|17-year-old Mariam leads her family’s caravan through the foothills of the Himalayas, while carrying her 2-year-old niece in the blue plaid shawl over her shoulders.|
The forests and mountains of north India are home to a unique nomadic tribe whose world revolves around caring for the water buffaloes that they herd. During the fall and winter months, the Van Gujjars dwell in the lowland jungles of the Shivalik Hills, where thick foliage provides plenty of fodder for their animals at that time of year. But by mid-April, as temperatures there soar above 110 degrees, the leaves and grasses wither and die and creeks and streams run dry. With nothing left for their buffaloes to eat or drink, the Van Gujjars must move elsewhere.
Entire families, from infants to the elderly, trek with their herds up into the Himalayas, where melting snows reveal lush alpine meadows laced by gurgling streams, which provide abundant grass and water throughout the summer. When the cold sets in at the end of September, they head back down to the Shivaliks, where the jungle has sprung back to life following the monsoon rains. The tribe has followed this cycle of seasonal migration—up in summer, down in winter, perpetually living in the wilderness and shunning settled village life—for over 1,500 years.
My most recent book, Himalaya Bound: One Family’s Quest to Save Their Animals – And an Ancient Way of Life, which was published by Pegasus Books earlier this year, follows one extended Van Gujjar family on their spring migration into the mountains. In this article, I’ll delve into the story behind the images that are featured in the book’s photo insert, which is sandwiched between 230 pages of text.
Who Am I?
I’m a freelance photographer → continue…