The majority of the Gaddis are now also landowners and practice agriculture as their primary means of livelihood. They are also pastorals and own large flocks of sheep and goats, as the traditional occupation. This has also resulted in their bartandari (customary) rights on forest land which are Government owned. Today, many of them have also taken up jobs as teachers, in government and private organizations and other white collar jobs. Some are also working as unskilled laborers in public works department and forest departments to augment their income.They have agricultural land-holdings where they are growing corn, potatoes, vegetables etc. The women are taking care of the farming, cattle and the households whereas the men are now moving out in to the world to look for ways of earning money.
The community has a total dependence on local market, where at times the people barter their meager surplus cereal produce with the shopkeeper, who acts as middlemen between the people and the market. Horticulture produce is sold to bigger markets through local collecting agents. Barter is rarely resorted to and cash forms the usual medium of exchange. The children below 15 years, both boys and girls, assist their parents in and outside the household activities and also tend the cattle. While working as causal labors in road maintenance they also receive wages in cash. Education and employment have brought them in contact with the wider world. Liberalization of the caste Considerations have been observed in families which have got education and moved to urban centers. The Gaddis are talking part in political activities at the regional level in State Assembly and the cabinet.
- Rearing Sheeps and Goats
- Woolen Fabrics
Migration of flocks of sheeps and goats
In Bharmour and Lahaul; at the onset of winter (October/November), flocks of sheep and goat
migrate to Kangra valley and Pathankot thereby avoiding fodder scarcity. During early April, folks
return to their respective villages so as to manure fields, during the early growing season.
Thereafter, malundi or shepherds gather the village stock for summer grazing in trakar/pastures
situated on dhars/high mountain peaks. As summer approaches the stock migrates to still higher
altitudes. At the end of the growing season, (September/October), when winter returns, sheep and
goats are brought back to the lower ranges from the high altitude areas, following traditional
routes. The age old practice of manuring fields during October in the lower ranges is
still practised. This grazing practice sustains the grazing
pressure. It also enhances the nutrient recycling in these areas to a great extent. Fertilization
of fields during the to and for movement of livestock enhances crop productivity at low economic
Additionally, sale of crude wool yields substantial economic returns.
For shearing, (twice in a year), special scissors are used. Shepherds carry modem drugs with them,
and are competent enough to administer drugs through injection to diseased animals. A herd of
sheep and goats is always accompanied by one or two gaddi dogs. Cereals and pulses which were
earlier imported into the district are now being cultivated in the Kandas(fields on hill top).
The obvious advantage of this practice is that sheep and goats constitute pastoral wealth and as
such yield economic/remuneration's. Further, pastoral life is an ecological adaptation in an area
where land holdings being small, conventional agriculture is not viable.
It is thought that among their total populace about half of these do not own flocks, and are agriculturalists only. Of those who accompany the flocks of sheep and goats, some take turns months at a time, in shepherding and in cultivation with brothers, uncles or sons. Others are away from home throughout the year except for a couple of weeks in the spring and in the autumn when the flocks pass through their own villages. It is nor the flocks that dictate the annual pattern of the shepherds' 1ives.
The winter pastures are in an approximately horizontal line in the foothills, south of the Dholadhar , from Pathankot/Nurpur in the west to Bilaspur in the east. Here the flocks spend four or five months, moving only locally from a base. The terrain is scrub forest, semi-tropical jungle at 2 to 3,000 ft. Traditionally it has .been the extent of available winter grazing that has controlled numbers and the size of the flocks.
However recent cultivation and the increase in the domestic head of cattle and goats are encroaching on these old pastures. The shepherds at therefore anxious to move north as early as possible, usually towards the end of the month of chaet(about mid-April). But how early depends entirely on how quickly the snow melts on the higher passes and pastures.
For during the winter grazing months, as opposed to the summer, some families do accompany the shepherds and flocks Many others, in fact most of the Gaddi population of Bramour , emulating the migratory movement of their flocks, come down in winter to work with relations or live in rented accommodation in Kangra. Babies and young children are carried sideways, across the rest of the luggage on the mother's or father's back.
It is believed that even Lord Shiva moves from his seat on Mount Kailash to winter at Pujalpur.
