The ship of the desert or Camels are naturally adapted to the way of life in a desert.

North Western Rajasthan is  the natural home to these enchanting creatures of God.

Numerous folk tales recite the tales of how the camels came to inhabit Earth.

Goddess Parvati ( the consort of Lord Shiva) is fabled to have sculpted the Camels from clay and the Lord is supposed to have infused the breath of Life in them.

The story goes on to say they initially had 5 legs, but were then unable to walk, so Lord Shiva folds the fifth leg and pushes it into the chest, this then forms the hump  and leaves a mark as well.

A couple of camels
                                                                     A couple ( pun intended) of camels

The story continues as the Camels create mayhem by going about their merry ways and eat up all the foliage. The Lord Shiva then creates the RAIKA (also called Chaamad) from his body( chamdi or skin )  to tend to camels and thus  restore order.

The Raika are a unique community of camel herders and breeders who survive to this day in the colourful state of Rajasthan in India.

The following picture shows three Raika men in traditional attire with their musical instruments at the extravagant annual musical festival  RIFF held at Jodhpur.

The backdrop is that of a hand painted Phad which tells the epic story of a local deity  Pabuji.

( more on this in a separate post)

raika in thought
                                           Three Raika men in traditional attire 

The Raika firmly believe they were born for only one purpose, that is to take care of Camels.

Their lifestyles and future are thus delicately bound to Camels.

With modernization and mechanization, the demand for Camels as a means of transport has sharply declined.

Spinning yarn from Camels hair and making Carpets and other textile products is one of several ways for the Raika to survive.

Do notice the leaves at the back of the gorgeous  turban of the elderly Raika.

the spinners
                                                                  the spinners

The extremely intricate relation between nature,  animals and man is highlighted by the lifestyles of this amazing and  enchanting community called THE RAIKA.

A closer look at the Bobbins shows how the Raika  use the twigs of the desert  trees and camel’s hair.

bobbins and textile
                                                               bobbins and  lovely textiles 

The gorgeous but large turban is made from 10 yards ( 9 metres) of cloth.
This large cloth acts as a protection against the scorching heat of the desert , as a tether for camels and also as protection against angry camels.

The elderly Raika has Camel’s milk in his hand in a practical and environment friendly container, the leaf of the Aak Shrub.

raika with camels milk
                                   Elderly Raika with camel’s milk in hand

The desert is an unusual forest and the preservation of water is a compulsory adaption for all forms of life.

The Aak   ( Hindi and Sanskrit ) bush  , Apple of Sodom  ( English) ,  Calotropis procera ( scientific name) ) is used extensively by the Raika .

The leaves of the Aak have been  used extensively by the Ayurvedic school of medicine  for centuries and are supposed to be a great antidote to snake bites and a cure for jaundice as well.

The Raika thus always keep the leaves  tucked away in their extensive headgear.

the leaves
                                                       The leaves of Aak

The leaves of the Aak  make ideal containers to drink Camel’s milk.  They are large , leathery and do not permit liquids to seep through them.

The flowers of the Aak are revered  and garlands are made from them and offered to Lord Shiva.

Lord Shiva is also supposed to have absorbed the poison from the churning of the Ocean and saved all living beings from its effects.

The milky sap of the  Aak bush also contains some of the most vicious poisons  like Calotropin.

Much like Lord Shiva, the Raika have learnt how to transform the naturally occurring poison into a cure for numerous ailments.

the leaf container
                                         The beautiful container made from the Aak leaf 

The Raika are a living enigma and a wonderful  example of Mythology coming to life.

Their beliefs and way of life are a wonderful example of maintaining harmony with nature even under adverse and harsh circumstances.

raika with camel milk container
                                         Raika with an earthern camel milk container

The Raika are a truly amazing community but struggling to survive and preserve their ancient customs and way of life.

Have experienced only a small glimpse of the Raika at the RIFF at Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur.

I believe there is a CAMEL FESTIVAL which celebrates this community in  early November in Pali district of Rajasthan.

Keep reading as more posts will follow.


Published by

mukul chand

51 year old entrepreneur who has traveled extensively around the world for work and pleasure , is based in New Delhi, India. A passionate traveler born with a love for flora and fauna, is an active naturalist and amateur photographer. Here he shares his unique insight into Incredible India revealing its mysterious and exotic treasures. Writing from his heart he shares his experiences as he crisscrosses this vast and amazing land.

30 thoughts on “ENCHANTED BY THE RAIKA”

  1. This was a fascinating post. I haven’t heard those stories before and didn’t know about the Raika. It is my understanding that the mahouts that take care of the elephants in India also have a life time commitment to the elephants they raise.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Reading your post and seeing the pictures made me realize they were very different, but the thought that anyone would devote their entire life to an animal is so far from the world I live in that I marvel at both of them.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes, with your words and pictures you portrayed the sense of worship well. I would love to be in their presence. I have no doubt it would be a sacred experience.

        The mahouts I’ve been exposed to definitely don’t radiate that spiritual energy.

        Liked by 1 person

      1. That was lucky then 🙂 And we all got to learn something new too 🙂

        You don’t seem to have a ‘Search’ box on your blog, to find posts? I found this one by looking up ‘animals’ in your categories 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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