Kondh Tribal of Orissa
The Kondhs form numerically the largest group among the 62 tribes of Orissa. Known throughout the country for barabaric human sacrifice till a few centuries back, the Kondhs belong to the proto-austroloid stock with considerable mongoloid admixture. They are divided into two logistic group, kui and kuvi. Further they can be classified into various sub groups based on the region they dominate. For example the Dongria Kondhs are found in Koraput, the Kutia Konds of Belghar in Baudh and Kandhmal. The maximum concentration of the Konds is based in Kandhmal and Koraput.
The Kondhs are agriculturist and produce cash crops like turmeric, ginger, mustard, niger, black gram, arrowroot etc. The primitive sections among them still practice shifting agriculture. The Dongria Kondhs are expert horticulturist and produce fruits like bananas, pine apple, orange, jack fruits etc. The primitive section keep buffaloes for sacrifice, but the Desia Kondhs mainly use the buffalos for sloughing their field. Barter system is still the method of exchange among the Kondhs. The Kutia and Desia Kondhs are settled agriculturists.
Kondh tribal of Orissa use limited clothes to cover their body. Men use loin clothes as covering on the body. The Kond women wear two cloths, one around the waist up to the knees and another for the upper portion of the body. The Kutia Kondhs men wear only loin cloth. Dongria men puts on a cloth called " KODI", 16 ft in length and one ft in width. The Kondhs women are very fond of ornaments. Among the Dongria Kondhs, the women beautify themselves with hair pins, ear rings, nose rings, and head necklaces. Wrist-lets and ear rings are used by the males of the primitive section of the Kondh communities. The males too, like to grow long hair and tie this into a knot at their nape in a traditional fashion. The Kutia Kondhs tatoo their faces and hands, where as the Dongrias do not. They have well developed dormitories that are used as a meeting point for boys and gals among the primitive sections of the Kondhs.
Liquor is a necessity for all Konds. It is considered as food and at the same time a ritualistic food to satisfy deities and spirits. It is considered as a social necessity and therefore consumed by them irrespective of sex and age. The Kond tribe of Orissa is fond of drinking salap palm juice and dead palm juice (Tadi). Local herbs and roots are added to the juice to increase its alcoholic contents. Alcohol prepared from mahua flowers are used on special occasion.
The Konds believe in various deities and spirits. These deities differ with the differing section of the Konds. Apart from these, they believe in spirits and ghosts. These spirits are controlled by shamans or oracles who are highly revered in the Konds community. Konds are fatalists and believe in chance and luck.
"Dharani" or the earth goddess is considered the Supreme Being among the Konds. She is all powerful and the highest of all deities. She is represented by a block of stone erected in a hut. She is responsible for the growth of vegetation and other produce of land. She used to be satisfied with human blood which was called "maria " by the Dongria section and "Toki" puja by the Kutia section of the Kondh community. This custom of human sacrifice has been suppressed since long by the Britishers. However in continuation of their traditional practice, buffaloes are offered as sacrifice instead.
The Kondh tribal celebrate various festivals round the year for better yield of crops. Two festivals such as Chaitra Parab observed before sowing paddy and other millets and "Maria" or "Kedu" festival in the month of February / March are the most important.
The Kondhs are excellent craftsmen too and are known for their deft hands in producing different handicratft items from Kasi grass. The Dongaria Kondhs produce a shawl with traditional tribal hand embroidery on it that is very much in demand in Orissa and elsewhere. The entire shawl is done by the tribal.