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India’s Tribal Communities- The Kodu/ Kondhu Tribe of Andhra Pradesh

Khonds (also spelt Kondha, Kandha etc.) are a tribal community in India.

  • Traditionally, hunter-gatherers, they are divided into the hill-dwelling Khonds and plain dwelling Khonds for census purposes;
  • All the Khonds identify by their clan and usually hold large tracts of fertile land but still practice hunting, gathering and slash-and-burn agriculture in the forests as a symbol of  their connection to and ownership of the forest.
  • They are a designated Scheduled Tribe in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar,  Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha and West Bengal
  • They are less social with the outer world
  • They use traditional farming tools and techniques and lives in Kutcha houses
  • 3 Pins in the nose is common with women here
  • Women wear sari and men only langot
  • They are both economically and socially backward people
  • They are in PVTG category in AP

KODU OR KONDH TRIBE OF ANDHRA PRADESH 

POPULATION: 86,000

LANGUAGE: The Khonds speak the Kui language as their mother tongue. It is most closely related to Gondi and Kuvi. Kui is a Dravidian language written with the Odia script.

SOCIETY, CULTURE AND LIFESTYLE 

  • The Khonds are adept land dwellers exhibiting greater adaptability to the forest and hill environment.
  • However, due to development interventions in education, medical facilities, irrigation,  plantation and so on, they are forced into the modern way of life in many ways.
  • Their traditional life style, customary traits of economy, political organisation, norms,  values and worldview have been drastically changed in recent times.
  • The traditional Khond society is based on geographically demarcated clans, each consisting of a large group of related families identified by a Totem, usually of a male wild animal.
  • Each clan usually has a common surname and is led by the eldest male member of the most powerful family of the clan.
  • All the clans of the Khonds owe allegiance to the “Kondh Pradhan”, who is usually the leader of the most powerful clan of the Khonds
  • The Khond family is often nuclear, although extended joint families are also found.
  • Female family members are on an equal social footing with the male members in Khond society, and they can inherit, own, hold and dispose of the property without reference to their parents, husband or sons.
  • Women have the right to choose their husbands and seek divorce.
  • However, the family is patrilineal and patrilocal.
  • Remarriage is common for divorced or widowed women and men.
  • Children are never considered illegitimate in Khond society and inherit the clan name of their biological or adoptive fathers with all the rights accruing to natural-born children.
  • The Kondhs have a dormitory for adolescent girls and boys which forms a part of their enculturation and education process.
  • The girls and boys sleep at night in their respective dormitory and learn social taboos,  myths, legends, stories, riddles, proverbs amidst singing and dancing the whole night,  thus learning the way of the tribe.
  • The girls are usually instructed in good housekeeping and in ways to bring up good children while the boys learn the art of hunting and the legends of their brave and martial ancestors.
  • Bravery and skill in hunting determine the respect that a man gets in the Khond tribe.
  • A large number of Khonds were recruited by the British during the First and Second  World Wars and were prized as natural jungle warfare experts.
  • Even today a large proportion of the Khond men join the state police or armed forces of  India to seek an opportunity to prove their bravery.
  • The men usually forage or hunt in the forests.
  • They also practise the podu system of shifting cultivation on the hill slopes where they grow different varieties of rice, lentils and vegetables.
  • Women usually do all the household work from fetching water from the distant streams,  cooking, serving food to each member of the household to assisting the men in cultivation, harvesting and sale of produce in the market
  • The Khond commonly practice clan exogamy.
  • By custom, the marriage must cross clan boundaries (a form of incest taboo).
  • The clan is strictly exogamous, which means marriages are made outside the clan (yet still within the greater Khond population).
  • The form of acquiring a mate is often by negotiation.
  • However, marriage by capture or elopement is also rarely practised.
  • For marriage, the bride price is paid to the parents of the bride by the groom, which is a  striking feature of the Khonds.
  • The bride price was traditionally paid in tiger pelts though now land or gold sovereigns  are the usual mode of payment of bride price

RELIGION AND BELIEFS 

  • The Khonds were historically animists.
  • But the extended contact with the Oriya speaking Hindus made Khonds adopt many aspects of the Hinduism and Hindu culture.
  • The contact with the Hindus has made the Khonds to adopt Hindu deities into their pantheon.
  • For example, the Kali and Durga are worshipped in a variety of guises, but always with the sacrifice of goats, fowl etc.
  • The Kond marriage rituals also show the assimilation of many Hindu customs into traditional tribal practices.
  • Traditionally the Khond religious beliefs were syncretic combining totemism, animism,  ancestor worship, shamanism and nature worship.
  • The Khonds gave the highest importance to the Earth goddess, who is held to be the creator and sustainer of the world.
  • Before hunting they would worship the spirit of the hills and valleys they would hunt in lest they hide the animals the hunter wished to catch.
  • British writers also claimed the Khonds practised human sacrifice.
  • In the Khond society, a breach of accepted religious conduct by any member of their society invited the wrath of spirits in the form of lack of rainfall, soaking of streams,  destruction of forest produce, and other natural calamities.
  • Hence, the customary laws, norms, taboos, and values were greatly adhered to and enforced with high to heavy punishments, depending upon the seriousness of the crimes committed.
  • The practice of traditional religion has almost become extinct today.
  • Many Khonds converted to Protestant Christianity in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century due to the efforts of the missionaries of the Serampore Mission.
  • The influence of Khond traditional beliefs on Christianity can be seen in some rituals such as those associated with Easter and resurrection when ancestors are also venerated and given offerings, although the church officially rejects the traditional beliefs as pagan.
  • Many Khonds have also converted to Islam and a great diversity of religious practices can be seen among the members of the tribe.
  • Significantly, as with any culture, the ethical practices of the Khond reinforce the social and economic practices that define the people.
  • Thus, the sacredness of the earth perpetuates tribal socio-economics, wherein harmony with nature and respect for ancestors is deeply embedded whereas non-tribal cultures.
  • That neglect the sacredness of the land find no problem in committing deforestation,  strip-mining etc., and this has led to a situation of conflict in many instances

ECONOMY AND AGRICULTURE 

  • They have a subsistence economy based on hunting and gathering but they now primarily depend on a subsistence agriculture i.e. shifting cultivation or slash-and-burn cultivation or Podu.
  • The Dongria Khond are excellent fruit farmers.
  • The most striking feature of the Dongria Khonds is that they have adapted to horticulture and grow pineapple, oranges, turmeric, ginger and papaya in plenty.
  • Forest fruit trees like mango and jackfruit are also found in huge numbers, which fulfil the major dietary chunk of the Dongrias.
  • Besides, the Dongrias practice shifting cultivation, or podu chasa as it is locally called, as part of an economic need retaining the most primitive features of underdevelopment and cultural evolution.
  • They go out for collective hunts eating the fruits and roots they collect.
  • They usually cook food with oil extracted from sal and mahua seeds.
  • They also use medicinal plants
  • These practices make them mainly dependent on forest resources for survival.
  • The Khonds smoke fish and meat for preservation.

PROBLEMS  

  • They suffer from a lot of diseases due to lack of basic facilities
  • They don’t have clean drinking water
  • There are no schools and Aanganvadis
  • Lack of opportunities and employment

IMPACT OF MODERN WORLD 

  • Use modern material in building houses
  • Moving from Jhum to Permanent cultivation
  • Started wearing modern clothes
  • Started coffee plantation
  • Lives mostly on forest produce
  • Migrate due to mining and other industries originating in the area.