29 September 2023
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Many years back, when Kutch was reeling under drought, the villagers in Salim mama’s village in Banni – Asia’s biggest open grassland – began migrating in search of a more hospitable place. But Salim mama, a Bhagiya, or local expert that the largely pastoral community often sought counsel from for diseases afflicting their animals, or the weather, refused to join the others. His buffalo, he said, was not yet in distress and it was a sign that things would turn. True to his word, the rains came a week thereafter, rejuvenating the grassland and bringing its people and animals back home.

The people of Banni have many such stories of Bhagiyas which they have either experienced first-hand or have heard from elder family members. “If our animal falls ill, we call the Bhagiya – that is how it has always been,” said Samir Mohammad, a Maldhari, or pastoralist, who has 10 buffaloes. “A Bhagiya’s knowledge about animals and plants is vast. He knows which plant can help cure which disease. Over the years, we have started consulting the veterinary doctor too but there are times the Bhagiya has been able to perform, for instance, a complicated delivery of a buffalo when even…

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Abdul Gh Lone