According to the research only seven percent of India is nomadic and most of them are deprived of development programs. Recently many of them are settling down, giving up their nomadic life. Education and jobs are bringing them in the main stream of the society.

While working on a film in Kashmir based on nomads I was able to understand this conflict more closely. We were working with nomads called Bakkarwals. Bakkarwals are nomads in Kashmir; they travel from Jammu to a place called Nagamandi every summer and they return in winter. This distance is almost 300km and path goes through endless mountains. They walk constantly in search of fresh grass and pleasant climate. The act of continuously walking is what they love and their livestock is the reason for it. They call themselves ‘Khanabadush’ which means wanderers in Urdu. These people are originally from Afghanistan but there are traces of Gujri language in their dialects. They look also very much Afghani with fair and tall athletic build and sharp features.

Their life is extremely tough, continues walk through the wild forest and mountain is not an easy task. Also due to the extreme climate, lack of medical facilities and natural disasters, their life is constantly under the threat of death. As we were walking with them we could see small stones under the mountains, which actually were gravestones of mostly children. As their children walk with them and learn how to manage livestock. They learn different techniques of identifying certain breed, accounting sheep, their medication and other necessary things. These days’ adults too are getting opportunity of having formal education through government’s program. They teach children while they move and thus they get proper education as well. Still high rate of child marriage in this community is a grave issue, at the age of 12-15 they get married, most of the time in their community itself. This is one more reason for higher child death and other health issues.

Bakkarwals also have higher and lower class, lower class people are the servants who take care of the sheep all the time and their economical and social condition is really bad as compare to the owner. The distinct difference between them is their skin tone; servants have dark skin and they look like Indian Muslims where owners have more Afghani look. But all of them stay together as a family and work as team.

It was very interesting to understand their social association, religion, language, folklore and material culture, normative beliefs and indigenous knowledge, gender relations, the nature of power and reciprocity, also to their remarkable vitality and grace.


For more information:

Refer to a book ‘The Bakkarwals of Jammu and Kashmir’ by Anita Sharma.


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