Saturday, May 28, 2022
Madhya Pradesh

The People


The major tribes of  Madhya Pradesh are Gonds, Bhils, Oraons, Korkens, and Kols. The tribal culture of Madhya Pradesh is mixed with traces of the Dravidians, the Mundas and the Scythians. There are forest-dwellers such as the Abujhmarias, the hunters and the gawkier such as the Korwas and the Pandhis. There are the Khaiwars and the Panikas who depend on indigenous methods of cultivation. There are even many others whose profession is singing and dancing such as the Mangetri Pradhans or the Nagachis or Bediyas.

The state presents in all a varied matrix of tribal culture ranging from animists and fowlers to advanced cultivators and factory workers.

The Chhatlisgarh region of the state comprises Raigarh, Surgaja, Bilaspur, Durg and Raipur districts.  It is found that the inhabitants of this area bestowed with many peculiarities. The 'Pradhans', the hereditary chroniclers are a bardic tribe of Chhatlisgarh and worship various Gods and Goddesses. The Gond rulers  patronized them in the  fourteenth century.  The dialect spoken in the region is Chhatlisgarh. The soil is red and yellow and almost half of the area comes under rice cultivation.

The Indravati flows through the Bastar region and quite a large portion of this vast district is covered with jungle.  The Murias of North Bastar are associated with institution of Ghotul which is a sort of dormitory for the young boys and girls of this tribe.  The bison-horn Marias or the sing-Marias are settled to the south of the Indravati.  They have very little communication with  the Murias of the north. The Raja Murias or the Jagdalpur Murias consider themselves superior to other tribes. The Halbas are the near Hindu caste predominant all over the tract. Halbi which is their dialect had great impact over other dialects spoken in the region.        

The wild and  more primitive interior of Bastar is the rugged and mountainous terrain of Abujhmar in the west of Narayanpur Tehsil. The inhabitants here may eat any thing they like. Red ants is  their favourite dish. Rats are eaten with pleasure and to full satisfaction.

The Abujhmarias have a strange wild appeal in their look as compared to the Murias of the plains.  Women are generally  seen bare-bosomed and men roam around  wearing just a  loin cloth. Only during festivals they add some more items to their dress. Boys don all kinds of finery.  They wear red or white 'pagas' (turbans) with feathers tucked in their folds. The Hill Marias believe  in slash and burn type of cultivation. Many places of Abujhmar are noted as un-surveyed. These areas are topographically rough and dense with a variety of living things.

The Dhurwas (Parjas) are the  third largest Adivasi group in Baster following the Marias and the Murias. The tribe is concentrated in Dantewara and Konta.  They border on most tehsils of Madhya  Pradesh in the South.

The Bhils inhabit the districts of Dhar, Ratlam and Jhabua. A number of beliefs and  superstitions admit them 'outside the Hindu social system'.  The Bhil group constitutes the Bhilala, the Mankar, the Patlia, the Barela, the Nihal or Naik and the Rathia.

The Gond and Kol groups are found in Chhindwara. They are also settled by the rivers of Betul, among the hills of Seoni and Balaghat.  They have an extensive legendary history of their past heroes. Tribals of Bastar come under this group. The Gonds are a great people with stirring memories and passionate poetry.  They seem to have entered the wilds of Baster along the banks of the Godavari. In the fourteenth century they were the ruling class in many parts of central India. They built palaces, forts, tanks and lakes but owing to their over-simplicity and tolerance they failed to retain their establishments. Towards the end of the eighteenth century they were found scattered into many tribes.

The Baigas are a class of priests among the Gonds. They are the people who know all about evil spirits and can avoid them by performing magical rites.  In Mandla district there is a small tract  called Baiga Chak, known for its Baiga settlement. The Baigas have now changed considerably.

The Pradhans are the musicians of the Gond and the Baigas.  If a Baiga is not available to a Gond, a Pradhan is called for performing the rites. The Korkus are confined to a small portion in the Narmada valley. Some of them have taken to work in the coal-mines around Chhindwara.

The Savaras are mostly inhabited in Sheopur (Morena district), Isagarh, Narval (Gwalior district) and Bhilsa.  This group also combines Saharia and Sour.  Among other tribes are the Kols of  Maikal  hills who are mainly agriculturists and wage-earners in factories, the Korwas and the Oraons of Raigarh and Surguja  districts, the Bharias of Patalkot and the adjoining areas in Chhindwara and the Binjhwars of Bilaspur.

The Banjaras are nomadic people settled in some parts of the Narmada valley.  They have a rich folklore of their own and a strong community sense.