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The Banjara (also called Lamans,[1] Lambadi,[2] Lambhani, Lambani and Gormati) are a community usually described as nomadic people with origins in Rajasthan.[3] They spread gradually into Kashmir, Bengal, Karnataka and Gujarat, and are now found all over India.[4]

Traditional banjara dress.jpg


Origin and historyEdit

The Banjaras are believed to have originated from the Marwar region of Rajasthan.[3][5]

The word Banjara is said to be derived from the Sanskrit word vana chara (wanderers in jungle). The word Lambani or Lamani is derived from the Sanskrit word lavana (salt), which was the principal product they transported across the country.[6]

Banjaras were traditionally cattle and salt merchants.[2] They also traded in grain and were known for long-distance commodity transport before the advent of the railways. During British rule Banjaras were forced to give up their traditional occupations. This led to some of them settling down as farmers near mountains and hilly regions, while others were driven into forests. The Banjaras of Maharashtra, called Laman Banjara /Lambani, are engaged in farming and many of them are highly educated.[7][8]



Traditional Banjara dress consisting of kanchali (blouse) and phetiya (skirt)

Banjaras speak Gor Boli; also called Lambadi, it belongs to the Indo-Aryan group of languages. As Lambadi has no script, it is either written in Devnagri script or in the script of the local language such as Telugu or Kannada.[9] Most Banjaras today are bilingual or multilingual, adopting the predominant language of their surroundings.[10]


Banjara art is rich and includes performance arts such as dance and music as well as folk and plastic arts such as rangoli, textile embroidery, tattooing and painting.[11] Banjara embroidery and tattooing are especially prized and also form a significant aspect of the Banjara identity. Lambani women specialize in lepo embroidery, which involves stitching pieces of mirror, decorative beads and coins onto clothes.[12] Sandur Lambani embroidery is a type of textile embroidery unique to the tribe in Sanduru, Bellary district, Karnataka. It has obtained a GI tag.[13]


Banjara people celebrate the festival of Teej during Shravana (the month of August). In this festival young unmarried Banjara girls pray for a good groom.[14] They sow seeds in bamboo bowls and water it three times a day for nine days and if the sprouts grow "thick and high" it is considered a good omen. During Teej the seedling-baskets are kept in the middle and girls sing and dance around them.[14]

Dance and MusicEdit

Fire dance and Chari dance are the traditional dance forms of the Banjaras. Banjaras have a sister community of singers known as Dadhis or Gajugonia[15] They are Muslim Banjaras who traditionally traveled from village to village singing songs to the accompaniment of sarangi.[16]


The majority of the Banjara people profess Hinduism. They also worship gods like Balaji, Jagadamba Devi, Bhavani of Tuljapur, Renuka Mata of Mahur, Mahadev, Khandoba and Hanuman. They also hold Guru Nanak in great respect.[17]

Sevalal or Sevabhaya is the most important saint of the Banjaras. According to their accounts, he was born on 15 February 1739 in Sirsi, Karnataka, to Bhima Naik and Dharmini Bai, and died on 4 December 1806. A cattle merchant by profession he is said to have been a man of exemplary truthfulness, a great musician, a courageous warrior, a rationalist who fought against superstition and a devotee of the goddess Jagadamba.[18] The colonial British administrators also quote his stories but they place him in the 19th century and identify his original name as Siva Rathor.[19]



Banjaras can be found all over India.[20] 1.1 million Banjaras were recorded in Karnataka in 2012.[21]

The Banjara people were transporters of goods such as salt, grains, firewood and cattle. During the 19th century, the British colonial authorities brought the community under the purview of Criminal Tribes Act of 1871 and thus curbed their movement.[22]


As of 2008, the Banjara community has been listed as a Scheduled Tribe in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Orissa. They were designated as an Other Backward Class in Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan, and as a Scheduled Caste in Karnataka, Delhi and Punjab.[23]

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ Bagchee, Aruna (1982). Seasonal Migration of the Lamans a Study in the Sociology of Migration. University of Poona.
  2. ^ a b Shashi, Shyam Singh (2006). The World of Nomads. New Delhi: Lotus Press. p. 143. ISBN 81-8382-051-4.
  3. ^ a b Vaditya, Venkatesh (2018). "Cultural Changes And Marginalisation Of Lambada Community In Telangana, India". Indian Journal Of Dalit And Tribal Studies And Action. 2 (3): 55–80. Retrieved 6 May 2018.
  4. ^ Naik (2000), p. 4
  5. ^ Burman, J. J. Roy (2010). Ethnography of a Denotified Tribe: The Laman Banjara. New Delhi: Mittal Publications. p. 15. ISBN 978-8-18324-345-2.
  6. ^ Halbar (1986), p. 14
  7. ^ Vāḷuñjakara, Tri Nā; Pāṭhaka, A Śã, eds. (2009). "Major Castes and Tribes". Maharashtra: Land and People (PDF) (revised ed.). Mumbai: Gazetteers Department, Government of Maharashtra. pp. 30–133, pages 33–35. Archived (PDF) from the original on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 1 November 2018.
  8. ^ Vohra, Gautam (1992-01-01). The New Political Elite. Daya Publishing House. ISBN 9788170351092.
  9. ^ Bhukya (2010), p. 233
  10. ^ Halbar (1986), p. 20
  11. ^ Naik (2000), p. 132
  12. ^ Naik (2000), pp. 26-27
  13. ^ "Sandur Lambani embroidery gets GI tag". The Hindu. 30 September 2010. Retrieved 21 June 2016.
  14. ^ a b "Banjara tribe refuses to snap ties with its culture". The Hindu. 23 August 2013. Retrieved 2014-10-01.
  15. ^ Naik (2000), p. 70
  16. ^ Naik (2000), p. 50
  17. ^ Deogaonkar & Deogaonkar (1992), p. 42
  18. ^ Naik, Lalitha (2009). Banjara Hejjegurutugalu. Bangalore: Karnataka Rajya Patragara Ilakhe. pp. 42–84. ISBN 978-8190843812.
  19. ^ Bhukya (2010), p. 209
  20. ^ "'Adivasis facing threat from Banjaras'". The Hindu. 21 August 2013. Retrieved 18 December 2017.
  21. ^ Gowda, Aravind (27 February 2012). "Truly the forgotten people of Karnataka". India Today. Retrieved 2014-10-02.
  22. ^ Tanaji Rathode. "Socio-Economic Issues of Banjara Community:". Banjara Times. Retrieved 2014-10-04.
  23. ^ "Denotified, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Communities" (PDF). National Commission for Denotified, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Tribes. 30 June 2008. p. 50. Retrieved 12 October 2018.


Further readingEdit

  • Satya, Laxman D. (July 1997). "Colonial Sedentarization and Subjugation: The Case of Banjaras of Berar, 1850-1900". The Journal of Peasant Studies, 24:4. pp. 314–336.
  • Habib, Irfan (1990). "Merchant Communities in Precolonial India". The Rise of Merchant Empires: Long-Distance Trade in the Early Modern World, 1350-1750. Cambridge University Press. pp. 371–99.