Travel between Temples, Villages & Tribal Markets in Orissa

Our next travel destination is Orissa or Odisha located in eastern India. Our journey begins from Kolkata to Bhubaneswar, the capital. Our trip spans to Puri and Konark that forms the Swarna Tribhuja or the golden triangle. Few tourists know about this beautiful place. It has wild areas, in addition to the long pristine beaches bordered by palm trees overlooking the Bay of Bengal. It also has forests inhabited by local people who do not always like the intrusive attention of travelers.

However, these tribes have common socio-cultural characteristics that make their primitive tribal culture homogeneous. So we take a trip to get to know the tribes of Orissa, their culture, and their customs. The coast of Orissa is considered highly strategic. Once ships sailed from its ports to Java, Bali, and Indonesia. Orissa is also the place from where the dramatic battles of conquest were undertaken by Mauryan Emperor Ashoka in the third century BC.

Bhubaneswar was the ancient capital of the Kalinga. The architectural heritage of this period is its biggest attraction. The magnificent temples of Bhubaneshwar that frame the Bindu Sarovar lake show the entire development of a particular architectural style of the region. It has many ancient Nagara style art temples. The oldest buildings date from VI and VII century AD. The recorded history of the area is famous for the Ashoka Pillar that dates back before the Christian era.

In the afternoon we visit some characteristic temples, typical of Orissa. The Parsurameswar Mandir and the Lingaraj Mandir, dedicated to Harihara, a form of Shiva is from the 11th century AD. It has refined carved towers and is one of the oldest in town.



We continue to the Mukteshwar Mandir, dedicated to Shiva and the Chausath Yogini temple. Mukteshwar is famous for the stone arch at the entrance and the sculptures in the outer walls. The most famous are those that tell the story of a donkey and a crocodile from the Panchatantra tale written by Vishnu Sharma.

The Rajarani Temple was built in the 11th century. It is known as the temple of love and is covered discreetly with erotic carvings. It is elegant in its sensual sculptures of nymphs. The Brahmeswar Temple also has excellent sculptures.

Next day after breakfast we start our excursion to Khandagiri and Udayagiri hills. They are famous for the partly natural and partly artificial Jain caves. They are finely carved and are of great archaeological, historical and religious importance. It is believed that most of these caves have been dug by Jain monks during the reign of King Kharavela.

Udayagiri has 18 caves and Khandagiri has 15. Among the most famous in Udayagiri is the Hathigumpha and Ganesha Gumpha for their art treasures, sculptures and reliefs, and for their great historical importance. Khandagiri offers a nice view of Bhubaneswar. The Pagoda of Peace, located in the Dhaulagiri Hill was constructed by the Japanese Buddhists. We later visit the Nandankanan Zoological Park that is famous for white tigers. In the evening, we visit the Ram Mandir and Ekamra Haat, the traditional market. We also see a ballet performance of the Odissi dance.



After breakfast, we depart for Konark and visit the Sun Temple. It is one of the wonders of religious art and a UNESCO world heritage. The temple was built in the 13th century by Narasimhadeva I of the Ganga dynasty to celebrate his victory against Islamic invaders. It is one of the world's leading examples of sacred architecture. Dedicated to Surya, there is the heavenly chariot drawn by seven horses and driven by finely chiseled and gigantic size twenty-four stone wheels.

The statues of the deity, driving his chariot were so arranged as to receive the rays of the sun at dawn, noon and dusk. The bas-reliefs exalt the divine journey with allegorical motifs of terrestrial life with musicians, women, children, couples in erotic effusions, birds and flowers.

We continue to Puri. According to Buddhists, Puri is the place where a tooth of Buddha was hidden. It was later stolen and brought to Kandy in Sri Lanka. The village of Pipli is famous for its excellent craft fabrics to hang on the doors and walls and for its traditional canopies that also hang in the temples over the images of the deities. These tissues displayed in the shops transform the main street into a multicolored avenue.

In the evening we visit the Jagannath Temple. It is dedicated to Krishna with his brother Balabhadra and younger sister Subhadra. It is also part of the Char Dham and especially famous for its festival of Rath Yatra. Built in the twelfth century, the main building is 65 meters high and topped by a banner of Vishnu and the chakras, the mystical wheel. Until recent times the entire temple was covered with white plates. European sailors in previous centuries used it as a reference point defining it in log books as white pagoda as opposed to the Black Pagoda, visible at Konark, about 40 kilometers away from Puri.



