Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Enriched by the Gamit Myths

This article contains the following points:

The Gamit Myths take us into the inner world of the Gamits. Though illiterate, the Gamits are born story tellers. Myths make us aware of our instincts - self, surrounding, human nature etc. The author of this article has lived with the Gamits for 11 years.

The photo above shows Mr. Thogiyabhai Gamit,
age 75, Village-Raniamba, narrating the Gamit
Myths to the younger generation at Vyara.

Enriched by the Gamit Myths

As I move about in the world of the Gamits daily, one thing that strikes me very vehemently is the reality of their myths. Normally speaking the elders of the Gamit community, both men and women, are conversant with the myths. Such a knowledgeable lot is dwindling day by day. It is, indeed, a matter of serious and urgent concern that the world of their myths be preserved and prevented from becoming extinct. Hence I, personally, deem it very necessary that such a significant aspect of their life be maintained with all our might and main. Having lived with them, for nearly a period of seven years or so, I am both hopeful and confident that the myths will help us to deepen our understanding of the Gamits. In the bargain, the Gamit myths, to some extent, will contribute to the understanding and the process of human development.

Rollo May says, “Myths are a treasure house of the revelations of man’s self-interpretation of his inner experience and his world down through the ages.” (Love and will, New York, W.W. Norton Company, Inc., 1969).

Sigmund Freud notes, “The instincts are my mythology” (Ibid.).

Human beings feel inspired to express that ‘element’ which lies at the very core of their experience. Human beings interpret that ‘inner element’ and these ‘instincts’ with the help of experiences that take place in ‘Self’ and ‘Surrounding’. This provides them with an occasion to communicate with them selves. And the subject of this communication is the gist of what he or she has learned about himself or herself and about the world.

Positively, this helps them to control their behavior and enhances effectively human growth. To put it differently, it capacitates human beings to maintain their equilibrium and composure, raising their degree of self-consciousness. In view of this human beings order their world in its proper place. Apart from that, it does not allow him or her to indulge in meaningless and apparently annoying questions regarding life itself.

It is not always necessary that myths are real stories. They may or may not be planted in the muck of history. The question here is not of historicity. A myth may just be an imagination of a person or a community or a society. Imagination and historicity are external embellishments, a structure, a form, and a skeleton. But what is of utmost importance is what is ‘within’, the soul, the element, the gist, the heart, or what is pointed to.

More often than not myths are connected with religions, which may be of great or small traditions but it need not always be the case. All those concerned with the growth of humanity must learn to talk in the idiom of myths of that particular community. Myths are created and they disappear from the horizon of that particular community with the passage of time. Some myths have been challenged and destroyed by science, research and investigation and thereby rendering them useless. To give up myths altogether would mean plunging humanity into turmoil. Human beings have to constantly re-order their world that is in and around them. This process of re-ordering is both dangerous and painful. But it yields abundant fruits in terms of human maturity. Hence myths may become outdated or be proved false but human beings do keep their mind, heart and soul open to the reality of myths. There is a dimension in the very make-up of human beings that voluntarily leads them to the world of myths. Hence it is a never-ending aspect of human beings’ existence.

Myths are a unique heritage of every culture. To some extent with the key of myths one can unlock the human mind heart of that particular community. The Gamit world too is such a world, about whose origins we know very little. But it is a world that is deeply rooted in the maze of life. The Gamits have been battling with fundamental and foundational questions of life and these are reflected in their myths.

Practically, all the myth-narrators in this book are uneducated. Yet in the school of life they are quite advanced. There is a great degree of self-consciousness in them. In the labyrinth of their forest of inner experiences, instincts, revelations and interpretations all of us are invited to take both a meaningful and a gentle walk and be enriched.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Knowing the Gamits

A Gujarati Version of the same appeared in "Gamit Dantkathao" (Gamit Myths) by me
By me - Raymund A. Chauhan sj
The Photo shows a Gamit Wedding
in progress with their exhilirating dance.
Tribal Population in India:
In the year 1981, Government of India conducted a survey of the population of India. According to this survey the population of India was 68,51,85000. Out of these the tribal in India are 5,16,28000. In terms of percentage, then, the tribal were 7.7% of the total population of India. Indeed, it is a sizeable number of people in India.

Tribal Population in Gujarat

According to the same census, the total population of Gujarat was 3,40,86,000. Out of these the tribal in Gujarat are 48,48,586. In terms of percentage, then, the tribal population was 14.22% of the total population of Gujarat.

