Space and Identity. A Study on the Tradition and Change of the Gujars of Himachal Pradesh

The unique life-ways of the ‘Gujar’ pastoral community of India have evoked significant interest in recent time as they are struggling hard to retain their cultural identity against the increasing pressure of different forces of change. The ‘Gujars’ are wedded to herding buffaloes since long past and nurturing a distinct socio-symbolic mosaic of their own. The contemporary observation on the community, which is in growing contact with the ‘modern’ neighbors and agencies, finds out the spatial orientation of the identity as much meaningful. Such space-oriented identity invokes significant intra-cultural concern in different contexts and processes of their lives. The paper, thus, explores the indigenous perception of the uses of space among the ‘Gujar’ of Himachal Pradesh and the meanings attributed to specific space/s by the people of different age groups. The primary construct of space, the extension of the construct to social relations and to the strategies of livelihood have become the contexts to discuss the sedentarization, which is partly enforced by the agencies. The resultant changes in lifestyles are seen to accompany transformation in self-perception and certain shifts of identity.