Next day after breakfast we relax at the beach. In the afternoon we visit the Gundicha, Loknath Temple, and Raghurajpur. Raghurajpur is a village of artisans known for its Pattachitra, the art of painting on cloth and drawings on palm leaves. In the evening we visit the Jagannath Temple for the aarti. We have an evening walk in the market on the beach.

Next day after breakfast we drive to Gopalpur and stop in Mangalajodi. It belongs to the Chilika lake area between Puri and Ganjan and is the largest brackish water lagoon in India. It is perfect for those who want to engage in birdwatching and for those who want to enjoy a boat trip around the surrounding islands.

Chilika is the largest saltwater lake in Asia. It is a lagoon of 1100 square kilometers separated from the ocean by a strip of sand. It is home to dolphins, fish, and shellfish. In winter come millions of migratory water birds from Siberia, like hawks, gulls, ospreys, wild geese, egrets, herons, cranes, and flamingos. The scenery is dotted with islets like Kalijai. Here the temple dedicated to the goddess Kali is reflected in the silvery waters of the lake.

We have a cruise in a typical country boat to admire the surroundings and spot local and migratory birds that arrive in winter. After lunch, we continue to Gopalpur. Here we buy fresh fish and enjoy the sand sculptures. We also visit Chandipur, in the north, where the tide reaches five meters in height.

Next day after breakfast we drive to Rayagada via Chandragiri, a Tibetan colony with a large monastery, and Taptapani, which is famous for its sulfur springs. We then enter the tribal area of the villages of the Adivasi tribes. This region is a picturesque landscape of mountains, meadows, rivers, waterfalls, and lakes. It preserves an exceptional ethnographic heritage. Early in the morning, the lush hills were still shrouded in fog.



The paths that go down to the valley were dotted with people carrying goods to the weekly market. Adivasis or first inhabitants have so far refused any kind of integration in modern society. They still keep their ancient social systems and their original culture alive and express themselves through clothes, jewelry, celebrations, and markets. They are completely different from the modern day Indian people.

In India, there is an amalgam of 437 tribes of which 62 are in Orissa. They are of Dravidian origin, each of which speaks its own language. The Adivasis have some common characteristics with an itinerant practice of subsistence agriculture, supplemented by hunting and gathering of wild fruits.

Bonda, Gadaba, Saora, Gond, Kotia, Paroja, Bhumia, Didayi, Duruwa, Bhottada, Jatapu are just some of the people who come together in Kotagarh markets on Tuesday, Chatikona on Wednesdays, Onukudelli on Thursdays and Kundlu on Friday. They are all located in Koraput district in southern Orissa.

From Rayagada after a long walk on hard mud trails and climbing small hills we reach the villages of Kondh. Their homes are located on the hills. The huts are aligned along a rectangular square in the center of which stands a totem. It was used in the past for child sacrifice to appease the gods. Today it is replaced by animal sacrifices, mostly buffalo. Women to drive away evil spirits adorn the cheeks and forehead with blacks dots.

Until recently they were subject to attacks of tigers. To exorcise the evil spirit of cats, the women tattooed mustache on their face.

Next day after breakfast we start our excursion to Dukum, near Bissamcuttack. We visit the weekly market of the Desia Kondh and see the local Dokra handicraft in Jigidi village. The women of the tribe of the Maliah Kondh have tattoos on the face, arms, and feet. They were made to avoid tiger attacks in the village. They wear gold and metal rings in the ears and nose. The men have long hair in a bun and wear a thong.

The Desia use to burn their dead in the forest. In a case where the deaths were due to snake bites or attacks of tigers, the bodies were buried in the forest. The Desia are monogamous, and their wives enjoy the equal prestige of men. For dowry, the man pays a fee to the parents of the future wife. If the woman proves infertile, the husband can take a new wife.

However, the first wife, while ceasing in all respects to be his wife, can continue to live in the home of her former husband. The Desia Jighni are skilled farmers. Their costumes are not dissimilar from those of populations that often cohabit. Women do not have the tattoos and their clothing is particularly taken care of. Their peculiarity is the custom to wear a small Bronze plate in each nostril. An ornament of the same metal hangs from the nose. The smug willingness to be photographed testifies to their natural coquetry.

