In Jammu and Kashmir alone, Bakarwal tribes are stretched out three areas of the state namely Jammu, which comprises of various districts like Jammu, Kathua, Udhampur, Poonch, Rajouri; the Kashmir Valley which consist of several districts like Srinagar, Baramulla, Kupwara, Pulwama, Budgam and Anantnag. Moreover, Bakarwal Tribe is also settled in some parts of Ladakh consisting of Ladakh and Kargil districts.
Bakarwal mainly are goatherds and shepherds by profession. The meaning of the words has got significance. Bakarwal is deduced from Punjabi, Urdu, Dogri, Kashmiri, and Hindi terms. The word Bakarwal is derived from two terms with different meanings- 'Bakri' or 'Bakar' means 'goat', and 'Wal' connoting 'one who takes care of'. In general, the name 'Bakarwal' signifies 'high-altitude goatherds or shepherds'. They are said to be originated from the tribes of Issac.
The Bakarwal tribes rightly belong to the same racial stock, better known as Gujjars. Quite often there are instances of inter-marriage occurring between both the tribal families are heard. Although, Bakarwal tribes are well thought-out to be a 'gotra or clan' of the Gujjar tribes, there are quite a handful of native shepherds, belong to Bakarwal tribes, even though they do not fall into the family of any Gujjar tribe.
The lifestyle of Bakarwal tribes also throws some light on their culture and societal set up. Through out the year they lead a secluded and lonely life, mingling with the turmoil that they face while living in such rugged terrains. Once in every year they take the pain of accompanying their herds of sheep to the steep high mountain regions for grazing them in the green fields. There is no exaggeration of the fact that Bakarwal tribes take near about six days to reach those remote meadows fro their own place of residence. During the summer seasons, when the nature is in its bounty, they can easily move from one meadow to the other. In general these Bakarwal tribes move in pairs. Once in a while, however, they may go alone or in larger groups largely depending upon the number of sheep or goats that they need to carry. Often other animals like dogs, the famous bhotia or Bakarwal dogs also accompany them.
The physical characteristics of the Bakarwal males are that they keep long beards. Some of their characteristics along with their customs, language, manners and dressing sense match with the Gujjar tribesof Himachal Pradesh.
(Last Updated on : 10-10-2009)
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