India’s Tribal Communities- The Gond Tribe of Chhattisgarh

POPULATION: 1,40,70,000 

LANGUAGE: Gondi 


• They have different accent in different areas 

• The language spoken by the Gonds in their daily life was Gondi. 

• Gondi is spoken in six Indian states- Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Odisha-by around five million people. 

• The mother tongue Gondi belongs to Indo-Dravidian family of languages. 

• The inter group communication of Gonds was purely in their own mother tongue. 

• But when they communicated with outsiders they used a mixed type of colloquial Hindi, called as Chhattisgarhi in Madhya Pradesh. 

• Gondi lingers only as a relic of the aged Gonds. The children and the young adult are able to speak or understand Gondi well. 


RELIGION: Hinduism (91.31%) and Christian (0.80%) 

• The Gondi (Gōndi) or Gond or Koitur are an Indian ethnic group. 

• They speak Gondi language which is a Dravidian language. 

• They are one of the largest tribal groups in India. 

• They are spread over the states of Madhya Pradesh, eastern Maharashtra (Vidarbha),Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Odisha. 

• They are listed as a Scheduled Tribe for the purpose of India's system of positive discrimination 

• They are an Adivasi group (indigenous people) of India 


HISTORY 

• Scholars believe that Gonds ruled in Gondwana, now in eastern Madhya Pradesh and western Odisha, between the 13th and 19th centuries AD. 

• Muslim writers described a rise of Gond state after the 14th century 

• Gonds ruled in four kingdoms (Garha-Mandla, Deogarh, Chanda, and Kherla) in central India between the 16th and 18th centuries. Rani Durgavati ruled the region from 1550 until her death in 1564. 

• They built a number of forts, palaces, temples, tanks and lakes during the rule of the Gonds dynasty. 

• The Gondwana kingdom survived until the late 16th century. 

• They also gained control over the Malwa after the decline of the Mughals followed by the Marathas in 1690 

• The Maratha power swept into Gondland in the 1740s. 

• The Marathas overthrew the Gond Rajas (princes) and seized most of their territory, while some Gond zamindaris (estates) survived until recently 


Gonds are subdivided into four tribes: 

• Raj Gonds 

• Madia Gonds 

• Dhurve Gonds 

• Khatulwar Gonds 

ANCIENT ASTRONOMY 

• Many astronomical ideas were known to ancient Gonds. 

• Gonds had their own local terms for the Sun, Moon, Milky Way, and constellations. 

• Most of these ideas were basis for their time-keeping and calendric activities 


RELIGION WORSHIP AND BELIEFS 

• Most Gonds follow folk Hinduism, which retains the animist beliefs of nature, and ancestor worship. 

• Some Gonds also practice Sarnaism Pola, a cattle festival, Naga panchami, and Dussehra are their major festivals 

• Gonds worship a high god known as Baradeo, whose alternate names are Bhagavan, Sri Shambu Mahadeo, and Persa Pen. 

• Baradeo oversees activities of lesser gods such as clan and village deities, as well as ancestors. 

• Gonds believe that earth, water and air are ruled by Gods. 

• They believe that evil spirits are the causes for illnesses. 

• Sacrifices are believed to be powerful to keep away these evil spirits. 

• Perumal, the high-priest, responsible for three or four villages together, offers these sacrifices for every village. 

• The sacrifice will be followed by a social dinner. 

• The sacrificial goat has to give permission for the sacrifice by nodding its head! The people will wait till the animal does it. 

• The sacrifice is witnessed by the whole of the village. 

• But the dinner made by cooking the animal will be enjoyed only by the men. 

• All the men gather at the riverside to prepare the dinner. 

• White toddy from palm or the country liquor called, black toddy may supplement the diner. 

• Drinking, in general, is not just the right of men. 

• The sacrifice animal's skin is stuffed with hay and hung on the village gate. 

• This is to frighten the evil spirits and give courage to the villagers. 

• The Southern Gonds prefer witch doctors even when a Public Health Centre is accessible. 

• They will have to carry a chicken along. 

• Gonds think that enemies' witchcraft brings them ill health. 

• Chanted herbs or water is given by the witch doctor as remedies. 


LIFESTYLE AND CULTURE 

• Gonds are agriculturists and choose to live on the river beds close to forests. 

• Most of them possess agricultural land. 

• Those who have a good portion of the land cultivate rice, javar (cereals) and green dal (pulses). 