Among the Desia living in the plains of Bisamkatak, women, instead of plates use lead in the nostrils. The ornament hangs from under the nose instead of a similar shape to that of Desia of Jighni. In the forehead, they have a tattoo in the stylization of a flower but that really seems rather like a trident. In the cheeks they instead use a tattoo triangle, stylized through the use of three simple dots. The saris used by these women is the most appropriate to the one worn by the other Desia.

Next day after breakfast we start our excursion to Chatikona to see the colorful weekly market of the Dongria Kondh tribe. The Dongria Kondh populate a dozen villages hidden among the dense forests of the Niyamgiri mountains, where they live in isolation.

The Dongria living near Bisamkatak have a far aggressive population. This tribe is one of the most primitive civilizations. Typically the Dongria do not like to be photographed, but women with exchange for small gifts can agree with relative ease. The men can create troubled if photographed against their will, who are very aggressive.

They live on the high slopes of the Niyamgiri hills and preserve their obsolete traditions and lifestyles of the distant past. They speak the Kui language and still use bows and arrows to defend themselves from animals. Their customs and clothing are totally different from the others Kondhs.

They are the ones that have preserved a large part of their culture and their original traditions. They do not worship the Hindu gods. They once performed human sacrifice. They venerate the Niyam Dongar mountain, the highest of the Niyamgiri hills. They see it as the home of their god Niyam Raja. They are given the name of Jharnia, protectors of the rivers because they protect the sacred mountain and the rivers that flow from its forests.

The deep reverence that the Dongria has for their gods, the hills and streams pervade every aspect of their lives. Even their artistic expressions reflect the mountains from the triangular designs found in the temples to the gods of villages, crops, and forests, up to Niyam Raja, the deity who governs them. The name of the tribe comes from Dongar, which means hill. They refer to themselves as Jharnia or protector of streams.

The Dongria live in villages scattered along the hills. They believe that they are the real descendants of Niyam Raja, who gave them the right to cultivate the slopes. Prodonda has a knowledge of their forests, plants, and game. They gather wild mangoes, pineapples, jackfruit, and honey. Some rare medicinal herbs are also abundant that are used by the Dongria to treat diseases such as arthritis, dysentery, fractures, malaria and snake bites.

The Dongria families often spend whole days in their orchards, holding off the animals with songs and drums. In the forest, the Dongria also have orchards where cultivate oranges, bananas, ginger, sweet papaya and Jhunu, an aromatic resin. All these products are then sold in local markets. The Dongria collect hundreds of foods from the forest and grow over in their gardens. This extraordinary diversity sustains them throughout the year.

The tribe also raises chickens, pigs, goats, and buffaloes. The Dongria men collect the juice of sago palms from the giant trees of the forest. It is a drink that gives them energy for long hikes through the hills of Niyamgiri. Women have the tattooed face with drawings representing the nose of the tiger. They thus identify with the animal in order to neutralize the black magic of a shaman that according to an ancient belief transformed women into ferocious felines.

The Dongria have the nose with three small rings in gold. They wear bracelets in the arms decorated in a diamond pattern. The women wrap their hair with a cloth, fixed with several pins like flowers in the hair and have a particular hairstyle with black and shiny hair in the sideways. This hairstyle is used to store a small metal sickle for small daily needs. The hands and arms are decorated with bronze rings and aluminum bracelets.

The men wear long hair tied in a bun at the nape of the neck. Youngsters use oil for their hair which is then combed. Once the combs were made of wood, horn or bone. These young men with well-coiffed hair and comb placed on the head for good, walk from one village to another by beating their drums (Changu) to reach the pre-marital dormitory called Ghotul in the center of the village. The young village girls after reaching puberty gather around the dormitory.

The boy throws a scarf, traditionally woven and embroidered by a sister. If a girl accepts it, they spend the night together. The ornamental motifs are reminiscent of the red walls that symbolize the blood sacrifice, green for trees and nature around them and yellow to represent the mutual harmony. In order to avoid pregnancies, girls make use of parts of a special plant.

