The Banjaras

The Lambadis also known as Banjaras are a community spread across different areas of India. They are thought to be descendants of Roma gypsies from Europe who migrated to India. A significant percentage of their population is based in my home state of Andhra Pradesh. They mostly live in rural areas in small hamlets called ‘thandas’ practicing small scale agriculture. They have their own oral language and have a unique culture and associated traditions. One such tradition is centered on the celebration of the spring festival-Holi. The Lambadis celebrate it in a unique way which is different from the way it is celebrated by the rest of India. For the Lambadis, the Holi festival is the time to pray for and celebrate fertility and prosperity in their respective thandas.

This particular thanda where these photos were shot is famous for the large scale celebration of the festival with many people from nearby thandas attending the final celebration. The preparation for the festival would start with cleaning of the village, making of special Sorghum rotis, preparing poultry for the feast and then preparation of the logs for the night fire around which the celebratory dance is held. Everyone in the thanda would participate in this process reinforcing the community nature of the event and all expenses for the event would be met from a fund collected from all households’ before the festival.