India is a land of diversity where people of various castes, communities, customs and traditions are dispersed across the landscape of its different states. Maharashtra is one among those beautiful states which has a number of such splendid communities and each of them having its own traditions and customs. Dhangars are one among those communities who have been blessed with an age-long tradition and magnificent culture. Hence dhangars are generally dispersed all across India, and in Maharashtra they have settled in villages in the western parts.
A journey through Western Ghats, through the curves and hairpins of Sahyadri will give an exceptional experience which one should at least experience once in life. The raw and organic essence of Maharashtrian culture can be seen throughout the journey. The geography is immaculately marvelous and the fertility of black soil can be evidently seen on plants, vegetables and trees. One the way one can see lot of shepherds herding their cattle, some are travelling to one region to another, some belongs to nearby villages and some are at their own field.
Once we all were nomads, as in our ancestors; a lost tradition, when people started settling down and started a living life at a place. But now also there are communities like ‘Dhangars’ follow the same tradition though it isn’t intact as ancient days. Dhangars are the shepherd community from Maharashtra whose roots are from Karnataka; really long back their ancestors migrated to Maharashtra and settled in different parts of it.
The lifestyle of Dhangars is inimitable and impeccable, though the Industrialization and modernization have stolen many components of their age old tradition.
One can easily identify a dhangar easily from their attire and the main unavoidable factor is the woolen blanket which is called ‘ghongdi’ and some other factors are their turban called ‘feta’; forehead is smeared in ‘bhandara’ or Turmeric and thick beard and mustache. In olden days the need of ghongdi; the woolen blanket was extensive as well as inevitable in the life of ‘dhangars’. It is used to be the protection from all sort of climatic changes. It acted as an umbrella during monsoon and a furry protection from the freezing cold winter days. During the darkness of night it acted as a perfect quilt to have a cozy sleeping. The life of dhangars and the use of ghongdi in their life literally decode the secret of Sanskrit verse from the Upanishad ‘Tatvamassi’. “Tatvamassi” which can be decoded as ‘TaT’ means that , ‘Tvam’ means you and ‘Assi’ means am/is/are; so this one word is a short cut of a sentence ‘That is you’ and in the further explanations Upanishad is saying that, “That” represents the supreme god, that means there is no difference between you and the almighty. This vedic secret can be seen in practice of the lifestyle of dhangars. They use ghongdi as an inevitable part of their day to day life as well as during the worship of their deities like Khandoba, Biroba, Dhuloba, Siddhanath, Mayappa etc.