The Bunjaras by Sharpe

This most interesting race, the travelling grain merchants of western India (who lead a life wholly nomadic, and have done so earlier than is recorded), have their best interests opposed to the introduction of foreign innovation in the matter of transit. The Bunjaras have no sympathy with civilized life; from the people of India they move, think, live apart, varying in dress, language, religion, from all about them. Rajpoots by origin, they can follow no trade; the Bunjara may serve only as a soldier; in all other callings he must be free and independent. For hundreds of years we find them, as hordes, encamping in the open air, and living by the exchange of merchandise. They are owners of great droves of bullocks, which, laden with grain in the upper country, they drive to the coast, exchanging their burthens for salt, at a favorable market, but sedulously avoiding all intercourse with strangers and their cities. The Bunjaras are a stout, sturdy race; sturdy and stout in action and resolve as they are in body and form, Spartan-like in their sense of honor, free in their opinion as the mountain breeze, keeping apart from men and their cabals, and existing by their own energies. A short time since, I journeyed on horseback over the very line of this proposed railway, from the city of Nassiek to Bombay, and encountered several hundreds of bullocks heavily laden, and attended by Bunjara families; the men armed with sword and matchlock, the children propped up among the bullock furniture, and each younger woman of the tribe looking much as one fancies the Jewish maiden must have looked when she obtained grace and favor in the sight of King Ahasuerus, who "made her queen instead of Vashti." It is worthy of remark, that the choice of colors among the Bunjara women is altogether opposed to general taste among the Hindoos. Red and yellow among the latter are always favorite tints, and blue is never worn by any but the common people, to whom it is recommended by the cheapness of the indigo used in dyeing. The Bunjara women, on the contrary, select the richest imaginable Tyrian purple, a sort of rosy smalt, as the ground of their attire, which is bordered by a deep phylactery of divers colors in curious needlework, wrought in with small mirrors, beads, and sparkling crystals. Their saree has a fringe of shells, and their handsome arms and delicate ankles are laden with rich ornaments The Bunjara women plaid their hair with crimson silk, and suffer it to fall on either side of the face, the ends secured with silver tassels, and on the summit of the head they wear a small tiara studded with silver stars. The reader may think this a fanciful and exaggerated dress for the wife of a drover; but these costumes are heir-looms, and though they are often seen faded, torn, travel-stained, and grim, the materials are always as I have described them, differing in freshness, but never in character.