The Van Gujjars are a semi-nomadic, Islamic community found in Northern India (primarily in Uttarakhand), parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan. It’s a sub-community within the larger Gujjar community that traces its origins to the Gurjara kingdom in West India from where they migrated to different parts of the sub-continent in 570 CE. The Muslim Gujjars, which included the Van Gujjars went further north, settling in the Himalayan states.
Etymologically, the name ‘Van Gujjar’ is a combination of Van that means forest and Gujjar, which is a sub-caste in India. The name loosely translates to ‘Forest Pastoral Community’. Speaking a language called Gojri—which is a dialect of the Dogri language; the community has a rich culture and unique traditional knowledge systems that need to be preserved and encouraged.