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BAZIGARS

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BAZIGARS or acrobats, a counterpart of nats outside the Punjab, are a nomadic people travelling from one place to the other, using camels and donkeys as pack animals. Earlier they had been an occupational group performing bazi, i.e. acrobatic feats, in the form of various types of jumps and other bodily exploits and tricks for the entertainment of the villagers for which they were rewarded by their patrons both in cash and kind. In modern times, however, most of them have turned into farm labourers and several groups of them have settled down on the outskirts of villages where they find work. The Indian Constitution recognizes them as a Scheduled Tribe and they enjoy advantages and facilities reserved for this category of people.

Within their own tribe, they acknowledge the authority of their Raja or King, and Rani, the Queen, who are highly revered. Bazigars do not belong to any one ethnic or religious group. The majority of them are either Hindus or Muslims. In the Punjab some of them have embraced the Sikh faith, especially since the days of the Singh Sabha reform. According to the 1891 census, out of 18,137 Bazigars in the Punjab, 1,211 were Sikhs; in 1911, out of a total of 36,354, the number of Sikhs rose to 4,724. The main shrine of the Bazigars is at Saidanvala, in Firozpur district, at which they worship and where they make offerings of liquor and where many of their marriages are solemnized.

References :

1. Rose, H.A., comp., A Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and North-West Frontier Province. Patiala, 1970
2. Juergensmeyer, Mark, Religious Rebels in the Punjab. Delhi. 1988
3. Sher, Sher Singh, The Sansis of Punjab. Delhi, 1965
4. ---------------, The Sikligars of Punjab. Delhi, 1966

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