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A Bhil dance at Mandu in Madhya Pradesh, India, 1912

The caption that accompanies this image in the Royal Geographical Society’s archive reads: ‘The “Bhils” are a [tribespeople] who have settled in the central valley of the River Narmada, generally confined to the four contiguous states of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. They are an independent people who embrace festivals, drama, music and dance. Ghumer, Raika, Jhoria and Gauri are amongst their most popular dances.’ During the feudal and colonial periods, Bhils were employed on the strength of their skills as shikaris (hunters) by the Rajputs, and as warriors by Maharana Pratap, who was waging a guerilla war against the Mughal Empire. Today, they are classed as an indigenous group and are one of India’s best known and most respected tribal peoples. Indeed, some of their cultural traditions have been adopted by other communities. The dance called Ghumer (or Ghoomar), for example, is now associated with Rajasthani women, who perform it at weddings, singing and snapping their fingers and twirling gracefully to make their colourful dresses flare out.

The Royal Geographical Society Picture Library is an unrivalled resource, containing more than half a million images of peoples and landscapes from all over the world. The collection holds photographs and works of art from the 1830s onwards and includes images of exploration, indigenous peoples and remote locations. For further information on image licensing and limited-edition prints, or to search our online collection of more than 7,000 images, visit Rolex kindly supports public access to the Society’s collection of photographs, books, documents and maps.

08 | September 2013

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