The Dongria are still fervently linked to the ancestral traditions of the animist religion. The sick goes to the shaman and not to the doctor. The wizard dictates are followed, even when it comes to suggestions not related to health. Marriages, contrary to what happens with other tribes, are not arranged. The boys and girls go to the Ghotul and begin to flirt. Before a union can be made official, the future husband must obtain a home. The girl will have to work in the fields to earn the necessary dowry.

The Dongria choose their partners, but cannot marry within the same clan. Before the wedding, the bride is accompanied around the houses of the village. The bride is then immersed in the water made from the yellow turmeric. She is dressed up to walk towards her husband's village.

They respect the rhythms of nature, which is enforced through rituals and prayers. For this purpose, the Meriah exist in every village. They are honored at every opportunity and nourished with the finest products of the village.

Traditionally, sacrifices were performed in the villages or in the top of the mountain before sowing and after harvest. Each village has specific locations for the sacrifices and the veneration of mother Dharni, Niyam Raja and the other gods of the hills. In every house, there is also a space dedicated to the prayer of the many domestic and local deities. The Kondh until the last century made human sacrifices. It is now replaced by animals to ensure good harvests.

Similarly to what happens between the Kutia, even among Dongria applies the figure of Jani. Equally similar is the widespread use of alcoholic beverages obtained by fermentation of rice (Pendam), flowers (Mahua) or lymph (Salap).

They sacrifice chickens, pigs, goats, and buffalo. Each clan and each village have its leader. There are some individuals with specific ceremonial duties. The Beju and Bejuni are the priests and priestesses. The Dongria believe that animals, plants, rivers, mountains and other specific places have a life force and soul called Jela, which comes from the mother deity.

According to legends about the ancestors of the populations, infanticide was practiced. The motivations were of a social nature. The Kondh Poraja community celebrated the anniversary of Meria. It is also called Tokimara Parab, which literally translates as a virgin feast of the sacrifice. In fact, it is said that the intended victim was always the daughter of a Kondh.

In ancient times during Meriah, human sacrifices were made in honor of Dharani Penu, the mother goddess. They did it several times a year. Apparently, it was necessary to appease the goddess so that would guarantee a good harvest and did not happen anything wrong to the community.

These were usually of abducted children or from poor families of the villages. The children were detained for months before being sacrificed. On the day of the sacrifice, they were dazed with opium and then tied to totem poles. Then they organized a grand celebration of sacrifice, to which the community and neighboring villages were invited to attend the ritual slaughter of the person.

The priests then invoked Dharani Penu to fill the barns and with cattle. The victim was slain to pieces and sometimes burnt slowly so that the tears can propitiate abundant rain. Every householder received a piece of flesh which was then buried in the field or in the barn. The ashes instead were mixed with seeds and scattered over the fields.

There were special times during which the sacrifices were made. For example, if something unexpected or negative happened during that year, the idea was that the mother earth or gods were angry with them and had to be appeased with the blood of an innocent for sacrifice. So there were these occasional sacrifices, as well as those regulated seasonally.

We then visit Jeypore, stopping at Minapali, the homemade bamboo village. Next day after breakfast we depart for Onukudelli to visit the famous Bonda tribe, who lives in Koraput in the northwest of Machkund River. The weekly market is a unique opportunity to see a concentration of so many colorful tribal people in one place. The Bonda is an ancient tribe of about 12,000 people living in remote hilly regions in Orissa. Their clothing and jewelry are very similar to the Masai tribe in Africa. Their culture has changed very little in over 1000 years.

The Bonda, for example, is one of the poorest populations. They are known as pygmies for their short stature. They love to hunt, fight and kill. They, in fact, are always armed with bows, arrows and a sharp dagger­. Men wear a white thong, earrings and have an asymmetrical hairstyle. The women, wear kilts, raffia, beads made of whole tissues on large shaved heads. The necklaces serve as clothing.

According to legend, a haired goddess was insulted and ridiculed by some Bonda women, when she was bathing. For this reason, she cursed and imposed their hair cut and perennial nudity. They also wear massive metal rings around their necks. There is the custom of celebrating marriages between girls who are older than the boys in order to ensure that the woman can be maintained by her husband till death. Some women make good sorghum brooms, but few buy them because they have the reputation of being witches.

They speak Remo, a difficult language of obscure origins. The men are famous for their irascible character and their aggressive personality. They are often drunk in spirits made from various flowers, palm trees, and rice. The women are more docile and small in stature. They wear a skimpy skirt of striped fabric.

