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Meet the Maldhari Pugees

Amongst the Maldharis of Kachchh and Rajasthan you will find the Pugees who have a unique job ~ they read and interpret foot prints, both animal and human.

Believe it or not, a Pugee can catch your crime by the tell-tale footprints you leave behind on the scene of crime! Respected, feared, and with many enemies, the Pugees, or foot trackers of Rajasthan-Kachchh, ensure the safety of a Maldhari’s animals across the vast arid landscape. Just the presence of a Pugee acts as a deterrent to theft. Many stories of Pugees and their exploits are passed on from generation to generation! To this day, a Maldhari Pugge is called upon by the border security agencies of India and Pakistan, to use his unique skill, and trace the footsteps of infiltrators across the desert.

The Pugees are quick to identify and differentiate between the footprints.
Photo credits: Nipun Prabhakar

Sodha brothers demonstrate the variety of information they can get just by looking at those footprints.

To a Pugee, a footprint tells many stories; the weight, gait, disposition, style of walking, even the state of mind, by the depth of the imprint and how the earth scatters as the foot leaves the earth! Even family inherited features of a person! Foot impressions are shaped by genetic character, so they can reveal the community, the genealogy , even the family they belong to.

The little boy is the only one from the new generation who has shown interest in the skill of identifying footprints

Amidst the tarred roads and modern investigative methods, Pugees still find regular work for their skills.

They say there is very little theft amongst the Maldharis, because of the deterring presence of the Pugees. Many stories abound of Pugees and thieves outdoing one another…with of course, the pugee always outsmarting the thief.

A Stolen Can of Ghee