Gonds

 From the Book: Tribes of India

The Struggle for Survival

Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf

 Gonds

Among the tribal populations of India the Gonds stand out by their numbers, the vast expanse of their habitat, and their historical importance. No exact figures for the present size of the group of Gond tribes is available, for the census of 1961 was the last in which all individual tribes were enumerated. At that time 3,992,905 persons were returned as Gond, and there can be little doubt that by now the number of Gonds must long ago have exceeded the four million mark. Figures for the speakers of tribal languages are still being published, and in 1971, 1,548,070 Gondi-speakers were recorded. But this does not give an indication of the present strength of the ethnic group embracing the various Gond tribes, for more than half of all Gonds speak languages other than Gondi, such as Chhattisgarhi Hindi, an Aryan tongue which must have replaced the Dravidian Gondi.

The majority of Gonds are found today in the state of Madhya Pradesh. Their main concentrations are the Satpura Plateau, where the western type of Gondi is spoken, and the district of Mandla, where the Gonds have adopted the local dialect of Hindi. The former princely state of Bastar, now included in Madhya Pradesh, is the home of three important Gond groups, namely, the Murias, the Hill Marias, and the so-called Bisonhorn Marias, all of whom speak Gondi dialects. The states of Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh also contain substantial Gond populations, and the majority of these have traditionally been described as Raj Gonds, though in their own language they call themselves Koitur , a word common to most Gondi dialects. The term Raj Gonds , which in the 1940s was still widely used, has now become almost obsolete, probably because of the political eclipse of the Gond rajas. The rulers of Chanda, situated now in Maharashtra, were until 1749 powerful princes whose dominion included a large part of the Adilabad District of Andhra Pradesh. The rule of the Gond rajas of several princely states in Chhattisgarh lasted until 1947, when the British withdrew from India and the Gond states were merged with Madhya Pradesh.

There exists little accurate information on the early history of the Gonds, and it was not until Mughal times that Gond states figured in contemporary chronicles. But the ruins of forts ascribed to Gond rajas suggest that in past centuries the Raj Gonds did not live in the isolation typical of many other tribal communities but entertained manifold relations with other populations whose style of living their rulers imitated. Until comparatively recent times, a feudal system prevailed also in the highlands of Adilabad, and myths and epics depict the life of Gond chieftains who were not subject to any outside power. The Gonds were then already settled farmers who cultivated their landwith ploughs and bullocks. Land was plentiful, and individuals could freely move from one settlement to another. In the following chapters we shall see that this mobility has now come to an end, and with this the entire life-style of the Gonds has changed.

Gond society has both its vertical stratification and its horizontal divisions, and while with the decline of the raja families the stratification based on hereditary rank has been reduced in relevance, the division of society into exogamous patrilineal units has retained its importance. The basis of the social structure is a system of four phratries, each subdivided into clans, and the origin of this system is attributed to a divine culture hero. The members of each clan worship a deity described as persa pen (“great god”), and in some cases the shrine of this deity lies within the ancestral clan land. Today the clans are widely dispersed, but they still form a permanent framework which regulates marriage and many ritual relations.

Closely linked with each individual Gond clan is a lineage of Pardhans, bards and chroniclers, who play a vital role in the worship of the clan deity and many other ritual activities. The Pardhans, though themselves not Gonds and of a social status lower than that of their Gond patrons, are nevertheless the guardians of Gond tradition and religious lore. The recent deflection of their interests and energy to other enterprises will undoubtedly have an adverse effect on the preservation of Gond traditions.

A role similar to that of Pardhans is being played by another and much less numerous group of bards and minstrels known as Toti. These too have hereditary ritual relations with individual Gond lineages and act as musicians and story-tellers.

The Gonds of Andhra Pradesh, whose fortunes in recent years are the subject of a large part of this book, are only one of the many sections of the Gond race, and differ in cultural characteristics from the various Gond groups inhabiting the hill country of Bastar, which lies due east of Adilabad.

The Koyas, a tribal population largely, though not exclusively, concentrated in Andhra Pradesh, are the southernmost section of the great Gond race. Known also as Dorla Koitur, they merge on the southern border of Bastar with the Bisonhorn Marias, and some groups of Koyas, notably those in the lower Godavari regions, also possess bisonhorn head-dresses. In that area Koyas still speak a Gondi dialect, but the majority of Koyas have lost their own language and now speak the Telugu of their Hindu neighborus. In the districts of Khammam and Warangal, Koyas make up the majority of the tribal population. There they have suffered a fate similar to that of the Gonds of Adilabad District, in the sense that they have lost much of their best land, which they used to cultivate with ploughs and bullocks, and are largely reduced to the role of tenants and agricultural labourers. The process of detribalization has progressed further among Koyas than among any other Gond tribe.

