The Primitive Tribes of Orissa
Orissa has one of the largest concentrations of tribal population in the whole country. The 62 tribes in Orissa wary in their size, degree of acculturation and economic patterns.The kondhs form numerically the largest group among the 62 tribes of orissa.Customally they were once famous for their brutal acts of human sacrifice(Maria sacrifice) to achieve the end products of bumper crops and killing of infants for better yield of turmeric.There are various sections among the kondhs or Kandhas.However the primitive section of the kondhs communities are found largely in the district of phulbani(kondhamal) and Koraput district and are famous as Dongria Kondhs.
They have great knowledge of their natural environment; they can classify trees, plants, hills, forests, crops, and soils; and the way they have been managing their forests is of utmost importance for the enviornment.
Kondhs are basically agriculturists. They generally produce cash crops like turmeric, ginger, mustard, black gram, arrowroot etc. They have a subsistence economy based on foraging, hunting & gathering but they now primarily depend on a subsistence agriculture i.e. shifting cultivation or slash and burn cultivation or Podu. The dongria section of the kondh communities are expert horticulturist and produce fruits like bananas, pine apple, orange, jack fruits etc.
The primitive section keeps buffalows for sacrifice, but the desia kondhs mainly use the buffalows for ploughing their field. Barter system is still the method of exchange among the kondhs.
Kondh (Also known as: Kond, Kondh, Kui, Buda Kondh, Bura Kandha, Desia Kandha, Dungaria Kondh, Kutia Kandha, Kandha Gauda, Muli Kondh, Malua Kondh, Pengo Kandha, Raja Kondh, Raj Khond, Desia Kondh, Dongariya Kondh)
The kondhs believe in "dharani" the earth goddess-the supreme being . She is all powerful and the heighest of all deities. She is represented by a block of stone errected in a hut .She is responsible for the growth of vegetation and other produce of land. She used to be satisfied with human blood. The kondhs worshipers of ancestors who are called "DUMBAS". These ancestor spirits appear in dreams when they desire to receive periodic worship.
There are various deities and spirits who are different in different localities inhabited by the various sections of the kondhs. Apart from these spirits they believe in the existence of ghosts. They are controlled by shamans. They also believe in white and black magics. They are fatalists and believe in chance and luck.
Kondhs have a distinct language called Kui which has no written script.
Kondh have a Sedentary life style.Tthey are distinctive by their clothes, ornaments and hair style. their tribal ornaments have a demand in the cities in India.
The dress worn by the kondhas is not keeping with their environment. They use some covering on the body, of course, to withstand the cold, yet their way of life has made them conditioned to the local climate which indirectly helps them maintain their traditional grab.
The doors of the Kondh houses are skillfully carved with traditional figurines. The Saora ikons drawn on their walls are highly appreciated.
They celebrate various festivals round the year for better4 yield of crops. Two festivals such as chaitra parab observed before sowing paddy and other millets and "meriah" or "kedu" festival in the month of february / march are the most important.
The most primitive sub group of kondhas is the Dongria Kondhas. The Dongria Kondh call themselves Jharnia meaning those who live by the Jharana (streams).The dongria kondhs exhibits their talents in their art and crafts.
The Dongria Kondh are excellent fruit farmers. The most striking feature of the Dongria kondhas is that they have adapted to horticulture and grow pineapple, oranges, turmeric, ginger and papaya in plenty. Forest fruit trees like mongo and jackfruit are also found in huge numbers, which fulfill the major dietary chunk of the Dongrias.
Changes with Time
They are plain land dwellers exhibiting greater adaptability to the forest environment. However, due to development interventions in education, medical facilities, irrigation, plantation and so on and so forth, they have started adapting to the great tradition or modern civilization standards in many ways. Their traditional life style, customary traits of economy political organization, norms, values and world view have been drastically changed over a long period of time.