Some move to high pastures not so very far from home, but still with dangers of avalanches, crevasses, falling stones, and bears. It is a life of discomfort, with the constant necessity of keeping an eye on each sheep and goat. Others must walk Over the 16 to 17,000 ft. passes, and perhaps hundred miles to graze their flocks on the 'blue' and nutricious grass of Lahoul and Spiti, even to the borders of Ladakh and Tibet. There to spend two or three months in a treeless land, their food, goat's milk and parched barley flour that requires no cooking, or sometimes dhal and rice or makke ka Toti, maize chappattis cooked on acrid smelling yak or cattle dung. They have no shelter but their blankets and kilted white homespun cloaks, sometimes a dry stone igloo. The only sounds that relieve the monotonous baa-ing of their flocks, the cold wind and their own flutes.
Heaps of manure, accumulated the previous year and matured during the winter lay in the yards or on the path, ready to be carried out to fertilize the maize fields. Bedding quilts, made of old bits of tweed blankets roughly quilted, were spread out in the sun to air. Fields must be ploughed, grain that has been stored all winter cleaned and dried, and flocks must be clipped before they move on away for the summer.
Sheeps and goats are considered as property of the Gaddis. While its meat and milk are used for consumption, wool is used for making various woolen articles; and dried skin are used to make carry bags and other useful products. Usually both but mostly females prepare the woolen articles for the family from the sheep wool. First of all wool fibers are sorted out as different lenghts are used for making different articles.After that it is washed,cleaned and combed using kangis.The combed wool is spun using a spinning wheel called Charkha and the cloth is woven on handloom called Rachh(or Khaddi).
Some articles that are woven/handicrafted by gaddi genre at their home mostly are listed below.
Gardu is a blanket with black and white squares pattern formed alternately is a speciallity of Gaddi community.Cloth of 45X60 meter width called patti is made and then tow pieces are joined together to broaden it with had weaving. It may be 5 meter long and about 1.5 m wide. Possesion of gardus is considered a status symbol in gaddi community, whenever a guest comes a new gardu is provided as courtesy.It is considered so warm that i protects Gaddi shephers from both snow and rain.
Gardi is a blanket of smaller size and is lighter than Gardu.It has same pattern like gardu, usually give to children or taken for journey to keep warm.
Patti is a cloth(fabric) woven in single colour such as off-white or black and is narrow in width but long.It is used to make coat,chola(or cholu) for men and women, suthan(pyjama),kurti(shirt), topi(cap) and similar other dresses.
Gardu - Woolen Blanket
Gardi/Charkhani - Thin Blanket
Dodh - Type of Blanket
It is usually of one color, such as white or gray. It is almost equal size and weighs like that of gardu. It can be decorated with the coloured threds.
Shawls are woven for both males and females with remarkable uniqueness.Shawls made for men are of one colour or black and white check but for women its woven in multicolored designs. Male shawls are large in size, heavy in weight as well has rough texture as compared to females shawls.
Shawl - Soft Colorful
Thalch - Goat-hair Rope
Khalri - Sheep/Goat skin Bag
Thalch is an intricate rope made from goat hair. It is usually 8-10 meters in length. These are used to carry load or dry woolen clothes. Goat hair are first spun and then woven for making thalch. A provision of loop is also kept at one end so that load can be tied properly and carried to destination.
Khalri is the (dried skin) bag made of skin of sheep or goat.Whole skin of sheep or goat is taken off,dried and hairs are removed, openings are stitched to make a bag. It is used for keeping foodgrains,flour etc. The size of the bag varies according to the size of the sheep or goat with whose skin it is make up of.The bags prpeared of lamb are used for kids to carry or for keeping the jewellery or money by gaddis.
Thobi is a carpet made up of goat hair is very rough in texture but very durable. Its size vary according to the requirement of the users.
The woolen of gaddi are generaly woven for fulfilling their own personal needs.These woolens are generally heavy as well as rough to meet the local weather needs.These handicraft products are not being promoted and as a result they do not get appropriate price in local market. Also due to modernisation where machine made winter clothes are available they are producing less as it takes long time to weave and on other hand get less returns for their time and hardwork.They also have less exposure about the outside world, so there is strong need to add value and preserve these heritage products. Their promotion and popularisation will help to continue the tradition and much valued heritage.