• Tending goats and cattle are also common. 

• Poorer Gonds work in the fields of the richer Gonds. 

• There is not much work available for them except in farming seasons. 

• They love hunting and wild meats are their favorites. 

• Southern Gonds live in clusters. 

• Each village will have 25 to 30 huts and is surrounded by their fields. 

• Villages will be two to four kilometers away from one another. 

• From one village to another or to the nearby town, they travel by bullock-carts. 

• All farmers offer sacrifices at the end of each harvest. The size of the yield determines the size of the animal offered. 

• A good harvest may demand a goat and poorer, a chicken. 

• Pigs are also sacrificed for a moderate harvest. 

• For them, monsoon not only brings showers but also sicknesses. 

• Girls are married between the age of 13 and 15. 

• Marriages will be in summer. 

• A girl and a boy in love, running away is an accepted custom. 

• Once they come back, the Panchayat meet together to discuss the terms and conditions of the marriage. 

• Marriages are also arranged by the parents. 

• Depending on the financial conditions of the families the bride groom's parents have to give the bride's parents some amount of money. 

• Among the Southern Gond tribes, there are seven clans. 

• Each clan has god's numbering from one to seven. 

• They maintain their identity and distinguish one clan from another based on the number of gods each has. 

• People of the same clan can not get married. 

• When one meets someone, he asks, how many gods the other person has in his clan. 

• This is how they know whether they belong to the same clan or not. 

• Clans with the same number of gods will not get married together. 

• This is observed strictly. 

• If the financial condition permits, one is allowed to have more than one wife. 



FESTIVALS 

• There were several religious festivals of the Gonds. 

• These were Akhari, Jiwati, Pola, Diwali Nawo tindana, Dussera, and Phag or Shimga festivals. 

• Many of them were connected with the agricultural season. 

• The Gond festivals were collective rituals. 

• They were celebrated with great zeal and enthusiasm. 

• The logic behind celebrating festivals was nearly same all over the middle India. 

• However, with influence of Hinduism and other religions the basic ingredients of the festivals changed to some extent. 

• Today, they celebrate Hindu festivals like Ganesh Chaturthi, Raksha-bandhan, nag panchami, diwali, dasara, holi with the same enthusiasm as that of the Hindus. 


FOLK ART, CRAFTS AND HOBBIES 

• Gonds have a rich tradition of tribal arts and crafts that includes pottery, basket-making, body-tattooing, and floor-painting. 

• They are artistically gifted, painting designs on their house walls in red and black on a white background. 

• The drawings are often done to celebrate festivals and include animals and birds, human figures, the hunt, and the dance. 

• The Gonds make musical instruments, and they carve memorial pillars in wood and stone for their dead. 

• They often carve doors and panels to decorate their houses. 

• The Gonds were experts in arts and crafts. 

• They were also experts in beautiful wall paintings and floral designs that depicted geometric designs and stylistic figures of plants and animals on the walls of their houses. 

• They were masters in the art of personal decoration. 

• Thus, those were of the values in Gond culture, which were worth preserving. 

• The geometric and symbolic designs carved on wall and door, on comb and tobacco- case were thousands of years old, going right back to the ancient civilization of the Indus Valley 

• However, a colourful drawing on walls is a fast disappearing feature due to urban influence. 

• Now the walls are decorated with framed or unframed pictures of Hindu deities, national leaders, cinema stars, animals and birds which are purchased from weekly market centres and towns.

 


GOTUL 

• It is kind of cultural group 

• It is used to provide knowledge and education 

• It works on peer to peer basis 

• Was very effective once now less followed 

• The traditional Gotul institutions of the Gonds had inculcated a sense of discipline and co-operative endeavor among their members. 

• It was not just a club for meeting the boys and girls at night, as it was focused by some scholars. 

• It was the centre of learning and had a religious affiliation to it. 

• When there were no educational institutions available to the Gond community the Gotul was functioning like a training centre. 

• It inculcated the integrity and uniqueness among all the members of the Gotul. 

• However, with the time changes, the Britishers destroyed the Gotul system as they considered them as a center for conspiracy against them. 