They have shaved heads and bare chest covered with strands of colored beads. Older women wear huge aluminum neck collars. On their back, they have a sort of cushion that serves as a counterweight. They wear big earrings, several bracelets on the hands and feet rings and collars. Other tribal groups, which are distinguished by their traditions and costumes are the Gadaba, Paraja, Parenga Saora, and Dhruwa.

At Onukudelli, some women of Bondo ethnicity keep a tobacco pipe in their mouth They carry a container on their head. It is made from a gourd and filled with beer, obtained from the fermentation of certain tubers. They sell their beverage or exchange it for basic necessities. They cover themselves with long necklaces made of beads and old coins. Bonda women wear colorful jewelry.

The neck shines with several metal rings while the head is completely shaved and adorned with a colorful headdress. The Bondo is undoubtedly the most famous tribes for its originality as well as to the hostilities that they have always shown towards foreigners. They are grumpy and suspicious, often drunk and loud and prowl on outsiders with bows and poisoned arrows. Their economy, in fact, is still based on hunting and nomadic cultivation.

They are animists with totem worship. They stay in mud huts in a community in small villages and live amidst the forces of nature and magic. They live in regions that are difficult to access, which guarantees a strong insulation. The only exception is the market. It's the only way to meet these so genuine people. They form a kaleidoscope of customs, practices, and beliefs, which form the basis of assimilating the beliefs of Adivasis in the infinite Hindu pantheon by the Aryans.

They celebrate many different ritual celebrations with music, songs, and dances. They produce an original artwork with paintings on linen paper, drawings on palm leaves, ceramic paintings, silk and cotton saris, soapstone, bone, wood and brass sculptures, silver filigree that they sell in colorful markets. Some are peaceful, friendly and easily accessible, while others live in inaccessible tangles of the forest, without access routes. Above all, they practice an intense and free sexual life, at least until marriage. Each village has a Ghotul.

The Kutia Kondhs live in remote and often inaccessible hills in the far southwest of the district of Phulbani, mainly in Belghar and few in Kalahandi. The Kutia's are a docile peace-loving people, devoted to agriculture and hunting. Their homes always are between the hills and aligned along a square made in such a way that the major axis runs from the top of the hill to facilitate the outflow of waters. The structure is made of timber wood and dried mud that is sometimes adorned with triangular graffiti.

The triangle is a recurring symbolic element of all Kondh tribes. The wooden doors of the houses are adorned with designs of stylized leaves. In front of the main structure of the house is raised a timbered network, so as to create a sort of spike in the corridor along the front. While the corridor has usually the straw roof, the greater structure is, since ancient times, traditionally protected by a roof of clay tiles.

Even in Kutia villages in the center of the square is the sacrificial totem. Unlike the more elaborate ones adopted by other tribes, the totem here is represented as a simple pole with triangular friezes. It is provided with a recess on the top to support the victim's head. At the time of human offerings, the sacrifice occurred in such a way that only the skull and the feet of the victim remained attached to the sacrificial pole. Even Kutia worships the mother-earth and celebrates the Meriah in the same way as Desia.

Each location is characterized by a rectangular wooden structure with a thatched roof and no walls. The structures are dominated by a bamboo pole with a green, yellow and red flag. Under the structures are small offerings and other ritual objects such as arrows. Often, nearby are other places of occasional rituals (similar to what happens between Desia). Here shamanic rituals are performed for healing or to secure a favorable newborn.

It is not rare to find jars broken after the ceremonial use. The Kutia are very jealous of their traditions. On special structures, people watch over the territory and monitor grazing domesticated animals. The arrival of any predators or the approach of intruders is indicated by the use of tom-toms. Moving in the Kutia territory you will have the perception to always be observed while the sound of tam-tam accompanies each movement.

Villages show virtually few inhabitants locked up in the houses while most retreat into the forest. With nightfall, the villages recover progressively as the Kutia return from the forest. A dominant role in society is played by Kutia Jani, men (and women) of medicine and magic.

The Jani, who enjoys great prestige among the population makes extensive use of shamanic practices, to perform rites. Until relatively recently in forests inhabited by Kutia lived tigers exposing the population to their attacks. Kutia interpreted the attack of a tiger as the action of the evil spirit. The attack of a tiger was considered a bad omen.

