Nomads are people who move from one place to the other to escape harsh weather and to find conditions suitable to earn a livelihood. There are different communities of Nomadic Pastoralists in India. Pastoralists are people who earn their living by raising and herding livestock.
The nomads living in these different terrains follow various seasonal movements to earn their livelihood. The Gujjar Bakarwals from Jammu and Kashmir raise herds of goats and sheep and earn a living through livestock. They follow an annual cyclic movement between winter and summer for grazing grounds to find pasture for their herds.
In the winter, when the mountains are covered with snow, they live in the low hills of the Siwalik range, while in the summer, several of their households journey together in a procession as a single group, known as a kafila.
The Gaddi Shepherd tribe of Himachal Pradesh also uses the low hills of the Siwalik as their winter base. By April, they move towards the mountains and spend the summer in Lahul and Spiti. As the snow melts, they move further up the mountains.
The Gujjar cattle herders, who live further to the east in Garhwal and Kumaon, come down to the dry forests of the Bhabar in the winter, and go up to the high meadows – the Bugyals – in the summer.
The Dhangars, are a pastoral community of the central plateau of Maharashtra, consisting of shepherds, blanket weavers and buffalo herders.
During the monsoon they stay in the central plateau of Maharashtra which is a semi-arid region with low rainfall and poor soil. This is an ideal place for their livestock as sheep cannot tolerate the wet monsoon conditions.
Dry crops like bajra are grown and the area also provides a grazing ground for their flocks. After the harvest in October, they move west in search of pastures to reach Konkan. The Gollas herd cattle whereas the Kurumas and Kurubas rear sheep and goats and sell woven blankets.
In the dry season, they all move to the coastal tracts and leave when the monsoon arrives. There are other groups of grazers such as the Banjaras who are found in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.
They move in search of pastureland for their cattle, selling plough cattle and other goods to villagers in exchange for grain and fodder. The Raikas are a nomadic tribe of Rajasthan.
They combine cultivation with pastoralism to overcome the difficulties posed by the meagre and uncertain rainfall in the region.
During the monsoon, the Raikas of Barmer, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur and Bikaner stay in their villages. By October, when the grazing grounds are dry, they move in search of other pastures and water, and return during the next monsoon.
There are two other groups, Maru also known as the desert Raikas – who herd camels and another group who rear sheep and goat.
Nomadic pastoralists adjust their movements and activities according to the surrounding conditions to make a living. Unlike mountain pastoralists, whose movement is controlled by the cold and the snow, it is the alternation of the monsoon and the dry season that governs the cyclic movements of pastoralists in the plateaus, plains and deserts.