A week with the Brokpa tribe.
Recently I went for a trip to Garkone, a village in Kargil District. The purpose of the trip was to collaborate with people from different backgrounds to create a community based project for the Aryans. We were a team of people from various fields - design, filmmaking and research. The week long program was planned keeping adequate time for acclimatization.
During our time here, we lived in traditional homestays with the locals. Also known as Brokpas (Brok' means hillock and ‘Pa’ means inhabitant), they are rumoured to be the ‘last pure specimens’ of the Aryan race. Across the world, people still regard them as the master race—tall, blue-eyed blondes endowed with superior intelligence and values.
The area I was in, is laid out as a cluster of 4 villages perched on top of the rugged cliffs of Batalik sector, with the Indus river flowing by. The Brokpas are said to be descendants of the Dards, of Indo-Aryan stock, who came down this river centuries ago. Post-Kargil, out of the four Aryan villages only two could be accessed after clearance from the Home Ministry. These villages fall in the inner line drawn by the Army.
My story starts from Gilgit and ends in Ganex. Interestingly, the story of these villages revolves around three brothers - Dulo, Melo and Galo. Garkone, the village we visited, has 90 houses belonging to the 7 original families.
As part of their livelihood, the Brokpas grow apricots. Earlier they would barter these for salt. But now commercialization has fuelled the local economy and each apricot tree fetches a household about Rs. 30,000 annually. Abundance of goats, butter and milk are believed to be the indicators of wealth and prosperity. My diet here consisted of goat milk, goat buttermilk, goat butter, wheat, roasted barley flour, spinach and sesame. I also tried their local drink ‘Chhang’, a traditional preparation of barley and salted butter tea. I felt special because they usually make this only for various occasions like birthdays and weddings.
My hosts tell me one of their main festivals is Bona-na. The village headman lives in isolation for a month purifying himself for the Gods. He prays to the good spirits to bless the festivals and the village. Traditionally, a goat sacrifice was made to the spirit Gods, but today it is replaced by a simple offering of prayer to the village Lama.
Meeting and working with the Brokpas was like a breath of fresh air. Our world could do with their purity, innocence and peace loving ways.
Sonam, a 26 year old Brokpa girl recently got married
Tamchos Dolma, a head singer in the community is being served Chhang
Their flamboyant head dress `Kho’ embodies their spirit, studded with flowers, coins and silver ornaments
There are three kinds of religions followed in Brokpas – Islam, Buddhism and Bon
Village head singer, Tamchos Dolma got married at 13 and has 6 children
Processing goat milk
Apricots are a major part of their livelihood
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By Rashi Arora
Photographs by Rashi Arora