Banjara, who are also known by numerous other names - such as Laman, Lambadi, and Vanjari - are a nomadic tribe, who may have origins in Afghanistan or in the Marwar region of what is now Rajasthan, northern India. They are now found mostly in the south Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana but also elsewhere in the country.
The word Banjara is derived from the Sanskrit word vana chara (wanderers in jungle). The word Lambani or Lamani, by which the community is also known, is derived from the Sanskrit word lavana (salt), which was the principal product they transported across the country.
In 19th century the British colonial authorities brought the community under the purview of Criminal Tribes Act of 1871 which forced them 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 the forests.
Banjaras speak Gor Bol; 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. Most Banjaras today are bilingual or multilingual, adopting the predominant language of their surroundings.
Banjara art includes performance arts such as dance and music as well as folk and plastic arts such as rangoli, textile embroidery, tattooing and painting. 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. Sandur Lambani embroidery is a type of textile embroidery unique to the tribe in Sanduru, Bellary district, Karnataka. It has obtained a GI tag.
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. 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. The People also Celebrate Holi, Diwali, Dushera & Local festivel by area Grandlly.
Dance and music
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 They are Muslim Banjaras who traditionally traveled from village to village singing songs to the accompaniment of sarangi.
The majority of the Banjara people profess faith in Hinduism. They are known to worship deities such as Balaji, Jagadamba Devi, Bhavani of Tuljapur, Renuka Mata of Mahur, Mahadev, Khandoba and Hanuman. They also hold Guru Nanak in great respect.
Sevalal or Sevabhaya is the most important saint of the Banjaras. According to their accounts, he was born on 15 February 1739 in Sevaghad district of the state of Andhra Pradesh 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 benighted devotee of the goddess Jagadamba. The colonial British administrators also quote his stories but they place him in the 19th century and identify his original name as Siva Rathor.
Banjaras are found all over India under various synonyms. Venkatesh Vaditya said in 2012 that most inhabited Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, although there were significant populations elsewhere. Around seven million have been reported in Madhya Pradesh, around 3.5 million in Rajasthan, and almost one million recorded in Karnataka in 2001.
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.
- Halbar (1986), p. 14
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