Lambani also known as Banjara or Banjara Lambanis are a class of nomadic people migrated from the Indian states Rajasthan and North Gujarat and spread all over India before the arrival of Mughal. They used to travel from places to place in carts with all the things they owned. They are called as Gypsies of India. In the 17th century, Banjaras assisted the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb to export the goods to South. That was the first time they moved to south where the roads and railways made transportation of goods easier for them. In the 18th century the British authorities framed the community under the Criminal Tribe Act of 1871 and stopped their movements. This continued until 1952 and the act was eradicated by the Independent India. Later some of the families decided to settle down in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh with other states of India such as Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra. In Karnataka they have settled in the Northern part of Karnataka and hold the second largest population in India. These Banjaras are generally categorized as Hindus as they worship Hindu Gods like Krishna, Hanuman, Vishnu and Durga. They also worship some great people who are specific to the community amongst which Mithu Bhukhiya was known as dacoit of the tribe. Lambani people speak Banjari Language,also known as Goar- boali which originates from the Indo Aryan languages and has no script or recorded history. The community is learning the local languages in school and adopting the languages spoken in their surroundings. They are classified as Schedule Cast (SC) or other backward Classes (OBC) in the society. Bijapur a district of Karnataka is a city of historic monuments which was established in the 10th- 11th century by the Kalyani Chalukyas that was known as Vijayapura (city of Victory). This city has most population of Lambanis in Karnataka. Most of the families are into agriculture and others are into labor work in the cities of town. With the change in time Lambanis have tried to adjust with society. They don’t own their own farms so they work in other farms and earn their wages. Young generations feel uncomfortable to work in the heavy traditional dress thus they have adapted to casual dress, which is slowly detaching them from their traditions and culture.
The place they live in is called as Tanda which will be usually located outside of a village. Their house usually consists of a small room with no opening except the door. The doors are painted with vibrant colors with floral or diamond shapes creating eye catching patterns. The most outstanding feature of Lambanis is their traditional attire. Women wear vibrant color cotton frilled long skirt or ghagra and a short sleeved top that are embroidered with colorful threads and decorated with mirror pieces. The skirt is called as “Phetia” that is a width of 1ft and length of 12ft. two pieces of red and black fabric of ½ft are embroidered together and stitched on the border of the skirt. Middle part of the skirt is embroidered with mirror or glass pieces and shells. The blouse is called as Kanchalli which is made of three parts. The first piece is the top portion attached to the low sleeves with cords attached on both sides which is used to tie at the back. The second piece is stitched below the top piece that covers the chest with cords attached on either side to be tied at the back. Third piece of the blouse is attached below the chest piece. All the three pieces are embroidered with mirrors and coins. Head cloth called as Chantia/Pambadi/Tukari is used to cover the head and the main attraction by which the Lambanis are identified. The cloth is 2mt wide and 1.32mt long embroidered with mirrors, coin and shells. The part of the veil which covers the head is embroidered with thick border called ghoom to embellish them with beads and coins hung on the forehead to frame the face.
Ornaments the women wear are made of different metals.
• Ghugri a silver ornament which looks like a pendant made of tube with silver beads hanging from it worn on the head. This indicated the marital status of Lambani women.
• Two types of jewelry is used to wear to nose which are generally worn after marriage, they are Bhuria a gold ornament and Phule a silver pin.
• The silver or brass necklace is made of silver coins called as “Wankiya” made of twenty five paisa coins and small bells attached to a silver chain with a big pendant shaped as horse attached to it. Haasla is a silver necklace made of rod bent to the size of the women’s neck who is wearing it. A triangle shape silver pendant with exquisite carving known as thetry is attached on both side of the rod which is presented to the brides by their parents at the time of their marriage. Cheed a necklace made of black beads woven in a string is worn by the women, which is made by them self.
• Bajubhand is a silver ornament tied on the arms of a married women. Balia is ivory bangles that are worn on hands and arms which were later replaced with plastic bangles. It is also worn by married women.
• For the fingers they wear two kind of rings namely Winte (a silver ring) and Phula made of four old coins of the Nizam arranged in floral pattern.
• Khans is the ornament worn in the leg (a round open bangle made of bronze), a silver anklet and toe silver rings called as Foolia shaped like a fish figure.
Men wear Dhoti and Short Kurta with many folds like a frock which was traditionally designed to protect them from harsh climate in the desert. They wear a big turban on their head dyed with striking colors. A waist jacket embroidered with mirror and colorful threads are worn on the Kurta. Men also wear ornaments, a bangle shaped ornament in their neck made of silver, and thick silver bangle is worn on both the hands and Khans in the leg. The traditional food the Lambanis eat is Bati (roti) and a dish made of many serials and spices. Bati is usually made of wheat or Jawar. Apart from veg they prefer eating Saloi (made from blood and other parts of goat). Dance and folk song is the life blood of Lambanis. After returning back from the tedious work all the Tanda people join together around a fire and sing and dance together. Another unique art of Lambanis is Rangoli. Different designs of rangoli is drawn by men in front of the altar of God or Goddess using Jawar powder, turmeric powder, Gulal (pink color powder) and Kumkum. Rangolis of Saint and Sadhus are made of Jawar powder and a one rupee coin is placed in the center of the rangoli in the honor of their ancestors. Despite their culture and rich heritage they are educationally and economically backward. With the change in the generation some of the Lambanis are making progress in literary and cultural field.
Present day Lambanis/Banjaras are known for their artwork. Lambani women show their embroidery skills on different types of article and presents them in Crafts Mela for selling them through NGOs. Most of the designers or NGOs hire the Lambani women for employment and spread their dieng art through their brand names. Lambani embroidery consists of the intricate thread work making geometrical patterns with countless of stitching skills.