Originally the Jaths were herders who lived in area called "Half"
(Iran). Five hundred years ago they migrated and came to Sind and Kachchh
in search for new grazing pastures. Some settled there and took up
farming, they called themselves 'Garasia Jaths'. Others who became herders
of cattle were known as 'Dhanetah Jaths', while those choosing to devote
themselves to studying the Koran were called 'Fakirani Jaths'.
Said to have migrated from Pakistan, the Kachchhi Jaths can be identified by their black dress. Young Jat girls have dainty plaits curving round the sides of their faces, and wear heavy nose rings. Traditionally semi-nomadic camel and cattle-rearers, with houses made of reed ('Pakha') that are easily folded and carried from place to place, they have recently begun to settle more permanently.
With jewel like workmanship, Jath traditional embroidery is
the second best among older schools of embroidery found in Kutch. The
embroidery of Sindh, 'Phulkari' of Punjab, and the needlework of the Jaths
of Kutch are all considered classical forms of embroidery.
Danetah Jaths of Chaari Lake village do the finest patchwork. There are two schools of embroidery in the Banni region: Lohanas of Khavada and the Jaths and Mutwas. Both traditions show strong influences of Sindh, in motifs and stitches. Jaths are believed to be immigrants of Balichistan and Lohanas from Sindh. Both the groups now differ from Baluchistan and Sindh in the Banni traditional embroidery, which is ever so refined and eye-catching.
Dhanetah and Fakirni Jaths still share an embroidery tradition of tiny Bars of a tight padded satin stitch and radiating circles of a couched stitch. Gararasia Jaths have their own embroidery style, suggesting different origins. It completely covers the background cloth in tiny cross-stitch patterns outlines in white and studded with minute mirrors. This style is unique to Kutch and Sindh.
few Kutchi Jaths have specialized in playing The Surando instrument.
Bajana Jath customs are now localized. They sing Kutchi Sindhi songs, but
follow strict Islamic customs. They will not marry only members of royal
families like the Jath Thakurs. They celebrate Bakri Id and Ramzan but do
not have 'Tazias' during Moharrum. At Ramzan they feed the poor. They
visit Gotarka Gaon to pay homage at Dada Mahavali Pir's dargah (also spelt
as Durgah) during Urs.
Jath marriage customs are similar to those of other Muslims. Danetah Jaths of Taal, who are mostly Sunni Muslims, celebrate Ramzan with Shir Korma and Biryani. On Id-ul-Fitr and Bakri Id they cut a Bakra (Goat) and make Biryani and Kebabs. Sweet rice and Suji Seera is also served. At festivals and weddings they serve Gheo or wheat Rotla, rice, vegetables and mutton. They follow the Bismillah ceremony custom. Girls bring household goods, clothes, jewellery and quilts as part of their trousseau.
The Sunni Muslims follow their own Pirs. They give
contributions to the Tomb of a Jath woman, 'Mai'. Even if they are
Muslims, they believe in Shakti puja.
The Fakirni Jaths believe in Savla Pir, as do Muslim and Hindu nomads of western Kutch, whose tomb is on a mud island in a creek off Koteshwar in Lakhpat.
Garasia Jaths believe in a woman saint, Mai Bhambi, and a monument is dedicated to her at Sumrasar where they gather annually at a fair. They believe that embroidery is a sacred gift from their ancestor, Mai Bamba. So, when their garments wear out, they hang these in bushes or bamboos to return to nature. These antique embroideries provide an insight into old forgotten patterns.