The Khond Tribe of India
by Sohini Kumar

Maps

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This is the physical map of the area around which the Khond tribe comes from, and where it exists. The place where they currently exist, around Bihar, is not very hilly, so farming is pretty easy. There are forest resources around the places the Khonds are spread, and the tribe depend on them a lot. The sacred river Ganges runs through Bihar, flowing to the Bay of Bengal.





external image india_climate_map.jpg

This is the climate map of India. The Khond tribe comes from Orissa and exists currently in Bihar. The climate in Bihar is humid, and it is a subtropical place. A lot of herbs and medicinal plants can be found in the areas they live, and it is important to preserve resources like wood, trees, plants and herbs, because the Khond tribe is very depending on the natural forest resources. The place where they originally come from is Orissa, which is a tropical place, both wet and dry, depending on the season and time of month.





Timeline of Main Events

1325: Around the time when the Khonds existed. They lived in Orissa then.
1802: The Khonds settled down in one place, along with another tribe, the Saura.
1837: The Khonds continued their tradition of human sacrifices to their Goddess of the Earth for good harvests, safety and good health. They also sprinkled the blood of the sacrifices on their crops to fertilise them. However, there were conflicts between the tribe and the British colonised people because of their tradition.
1880: The last human sacrifice was attempted, but did not end successfully.
1894: Around the time when the tribe began to sacrifice animals instead.
2008: Now, their population goes over 800,000 and over 550,000 of them speak the language 'Kuvi'.

Location

After Africa, India is the country that offers the second largest number of tribes. The Khond indigenous group comes from the state of Orissa, India. Orissa has over 11.4% of India’s total population of tribal groups.

The Khonds are originally from Orissa, and are one of the major tribes of India. They live in Bihar, and are also known as the Khands. Their language is known as ‘Kuvi’, and it is a tribal language of Orissa as well as being a Dravidian language. The Khond people are spread around hills and plains. The landowners are known as Raj Khonds. The people are spread out into different clans, like Hansa, Beck, Munda, Hembram and Bedia.

The climate where the Khond people live is humid, so farming is pretty easy. There are also some herbs that are used for medicinal purposes, and the Khond people know how to identify them and use them to treat diseases. There are also hunters in the tribe, who use bows and arrows to hunt and to also defend themselves.

Government

The Khond tribe is divided into many villages, but none of them are dominant over the others. So, the village’s Panchayat, a group of elders, are the leaders. The people in the village are allowed to participate in discussions with the elders, so they have a consultative government, but the Panchayat make the last decision. There is a major tribal community, the Munda, and they are the head Panchayat, but each Khond village also has its own local Panchayat, in which neighboring Khonds are members. They decide who the leader will be by electing. The Panchayat is there to help solve problems like the breaking of a rule or of a taboo, divorce, marriages, etc. The members can discuss and decide what the solution might be, and then they can carry it out if the leader is in agreement. If, however, the people with the problem do not agree with the solution, they can go to court if they like.


Economy

There are a lot of important and helpful herbs growing near the area where Khond people live, and they know how to identify medicinal herbs from other plants and they treat diseases with them. The hunters in the tribe use bows and arrows to hunt, and to also defend themselves. The Khond people mainly depend on agriculture and labour. Each family owns a little bit of agricultural land with some home-stead land. They have two types of agricultural land, and in them, they grow crops like maize and gram. Some crops depend on rainfall more than others.
There are many jobs that men do - farmers, traders, and also hunters or gatherers, who hunt and also gather fruits and roots they can eat. The women cook with oil which is extracted from seeds. Herbs are also used in food, so the Khond people are very dependent on forest resources.

Society

The family is the smallest society for the Khonds. It works in the way most families do – there is a mother and father with children. The children are taught skills like cooking, and when the children are old enough, they move away to another house, and start to earn their own money. The fathers are the head of the families. Even though the elders are very respected, and the fathers consult them and the wife and grown up children in the family, the father’s final word in the final decision.
Society outside homes is different - it is egalitarian. Even though there is not much detail on the society of the Khonds, from their government system, it seemed that they treat all people equally. They are divided into many villages, but none of them are superior over the others. They treat all people equally, though it used to be a little different. Before, when they still carried out human sacrifices, they used to buy humans, which is a form of human trafficking, so not treating all people fairly.


