Gowli Tribe: Herders of Dandeli

IMG_20151024_122343Today’s guest post is by Prachi Garg.

Dandeli, is a small town in the Western Ghats of NW Karnataka. It’s primarily known for water sports, especially river rafting on the river Kali. It is a paradise for birdwatchers that keep themselves in thick deciduous forests. However, very few people are aware that these forests are inhabited by the tribes, who have a little world of their own in these jungles. During one of my trips to Dandeli, I got the chance to spend time with these folks and learn about their cultures. This post is about my experience with Gowli Tribe, as they celebrate Vijayadashami, one of the famous festivals in India marking the triumph of good over evil.

DSC_5812Apparently, Gowlis is a pastoral community found in the states of Goa & Maharastra. Gowlis of Dandeli have their strong roots from the lord Krishna community of Yadavas, whose major occupation is animal herding and selling milk in the surrounding areas. They are Hindus by religion and make sure, their religious ceremonies, traditions remain undiluted.

With MukhiyaThey celebrate Vijayadashami two days later than the usual dates. Preparations start a week before and the festivity takes place at the “Mukiya’s” house, which also performs the festivity on the D-day and guide the people of tribes. Cow Urine is considered to be sacred and all the goddesses etc are washed with the same. The home is decorated with paper cuttings created by women and kids around.

IMG_20151024_115511The entire deity to which they worship is made out of Rice, different hand-made colors, coconut, flowers etc. Mukhiya calls the eldest male member of every family and prays for their well-being.

During the entire festivity, women sing traditional songs and men keep dancing to its tunes. Even I also got the chance to sing with them, I couldn’t dance as it was restricted to men only. I did their regular Puja, and had the sacred Prasad. They usually wear traditional dresses for dance. The songs are sung primarily to remove all evil souls and keep the village protected.

DSC_5810DSC_5826Women in the tribe own dual responsibility. They not only help in house-hold activities, but also go out for the distribution of the milk and milk products. Most of them wear the special jewelry in their ears and nose. They also put RED sindur, which is apparently a symbol of their marital status.

Watch a clip of the traditional dance performance during the Vijayadashami festivities:

Even though the government is attempting to bring them out of the jungles and provide them a basic education, so that they can be part of the masses, it seems they are happy being the Gowlis and have no regrets in life. They live each moment with passion and are absolutely non complaining. These folks are extremely nice and hospitable to guests.

BIO: Prachi Garg is the founder of @ghoomophiro, a traveler, a writer and a foodie. Read her book, Superwomen: Inspiring stories of 20 Entrepreneurs. Check out her site, http://www.ghoomophiro.com.

Let us know what you think