Gond Tribal of Orissa
The Gonds, a warrior caste and conquerors of yesteryears, are spread out all over the hill tracts of central and south India. One of the dominant tribes of Orissa, the Gonds are popularly called the face of the Indian tribes on account of their population strength. The term ‘Gond’ is derived from the Telugu word ‘Konda’ that means “hill”. The Gond tribal are predominantly Hindus and prefer living in small groups in villages. Gondi, a close relative of Telugu and Dravidian language is commonly spoken by them. However many Gonds also speak other Indo-Aryan dialects including Hindi. They are known to be experts in traditional system of medicines and in their unique ability in recognizing and using medicinal plants. This skill is taught to the younger Gonds by the elder ones.
The Gonds are historically significant tribes and resided the primitive Gondwana land since time immemorial. Gondwana or "land of the Gonds", is a loosely-defined area of southeastern Madhya Pradesh, eastern Maharashtra, and parts of Chhattisgarh, Orissa, and northern Andhra Pradesh. The region was home to several Gond kingdoms from the 15th century to the mid-18th century, when the Marathas expanded into the region from the west. In an ancient time, the Gonds were megalith builders, and some cultural-continuity of this practice survives, with the erection of smaller standing stones. Historically, known for their heroics in the battle against Britishers, these proud tribes of India also gained control of Malwa after the decline of the Mughals followed by the Marathas in the year 1690.
The Gond tribes of Orissa are found in Sambalpur, Bolangir, Koraput, Kalahandi and Sundergarh. The Gonds are traditionally agriculturalists and some practice shifting cultivation even today. Before sowing, grains soaked in the blood of fowls and pigs that are sacrificed to the presiding deity are thrown around the field. The entire procedure is undertaken with religious fervor and after the animals is sacrificed; its blood is sprinkled on the seeds. These seeds are then distributed among the villagers, who in turn sow them in their fields for good luck. Apart from agriculture, other major activities of Gonds include collecting forest produce, fishing, hunting, forging metal goods in cottage industries etc.
The Gond tribal of Orissa are the worshipers of Janani or the mother of creator. Gond tribal also worship Pharsa Pen, in form of nail or a piece of iron chain. Mariai- the Goddess of plague and other diseases, and Bhimsen – the Hindu God are also worshiped by Gonds tribes in India. One unique feature of their beliefs is the existence of spirits. Gond tribal believes that every or most places in the World are inhabited by a spirit. Sacrifices are also made to appease a number of deities. Gond tribes believe that deities control everything in the World. These tribes of India also worship the God of household, God of fields etc. Gond tribes of India have a typical Indian dress culture. Male members in the Gonds tribe wear Dhoti (long piece of cotton cloth wrapped around the waist passing through the legs). Females wear soft cotton saris along with the Choli or blouse. Their main course of food includes millets called “the Koda or Kutki” although rice is also preferred. In general Gonds are meat lovers and eaters.
Gond tribal of Orissa are also known for practicing social hierarchy system like Hindus and the Gond society is regarded as highly stratified and not conforming to the usual image of egalitarianism among tribal. Marriages are preferred within the blood relations mostly according to Hindu rites and customs. Sometimes mock elopements are also arranged. Gonds have pro-fertility mentality. Divorces, remarriages, widow marriages, marriages with the wives of the brothers and between brothers and sisters are common. In the event of the death of the husband the widow can marry the younger brother and in all cases he need not be unmarried. She also can marry the elder brother of the deceased husband or any one else .Dowry system is also exists among them. But here it is the groom who has to pay bridal price to the father of the girl and this system gives respect to women and held their position on top. Other most popular practice among Gonds of Bastar is the ‘Ghotul’ system. In this system, the unmarried young boys and girls live together in separately made huts and allowed to intermingle and practice everything they desire. During this period they interact and enjoy themselves by participating in dancing, music, local story telling and much more in a drunken mood. If everything is fine and both of them are happy, they can get out of the Ghotul and marry. The Ghotul system is mainly practiced among the Muria Gonds and the origin of this system is related with their goddess ‘Lingopan’
The Gond tribal are highly skilled in the craft of bamboo and can produce things like basket, pen stands and other decorative items from bamboo with very ease.