The Gonds, renowned for their peculiar customs and practises, are one of the most prominent and significant tribes in India. The word “Gond” is derived from the word “Konda” in Telugu, which means hill. In Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, eastern Maharashtra, northern Andhra Pradesh and western Orissa, the Gond Tribes are mainly located. In Chhattisgarh, in population terms, the Gonds are the largest tribal group. In Chhattisgarh, more than 20% of the Gonds only live in the Bastar area. The Gonds are mainly Hindus and tend to live in small villages in groups. Gondi is the main language of the Gonds, but about half of the Gond people, including Hindi, also speak Indo-Aryan dialects.
The Gonds are historically farmers and even today some practise shifting cultivation. The collection of forest produce, fishing, hunting, forging of metal products in the cottage industry and other activities in the primary sector are other main activities. They also have a particular ability, the secret of medicinal plants, passed down from generation to generation. Unlike the normal practise of egalitarianism among tribals, the Gond culture is highly stratified.
One of the distinctive features of the marriages of Gond is that the groom must pay the girl’s father a bridal price. In this way, the structure gives women in society recognition and control.’Ghotul’ is another common activity among the Gonds of Bastar that allows unmarried young boys and girls to intermingle and choose their partners in life.
The Abhuj Maria tribes are one of the major sub-castes of the Gonds, found mainly in the Bastar area of Chhattisgarh. These tribes can be found primarily in the deep forests of the Bastar district of the Narayanpur Tehsil. Abhuj Marias speaks Abujmaria, a Dravidian language. The region of Abhuj Maria is recognised as the 1,500 SQ miles of lush green and dense forest area that these special tribes inhabit. They decide to live in solitude to avoid intermingling with strangers. It is claimed that with their arrows they shoot down strangers and so are strongly feared by outsiders. Their way of life, customs, practises and universal principles have been preserved since they exist in isolation. It is very prevalent among men and women to drink liquor. Equality and fraternity are highly appreciated principles. Both men and women only use a piece of fabric and do not completely cover their bodies. The women of the Abhuj Marias love to wear several iron rings around their necks, sometimes as many as 20.
Bison Horn Maria
They mainly reside in Chhattisgarh’s Jagdalpur Tehsil. These tribes, like the Abhuj Marias, also like living in isolation in deep forests and avoiding contact with the outside world. They are almost similar to Abhuj Marias in their culture and traditions and daily life. They also practise shifting cultivation and collect survival forest produce. They do not plough the earth like Abhuj Marias, as it would mean inflicting pain on her body.
Their name comes from the Bison Horn, and they wear it during their dance rituals.
The Halbaas are one of the largest tribes found in central India. They are mainly found in the districts of Bastar, Raipur and Durg in Chhattisgarh. Perhaps the name ‘Halbaa’ was derived from the Hindi word ‘Hal,’ the plough, which goes on to prove that they are primarily farmers.
The Dhurvaas are among the most important tribal groups in the Bastar district. Also known as Parjaas (the public), they rank second in the Bastar tribal hierarchy, after the Bhatras. In order to prove their high status among the tribals of the region, they prefer to be called Dhurvaas, which connotes the status of some type of Mukhia (Village Chief). They are very caste-conscious and do not mix with lower status tribes. The practise of polygamy is very common. Normally, men are engaged in hunting, farming and family protection.
The Murias are living in the plains. Their primary activities are similar to those of the other Gond sub-castes, and they survive on agriculture and the collection of small forest products. As far as religious and social beliefs are concerned, the Murias have several totems and several gods of villages and tribal subgroups. They are highly superstitious, and they strongly believe in sorcery. There is no functional division of the caste in society, and they have their own socio-legal tribal administration hierarchy.
The Bhatras are famous for their unique costumes and traditions. Women enjoy high status and Bhatra girls have full freedom to choose their husbands or to live with a partner of their choice. Like other tribes, they consume liquor, fruit and animal food.
Tribal culture is also distinguished by the Ghotul, an unusual but very democratic approach to learning. This system, which was designed and created by Lingo Pen, the cult hero of the Gond tribe, gives young people a unique opportunity to be independent and learn through interaction with their peers.The function of the Ghotul is to provide a space for young people to understand the complexities of social, cultural and sexual customs in a simple way and to become responsible custodians of tradition and belief.
A touch of Dhokra
Dhokra, which involves precision, practise and skill, is one of the region’s rich craft activities. The preparation involves the application of cow dung, paddy husk and beeswax soil. Dhokra works make beautiful ships, jewelries and images of local deities using the more and more rarely lost wax technique.
Dhokra, which involves precision, practise and skill, is one of the region’s rich craft activities. The preparation involves the application of cow dung, paddy husk and beeswax soil. Dhokra works make beautiful ships, jewelries and images of local deities using the more and more rarely lost wax technique. Kondagaon, Raigarh and Sarguja are among the areas where this craft is widely practised. Handwerkers in this particular craft from Ghadwa are known to be experts. Time and tide, however, require progress and development. Bastar’s tribal societies are at the crossroads, asking above all one question: to change or to change?