Raikas are the constant companions to the ‘ship of the desert’, they are traditional pastoralists who indulge in the upkeep of Camels. They are their protectors, rearers and lovers. Most commonly known for their history with camel herding, Raikas live in the state of Rajasthan, a place that has the largest deserts in India. This tribe has always been living in complete unison and harmony with animals and it is almost like both of them together form a family. To find a child being surrounded by animals more than humans is not a rare sight when one visits the Raikas because that is the culture they adhere to–animals and humans are all valuable for them. Because this tender relationship of a child and an animal gets cemented at an early stage in their childhood, they grow up to continue with their age old tradition of camel herding, thereby taking the culture of the tribe forward with each generation.
What is absolutely astonishing about the community is the sense of trust that is shared between a Raika and his camel. It is a sight of wonder to see the camel not flinching or moving while his hair is sheared, provided the owner is present. On days when the camels are taken to graze in open pastures, they always come back to the owner at the right time. Such is the compatibility shared between the animal and the human.
Raikas are evidently recognized by the red turban that almost every camel herder in the community wears. It is a huge piece of cloth tied together on the head to form a bundle and can accomodate smaller things. The clothes worn with that are the basic dhoti and kurta. While the camels are taken to graze, the Raika carries within his turban all resources that he may require during the journey like Tea Leaves, sugar etc. Raikas are ardent believers in the existence of Shiva because they consider camels to be a holy gift to them from the Lord. Mythologically, Parvati, the wife of Shiva had created these camels and hence, Shiva created Raikas to take care of these creatures. Their belief in a divine intervention only contributes to strengthening their relationship with their companions, their camels. Therefore, because it is the word of the Lord, they do not indulge in animal selling; they do not even sell the milk obtained from the female camel because animals for them aren’t meant for physical trade. This is how they honour their relationship with the camels–it is one that is sacred and holy.