India

Best friends with buffaloes: Inside India's Van Gujjar tribe

A young girl combs the hair of a water buffalo calf Image copyright Mansi Thapliyal
Image caption Ten-year-old Rukshana combs the hair of her calf. 'Without our buffaloes, we are nothing,' says a member of the tribe

The Van Gujjars are among hundreds of nomadic tribes scattered all over India.

Originally from Jammu and Kashmir state, they have spread out across the Himalayas in search of rich forests and meadows for their water buffaloes. Their lives are mainly spent caring for their animals.

Every year, as the snow begins melting in the mountains, this nomadic tribe begins walking up in search of newer pastures.

Photographer Mansi Thapliyal accompanied this tribe on their 18-day, 200km (124 miles) journey state to the upper Himalayas in Uttarakhand state. Here's a selection of her work:

Image copyright Mansi Thapliyal
Image caption The tribespeople walk through different landscapes crossing towns, villages and dense forests
Image copyright Mansi Thapliyal
Image caption Noor says she feels safer travelling with her people in the forests than moving through cities
Image copyright Mansi Thapliyal
Image caption The nomadic tribe earns their living by selling milk and other dairy products
Image copyright Mansi Thapliyal
Image caption The tribe believes that the birth of a female buffalo brings good fortune, and they make a cut in the ear of the animal to celebrate its birth
Image copyright Mansi Thapliyal
Image caption Each family member has a well-defined role with the animals: the adults walk with big buffaloes and horses and children follow with the calves. The animals have names as well. Asma with her horse, Kesar.
Image copyright Mansi Thapliyal
Image caption 'We would all sleep in the open', recounts Thapliyal. 'I could feel the earth below me, and the sky above my head'.
Image copyright Mansi Thapliyal
Image caption After walking for 18 days, they reach their mountain home. Each family gets a permit from the forest authorities to live in a particular forest for six months.
Image copyright Mansi Thapliyal
Image caption 'Once we reach the meadows, it's like heaven,' says Salma, 15. 'We leave our cattle to graze. Then we rest, sing, play and relax for the season'