Bibliography

Elwin, Verrier. Maria Murder and Suicide. Bombay, 1943.

The Muria and Their Ghotul. Bombay, 1947.

Fürer-Haimendorf, C. von. The Raj Gonds of Adilabad. London, 1948.

The Gonds of Andhra Pradesh. Delhi/London, 1979.

Grigson, Sir Wilfrid. The Maria Gonds of Bastar. London, 1949.

Jay, Edward J. A Tribal Village of MiddleIndia.Calcutta, 1970.

Rao, P. Setu Madhava. Among the Gonds of Adilabad. Hyderabad, 1949.

Agree with you Dr Gopal, they are in pathetic state. More worrying is state of indigenous tribes called Kolams and Naikapodus of Adilabad district.

Regards
Imran

Dear Sir
your information regarding the tribes of adilabad district is highly appreciable.it literature gives a good idea to search in lives of the Gondu tribes

with regards
suman

All tribal populations of the world, including Indian tribes, suffered in the hands of invaders, organized looters, and unscrupulous governments, who grabbed their lands, resources and destroyed their ethos and culture, reducing them to beggar status and extinction. It is the single biggest failure of World Human Rights Protection Council, which is represented mostly by non-tribals. I had an opportunity to research on Gond, Koya, Pardhan, Kolam, Naikpodu and Thoti tribes of Adilabad and Khammam districts AP., and witnessed the pathetic human conditions and sufferings.

GONDWANA FAMOUS CRISTOPH VON HAIMENDORF WAS GIVEN HONOR “FATHER OF GONDWANA ” IN FRONT OF THOUSANDS OF GONDS IN ANDHRA PRADESH DIST. ADILABAD MANDAL UTNOOR AT MARLEVAI VILLEGE. IN THE PENKARAN CEREMONY ON 26 FEB.2012. WHEN THE ASHES WAS BROUGHT BY HIS SON NICKOLAS AND HIS FAMILY AS PER LATE HAIMENDORF WISHES. BETTI ELIZABETH HAIMENDORF ALSO EQUALLY WORK WITH HAIMENDORF.. WE CRORES OF GOND SALUTES TO BOTH . PRAKASH SALAME MB. NO. 09922475025. CSTPS D 90 BY6 URJANAGAR COLONY CHANDA M.s. INDIA. PIN CODE 442404.

THE great ‘ FATHER OF GONDWANA LATE HAIMENDORF ‘ is the first person in the history of gondwana land i.e. five super continent of earth WHO IS TAKEN IN PENKARAN CEREMONY. IT IS BELIEVE THAT HE SHALL TAKE REBIRTH IN GOND COMMUNITY. BOTH HAIMENDORF AND MRS.. ELEZABETH HAIMENDORF SERVED 40 YEARS. TO GOND. NOBODY WORK LIKE HAIMONDORF AND ELEZABETH. THEY LITERATE GONDS AND SAVED GONDI LANGUAGE ALSO.

I am really shocked to know that we gonds are spreaded greatly in India than what I was thinking till today
Jay persa pen

dear sir one cannot lay the blame on non tribals for bringing gondi on the verge of extinction.it is the younger generation with its lackadaisical attitude which is responsible..if they merge with telegus what can we do.in yavatmal gonds do not know gondi.they have deliberately chosen marathi and feel proud in using it.at least a.p. govt. is favourable and they are teaching koya in schools.

mana enka a lokam lo wunamu sir apudu sir mana bathukulu maruthaye mari

this is the time to change our lifes till now many of them said gonds will not develop but now i am getting a cofidence that we will prove our talent i am proud to be an ADIVASI jai persa pen

Sir thank you for giving the information about gonds

In gonds kolam .koi s are not taking medicine. they’re living hill areas

Would like to contact gond people from ghansore. Thanks

Today I came to know about the Adivasis through The Hindu ; the news paper and also through Google that knowledge on nature held is treasure of verbal but the one who documented Mr.Furer and Mr.Sethu are worth to make PhD on the verbal language. Likewise nomads of other states to be studied to make a comprehensive document and this enhance our perception on nature.

The above article was appreciating,I believe it is on us that we the Koitur have to make the new generation aware of our religion,the present and the upcoming generation mainly the students must be made aware of our history,The Gondowana kingdom of 15- 18th century where courageous Rani durgawati fought against the mughal kings.well that may be a big task to make the people intrested to know about our history,but atleast the youngsters must be aware of our culture,festivals ,our god-persa pen and many multiple gods we worship,the purpose and the prayers offered by the devari and fellow preists.
i really appreciate the discovery and the development of koyaboli and implemention in educating the students with gondi language


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