The Untold Story Of The Lambani Tribe In Hampi
Hampi – the name resonates in the hearts of every traveler for many reasons but there’s an untold story about the Lambani tribe who are nestled in and around Hampi. TUTC takes you through their journey to present to you the untouched side of Hampi.
Known for its history, ruins, temples, monuments, large boulders, legends and myths, and of course its Hippie Island, Hampi stands out for its larger than life extravagance. Today we at TUTC, will be telling you about the Lambani community who add life to the otherwise silent ruins.
It was the peak of Mughal expansionism during the second half of the 16th Century and conquering Rajasthan in northwestern India meant a strong hold for the Mughal Empire in India. Rajasthan was known as Rajputana, meaning the ‘Land of the Rajputs’, who were known for their bravery and fierce fighting skills. The then Mughal ruler, Emperor Akbar had laid siege in many parts of Rajasthan and one by one many Rajput kingdoms fell. And although the kingdom was lost, its pride wasn’t and this was true for the Lambani Tribe.
The Lambanis, it is believed, belonged to the Kshatriya or the Rajput clans and served in the Rajput armies. Their tale is as intriguing as the most celebrated Rajput king, Maharana Pratap, who after losing his kingdom retreated to the forests to resist Mughal expansion. And so did the Lambani Tribe retreated with their king to endure a life full of hardships.
A Journey of Survival
In the due course of time, however, life in the forests became too difficult for the Lambanis and they eventually moved out. In such trying times, they were forced to serve the Mughals by supplying them food grains, and arms and ammunitions.
The Mughals were still trying to push their borders across India and when the Mughal army made an advance in Southern India, the Lambani Tribe had to follow them. As such, they settled in modern day Karnataka, and, guess where? In Hampi. Now wouldn’t you want to know their tale while you glamp with us at The Ultimate Travelling Camp’s Kishkinda retreat? You sure do, after all, not all get to know the local and cultural side of Hampi which is otherwise only known for its temples, monuments and ruins.
Let Your Work Speak for You
The Lambani Tribe for a very long time didn’t need to worry about work since they were well-off supplying food grains and munitions to the Mughal Army. However, times change and so does fate! The advent of the British rule in India improved transportation and the services of this tribe was no longer required. Therefore the Lambanis had to resort to selling firewood, work on farms, graze cattle, run auto rickshaws, work at construction sites and take up other trivial jobs to get going. However, it is the women who are the torchbearers of the Lambani community. Why? We’ll tell you.
As Mahatma Gandhi rightly said, “A nation’s culture resides in the heart and soul of its people,” – and so, the Lambani women consider it their duty to preserve their culture. They are also at the forefront of showcasing their intricate artistry and selling them for a living.
Lambani embroidery is famous worldwide for its use of colorful threads sewn into a pattern, emblazoned with mirrors, shells and coins supported with overlaid, cross and quilting stitches with borders of Kangura patchwork.
Lambani artwork is often confused with Kutchi artwork, however, the use of coins and shells give it a distinct identity. There! We told you that. Additionally they have several stitches and motif designs that are unique to their embroidery work. Some of the stitches are Valeya, Bakhiya, Ado Dora, Gadri, Jollya, Nakra, Relo, Sadhya Jowellya, Tera Dora, Kaudi, Maki, Teen Sui Maki, Suryakanti Maki, Kalyani, Angli Yele and Jod Potte.
So, what are you waiting for? Hampi Tourism is incomplete without a visit to the Lambani villages. The villages clearly are one of the places to visit in Hampi. Our guides will take you around the villages of Kadirampur, Mariyammanahalli, Sitaram Tanda, Kamalpur, Keri Tanda, and Sandur; the erstwhile capital of the famed Vijayanagara Empire – the cradle of the Hampi monuments.
From Forest Dwellers to Roofed Settlements
The Lambani tribe being distinct from others prefer to stay isolated. Hence, they usually live in small settlements in the outskirts known as ‘Thaandas’. A Thaanda comprises less than 500 houses and one of the most distinguishing feature of a Lambani house is one small room with one exit.
Quite distinct to their way of life, the Lambanis have their own language and speak ‘Ghor Boli’ which belongs to the Indo-Aryan group of languages. Although it is derived from old western Rajasthani language, many terminologies and lexical items have been borrowed from languages such as Marathi, Gujarati, Kannada, Telugu and English. Being originally from Rajasthan, their dialect is very similar to the Marvadi language spoken in Rajasthan. The Lambani language lacks its own script.
Fashion – The Lambani Way!
Didn’t we mention that had it not been for the Lambani women, we would not be sharing this story? In a way, women belonging to this community are rightfully its cultural ambassadors. Their way of standing out from the crowd in this ever changing world is commendable.
True to their creativity, Lambani women mostly wear red, combining them with yellow and green. A colourful baggy skirt or Phetiya is paired with short-sleeved blouses referred to as Kanchali along with an apron tied around the waist. Adorned with intricate embroidery, cowrie shells, mirrors and coins; these dresses usually take 4-5 months of intensive labor. As novelist Nicholas Sparks puts it, “Nothing that’s worthwhile is ever easy. Remember that.”
In addition to the Phetiya and Kanchali, Lambani women also wear a veil or a Chantiya over their head for it is a symbol of prestige. The edges of the veil are bejewelled with old coins to prevent the veil from falling off in front of elders and strangers.
Jewellery delights women, and imagining Lambani women without them is impossible. On either side of their faces hanging hair-locks are held together by a silver ornament known as Ghugari. The large nose rings worn by them known as Bhuriya are the costliest of all the ornaments adding to their elegance. Besides these, they wear heavy anklets, colourful necklaces and a garland of small beads around their waists.
