Saturday, April 20, 2024

The People

Maharashtra's diversity of physical features and geography is reflected in her people and culture. Virtually every major is represented in the state. The Deccan Plateau in Central Maharashtra is largely populated by tribal groups. The Bhils, Mahadeo Kolis, Gonds and Warlis are the largest tribal communities. On the northwestern coast, the Warlis continue their frugal, reflective existence, worshipping the mother goddess.

Warli myths reveal that death came upon the human race as a result of the humiliation of Mother Earth. The Warlis appease this goddess of creative energy, the corn goddess and the goddess of trees and plants. Their death songs attempt to unravel the mysteries of life and death, revealing their simple awe of nature in all its innocence.

The Warlis, aboriginal settlers from the foothills of the Sahyadris, in Thane district, north of Mumbai, live in a small cluster of huts called padas. These houses generally have one door and no windows at all.

The Gonds, a people of central India, are spread between the forested areas of the states of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa. They have distinctive customs and speak a Dravidian language called Gondi. Today, many Gond youth have taken on the dominant language of their regions and cultural variations between tribal communities is expanding. Where their forest homes are still intact, however, their lifestyles remain unchanged and such communities provide anthropologists with a window into a past.

Although Maharashtra has a distinctive Hindu flavour, it has always had a tradition of secularism. Jewish communities have established several synagogues which are still active in Mumbai, Pune, Alibag, Pen, Thane and Revdanda. Mosques and dargahs, churches and Zoroastrian fire temples, all find the space to function. A sprinkling of Jain and Buddhist temple cover the region.