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The nomadic Gujjars and Bakerwals of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. In Jammu & Kashmir, these nomadic people are cow/buffalo herders (esp. Gujjars) and goat/sheep herders (esp. Bakerwals). However, the two groups are very closely associated and intermarry, and commonly referred to as the "Gujjars and Bakarwals." Photographed in Rajouri, Jammu & Kashmir, India. Photo by Paul La Porte; from
Significant populations in: Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab (India)
Language Gojri, Kashmiri, Urdu, Dogri.
Religion [Islam]],Hindu

Bakarwal (or Bakharwal) is a nomadic tribe based in the Pir Panjal and Himalayan mountains of South Asia. They are mainly goatherds and shepherds. They are called as Dhangar in rest of India.



Bakarwal is derived from the Gojri/Urdu/Punjabi/Kashmiri/Dogri terms, Bakri/Bakar meaning "goat/Sheep", and Wal meaning "one who takes care of". Essentially, the name "Bakarwal" implies "high-altitude goatherds/shepherds".

The Bakarwals (Dhangars) belongs to the same ethnic stock as the Gujjars, and inter-marriages freely take place among them.[1] Although, Bakarwals (Dhangars) have same gotra or clan like Gujjars, many local shepherds, who may not necessarily belong to the community, are often termed as Bakarwal.

Geographical distribution

Bakarwals are spread throughout the northern part of the Himalayan Range. This includes the states of Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab (India) in India. In Pakistan, Bakarwals are found in the hilly northern parts of Punjab (Pakistan) as well as parts of the North West Frontier Province.

In Jammu and Kashmir in India, Bakarwals are found in all three regions of the state including Jammu (comprising the districts of Jammu, Kathua, Udhampur, Poonch, Rajouri and District), the Kashmir Valley (comprising the districts of Srinagar, Baramulla, Kupwara, Pulwama, Budgam and Anantnag) and Ladakh (comprising the district of Ladakh and Kargil).

In Pakistan, Bakarwals inhabit the Northern Areas (Gilgit, the Hunza Valley and Baltistan) and Azad Kashmir (Mirpur and Muzaffarabad).

They are also found in the PRC controlled regions of the state, namely Aksai Chin and the Shaksgam Valley.


Bakarwals lead a lonely and tough life in the high-altitude meadows of the Himalayas and the Pir-Panjal. Every year, they take their sheep high into the mountains, above the tree-line to graze in the lush meadows. It may take them as many as sixty days to reach these meadows. During the summer, they move from one meadow to the other. They generally travel in pairs but sometimes they may go alone or in larger groups (depending on how many sheep/goats need to be taken care of).

They are accompanied by their dogs, the famous bhotia or bakarwal dogs, and their pack-animals.

See also


  1. ^ Kapoor, A. K.; M. K. Raha, D. Basu, Satwanti Kapoor (1994). Ecology and man in the Himalayas. M. D. Publications. pp. 43–44. ISBN 978-8185880167.  

Further reading

  • Prashad, Ram (1992). Tribal Migration in Himalayan Frontiers: Study of Gujjar Bakarwal Transhumance Economy. Vintage Books. ISBN 8185326460.  


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