Belief Systems


Some Khond people are of animistic religion and worship about eighty three gods. They also believe in spirits and magic. Others are either Hindu or Christian. They have many gods and goddesses of their own, but they also worship some gods and goddesses that many Hindus worship, such as Goddess Durga, Goddess Lakshmi and God Shiva.
The aged people are also respected a lot by the Khond people, and are worshipped and served food first during festivals and ceremonies. external image dp9.jpg
They also love to celebrate festivals, and do so with a lot of enthusiasm. They celebrate a lot of festivals, some of which are still celebrated hugely over India, such as Dusshera, Diwali and Ramnavami. During these festivals, tribal dances and music are performed, with instruments like the dhol (Indian drum), flute, etc. Christian festivals are also celebrated with a lot of enthusiasm and pleasure, and Christian Khonds also visit church every Sunday.

Customs

The Khond tribe is not affected a lot by the modern world. They still continue old traditions and celebrate many festivals with great pleasure. A long time ago, they used to carry out human sacrifices, but now, that tradition has changed to sacrificing animals due to the British, who insisted on changing them.
The Khonds bought people to be sacrificed, called Meriah, at very high prices from parents, relatives or traders.
The sacrificial festivities and preparations began a month before the actual event. Then, on the actual day, the Meriah was tied to a post and, after everyone was done dancing and singing around him, they carried out the sacrifice.
The houses that the people build are rectangular. They are made of mud (as many houses in India are, so they can keep cool in the summer), wood, bamboo, tiles and rope. There are at least two rooms in each house, and some of them have a courtyard and / or verandah. The rooms have wood doors, but no windows. The verandah is used to cook, or to just rest.
The clothing that the Khond people wear is similar to traditional clothing people used to wear, and still do, once in a while. The men wear a dhoti (traditional Indian ‘trousers’) and a shirt. They wear shorter dhotis when they are working, but longer and more formal ones when they go to visit friends or family. The women wear either a sari or a salwar kameez, and female children wear dresses. All their shoes are made out of plastic.
The women like to wear a lot of jewelry. They wear ornaments in their hair, neck, nose, ears, wrists, fingers and feet. These ornaments are made out of brass, bronze, steel, nickel, thread, shells, seeds or gold. They buy these ornaments from local shops called ‘haats’.

external image kutia_kondh_woman.jpg
In everyday life, the people usually wake up pretty early and go to bed by nine p.m. Generally, the father works outside, for example, trading, or working to grow crops, while the mothers work inside, cooking and looking after the children. The children go to school when they are old enough, and also help to look after the animals and also young children.
In the Khond tribe, marriages are celebrated very grandly, with a lot of rituals, just as they are in modern India. There are decorations, presents, parties, rituals, etc.

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Arts and Crafts
There are a lot of famous artists in India who come from Orissa, where the Khond tribe is originally from. There are many examples of paintings, wood carvings and also paintings on palm leaves.

In crafts, the women in the tribe are known for wearing a lot of jewelry. They wear a lot of ornaments made out of metals like brass, bronze, steel, nickel and gold. They also use other materials like thread, shells and seeds.Indian tribes in general also craft things using forest resources. They use bamboo to make door panels, boxes, spoons, hunting and fishing equipment and baskets. Wild grass is used to make bowls, mats, dolls, etc.
As for music, they have their own type of tribal music that they play during festivals. During festivals, they play Indian instruments like the dhol, nagara kartal and thali, but they also play other instruments like the flute and whistle.


Science and Technology

The Khond people have not been affected by the modern world at all. When the British colonized India, they did make the Khonds stop performing human sacrifices, but other than that, the modern world has not influenced the Khonds. They still continue many old traditions and live as an aboriginal group.


Bibliography


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