Garasias of north Gujarat are attired in their colourful best at the Chitra Vichitra fair held in Poshina area of Khedbrahma Taluka at the confluence of the Sabarmati and Aakal rivers. They believe in ancestral worship.
The Garasias of Shamlaji are divided into two-dozen clans
called "Goter-Gotra". There is no hierarchy. All the Goter are
of the same status. Goter is derived from some real or fictitious ancestor
or from a particular event or place or thing. Goter or clan exogamy is
observed. The limits of exogamous marriage alliances are traditionally, at
least theoretically, fixed by the Goter clan.
There is a kinship group known as 'Kakaba' or 'Kakababa' or family of a particular ancestor. There is no written tradition nor are genealogies collected. They are endogamous but divided into 28 exogamous clans.
These are divided into three moieties: Higher Moity of Parmar, Dungaicha, Solanki, Angari, Kharadi; Mid-moities are: Vansia, Raidra, Damor, Chauhan, Rathod, Dhabhi, Gamar, Pargi, Khokharia, Bhumbharia; Lower moities are: Mali, Garina, Makwana.
The father is called 'Bapa' and mother 'Ayi'. The family share occupation and production obtained. The final responsibility rests with the eldest man in the nuclear family. When he dies, his wife becomes titular head, or a grown up son takes over.
Garasias get a gold 'Rekhu' fixed on their teeth as a beauty
aid that adds to the smile. Nail polish is also used.
They wear gold ornaments. Groups in Saurashtra wear 'Ramnomi', 'Pandadi Yali Haar' or necklace of metal leaves and 'Zarmar', 'Kap', 'Thodiya', 'Kokarva' and 'Vedla' in ears, 'Darshaniya' and 'Gujariya' on wrists, 'Lokit' or 'Kadu' on upper arms and gold and silver 'Chhada', 'Zanzari', 'Bediyu' or 'Sankla' or 'Kambikadla' on ankles.
Elopement or marriage by capture is in vogue among the
Garasia's. In arranged marriages, celebrations last from two to 12 days.
The first day is called "Chhedo Palalvo". Days in the middle of
the ceremonies are called "Ada Dari". The second last day is
called "Fulelku" and the last day is called "Mandava".
The bride and groom's party perform dances on these days. On the day after
the "Mandava", the groom's party goes to the village and house
of the bride.
The key social unit among the Garasia's is the nuclear family. They are generally monogamous but keeping two to three wives isn't unknown. They marry among their own people, outside the boundary of blood relationship. They don't marry in the same village, but this isn't forbidden. Marriages can be arranged, or love and elopement marriages are also allowed. A bride price is paid. Elopement is not considered an illegitimate alliance. Widow remarriage is allowed and barren women can be divorced.
The Garasia tribal council operates at three levels:
village; 'Pata' or few villages of an area; entire region consisting of
sub tribe habitat.
Garasias of Shamlaji live mostly in Meghraj Bhiloda, Vijay Nagar Tehsils of Sabarkantha district. About 145 clans lie in this area. The 28 Gotras are similar to the clans here.
Their main occupation is agriculture and they also earn on forest produce. Males do the ploughing, leveling of fields and erection of house roofs. Women do housework, fetching of water from wells, plastering floor with mud and cow dung.
Non-hereditary local leaders assume power and perform political functions. There are family heads, lineage elders, and police Patels.
Memorial stones are erected over buried bones of the dead.
The stone, known as "Sura", is installed within a year of death.
Garasias hold 'Shraddha' of their dead relatives at the Chitra Vichitra Fair in Poshina area of Khedbrahma Taluka where Sabarmati and Aakal Vaakal rivers meet. Ashes and bones are brought in earthen pots and offered into the river water. Then young girls clad in new clothes, along with family members, enjoy the fair.
Their supreme God, Bhagwan, is not personified or worshipped. Their traditional offering for Gods and Goddesses are red baked clay horses all standing facing a central stone. These shrines appear mysterious and are of great antiquity. There are no formal rituals or festivals involved but these terracotta horses are worshipped to alleviate specific difficulties and to maintain peace of village life.
Terracotta horses are tied to ritual and religious observance. These are regularly placed in outdoor shrines usually under sacred trees, near rocks or water sources associated with powerful spirits and effective cures for which no intermediary is necessary. This action is based on a personal relationship between an individual and the divine. When a devotee's wish is granted, a local potter is commissioned to make an agreed upon terracotta gift.