Accessorizing Your Camel

Art history/ Historiography, Crafts, Handlooms, Art, Craftspersons/ Artisanal

Accessorizing Your Camel: Girth-belt of Thar, Rajasthan

Sethi, Dr. Ritu

Animals in India have through the ages been part of life and custom whether in battle or for ceremonial purposes, in royal processions, at festivities, rituals and worship and in the everyday life of pastoralists, agriculturists and others who have depended on their animals for work, life and sustenance. In the past the range of crafts specially designed and commissioned for their use by courts and the nobility included bespoke fitted armour and weaponry, glittering caparisoning, trappings and other decorative and utilitarian accessories. Among the more humble and domestic traditions of utilitarian adornment is the continuing, though endangered tradition of braiding camel girth-belts, locally called tang in the dessert region of Thar in Jaisalmer , Rajasthan. In this hot and water-scarce region the camel has for centuries played a significant role in the life of the people –in combat, in trade, in agriculture and as a significant means of transportation. Its milk remains an important dietary source while its hair and hide serve myriad purposes. While much has changed and globalization has reached this corner of India the camel though less sighted remains a prized possession. The camel tang girth-belt, usually 6 feet long and about 5 inches wide serves to keep the saddle firmly in its place. The traditional girth-belts are made of yarn obtained from local goats and constructed by the split-ply braiding technique using the most simple, basic tool. The craft is practiced by members of the Bhatti Rajput camel-herding community in and ...
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