Grobnik has been a livestock county since the time the first settlers came. Shepherding and cattle droving, agriculture and forestry made inhabiting and surviving for centuries possible for our ancestors. The terrain configuration and a moderately mild climate have been rather beneficial for the development of livestock raising. Another beneficial factor were both meadows in the plains and in the mountains. Our ancestors drove the livestock into the mountains in early spring and the cattle remained in the mountains until late fall. To secure it from wild beasts that sometimes ventured even into settlements, wealthier livestock owners rented labourers to patrol the meadows creating noise which drove the predators back into forests. According to the stories told by our eldest we learned that they used bells, rattles and other accessories available. They dressed themselves into sheep fur and wore a mask (“Krabuja”) made from the skull of a bull or a ram, painting their faces black with soot.
Although they seemed frightening, the greatest asset in the work they were doing was the powerful sound of the bell («Dondolo») which resulted in their name – Bellringers («Dondolaši»). Due to the fact that most of the work they were doing took place in early spring, which is the time of carnival, they frequently visited their villages dressed in that attire.
Though the development of cattle raising started to stagnate due to the industrial revolution, the custom of bell ringing («dondolanje») remained during carnival time.
When the Tatars raided these parts in 1242., led by Batu Hkan, the grandson of the famous Gingis Khan, a battle which was vital for the survival of Croats in these parts took place on the Grobnik field («Grobničko polje»). The legend speaks of valiant villagers who came to aid the army of croatian knights when they needed their help the most. Wearing their frightening masks and large bells they drove fear into the enemy and made this grand victory possible.
Today, when in procession the Bellringers walk in pairs, because in life you always need to have that one friend who you can rely on. They follow their flag, which is traditionally carried by one of the eldest members of the group.
The order and formations are monitored by the leader («Meštar»). When needed he can have one or more assistants to help him in his duty. The bellringers obey the leader and his orders without questioning his decisions or judgement.
During every stop, the bellringers form a circle moving in the course opposite to the motion of hands on a clock, which symbolises the return in the times of their ancestors and to their roots. The circle («kolo») which they form is also a natural defense formation in open spaces. In the middle of the circle their banner (or flag) is held high, and it symbolises the original values of the croatian people – family, home and country. With their synchronized bell ringing in the circle they manifest their tendency toward a safe and harmonious life, and with their arms raised they display their determination to defend the values which Bellringers represent.
After the culmination in the form of the circle, it opens up, and masks are removed to reveal radiant faces of the Bellringers. At this point they can refresh themselves and make a toast with their hosts to express their gratitude.
After that they assume their starting position and continue the journey towards their next stop.