The Bonda Tribal of Orissa
One of the isolated tribes of India, the Bonda tribal are known to lead marooned life. Not much is known about the tribes even today. The Bondas known among themselves as Remo(men) are a small tribe of the type now often called Austro-Asiatic country and found in the mountainous region north-west of Machakunda river. They reside in the Bonda Hills under Khairput block at the height of 3000 feet. They have kept themselves comparatively unaffected by the morden civilization of today’s era.
They have preserved themselves comparatively unaffected by the march of civilization. Indeed, by plainsmen and officials, the Bondas are regarded as savage. In fact the Bonda tribe is considered to be the most barbaric of all tribes of Orissa. The strange dress and appearance, the extra ordinary dialect they use speak of a different tribal culture altogether. The inaccessibility of their homes separate them from other tribes of the district .The origin and affiliations of the Bondas are obscure, but one may accept the possibility that they are members of a group of Austro-Asiatic tribes which at some remote date took shelter in the wild Jeypore hills. There is every reason to suppose that the Bondas have changed very little during their long history. They are categorized into Ontal and Kilo sub groups. Bondas are fond of Podu Cultivation and Bonda ladies help them in this job. They still practice the barter systems, exchanging the produce of their fields for articles of daily use.
In Bonda community, the bride is older than the groom. ‘Patkhanda Yatra’ at Mudulipada festival held in the month of April and May is the main festival of Bondas. These tribes also celebrate a festival called Chaitra Praba – a festival to hunt wild life from the forests. Chaitra Parba is also called Pangal, a word that comes from south India. It lasts for the whole month of March. Men and boys go out into the forest for hunting. If they come back without anything, they cannot show their faces to women. Therefore, no animal escapes the hunters. If they get nothing else, they even kill a jackal. Women dance and sing whole day in the streets and in village commons. All motor vehicles are stopped several times on the road by streams of girls who dance and sing across the road. Only after paying few paise, the vehicles are allowed to move.
The Bonda tribal of Orissa keep their own rules fairly well. They observe the taboos on incest or adultery and their religious obligations with such fidelity that the few exceptions are long remembered. The Bondas spend a great deal of time on their religions and its feasts and holidays are an important part of Bonda lives. Certain features are common to every festival. The religious occasions are real festivals and holidays; dancing accompanies each festival and there are some relaxation of rules, which forbid men and women of the same village to dance together. The chief festival among the Kondh is the Kedu festival, which was once associated with human sacrifice. At present, a buffalo is sacrificed in place of the human victim. Hunting is one of the favorite recreations of these tribal of Orissa. In the summers especially in the month of March, when the entire world makes holiday, organized beats are held in which, all the men and boys of the village take part, armed with bows and arrows, axes or spears and occasionally with matchlocks, and they slay any live thing, irrespective of age or sex that they may meet in the forest. Such expeditions, as a matter of course, culminate in a feast and arouse in the village.
By nature Bondas are very short tempered and get easily ruffled. On a rage they can even commit murder. As a testimony to this statement, many a Bonda tribal can be found languishing in prison. In fact this is one of the major reasons for the dwindling Bonda population in the district of Malkangiri.