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A lambani woman from Hampi

Subject: Lambani Woman

Place: Hampi, Karnataka

Year: 2023

Camera: Yashica Mat 124 G

Film: Ilford HP5 Plus

The Lambanis of India are one of its earliest itinerant indigenous groups. Though their exact origins still remain a matter of speculation, there is some consensus on it being the Gor province of Afghanistan. From the northwest frontiers of the subcontinent this intrepid tribe moved into Rajasthan and defined their life as herders, farmers and traders of salt, grains and other vital supplies to various communities including the Mughal armies of the time.

 An indomitable spirit of adventure with a yearning for novelty kept this unique community moving into new territories and states across India that include Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh in the north to Maharashtra and Karnataka to the west and the south. They live on the fringes of various towns and villages, participating in local economies and adapting well to provincial conditions and customs while retaining their own distinct identity. Paradoxically, the Lambani soul is characterised by a rootedness born out of constant movement. The ability to robustly express their unique customs and culture in different geographical and social settings is the hallmark of this social group with its own proud literature, folklore, dance and crafts.

You can identify Lambanis easily as you pass them on national highways or camping out on the outskirts of various towns of India. They stand out like stars in a night sky with their colorful costumes, a magical blend of fabric, beads and mirror work, and striking handmade jewelry with their astounding swirls, twists and curves. Then as now, they are always what they are - a proud nomadic tribe moving through the mists of time and history, confronting change fearlessly yet remaining joyfully untouched by it somehow.

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