IMPACT OF MODERN WORLD 

• Start collecting food from different sources apart from forest 

• Started practicing agriculture 

• Started worshipping different gods 

• And started celebrating different festivals 

• Each group speaks different accent Gondi language 


Agricultural Problems: The Gond tribe of Bastar district has cultivators or agriculturists. So, agriculture is the main occupation of the Gonds. Although the majority of the Gond’s family are associated with agriculture. Like their ancestors they still depend upon it for their livelihood. They struggle hard to raise different crops in the cultivable land throughout the year. Even then their economy is below subsistence level. The crops produced by them do not last for more than five or six months. They are not happy and their deteriorating economic condition which is below subsistence level has led them into the clutches of the money lenders. This has affected their agricultural activities to a large scale. The lands owned by them are gradually being occupied by the money lenders in unauthorized and illegal ways. There are nowadays an increasing number of landless Gonds ponds in Chhattisgarh. 


Problem of Irrigation: There are problem of irrigation in the Gond village Dhawaipani only one tank available in village Dhawaipani for irrigation and daily routine work for villagers. It does not meet the irrigation facilities for total agricultural land of the village. Thus,vital problem of irrigation is seen in the Gond village of Dhawaipani. 


Problem of Indebtedness: The Gonds are mostly landless and have poor economic condition. An oftenly so before money. The doors of the money lenders remain opened throughout the year for Gond tribals and non-tribals who are land owners as they are in a position to mortgage out their lands. The money lenders mostly manage their lands and charge high interest. As they are illiterate they neither keep any account of the debt nor understand or follow the account furnished by the Mahajans or money lender. The compound interest goes on multiplying as a result of which a Gond debt 25% Gonds are under debt in Dawaipani village of Bastar district. The main reasons of indebtedness showed that the majority of the Gonds incurred loan to meet their agricultural, input needs, social and religious needs. 


Some other Basic Problems of Gond Education are given below. 

1. Infrastructure of school 

2. Medium of instruction 

3. Lack of incentive to the teachers 

4. Less motivation for education to the children etc. 


5. Many efforts have been made by the government and NGO, but they do not achieve the goal of literacy development. Therefore, Gond faces many problems of education. 


6. Social Problems: Due to the influence of Hindu culture, the Gonds has adopted many evil custom of Hindu culture, i.e. Child marriage. An important influence of cultural contact is seen in the form of disappearing youth dormitories (Ghutul). 


7. Problem of Health: In general, the Gond lead a healthy life, but as some of them, suffer from many diseases like Skin disease, Malaria, Fever, influenza, Diarrhoea, Cholera, cold and cough 

etc.. Malaria was very common in the Gonds. When the Gonds suffer from any disease, they use their traditional medicine and go to ojajuni. Nowadays, they have the facility of Block hospital but lack sufficient stock of medicines, they avoid the hospital. They do not take healthy and nutritious food due to poverty. So, they always have ill health. Thus, the problem of Health in the Gond tribe has been at the cross road. 


8. Problem of Communication and Electricity: The means of communication in the village Dhawaiparii is very poor. There is no link road to the nearest town Simdega which is about 12 k.m. from Dhawaipani. The means of communication is mainly bullock carts. Few years ago, a kutcha road was constructed. But it is not in a better position for communication till now.There is no electrification in the Gond village Dhawaipani. They uses traditional ways for lighting, i.e. Laltern, Dhibari etc. thus, there are problems of communication and electricity in the village Dhawaipani. 


9. Problem of Exploitation:Tribals have been exploited for a long time. The innocence, gullibility and essence of the tribals have been a strong temptation for the non-tribals to enter into the tribal areas. The middle men have been buying the product of the tribals at rates for less than that they would have paid to now tribal seflers. Loans have been advanced to the tribals at high rates of interest. Tribal lands have been alienated for non payment of fictitious loan. Liquor vendors have induced the tribal to drink to the point of addiction. In the working of forests, the natural abode of the tribals, they have been treated no better than serbs. For minor default, they have had to get themselves bonded for life. Hence any salient feature of the tribal life speaks of these elements of exploitation. Physical and sexual exploitation of tribal women inside state and outside state is a common phenomena which is read in the newspaper daily. The above nature of tribal exploitation has been seen in the Gond tribe of Bastar district. In village Dhwaipani, middle man of Bastar, Simdega have visited frequently and buy agricultural products like grains and vegetables at minimum rate. The money lenders and some other non tribals of the area also sexually exploit the Gond women. We found 5 cases of women exploitation in Dawaipani. 


This blog is an important subject-matter for UPSC aspirants as it pertains to GS 1 Indian Society paper, GS 3 Environment paper and Essay Type Question. 


Blog Post written by:
Anurag Trivedi
UPSC Mentor