The Lohar Gypsies
In 2004, I received a degree in Ayurveda from Kalidas Sanskrit University in Nagpur, India.
After our graduation, I hired a private car to take my friend, Antoine and I from Nagpur to Benaras.
The private car was an excellent way to travel, allowing us to stop and explore whatever took our interest.
In the late morning, about a hundred miles south of Benares, on a nearly deserted road,
we saw a half-mile long caravan of gypsies with their ox-drawn carts and wagons
moving through the countryside.
We stopped our car by the side of the road and got out to witness
this ancient, slow-moving, beautiful and exotic procession.
I later found out we were looking at Gadolia Lohar Gypsies.
Their name comes from the ‘Gadhiya’ or elaborate bullock carts
on which they travel
as well as from the name of their profession,
‘Lohars’ or blacksmiths.
The Gadolia Lohar are the blackmith travelling gypsies of India.
For the last 800 years, they have kept a vow to never sleep under a roof,
to always travel on their upturned beds
and to never stay for long in any one place.
Known for their brightly colored wagons,
they travel throughout northern India making and selling
axe-heads, shovels and picks.
They have no permanent home.
At first they were wary of us white foreigners.
But, after showing them pictures of themselves taken with my digital camera
and with many moments of shared humor as they laughed at both themselves and at us,
with the offering of a little baksheesh (money),
they became relaxed and friendly and invited us into their camp that afternoon.
While the women set up the camp and prepared the food,
we saw the men build fires.
take out hand-cranked blower-fans to stoke the coals,
set up their anvils and begin to pound the heated steel to make axe heads.
The children, as happened everywhere in India,
would always run to be wherever I pointed my camera.
So, if I wanted to take a picture of some person or event,
I would first point my camera in one direction,
the children would all run over there to be in the picture
and then I would quickly turn and take the picture I wanted.
I was honored to spend a brief time with this colorful tribe of wonderful people.
I was as exotic to them as they were to me.
We greatly enjoyed each others company.