Even today the Kutia believe that a person killed by a tiger will turn itself into a spirit that assumed the form of the cat, and can come back to kill. Unlike Desia, the Kutia women do not use any elaborate tattoo to offset evil spirits. Sometimes they adorn the forehead with the tattoo of three simple dots. The Kutia make extensive use of their special drink called colic. If during the preparation of drink, at the stage of fermentation, the Kuer assumes a reddish color, the Kutia gets excited because this is an auspicious sign for the immediate future.

The occurrence of this event provides an opportunity of great celebrations with dances, accompanied by the sound of drums and trumpets made from the horns of the buffalo. On a full moon night, we witnessed an engagement between a pair of young Kutia. The most curious aspect is that the two lovers do not participate in the festivities, but rather were in their own home. The friends of the groom go to the village of the bride.

Between the two groups soon begin a song competition during which, the boys exalt masculine activities like hunting, working in the fields or in the forest, and girls exalt those of female life. Towards the end of the song, the two groups come together where they give life to a dance that lasts long in the presence of the whole village. On the next day is the turn of the girls to go to the village of the bride and the celebrations and orgies are repeated.

Another ethnic group we met in Onukudelli area was that of Gadaba. The women wear large bronze metal collars. In the village, it is not uncommon to see women dance to the beat of drums played by men. At the center of the village, the Gadaba erects one or more monoliths in memory of their ancestors under a leafy tree. The dead are cremated.

Gadaba belongs to the group of three different tribes of the Bara-Gadaba, Ollar-Gadaba, and Parenga. Among these, the Bara-Gadaba are micro-tribes rooted to their traditions, who can be considered the real Gadaba. The tribes of Parenga and Ollar-Gadaba, in fact, are a result of frequent contacts and crosses with the Parajas, Mallis, and Rana, who have lost their cultural and traditional heritage and were therefore stripped of the status that was paid to them in the past.

The sense of tradition is very high among Bara Gadaba who have maintained a very ritualistic society. When a family member dies, Gadaba believes that they will be reborn in the same family. This means that they take prodigal care towards their children. The family system plays an essential role in the Gadaba. Every family has a Sadubhai who is close to them in times of trouble. Therefore, on every ceremonial occasion, the sadubhai is invited to attend.

The presence of sadubhai then is an additional and powerful defense. What sadubhai embody for families, the Jabhai represent it for the whole village with a supporting role in times of crisis of the village, especially in the most important celebration of the Goter. Like the Meriah sacrifices of the Kondhs, the Goter performs the same function in Gadaba society. The Goter festivals are celebrated to appease the spirits of the ancestors, to please them and ask for protection.

Many buffaloes are slaughtered. The meat is equitably divided among the members of the entire village. During March and April, the Gadaba has a hunting party which is also an opportunity to contract marriages. During Pendam party with rice beer and Mahua, the Gadaba dance at the center of the village.

Under a leafy tree, monoliths are erected in memory of ancestors. Next to it is a platform on which the men sit at the meeting to discuss issues that affect the entire village.

The Gadaba cremate their dead after ten days. The whole village participates and buffalo and other animals are sacrificed. In Gadaba society, men and women have equal dignity and enjoy equal rights. This equality, among other things, permits women wide sexual freedom, so much so that a married woman can abandon her first husband for another man, who, if he wishes, is also free to break ties.

This is not considered a serious offense to the first partner, who, however, is just as free to look for a new partner. The only problem is represented by the fact that the dowry must be returned to the old partner. As you can imagine this can instead be a source of heated arguments and quarrels!

Besides several large metal collars, sometimes Bara-Gadaba women wear huge lead or bronze rings in the ears. The stature of men and women are very short. Their appearance can look like Aboriginal Australians. The Bara-Gadaba live in clean houses and wear aesthetically pleasant dresses. The tribe lives mainly in Machkund in the vicinity of Koraput. The language of the Bara-Gadaba is Gutab that is linguistical of the Munda family.

The Ollar-Gadaba, however, speak a language akin to Telugu. Contrary to Bara-Gadaba, the nature of Ollar-Gadaba is very sweet and kind. They are always smiling. The houses of the Ollar are extremely clean and well maintained. The walls are painted with pleasing combinations of color and decorated with geometric motifs. The square holds the place of the triangle used by Kondhs tribe.

