By Madhusree Chowdhury
The Gond tribe is one of the largest tribes in South Asia. They are over 9 million strong and reside in the Deccan peninsula of the Indian subcontinent. They call themselves as the hill people. As per the historical evidence, the Gonds started to live in this region since 9th century AD. The Maratha power removed the tribal kings and seized the major parts of their territories in the mid 18th century.
They mainly reside in and around the Maikala Range, Satpura Hills, and Son-Deogarh plateau areas. Their habitats are found mainly near the main rivers such as Mahanadi, Narmada, Son, Tapti, and Godavari in the hilly region. The temperature here rises more than 40°C in the summer season.
The language used by this tribe is known as Gondi, a Dravidian dialect which is nearly related to Kannada and Tamil. Some of the tribal natives also speak Marathi, Telugu, and Hindi.
As per the legends, the gods were after birth and was rescued by Parvati but was captivated them. Eventually, a legendary hero named Pahandi Kapar Lingal rescued them with the aid of Jangu Bai, a goddess. The rescued gods made four groups when they were escaping and formed the four divisions of the society.
The majority worship Shambhu Mahadeo whose alternative names are Persa Pen and Baradeo. Every clan worships its own Persa Pen. They also worship gods of cattle, diseases, household, and fields.
Each village chooses a Mukhiya or headman. The Mukhiya heads a council that takes care of the village. Here, men wear dhotis and women prefer sarees. They eat two millets, kutki and kodo, along with vegetables. They consider rice as an item for luxury and cook it during festivals or feasts. They also sacrifice animals or hunt them for meat. During the festivals, they celebrate by performing the Dandari dance. Their favorite past time is cockfight.
The literacy rates in Gonds vary from state to state. In Maharashtra, the rate is 25% whereas, in Madhya Pradesh, it is 15%. Their main occupation is farming.