Kutch has the most significant population of pastoral communities in Gujarat. Each tribe can be identified from its costume, and gains income from farming or crafts such as weaving, painting, woodcarving and dyeing.

The Rabari, the largest group, rear cattle, buffalo and camels, sell ghee, weave, and are known for their fine embroidery. Most of the men sport a white turban, white cotton trousers tight at the ankle and with baggy pleats above the knee, a white jacket (khediyun), 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, and always wear heavy silver jewellery and ivory bangles around the upper arms. In Bhujodi, near Bhuj, the Rabari weave camel wool into blankets and shawls.

The Bharvad tribes infiltrated Gujarat from Vrindavan, close to Mathura in Uttar Pradesh. The men are distinguishable by the peacock, parrot and flower motifs sewn into their khediyun, and the women by their bright backless shirts, kapadun, rarely covered by veils. Mass marriages take place among the Bharvad every few years.

The wandering Ahir cattle-breeders, today prosperous entrepreneurs, came to Gujarat from Sindh, and settled as farmers. The men sport baggy trousers and the khediyun, together with a white loosely wound headcloth; the women dress like the Rabaris, with additional heavy silver nose-rings. The children’s bright topis, or skull-caps, are like those common in Pakistan.

The Charans, long-established bards of Gujarat, encompass in their clans the Maldharis, who raise prize cattle, and the leather-workers known as Meghavals. They claim descent from a celestial union between Charan and a maiden created by Parvati. The women are often worshipped by other tribes, as their connection with Parvati links them closely to the mother goddess, Ashpura, highly popular in Kutch.

Said to have migrated from Pakistan, the Jats are an Islamic pastoral group. The men can be identified by their black dress, while young Jat girls have dainty plaits curving round the sides of their faces, and wear heavy nose-rings.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

India features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

25 years and 10 editions: The Rough Guide to India over the years

25 years and 10 editions: The Rough Guide to India over the years

It's 25 years since an adventurous quartet of Rough Guides authors set off for the Subcontinent to begin work on researching the inaugural instalment of The Rou…

30 Nov 2016 • Edward Aves insert_drive_file Article
The most romantic places in India

The most romantic places in India

India has to be one of the world's most romantic destinations. Its beguiling mix of ancient forts, pretty palaces, shimmering lakes and gorgeous beaches is boun…

25 Nov 2016 • Freya Godfrey camera_alt Gallery
13 tips for backpacking India

13 tips for backpacking India

Whether you’re hurtling along in a rickshaw, eating fantastic curries, kicking back on the backwaters or hiking in the mountains, backpacking India will alwa…

23 Nov 2016 • Helen Abramson insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month