At harvest time the Ollar-Gadaba dance together a dance called Kunda, to the sound of flute and drums. Even among Ollar-Gadaba applies the system of sadubhai, ancestor worship and vibrations of the dead on the tenth day after the death.

Ten days after death it is organized a large ceremony attended by the whole village. Animals are sacrificed and rice beer and fermented liquor are drunk. After the ceremony the deceased return to their family in the hope of reincarnation in the first baby to be born. Moving away from the hills, in a succession of rural landscapes, ends the part of the journey dedicated to the people. We then, return to Jeypore.

Next day after breakfast we depart for Kundli to visit the weekly market of the Paraja and Mali tribes. It is the largest of the tribal markets. We stop at the tribal villages of Paraja Sana, Sana Padar, Bada Padar. In the Kundlu market, the majority is the Paraja. They are a simple, friendly and hospitable people. The market is a whirl of colors, smells, lights, and looks.

The Paraja women dress in colorful saris. They adorn themselves with necklaces, bracelets, rings, and earrings with piercings in the nose, ears, and lips. Often they have garish tattoos on arms and legs. They smile sincerely and shyly hiding their face in front of the camera. In the early afternoon, the market begins to get empty.

Next day we catch the early morning flight to return home. Coming out of this enchanted land, mountains and hills, we dive back into traffic and the chaotic life of India. A country full of surprises, Orissa, is still genuine, wild and unknown to most travelers.

Orissa Travel Tips


Around here, certainly worth a visit is the Simlipal National Park. It covers an area of about 3 thousand square kilometers that boasts of the Jaguar, elephants, crocodiles to numerous species of birds.

In order to access the tribal areas of this region, it is highly recommended to hire a local guide.

This is a place where you can reach virtually all year. The best period is from November to March. Summer is from March to June and it is very hot. July to September is the rainy season and winter is from October to February.

Cuttack boasts of the ruins of a fort. Kadam Rasul has three mosques, while there are temples at Paradeep and Balasore.

Other Tribes of Orissa


Mallis is known to be excellent farmers. In the valleys, they cultivate well irrigated, demarcated and fenced fields. The advanced agricultural methods allow Mallis a good standard of living that differentiate them from the surrounding tribes. Many have now embraced the Hindu religion abandoning traditional animistic one.

Among the Parajas homes are frequently repainted in the traditional colors of black, yellow and ocher. In addition to agriculture, the Parajas routinely engage in hunting and in particular with the aid of large tools made with vegetable fibers. Even in the Parajas villages, down there in the main square, under leafy trees, are the monoliths of the ancestors and the platform for public meetings.

The men are quite tall in stature. The women are particularly graceful. They are easily recognizable by the big red flower worn in the black and smooth hair in a bun.

Lanjia Souras lives between the Puttasing hills in the district of Gajapati and among the hills in the area of Serang Parlakhemundi. Like Bara-Gadaba they have a very ritualized society. On the contrary of the first, they are not polygamists. When they have enough land they may have two, three or more wives. The agricultural jobs are in fact an occupation mostly reserved for women. Men are totally lazy and indolent. They spend a lot of time drinking Salap, a drink obtained from the fermentation of the sap.

Similarly to the Goter feast of Gadaba, the Lanjia Sauras have a party called Guar. It is celebrated to appease the spirits of their ancestors. Each house of Lanjia has a sacred room. Lanjias believe that if properly venerated it ensures prosperity to the family.

Koyas belong to the Dravidian group, both as regards their origin and language. This population lives mainly in Malkangiri in Koraput district. The Koyas are renowned for their sumptuous dance with the horn of a buffalo. They beat large drums at the center of the village. Their dances, in the night of full moon, are a sight not to be missed. Koyas respect the village hierarchy, to those against who show great fidelity.

The village chief and his assistant have a completely free hand in making every decision concerning the public welfare. This tribe is traditionally dedicated to the breeding of livestock. I more recent times there has been an approach to agricultural practices. Their food, however, continues to be based on consumption of cow, pig, and bear meat. The drawings which usually decorate the houses are made in a very aesthetic manner.

