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The 3/02 BLOG by Michèle Béguin
the Garasia tribals of South Mewar



Quite Unknown and unexpected tribe of Western India


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The Garasia are noticeable with their own way of dressing and do keep it alive. Women can be easily recognized with their large skirts and their small blouse usually enhanced with fantastic decoration like big cloth flowers stitched on each side close to the shoulders. For the everyday wear some silver ornaments which become exceptionally heavy when a festival is on. Around the skull above the forehead, at the ears, hands and wrists, waist and ankles, heavy silver is there with particular designs looking unique to the Garasia.


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Typical silver earrings and chain ornementing hair

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Haatphul a beautiful and heavy jewellery worn by every Garasia lady when going to a festive place

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These Garasia are sitting in Mount Abu after having performed the rites for the ancestors. This is an annual ceremony.

What is also striking is their very serious look ! Few of them would smile to a stranger though they do not refuse to be photographed. Their apparently indifferent look is funny because their eyes would show some disdain and with a pout on the lips, they still observe a passive attitude.


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The Indian society of the plains is organized in strict groups where the caste is observed as a rule for the marriages though less but is still there. The rule of getting married is an obsession in the Indian society, we can see it everywhere in news papers, magazines, rules of life etc... The obligation of marriage rules the society. I would add it is close to an obsession. If it is not fun for the people getting married at least it is for other family members! But with the Garasia, their customs keep them away from those rules. They have their own and freedom is the main one, still prevalent these days, which make the other groups of Indian society underline a bit too much a freedom comparable to the West sounding shocking and enviable by the rest of the society. Within the Garasia year, there is a get together which can be named the festival for “marriage”. By the end of spring at the limit of summer in south Mewar when it is the time of worshipping Gangaur, goddess of matrimony, there is in Siyawa, a mela attracting the young and less young Garasia who are coming to get a companion. It is a practice found in other groups living far away from the big centers of civilization like hills areas wherever in the Himalayan range. The attitude of these people is much more free than others of other castes, and they interact in a more normal way than others. Youngsters who want to build up a intimate relation based on a liking organize themselves. They come to Siyawa having a partner in mind, meet, choose each other freely then elope and then inform their relatives. Marriage as such is not a question. Their common life is for a long period or not. When the time comes to choose someone else, then there is the Siyawa mela... then they start another relationship. Simple? looks like and makes others to envy their free ways of living so much so that it is the first thing other Indians would underline about the Garasia!


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Pretty and graceful Garasia lady.

Their name indicates “people owning land” and getting their living from the land their ancestors got from Rajputs from who they are supposed to be -for some of them- one of this caste strata. This would have happened centuries ago. No real History is written and Historians have different theories about it. But it is the main version about the Garasias’ past


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This lady is wearing heavy silver and cloth flowers on her blouse.

Difficult to know them as for the most educated according to the official pattern would speak Hindi but the community has its own language and apparently sticks to it. They like songs and have for all occasions, for religious festivals and those saying legends, for the Sun and the Moon eclipses, those telling the pangs of the laborers, songs for the rains, songs for the marriage of Shiva and Parvati. And also fond of dances, many of them serving different occasion. At Siyawa, they spontaneously gather and sing softly, slowly moving in a supple row.


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They are dancing a slow and harmonious dance singing low an adequate song matching the occasion;

If fashion is now western oriented they keep a special taste for tattooing. Names of partner and also flowers, peacocks, Hindu gods, many items decorating their skin are hidden most of the time as not on their face. These people remaining close to the nature, feel and experiment its powers. They have developed a knowledge of witchcraft through incantations, charms, mantras for all kinds of reason as well as to cure from scorpions and snake bites.. up to the need to get rid of an enemy! All a tradition there! They are also expert in herbal treatments to cure and give relief to some infections or bites or painful health happenings; one must say that doctors were not and are still not easily available so they developed all a knowledge to protect themselves against the hazards of life. Apparently quite close to the Witch doctors we meet in remote hilly Himalayan areas, they cure a person with charms and songs. There are many kinds of fevers and recitations have been created to palliate to all fevers’ effects. They have also a wide repertory of marks to be put differently at certain points of the body with different tools to cure the diseases. All a knowledge far from the latest medical sciences Indian are so reputed. An attractive human group difficult to come close to and books of specialists like Dr Arjun Singh Shekhawat’s and others are a great assets to understand these tribals.


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A Propos de Michèle Béguin

CNIL:1050096 2004 © Michèle Béguin