoids mother-in-law. Younger brother-in-law and wife's younger sibs are joking relations. Inter-family linkages' exist between the community members of a neighborhood which are largely cordial.

Women do not have a right to the parental property. They are mostly engaged in household work and are looking after the milky cattle etc. A few women are engaged in wage labour in agricultural and non-agricultural sectors. Potable water and fuel wood are collected by the women of the household. They have a role in ritual and religious spheres, although they do not have a role in the social control mechanisms and in political spheres. Their role j in family management is important and women's consent is sought when important familial decisions are made. Bhopa women stand in an almost equal status to that of their men. On delivery, the baby is bathed on that day and the baby and mother are bathed on the chhatti (sixth) day. Only on, chhatti day the father's sister names the baby. Tonsure for the male baby is done before three years of age. Gurudhama (accepting a religious teacher) is done during the childhood.

Betrothal ceremony precedes marriage. About five people from the male side would go to the girl's place and if she is acceptable they would remain there till evening to settle the monetary transaction that is to precede the marriage. Once an agreement is reached, all of them would take jaggery mixed with milk from one bowl, following which the girl is presented with clothes and the boy's party would return. This whole affair follows an oracle of taking a goat to kuldevi's temple; if the goat nods its head after worship then they would proceed to the girl's house. The marriage day would be settled by the same kind of oracle and once the day is fixed and preparations are under-way, singing of marriage songs starts. Prior to the marriage day, lord Ganapati is installed in the-house and worshipped. After that the marriage booth is erected and Kshetrapala is worshipped. This follows the arrival of jaan, (the procession of the groom). The groom is received by the bride's mother and he is made to walk over samupt, made of two small earthen-vessels painted white and jointed at the edges. Hastmelap and mangal-phera are the binding portions of the marriage. After the mangal-phera, the bride is taken to the groom's village and to the place of surapura (ancestors) and the kul-devi. The holy knot (mindol) is then untied. Consummation of marriage takes place on an auspicious day within two or three days. All the Bhopas (sacred specialists of the family deities) belonging to both villages of the bride and groom should be present at the time of marriage. A Rajgor Brahman presides over the marriage. Once the bride leaves her natal home, she returns at the time of Holi or during Navratri. She would stay for six months there either at the time of Holi or else for confinement. Then the final coming to the affinal household would be after delivery. All these four times the woman is sent with presents and by the time she returns she would have been presented with all the necessary articles for the household. A still-born child is buried within the compound of the household. Before the last breath a person is removed from the bed and allowed to rest on a cleaned floor. On death, the body is washed and wrapped in new clothes to be carried on a thatidi, (bier) for cremation. Only the children up to twelve years and small-pox deaths are buried. During the period of death pollution, the kins are not allowed to take milk and milk products like chhach (thin butter milk), Katta savouries etc. Mortuary rites are observed on the twelfth day.

The main economic activity of the Bhopas is sheep breeding and selling of milk. Only a few of them own cultivable agricultural land. Of late, a good number of them have' diversified their occupation and are engaged as wage labourers in industrial establishments both as skilled and un-skilled labourers. Cattle breeding Bhopa Rabari are 'Maldharis' of Gir forest. Child labour is prevalent. The most important change in their economic life is the' increase of wages to labourers particularly in industrial establishments.

Amongst the Bhopa, the mechanism for social control is closely linked with those of religion. Besides that there is no caste panchayat or village council. Modern statutory panchayats have little role in matters related to community.

The Bhopas profess Hinduism and are Shiva and Shakti followers. The different forms of Shakti are worshipped as kul-devis (family deities) through a Bhopa (medium). Besides, there is a hierarchy of sacred specialists amongst them. The Bhopa hierarchy is headed by a Bhuva. One Padhiar works under a Bhuua and the Padhiar has five Pachitar and each Pachitar has five Sarmas (25 Sarrnos in total). Besides, Rajgor Brahman's services are sought for marriage purposes. Enthoven (1922) mentions in general that the funeral rites are conducted by the Katia Brahmans. The major gods in their pantheon are Shivji, Ganesh, Ranchodji, etc. The different kul-devis are Alakh, Momoi, Jagadhatri, Vankol (Vyagreswari) etc. Some of them are followers of Ramdev pir and the members of this sect observe some esoteric rituals. A few of them are active followers of the Swadhyay of Pahduranga Shastri which is an universalistic sect.

Embroidery work of Bhopa females is known for its originality. The main motifs in their embroidery are peacock, birds, flowers and trees. The wall lined granaries/store houses made of horse-dung, ash etc., are known for their great artistic worth as well as their utility. There are folk-tales specific to Bhopas which are still recounted. The folk songs of Bhopa are called siya and they too are specific to the community.

The inter-community linkages of Bhopa are restricted to Rajput-Darbar groups and service castes of their localities. Their relations with other Rabari groups are limited for they are territorially isolated except when they meet in religious fairs and festivals. As mentioned above they are one of the their-tasili groups. The occupational diversification and particularly their involvement in the industrial labour-force have brought them into contact with other communities. 'Literacy amongst the Bhopa is very low. However, now-a-days children, particularly boys are sent to school. Indigenous Medicare, their dependence on the shamans and mystiques for ailments are common. Modern Medicare is adopted only in severe cases. Some members have utilized IRDP and taken the help of governmental agencies for self-employment. Drinking water and electricity facilities are available. Public distribution system is availed of. Earlier, they used to keep all money and jewellery with the merchant (Bania) for a safe custody, while they were on their noadic pursuits but now that practice has completely been left out and instead they use banking facilities for savings and investment.

Population Data

Details of population data of Rabari
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Rabari Life
1 of Rabari Life
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