The pastoralist communities of Rajasthan live mired in sobering destitution, subsisting in a hand-to-mouth fashion on distressingly meager resources. Yet even these few assets are perpetually under threat from Rajasthan’s arid and unpredictable climate, from its uncertain and volatile market. Such extensive challenges make life a daily struggle for the rural poor, yet they have had one support system that has helped them weather any crisis they were confronted with from times immemorial. The source of the vital assistance that enables these communities to surmount even the most extreme hardships is the sacred grove, or what is locally known as the ‘Oran’. Surviving through the ages due to their revered status that precludes unsustainable utilization, have always provided a much-needed lifeline and safeguard to their respective communities. They have done so by acting to unify people religiously, culturally and socially while providing a forum for village-level discussions, festivals and other social events; through provision of much needed sustenance for people and livestock through the ‘Talabs’ or rainwater harvesting structures, streams, wells or other water sources present in every Oran, as well as grazing pasture, which in turn enable the animals to provide dairy foods, wool, manure for use as fuel and fertilizer, and manual labor to plow the fields; valuable medicinal herbs and marketable fruits, berries, and other produce such as honey; as well as timber to be used under certain circumstances for fuel or construction materials.
KRAPAVIS, a voluntary organisation has been working in the semi-arid Aravalli hill bio-regions and arid Thar Desert of Rajasthan, India, with our field base stationed in the remote village of Bakhtpura, Alwar District, which borders the famous Sariska Tiger Reserve. It works with rural and pastoralist communities, particularly with gujjars, to revitalize village Orans, both physically and conceptually - numerous approaches have been adopted, including training villagers, and cataloguing, reviving and campaigning for Orans; construction and repair of Oran Talabs, water harvesting structures and trenching units on the Orans’ land; setting up and maintaining a ‘Seed Bank’ and nurseries for tree plantation and grass broadcasting in Orans. During this monsoon (the reporting period), we planted about 10,000 saplings in the Orans.
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