A TRIBE'S NEW FAITH
THE WEEK|January 02, 2022
How a tribal hamlet in Telangana turned to Sikhism
RAHUL DEVULAPALLI

TO REACH GACHUBHAI Thanda, one has to follow the line of sight of a renowned Hindu saint’s statue. The 216ft-tall statue of saint Ramanujacharya, also called the Statue of Equality, will be unveiled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in February 2022.

The tribal hamlet and its neighbour, a spiritual mascot, lie in Shamshabad, a short drive from Hyderabad. A narrow, dusty lane offthe Hyderabad-Bengaluru highway leads to the entrance of the settlement. But for the villagers, Gachubhai Thanda now exists only on paper, as they insist that they live in Guru Gobind Singh Nagar.

It is Sunday morning, and a middle-aged man donning a Patiala shahi pagg—a traditional way for tying the Sikh turban—with a kirpan slung across his chest, guides a heavy vehicle. A little farther away, a youngster in a gol parna (another Sikh turban style) stands outside a small concrete house. And, on reaching the open field, one can see six boys in patka—a smaller under-turban worn by children—playing cricket. One does not need to refer to official records to know that 90 percent of residents here are Sikhs.

The village has around 500 residents, almost all of whom are Lambadas, listed under the Scheduled Tribes. The conversion to Sikhism happened in the last 20 years or so. The villagers mostly speak Lambadi and a bit of Hindi and Telugu, but no Punjabi. The village has its own gurdwara—Gurdwara Saheb Dashmesh Darbar. The two-storied structure lies on one end of the village, surrounded by farmland.

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