No, this is not the name of some Flemish painter! Van Gujjars are the Muslim nomads of Northern India, we stumbled upon them while cycling the state of Uttarakhand and they fascinated us. They lead a nomadic or semi-nomadic lifestyle, walking with huge herds of buffaloes through the forest and on the roads of this part of the world. They live the life of their ancestors – that put them in trouble sometimes, since some of the forests they used to occupy are now turned into national parks. We met them in their natural surroundings – in thick pine woods.
They breed other animals as well.
While cycling between Tiuni and Mori we spotted strange huts, looking a bit African or Laotian. It turned out, that they are occupied by Van Gujjars – some of them choose (or are forced by the government) to settle down.
However, most of the families we met on our way still lived nomadic lifestyle. Some of their camp sites were just on the side of the road…
In another part of Uttarakhand we met a group of Van Gujjars with at least 200 buffaloes and cows! They were walking with them on the main highway.
We were amazed that the true nomads are still there! If you want to know more about them, visit this great website.