From the 1900s to 2020, the population of lions in Sasan Gir National Park has shown a steep and commendable rise. The Gir National Park has always been at the centre of vogue for being the home to the majestic Asiatic Lions in the Junagarh district of Gujarat. However, the place also offers land for the settlement of two tribal communities - Maldhari and Siddi. Suppose you are planning to meet the lions at Gir National Park. In that case, you must definitely include a visit to these tribal communities in the Gir Tour Package Booking to learn about their livelihood in absolute harmony with nature and wildlife.
Maldhari in Gujarati meant ‘Maal’ means ‘Cattle’ and ‘Dhari’ means ‘Keeper’. The settlements of the Maldhari community are known as nesses and they have been the prominent residents of the Gir forest for more than 125 years. Generations after generations have made the forests of Gir their permanent abode without any thought of relocation. Their primary occupation is cattle rearing. Despite the absolute absence of infrastructure and obvious dangers lurking from lions this tribal community continues to stay there. After the declaration of Gir as a national park, the indigenous group was not forced to move out. There are 24 nesses on the eastern side of the Gir Forest and 30 nesses on the western side. To sum up, there are around 40,000 tribals residing in these nesses along with 1900 cattle approximately. Currently, the settlements are not inside the premises of Sasan Gir National Park. Their primary occupation is producing milk from cattle, collecting wild honey and growing vegetables. Whereas their income is based on the selling of dairy products, vegetables, handicrafts, etc in the market, socially to the tourists visiting the national park.
The settlement of the Siddi tribe rests deep inside the forest of Gir, in a village called Jambur, just outside the periphery of Sasan Gir National Park. They are known to be the descendants of the African indigenous tribe known as ‘Bantu’ in East Africa. Surprisingly, these people from the tribe can speak fluent Gujarati just like any other resident of Gujarat. However, the back story of their arrival to India is not very pleasant as it is related to the unethical practice of slavery. It is said that the Nawabs of Junagarh imported these East African residents into ships to serve as slaves in India. Over the course of time, their original cultural aspects have faded away, except their traditional dance form ‘Siddi Dhamal’, which was previously performed after a successful hunting expedition, but now it is performed just to mark any celebration. Although the majority of the Siddi population resides in the Junagarg district of Gujarat, the coastal states of India like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra also house some of their population. Due to lack of proper skill and economic assistance, their livelihood depends on petty jobs like security guards, vegetable vendors, etc. Few of them have managed to become tourist guides, thereby spreading more information about their tribe. The young population of the group has access to education.