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'Gaddi' woman with
her traditional finery

The gaddis are traditionally a semi-nomadic tribe who once roamed around with their herds of goats and sheep from the plains of Punjab to the heights of Lahul and Spiti of the present day Himachal Pradesh. Now they are slowly giving up their semi-nomadic ways and settling around the Dhauladhar range in the valleys of Chamba and Kangra. It is said that the ancestors of the ‘gaddis’ had emigrated originally from the plains of Punjab and central India more than a thousand years ago. Even today a lot of social and cultural characteristics can be attributed to this historical link to their past. In spite of this inheritance the ‘gaddis’ are unique among the hill tribes in their customs, social beliefs, religion and their way of life.

They are basically Hindus by religion and have very staunch belief in the gods. In fact one would find every household would have its own family temple in the courtyard. In fact every serious illness or special occasions are marked by a ‘Jatra’ or a pilgrimage to distant temples on the great heights of the Himalayas.

The ‘gaddis’ thoroughly enjoy their festivals, fairs and celebrations. And every such occasion is marked by a lot of drinking, dancing and great merry-making.

'Gaddi' priest in a
temple of Chamba

There was a time when in the months of May-June one would find ‘gaddis’ with their large herds of goats and sheep moving steadily across the foothills to cross the passes leading towards Lahul and Spiti. The ‘gaddis’ had made ‘deras’ or temporary shelters all along the way they travelled every year. At some places they had mud-thatched huts which could even accommodate up to 300 goats and sheep at one time and at other places they had just cleared out the soil below a great overhanging rock, making a kind of cave.

But slowly over the decades such sights are slowly decreasing. Mostly the shepherds are taking their sheep up and down the mountain but only around their valleys and not anymore to the great plains of Punjab or across the high passes to Lahul. They have agricultural land-holdings where they are growing corn, potatoes, vegetables etc. The women are taking care of the farming, cattle and the households whereas the men are now moving out in to the world to look for ways of earning money.

A 'Gaddan' with her load
of fodder for the cows

The traditional ways of earning through livestock and agriculture are not so alluring any more. More and more people are moving out of their villages in search of better livelihood. Unfortunately in the modern society they are hard put to make a niche for themselves. Lack of education and awareness force them to either seek employment as daily wage labourers or if they are lucky enough to be educated, they find jobs as government servants.

‘HiVE’ is striving to bridge this gap by bringing about awareness to the people by showing them how they could utilise local resources and turn them to means of livelihood.