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Sunday 22 December 2019

Lambani Women

- A Memorable Noon With Their Colorful Culture

It was nearing 12 noon. We had been on the road since 6 am, after just a cup of tea. There was a distinct and collective growl in our stomachs indicating it was way past breakfast time and almost nearing lunchtime. Durganna and Suraj, who were both educating and introducing us to the flora and fauna of the terrain, Pompayya Sir, Meera and myself were just heading back from Talur lake towards Hagedhal, almost dreaming of a hearty meal . The dull December warmth was a soothing and welcome break from the cloudy skies of Bangalore.

Lambani woman in traditional attire
Mirrors, coins and all the paraphernalia of the traditional Lambani women costume 

Our vehicle was rolling through the winding roads passing small villages when we crossed a Thanda or a Lambani settlement.  I've  been long fascinated by this colorful community and had been eagerly looking forward for a chance to interact with them. This seemed to be the perfect opportunity. Brakes were applied both in the vehicle and on all our daydreaming about food. We almost leaped out of the vehicle to talk to the beautiful weathered faces that gathered around us. They were a beautiful lot for sure. We were in Talur Thanda.

History marks the Lambanis' origin in Afghanistan. After being criminalized by the British and forced to abandon  their traditional occupation as salt and grain traders, this nomadic tribe shifted to other occupations such as farming, poultry and cattle rearing etc.  At one time their skills as the fastest runners were put to good use as they served as messengers, especially during war times.

Lambani woman in traditional attire
A feast of colors and jewelry

Young Lambani kids gathered around us. They were both amused and confused on the fuss about their mothers and grandmothers, while they were being ignored. Elders getting more attention than them was not normal. The crinkled friendly faces of the womenfolk were filled with soft smiles and coy giggles as each one of them came forward to entertain our curious gazes on the intricate and exquisite embroidery and works on their clothes and jewelry.

One sweet lady asked me if I would like to try on one of their dresses. After briefly contemplating if I had sufficient grace to pull off such a beautiful garment, I politely declined. I am sure I had robbed my fellow travelers  of a perfect source of entertainment and a hearty laugh in the process.

Lambani women in traditional attire
Lambani women in traditional attire

Mirrors, coins and cowries adorned the Kanchali, the short sleeved top. Colorful bangles both on the  forearms and biceps complimented the costume. Silver jewelry clipped on to the hair, huge nose-rings and multiple finger rings all added to the ensemble, blending in with each other seamlessly. Each garment weighed more than 5 kg, all depending on the amount of works on each of them and have seen some changes over time.

Lambani woman in traditional attire
The smile adding to all the beauty

I asked them why they needed so many mirrors and the reason for the coins. I was greeted with more giggles and no specific answer. I was also so enthralled by the whole energy of these women and the music of their multiple jewelry, that I did not peruse the matter.

The answers came the next day from an expert on Lambani culture. He explained that the mirrors were to deter predators when the women were in the forests. With the light reflecting off the multiple mirrors it would deter any animal lurking in wait, from attacking. The bangles were initially made from ivory to protect their arms from bruises and scratches while they went on with their daily lives in hostile surroundings. The coins were the most interesting of all. After being criminalized by the British, the coins and other metal items were sewn into the dresses to protect them from major bullet injuries, when they were fired upon. The saddening fact was overshadowed by the admiration for their ingenuity.

Lambani woman in traditional attire
The silver jewelry and the nose ring, indications of a married woman

The hair jewelry and the nose rings were exclusive to the married women, while the rest of the attire was common to all womenfolk. Despite the irrepressible beauty of these attires, the younger Lambani women are moving to the more comfortable and modern Sarees or Salwars. The traditional attire makes its appearance only during various festivities. The current older generation could be one of the last of their kind to carry on this tradition with such flawless grace.

It was time to say a reluctant goodbye to these wonderful people and their sweet kids. Back in the vehicle, once again dreaming of food and our tummies protesting against the gross ill-treatment, we headed back. Only this time we carried their contagious smiles with us in our hearts.

Location map - Somewhere along this path :


Shankar said...

Very interesting amd informative, never knew the background of them.

Spotted Owlets said...

Thanks a lot. Really glad you found it informative and interesting.

Samir said...

Now I know the source of the idea of the coin protecting the hero from the villain's bullet in Bollywood movies.

Spotted Owlets said...

:) Nice observation

Anonymous said...

Thank you 🖤❤️ this is our village

Anonymous said...

This is the only ancient culture which has its own art and culture in it 😍Proud to say am Going to become a Banjara women in future😇

japs said...

I would love to connect with one of these Banjara women.