Women also wear ivory bangles worn right from the wrists up to the elbows. Widows however are not allowed to wear these bangles. It is quite interesting to note that the combined weight of all these ornaments is anywhere between 8 to 10 pounds. Phew!
Lambani men they have their own attire symbolic of the Lambani community, although many have taken up to modern day clothing. Nevertheless, a white or red coloured turban with a white shirt and a white dhoti is combined with a gold or silver ear-let and a silver bangles or Kadaga around their wrist. A tiny tassel bunch tied with a black thread around their waist distinguishes Lambani men from others.
They Got Inked Long Before It Became Cool
And if you thought bright colourful dresses and ornaments are all that Lambani women can sport, then wait until we’ve told you about their tattoos. That’s right. Tattooing is an integral part of this tribe. The tattoos are made using traditional tools and are usually drawn on the arm, forehead, cheeks and chin. Scorpions, fish, flowers, tiger’s nail and the name of their love are some of the most common tattoos found on their body. Most importantly the tattoos are made when girls reach “marriageable age”. Likewise, men too, opt for tattooing.
Because Life is All about Celebrating
When it comes to immersing in the joys and pleasures of life, the Lambani community is no different than the rest. Some of the major festivals celebrated are Diwali, Holi, Dussehra and Gowri (Teej) festival. The festivals though, are celebrated in a unique way with customs signifying their way of life.
Diwali is mostly celebrated by women in the community. Earthen lamps are lit and offerings are made not just to Goddess Lakshmi – the deity worshipped on Diwali – but also to cows, ancestors and elderly people.
Holi, on the other hand sees less of rituals and more of merry making. The festival is mostly celebrated by the younger generations after the Thaanda headman approves of it. Animal sacrifice is an important aspect of this celebration and the same is distributed among all the households of the Thaanda.
Dussehra is an important festival observed by the community during which unlike the rest of India who celebrate the victory of Lord Rama over Ravana, the Lambanis offer prayer to their deities like Mariamma, Seva Bhaya, Meetu Bukhia and Durgamma.
Unlike other festivals, Gowri or Teej is a unique festival observed by the Lambanis, for it is celebrated every 3 or 5 years, subject to economic prosperity. As part of the Teej festival, wheat is soaked in water and left to sprout. On the 10th day, an offering of the same is made in the temple and then distributed among them for immersion in a pond, river or a well.
One of the most important characteristics of any festival being observed by the Lambanis is the pomp and fervour with which they are celebrated. Community members sing, dance and celebrate life. 15-20 women gather around in a circle, and it is a spectacle to watch them draped in jewellery and bright-coloured dresses dancing in joy.
On a regular day, you would find women singing songs as they carry on with their daily chores. Songs are symbolic of beauty and experiences with deep-rooted meanings. Simply watching women work while they hum their favourite songs, are a delight to the eyes. And you will not be missing any of these experiences as our guides will take you on a walk-through within the Thaandas so you learn more about their culture, myths and legends.
This is true for anyone who wishes to enjoy life to the fullest and experience all its shades. Being a tribal community, every aspect of the Lambani tribe is filled with colours. And what better way to celebrate the colours of life than Rangoli? Rangoli is a traditional art form combining decorative patterns drawn on the floor outside the house or in courtyards using coloured rice, coloured flour and flower petals during auspicious occasions. Unlike the traditional Rangoli made only during festivals, Lambanis practice the ‘Choko’ form of Rangoli which is solely prepared in praise of the Gods and Goddesses.
Made For Each Other
Quite similar to other cultures and religions, marriage in the Lambani community too is considered to be a sacred institution. A girl from a very early age is groomed to be married which is quite evident from the rituals surrounding their festivals. The Lambanis boasts of traditions and rituals unique to their community and marriage is no different.
The bride and the groom have no choice in selecting their partners and the decision of the elders are binding on them whatsoever. On the day of marriage, extensive traditions start early during the day right from sharing of sweets to setting up of the stage for the wedding, from praying for the bride and groom’s well-being to singing songs in merriment, and exchanging greetings and gifts with kith and kin. This continues well until midnight when the marriage ceremony is concluded.
In the event of a sudden death of the husband, the widow can remarry his younger brother, however, in the case of death of a younger brother the widow is not allowed to marry his elder brother. The widow after remarriage loses inheritance of the property from her previous marriage. Divorce among the Lambani community can be obtained easily, provided the head of the Thaanda agrees to it upon being paid a small fee.
A Community or A Family?
The Lambani family is patriarchal in structure wherein the eldest male – usually the father is the head of the family and upon the death of the father, the eldest son would succeed and inherit the father’s legacy. As it is with the patriarchal society, the birth of a son is always welcomed with pomp and joy, and over the years the attitude towards to a new born girl has improved considerably. Death is mourned by the entire community and everyone from the community comes forward to help the family in distress. Lambanis have the custom of both cremating and burying the dead bodies. A pregnant woman, the one with skin diseases and an unwed meeting death are always buried and not burned.
Lambanis are one of the facets of Hampi tourism because your holidays are incomplete if you do not explore its rural and cultural side, for they are the living legends amidst a cluster of history. And there’s no better way of knowing them closely other than sojourning at TUTC’s Kishkinda camp at Hampi.
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About The Author
Sumit Roy is an Editor, Writer, Researcher, Translator and Proofreader at Aatman Innvoations Pvt. Ltd. When not working, he likes to read, write, watch movies or series, play computer games or even better – procrastinate. He believes in free basic education for all and thinks that capitalism first and socialism next can change this world for better.