summers is the cool and soothing climate of the hills.
Himachal is known for its simplicity and serenity, but apart
from these qualities, the distinct culture of Gaddis also
known as the shepherds is unique about the hills. With
setting of summers, these hill folks come back to their
habitats after roaming like nomads the whole winters in the
plains and in the lower parts of the hills.
Amid rugged snow covered mountains, these hardy shepherds with
their flocks of sheep are unaware and unaffected by the
happenings of the outside world.
These wanderers of the mountains all through the changing
seasons roam from one destination to another, witnessing some
of the most awe-inspiring terrains as well as facing the
toughest climatic changes.
The mere site of these beautiful hill residents with their
herd of goats, sheep and gaddi dogs itself depicts the aura
of romance around them.
Hill paintings such as the Kangra bride, the Gaddan(shepherd
woman) and the evocative folk songs so beautifully depict the
rich culture of these hill wanderers. The moving love story
of Kanju and chanchalo- folk heroes of the gaddis has been
immortalized by their folk songs.
Kunju used to visit Chanchalo, his sweetheart, secretly at midnight,
braving dangers. He had to cross a raging, torrential stream and then
pass through a dark forest where wild animals lurked. In the end, the
rivals of Kunju, armed with guns, proved to the more dangerous than
During the day, watching these Gaddis reaching the chosen
pastures to find some shade to rest-perhaps an overhanging crag-while
their flock grazes contentedly, is an amazing site. Seen from the
valleys below by those who are uninitiated, the sheep high on a
mountain-side appear as mysterious specks of white against a dramatic
blue green back-ground. At night, the glow from Gaddi fires-against
the rocks gives the feel of glow worms hovering over the
mountains. To while away the hours in solitude, the flute played
by the Gaddis is so enchanting and as melodious as the
cooing of a cuckoo.
The charming hamlets between Palampur and Baijnath, in Kangra,
Chamba and a few other places in Himachal are the abode of
Gaddis and generates a breathtaking view of their existence,
survival and living.
But when a Gaddi is on the move, small rock caves in the mountains are
his abode. If he has to camp out in the open, and it becomes too cold
during the night, the Gaddi simply pulls a few live sheep over himself
to keep warm. Gaddi women, known as Gaddans or Gaddinis, keep the
hearths warm and spin and weave wool. The loose frock of white wool
(the chola), with a high peaked cap over their heads worn by the
Gaddis and Gaddans wearing a woolen frock and a printed petticoat
with traditional silver jewellery gives a peek a boo of their
rich heritage. Witnessing Cairns decorated with flags while
travelling on the roads leading to hills represents the abode
of a Gaddi deity , who must be appeased to ensure a safe
On festive occasions, there is music and dancing, and lungri(the
rice beer) is served as a drink. Watching the Gaddi men and
women performing the Natti or the Gaddi dance gives a
glimpse into their happy and jovial way of living. These
ardent devotees of Lord Shiva have made the hills the ‘land
of Gods’, called the ‘ Dev Bhoomi’.
Gaddis inimitable mode of living enables them to savour at will the
rare joys of a free, untrammeled yet challenging lifestyle amidst some
of the most breathtaking scenery and their entire way of life
is built around the welfare of their folks.
For us the outsiders visiting hills and getting the glimpse
of their tough as well as terrific lives is an experience
of a lifetime.