Kachchh has the most significant and conspicuous population of tribal communities in Gujarat, most of whom migrated from east and west from the 7th century onwards. Each tribe can be identified from its costume, and gains its income from pastoral farming or crafts such as weaving, painting, woodcarving and dyeing. Traditionally, each has concentrated on different crafts, although the distinctions today are far less clear-cut.
Various legends and myths punctuate the history and origin of Rabaris in Gujarat. They are linked with Shiva, through their ancestor Sambal, and their homeland area of Jaisalmer and Marwar In Rajasthan. One legend claims that everything originated with the decision became Rajputs to marry celestial damsels. Their descendants became Rabari or "goers out of the path". Rabaris have Rajput names, a strong physical resemblance and a distant kinship to Rajputs.
The Rabari is the largest group in the Kachchhi pastoral community, with three main tribes hailing from Marwad in Rajasthan. The Rabari are a mysterious tribe unlike any other. Their lifestyle has piqued the curiosity of many a researcher. They are nomadic, and spend most of their time wandering with their herds. Their origins have been traced to Afghanistan and parts of Sind. Their language has strong Marwari and Punjabi elements mixed with the local regional language.
Rabaris can be classified into three groups, Dhabaria,
Vagadia and Kachhi spread in the neighboring territories in the central
belt of the region. They rear cattle, buffalo, goats, sheep and camels,
sell ghee, weave, and are known for fine embroidery. Villages are neat and
spotlessly clean with orderly hut interiors and porticos.
They are mostly vegetarian and apparently shun alcoholic drinks. There are three to four meals at a wedding with 'Laddu', 'Lapsi', sweet rice or savoury 'Khichadi'.
Cultural activities include folk dances called 'Garbha' and 'Raas' originating in certain religious observances and later associated with social occasions. Raas is popular with Rabaris staying in the Banni and Vaghad region. Rabri girls perform Garbha and boys do the Dandiya Rass.
The men, most of whom sport a white turban, wear white cotton trousers tight at the ankle and in baggy pleats above the knee, a white jacket ('Kehdiyun') with multiple folds tucked around chest level and overlong sleeves, and a blanket thrown over one shoulder. Rabari women dress in black pleated jackets or open-backed blouses, full black skirts and tie-dyed head cloths, usually black and red, and always deck themselves with heavy silver jewellery and ivory bangles around the upper arms. The Rabari women are treated with great respect in their families. They take care of the house; make pieces with beautiful embroidery as well sell these goods while the men spend time in the desert tending to their flocks of sheep and camels.
Dussera (also spelt as Dussehra) in Dasada sees Rabaris in a
festive mood, dancing all night long. Fairs are held at the temples of
Krishna and Thakorji Maharaj where Rabaris gather after travelling for
Rabris worship mother Goddess 'Momai Mata' who is considered to be the original source of Rabari livelihood and also 'Hingraj' with its major temple in southeast Baluchistan. Hey also worship Lord Shiva's incarnation called 'Bavo', 'Bhairao' and Lord Krishna's incarnation called 'Vedvala.
If one wants to catch them at their colourful best, then every Monday is market is known for its nutcrackers, knives, swords, Batik, block print items, old silver jewellery and Bandhani. Nearly 800 Dhebaria Rabari families live in Midialo, a village just 20-km from Anjar.