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Gadia Lohars - The Inimitable Blacksmiths

Their independence and colour make a lasting impression on anyone who beholds their wooden carts and kilns. The Gadia Lohars are the legendary Blacksmiths from Rajasthan.

The colourful Gadia Lohars of Rajasthan are perhaps, the only nomads who have their origins shrouded in legend. It is said that their ancestors who were blacksmiths to the army of the Rajasthani chieftain Rana Pratap Singh of Mewar, moved from place to place with him, manufacturing weapons for the army. When Rana Pratap’s army was defeated at the battle of Haldighat in 1576, the Gadia remained loyal to him, following him into the forests to which he fled, skirmishing with the Mughal army in a long drawn out struggle that continued even after his death. After the fortress of Chittor, the capital of the Mewar kingdom, fell to the Mughals, the Gadia Lohars took a vow never to return to their homeland, and never to settle anywhere else until the Rana’s hegemony was restored.

Yet for all their wandering, the Gadia are unmistakably Rajasthani. One only has to look at their features, and their upright postures to recognize this fact.

Small Lohar groups can be seen on the outskirts of any large city in the north where they live in small settlements centered around their beautiful carts. Low mud walls enclose each cart, demarcating a place of residence but not ownership. Even their name—Gadia—originates from the bullock carts which are their homes. Gadia Lohar, literally meaning metal workers of the bullock carts.

Notice a Gadia settlement and you will see lithe laughing women in swirling skirts, often with mirror studded garments and silver jewellery glittering as they go gracefully about their business, bending to kindle a small fire in the most casual fashion or working a pair of bellows with practiced ease. Their men, tough and sturdy, lounge beside the makeshift smithies, occasionally getting to their feet to work alongside their wives. The children play in the dust beside the clutter that surrounds them.

It is a hard life yet despite the vagaries of weather and the uncertainties of their trade they are a handsome and cheerful lot, and remain buoyantly dignified, unmindful of their hard life. They breed cattle, sharing and selling the milk, and in their tiny smithy they forge various soft iron wares needed in our daily life. When the weather turns hostile, they spread sheets of plastic or tarpaulin over their mobile homes, taking shelter within. During winter, thick patchwork quilts protect them from the chill of the nights.

A tribe of happy and upright people, the Gadia remain children of the desert committed to braving the hazards of nature and environment.


The Bishnois are known as the conservationists to whom the preservation of animal and vegetable life is a religion and has been so from the early 15th century. Their spiritual mentor, Jambeshwarji was a wise ecologist and it is a result of his religious teachings that the Bishnois have continued to protect their environment.

When Jambhoji was 25 years old, a great drought swept over Rajasthan. The people, driven by desperation and hunger hacked the trees and began killing deer and other animals. It was at this point that Jambhoji realized that the indiscriminate cutting of trees and killing of animals could only mean the end of all existence. No human or animal life could survive on land bereft of vegetation. It was Jambhoji’s dream to see the land covered by trees. He offered the people protection if they followed some very simple principles he laid down. Almost 90 per cent of the farmers of this region gladly accepted the 29 principles he laid down. (Bees –twenty, noi—nine was how this sect came to be known.)

Predominant among these was the preservation of trees and wildlife. Over the years, the Bishnois grew in number and spread to other regions. But no matter where they went and how prosperous they became, they followed the 29 principles very strictly.

The Bishnoi women with their attractive attire, silver trimmings and some of the most gorgeous jewellery—heavy nose rings, earrings, bangles and anklets and solid, chunky necklaces—are an attractive sight. In contrast, the Bishnoi men are usually dressed in spotless white shirts and dhotis with loosely tied white turbans.

Some Bishnois who were killed protecting the trees are buried in Khejrli where a simple grave with four pillars has been erected. In 1980 it was decided to honour their memory by planting 363 new khejri trees around this spot every year. And every year, in September, Bishnois from various parts of the country congregate here to offer their prayers.

The entire ceremony, the tree plantation, the gathering of so many beautifully dressed women and impressive men and a trip to the Bishnoi huts can be an unforgettable experience.