Kanjar - Religion and Expressive Culture



Religious Beliefs. As nomads Kanjar are familiar with a broad spectrum of religious beliefs and practices among the communities they service, and they don any sacred mantle that momentarily meets their practical needs. While they are essentially agnostic, they do protect themselves from spirits ( jinn ) by wearing amulets ( tabiz ) purchased from holy men ( fakirs ).

Arts. As professional artisans and highly skilled entertainers, their everyday subsistence activities are a form of expressive and creative art.

Medicine. Kanjar seek treatment from homeopathic Practitioners, druggists or pharmacists, and fakirs (holy men) for serious illness. Chronic malaria is endemic and most suffer from seasonal bouts with typhoid and cholera. Greater energy and resources are spent on sick females than on sick males, especially as infants and young children. Males are constantly reminded that " roti (bread) for your stomach" comes largely from the females in their lives.

Death and Afterlife. Kanjar are stoic about death and accept it as fate and a normal aspect of life. Individuals prefer to die in the company of family and siblings; however, they realize that their peripatetic life-style often prohibits dispersed kin from being present. Ideally, parents and/or siblings wash the body, wrap it in a new white cloth, sprinkle it with scented water, and bury it on its side facing east toward warmth and the rising sun. Burial takes place as soon as possible—the next day during the hot season, and after two or three days in winter, thus in cooler weather allowing any siblings who might be in the same area time to travel and be involved in the burial process. The body is considered polluting to females and therefore males prepare it for burial. Kanjar Generally fear incapacitating diseases or long final illnesses more than the actual death itself. While a family will carry a sick Individual on their carts and/or stop traveling when an Individual becomes extremely ill or crippled, Kanjar fear loss of mobility more than death. Among Kanjar, freedom and mobility represent life.

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