The Bonda, who call themselves Remo, speak a dialogue like the Austroasiatic language Munda. Like the Bara-Gadaba the Bonda has petite stature and facial features that recall those of the Australian Aborigines. Unlike Bara-Gadaba, the Bonda have thin legs. Of all the tribes of the highlands, the Bonda has the most primitive mind. Living in remote hills, the Bonda managed to maintain intact their customs and their traditions. The irritability of Bonda is proverbial. When combined with the habit of extensive use of alcoholic beverages, they have homicidal tendencies.

The most trivial provocation to a Bonda man can lead to shooting with his bow and a poisoned arrow to kill if necessary, even relatives and friends. You should, therefore, be very careful when you proceed in their territories. Among the Bonda exists a curious marriage system. A young woman of 16 or 17 years usually marries a boy of 8 or 10 years with the hope that they can give great attention to her until her old age.

It's very common for the older brother of the boy or his father to cohabit with the girl. This coexistence, with sexual implications, is often a source of family quarrels and fights that can also lead to killings. This fact combined with the reduced number of individuals that make up the tribe, to the problem of consanguinity and the fighting spirit that causes annually quite a few losses, leads to a constant decrease of the population.

The Bonda women dress in a very succinct manner with an incredibly mini skirt, while the bare chest is just covered with numerous strings of beads. Bracelets, metal belts, and other ornaments cover their nakedness. They wear the wide and large circular collars of bronze or aluminum. They are so narrow that they can never be removed, and cover the neck. When they go to weekly market they also they wear a kind of scarf or short cape.

Men traditionally wear a small thong but when they go to weekly markets they often dress in pants and a sort of shirt. During the monsoons, they cultivate in terraces along the streams. Bonda's are extremely related to a particular type of agriculture from which they derive abundant fruits. They are particularly jealous of their Salap and Mahua trees from which they derive alcoholic beverages.

The Dharua Gond are a sub-tribe of the larger group of the Gond. They represent an interesting component from an anthropological point of view. They live in the vast forests of the area in the south of Siribeda, the country divided into a dozen villages. Once the villages were grouped into two different clans, that of the Tiger and that of Cobra. Among their prey are all sorts of animals, from deer, mice, snakes, porcupines, gazelles, bears to the gharial.

A particularly appreciated delicacy is represented by bird chicks, which is eaten alive. They prey on nests with great skill from the highest branches of the trees. In the river, which flows into their territory through a spectacular scenery between lava gorges, they use arrows equipped with a cord to fish. Both the men and women adopt short hair on the neck and on the front. Women wear a distinctive green or yellow sari with a phosphorescent brilliance. The men wear a small thong and sometimes a cream-colored scarf. They adorn profusely with earrings, bracelets, and necklaces.

As with other tribes, even among Dhruva, young people of the village go at night to the shared dorm. The interior is ideally divided by structural poles of the structure delimiting the area of the males from the females. Here they spend the evening singing and playing, while elders teach girls to do the movements of traditional dances.

Often marriages are arranged by parents and the bride and groom are usually between cousins when they are still at a very early age. They get married when they come of age. In this case, the reason is to be found in difficult payment of the dowry, which is usually quite large, which the groom is required to pay the family of the bride.

The Birhor or Mankadia tribes live in the area of Simlipal hills. Most continue hunting of monkeys for food. The presence of Sal trees is also important for them. Weaving the fibers of these trees, the Birhor build strings that they sell at local markets and build long networks with which they capture the monkeys. The Birhor are obsessed by the taste of the meat of monkeys. They are able to perceive the odor and prepare traps to catch them.

After identifying the prey, some men penetrates deep in the forest, while the rest of the group awaits. When the monkeys get close, the men in reconnaissance communicate it to the rest of group by means of a whistle based language with which they transmit all information related to the movement of animals. While the main group lay traps, others cry and shake the trees pushing monkeys into the trap. As soon as the monkeys end up entangled in the traps, the Birhor launch into new pursuits.

The perfect knowledge of the territory and the secrets of the forest allows them to identify even the smaller pools of water in the most hidden recesses. With the leaves, they build small cups for collecting water and quench their thirst. While marching into the forest in pursuit of monkeys, hunters collect leaves and edible roots.

The whole group returns from the field late in the evening after kilometers of travel, while women exchange stories of the hunt. The food is divided equally between the various kumbhas or houses and the opportunity is propitious to celebrate and dance.

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