The Gaddi of India
The word Gaddi refers to a territorial group, or a special class of people who wear distinctive clothes. It also refers to the union of the castes of Rajputs, Khatris, Ranas, and Thakurs. In general, the Gaddi are a people of rugged character. They travel and bear endless hardships in the pursuit of their profession—shepherding. They are known as honest, hospitable, and mystic people.
The Gaddi are self-sufficient shepherds whose lives revolve around caring for their herds and camping at grazing grounds. They move from high pastures to low pastures during the year, leaving for the low hills and plains in October and returning to their fields in April.
The Gaddi population outside Himachal still depends heavily on shepherding. However, they are also becoming much more involved in farming. The recent trend towards settling in more hospitable climates has brought agriculture to the forefront of their economy, and shepherding is beginning to take a secondary position. The variety of crops (maize, wheat, and barley) together with the practice of allowing the plots to remain fallow, rotating the crops, and mixing the crops all enhance the reliability of their food supply.
The traditional dress of the Gaddi, worn only on special occasions, is quite striking. The men wear headdresses adorned with dried flowers or beads and wool coats tied around their waists with black rope. The women wear straight dresses tied around their waists with woolen cords. Their heads are covered, but their legs and feet remain bare, accented with heavy brass anklets.
Gaddi villages are usually located on steep slopes. Each household consists of a nuclear family. The homes inside the villages are built very close together, with little room for expansion. Houses are generally two or three stories, with balconies and paved courtyards. The ground floor is used for keeping cattle; while the second story is used for living, sleeping, and cooking. All of the family members sleep in the same room. When a guest reaches the home of a Gaddi, he washes his feet. All guests are believed to be sacred, so their blessings are valued.
The Gaddi, like other Indians, are divided into social classes based on the Hindu "caste" system. The Gaddi castes are divided into two basic classes: clean and unclean. The Gaddi are monogamous (one husband, one wife), and have a successful community life based on mutual aid. The family is the only social institution other than religion. All marriages are arranged by the parents. The young couples have no choice in their parents' decisions.
What are their beliefs?
The Gaddi follow Hindu traditions, although many of their own animistic traditions (belief that non-human objects have spirits) are still practiced. Animal sacrifice is a common feature of their rituals.
What are their needs?
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
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Bethany World Prayer Center
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