The Gamits in Gujarat

According to the census survey in the year 1981, the tribe-wise statistics of the tribal in Gujarat are not available. But keeping in mind the rate of growth of the population in each tribe in the last few years, approximate statistics are stipulated. According to this stipulation the population of the Gamits number to 3,45,739, which is 7.1% of the total population of the tribal in Gujarat.

The Fourth Leading Tribe in Gujarat : The Gamits

According to the stipulated population of the tribal in Gujarat, in the year 1981, the following picture emerges.

No. Tribe Tribal Population

1. Bhil 18,14,700
2. Dubla 4,85,736
3. Dhodiya 4,48,466
4. Gamit 3,45,739

From the above statistics it is clear that the Gamits are the fourth leading tribe in Gujarat. The rest of the 27 tribes are not mentioned here for the sake of brevity. Altogether there are 31 tribes recorded by the government in Gujarat, India.

The Gamits are one of the tribal communities dwelling in South Gujarat, India. Between the Saputaras to the North and the Sahyadris to the South flows the river Tapi. Thirty odd miles further South the Ambika River descends from the Dangs. Between these two rivers is the HOME of the Gamits. Nearly 30 years ago here was a people that had abundant tree-cover. There was game in its forests and fish in its plentiful streams. Here was a people that had its own language, worshipped by its own rituals and felt secure in its own community and gods. From the North hills Hela Mogra extended her powerful loving protection, Devli Madi in their midst assured them of her care, Kaka Bolia in the South, if propitiated, protected them from harm.

The Land

The vast stretch of the SouthEastern tribal belt is mainly hilly tracts of land, geographically termed sedimentary rocks of the Deccan trap. Longitude 72 degree and Latitude 20-22 degree.


Surat and Valsad districts come under the ‘Main land Gujarat’ regions as opposed to Saurashtra and Kutch. If we analyze the physiographic units based on relief, slopes and land forms the division is further categorized into 3 parts: The coastal areas, the plains, the Eastern highlands.

The Coastal Areas: From the river Damanganga upwards North is a narrow coastal belt which is mainly a barren strip of silt and salt marshes which broadens North towards Bharuch district and becomes fertile.

The Plains: are also small strips in these 2 districts as they merge with the Eastern highlands in Bharuch and Surat districts and nearly disappear in the South of Surat. Most of the land in the tribal belt falls in the Eastern Highlands.

The Eastern Highlands: which dominate the physiography, consists of the Aravalli, Vindhya, Saputara and Sahyadris mountain ranges.


The two districts fall under the ‘monsoon climate’ which is characterized by a rainfall period from mid June to September followed by winter reaching its peak in January and then Summer which climaxes in May.

Maximum Temperature : 45 degree C (May)
Minimum Temperature : 22 degree C (January)
Relative Humidity : 48% (October – May)
Rainfall Average : 1100 mm. In Surat district to 1800 mm, in Valsad


Black soil that originates from the decomposition of trap rocks of the Saputara and Vindya ranges, although geniuses have contributed to some extent. High clay content and soil reaction varies from neutral to alkaline.

The Main Crops

In these areas rice, jowar, pulses, groundnuts and other cereals are the main crops. Since most of the tribals are farmers owning small patches of land in the hilly areas, they try to protect soil run off by bunding, terracing and cultivating the land for sheer sustenance.

The Cropping Pattern of the 2 districts: major crops, average of triennium ending 1979-1980 (in %).

Crops Surat district Valsad district

Rice 13.4 29.2
Wheat 2.4 1.2
Jowar 24.5 5.4
Bajri 0.3 -----
Maize 0.1 -----
Total food crops 66.2 63.7
Cotton 11.1 1.1
Groundnut 6.2 0.7
Total non-food crops 33.8 36.3

Total 100.0 100.0

The Forests

No longer are the forests in full existence today. They have fallen prey to the greedy, unscrupulous and shortsighted merchants and traders who are alien to this land of the tribals. The vast and dense forests, which provided a soothing sight to the human eyes and a source of sustenance to the tribal, have been denuded. There has been and still there is an outright exploitation of both the forests and the tribals. The Gamits can be more fully understood in reference to and communion with Nature. But the ruthless felling of trees has left an incurable wound in the very existence of the tribals.