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the Blog 11 by Michèle Béguin
Danser avec les LAMBADIS

Dancing with the Lambadis.

I will not take you on the crowded touristic routes but on those which by chance, make you discover less known or unknown people nevertheless important for the History of India. It is the case for the Lambadis. Every luxury book about India has at least one photo with them and their fantastic adornment but besides their tribal name... nothing else. Their origin is very much discussed and the specialists are still divided between several eventual origins. It is true that for most of them, their physical traits, would rather link them to the Southern population of India. According to some researchers their origin is Afghanistan from where they would have come to migrate towards the actual Rajasthan before dispatching in almost all the Central and Southern regions of the country. Did they come from Southern Rajasthan for the salt and cattle trades or were they already on the Deccan central plateau at that time? Nothing is sure, neither with documents nor by tales of foreign visitors. As many specialists, as many chosen hypothesis. The Lambadis -also called Banjaras- have been nomads in the past centuries, travelling from South Rajasthan to the Deccan plateau up to the actual Andhra Pradesh. They have even been accused of collaborating during the Moghol time and supplying their armies during the war times. But their role is not known in details. The contemporary India has planned a settlement policy for wandering populations, and the Lambadis have been included into this effort. Their status is fluctuating according to the States of India, It goes from Schedule Tribe to OBC. They are now settled in places given by the Indian government in small villages -thanda- only for their community. Simple houses but permanent, clean streets with stones here and there. Costumes have remained the same than in the past. Men sport their dhoti and kurta with a dark pink or red turban and women their skirts, shirts and flowery veils of bright colors and very remarkable jewelry. The jewelry on the head is all wrapped up into the veil, pinned up not to be bothering the gestures for the daily chores and as soon they are over, the veil is unwrapped and the heavy jewelry is freed to be seen out of personal or community pride. Those two heavy articulated silver pendants that you could not imagine to wear so big they are, seem heavy. These women sport them all their married life, sleep with them and of course leave them only if they become widow. Those ornaments are extraordinary beautiful and finely crafted. One has to see the malicious look of the Lambadi women in front of our astonishment when looking at them ... because in addition to that, they wear number of other jewelry...at the head, neck, wrist, ankles and toes. Moreover for a festival like the Holi dance before the color festival, they add more of them. In silver, always but also with cauris, those tiny shells that all Lambadis were wearing in the olden days, somewhere on the body and also sewn on their attire. Mostly Hindu but aside of the mainstream, they have their own customs and practices and keep strictly the territory of their village always out of the neighborhood. Good cattle raisers and talented farmers, they have a cordial approach. The only problem is to understand their language, Lambadi. Coming from Sanskrit and mixed with Hindi, Marathi and Telegu, they also speak their State language at such a speed that its rumbling sounds are so funny that it becomes impossible to understand even when you speak Hindi. Their festival is Holi, particular day dedicated to the eradication of Evil by burning its symbol on the pyre. For that occasion, by the end of the day...one dances! Women wear their beautiful dresses of vibrant colors as usual but more sophisticated even with added jewelry everywhere possible. Next day is Dhulandi : the day of colors which Indians are throwing handfuls of vibrant hues, forget their grudges with others before carrying on their life.

signature michele beguin

A Propos de Michèle Béguin

CNIL:1050096 2004 © Michèle Béguin