The Rabari Tribe

by Shatika, April 7, 2016

The Rabari is a tribe, who are found all over Gujarat and Rajasthan. They have a permanent village but they  are only found there, half a year. They are used to keeping animals for their sustenance and pastime. The women live in the village while the men go out with their cattle.  The women are very deft with their fingers and some of the finest mirror work and embroidery comes from this region.

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It was said  that Rabari came into existence due to two stories one that Lord Shiva gave ‘Sambal’, one of his minions, three apsaras to carry on the work and flourish . He took a promise, that he would not speak and if he violates the condition, the apsaras will be lost forever. From this union one son and four daughters were born. Soon the family grew large and so then the Lord asked  him to reside on earth. Since then Sambal was called Rabari. On earth they lived on the foothills of the Aravalli hills. According to a another version Sambal was a superb camel breeder. Someone started stealing his animals. One day he caught the culprit and found that she was a goddess but he had exposed her therefore they had to get married and they wandered across Haryana, Rajasthan and settled in Kutch. Yet another version says that Allaudin Khilji fell in love with a beautiful Rabari woman.

Rabaris, have different stories about their origin. Some believe in two legends about their origin and lineage. Rabari means the one that has gone outside (dwells outside). According to one of the legends on their origin, Lord Shiva gave Sambal, one of his minions, three apsaras, to marry and flourish with a condition that he will not speak one word to them. If he violated the condition, the apsaras would be lost forever. From his association, one son and four daughters were born. Soon, the family grew too large and so the lord asked him to go and dwell on the earth. Since then Sambal was called Rabari. On earth, they resided in the region that lies on the foothills of Aravallis with Udaipur as its centre. The daughters were married off to Rajput men.

According to another version, Sambal was an ace camel breeder. Someone started stealing the beautiful and sturdy animals. Sambal soon discovered that the stealer was a goddess. However, Sambal caught her and through a clever stratagem removed her clothes, leaving her in an embarrassing situation. As per the tradition in situations like this, the two married and after wandering across Haryana, Rajasthan and Sind, settled in Kutch. Yet another story, says that Allauddin Khilji had fallen in love with an extraordinarily beautiful Rabari woman. She rejected his proposal but the muslim ruler sent his men to kill her. The kings man helped them escape , he gave up his life. To honour his bravery. The women have worn black, mourning the death of the loyal young man. They escaped to Sind but later returned to Kutch. The community is Clannish and the men always wear white, gold earrings and the women wear black. Clothes are heavily decorated with embroidery.

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