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Rabari

Rabari
For almost 1,000 years, the Rabari have roamed the deserts and plains of what is today western India. It is believed that this tribe, with a peculiar Persian physiognomy, migrated from the Iranian plateau more than a millennium ago. The Rabari are now found largely in Gujarat and Rajasthan. 
“It is morning whenever you wake up"
The Rabari women dedicate long hours to embroidery, a vital and evolving expression of their crafted textile tradition. They also manage the hamlets and all money matters while the men are on the move with the herds. The livestock, wool, milk and leather, is their main source of income.

Ajabgarh Vilage, Rajasthan

February 2012

Rabari have a very rich cultural past and present. Embroidery is a vital, living and evolving expression of the crafted textile tradition of the Rabaris. As far back as the tribe’s collective memory stretches, Rabari women have diligently embroidered textiles as an expression of creativity, aesthetics and identity. Designs are taken from mythology and the tribe’s desert surroundings. Girls learn the art of embroidery at a young age, practising their new-found skills by working on a collection of embroidered items that will later become their dowry. This collection can sometimes take two or three years to complete.

Artprint available

- Jimmy Nelson

Rabari Noblemen, Rajasthan

February 2012

While the men are on the move in search of grazing pastures for their livestock, the women and children remain in the villages. The villages are usually small, featuring no more than the most basic amenities, and they are almost always set in bleak, barren surroundings.

In a typical village, two-room rectangular houses (vandhas) with whitewashed mud walls and tiled roofs may look stark, but the interior decoration of these houses reflect the Rabari’s fondness for adornments of all sorts.

Trajuva

February 2012

For hundreds of years, the tribal women have practiced tattooing for decorative, religious and therapeutic purposes. Traditional patterns (trajuva) are passed down through the generations. The female elders of the tribe women still work as tattoo artists at fairs, festivals and markets where the Rabari gather to trade their goods.  Nearly all surfaces of the body are tattooed. 

Woman in Ajabgarth Village

February 2012

Rabaris can be easily identified by looking at their womenfolk, who usually wear long black headscarves (lobadi) and distinctive heavy brass earrings. They tattoo magical symbols on their necks, breasts and arms.

Shri Raghunathji Temple, Amanbagh, Rajasthan

February 2012

Deriving its name from Aman, meaning ‘peace’ in Sanskrit and bagh, meaning garden in Hindi, Amanbagh lies within a walled compound once used by the Maharajah of Alwar to site his mobile hunting camps in search of the elusive tigers known to roam the nearby hills. Long since abandoned, the trees and vegetation continue to thrive due to a suitable water supply drawn from an adjacent lake.

Ajabgarh’s fort and the old temple, dedicated to Shri Raghunathji, built in 1635 AD, with its 24-pillared open courtyard and marble facade. This temple once housed an idol of Lord Rama and Goddess Sita bejewelled with precious stones. It was removed by thieves some time ago. The temple and Ajabgarh fort are connected by an underground passage originally
designed for use by the royal ladies so they could enter the temple in complete privacy.
Artprint available

- Jimmy Nelson

Rathanambore National Park

February 2012

Rabari are devout Hindus. According to their myths, they were created by Parvati, the consort of Shiva. As Shiva was meditating, Parvati wiped the dust and sweat from his body and modelled the very first camel from the dust balls she collected. Once Shiva had breathed life into the camel, it kept running away.

So, Parvati fashioned and gave life to a man – the first Rabari – to lookafter the camel. Keeping animals has thus always been a devout occupation and the Rabari people see themselves primarily as custodians, rather than owners, of animals. It is also their belief that Parvati is their guardian. Her advice is taken on many occasions and animals are commended to her care.

Krishna’s birthday

February 2012

Marriage, which celebrates the vitality of life and ensures its continuity, is  considered of utmost importance. Traditionally, weddings can be extravagant events, and they take place on a particular day of the year: the feast of Gokulashtami, Krishna’s birthday.

Childhood marriage is still very much in vogue with the tribe. Rabaris marry only within the tribe and often into families that are closely related.

Rabari women

February 2012

The women are shrewd and intelligent and manage the hamlets and all money matters. Going to the local village or town markets is an important part of daily life. There, the Rabari women trade milk and milk products from their livestock. Wool and leather are sold in order to purchase commodities
they do not produce themselves. Rabari women dedicate long hours to sewing,
traditional embroidery and bead work.
Artprint available

- Jimmy Nelson

Rathanambore National Park, Aman Bagh, Rajashan


February 2012

A Rabari man commonly appears in white dress, sporting golden earrings.

Rabari Nobleman

February 2012

Although only about one to two percent of the Rabari still practise an entirely nomadic lifestyle, the main sources of Rabari income remain livestock and related products such as milk, wool, leather and dung. Shepherds are often hired to herd the combined livestock of entire villages, with flocks sometimes numbering more than 500.

Outsiders

February 2012

It is believed that this tribe, with a peculiar Persian physiognomy, migrated from the Iranian plateau more than a millennium ago.

Their name, meaning ‘outsider’, refers to the fact that as nomadic herders, they would be found not within town walls, but in the periphery and further, where there was enough land for their grazing herds.