Dongarias : The People of Niyamgiri Hills
Dongarias: The son of soil of the Niyamgiri Hills
It was just a couple of days back I returned from chatikona… that is located on the foothill of Niyamgiri hills near the Gadgada waterfall and Pataleshwar Shiva temple in Bisamkatak ( Rayagada district) of Odisha, India. I came to know from the nearby Dongaria Kandha Development Agency (DKDA, being run by the Government of Odisha) that these hills are inhabited by Dongaria Kandha tribal people . They are scattered into 100 + villages (including hamlets) in an area of 165 square kilometres . There are approximately 31 villages in Muniguda block, 32 villages in Bisamkatak block and 40 villages in Kalyan singhpur block in Rayagada district. It was because of the prevailing drought situation in almost all parts of the year except monsoon , Dangariya kandhas of Muniguda and Bisamkatak block depend upon the Sakata and Gadgada spring respectively. They used to live on the banks of small streams having perennial water sources useful for growing their orchards and small pineapple, ginger farms etc. The terrains in which the Dongarias live are most suitable for horticulture.The area of habitation of Dongaria kandha people over the high plateau of niyamgiri hill range from 1000 ft to 4970 ft above the sea level.
Gadgada waterfall and Pataleshwar Shiva temple near Chatikona
Purchasing winter scarfs in Chatikona
Returning back to their villages on the Niyamgiri hills.
Roosters and hens are on sale in Chatikona
Purchasing dry fish from Chatikona
Dongaria women started using phones…..part of the assimilation process
Dongaria women going back to their villages on the hills after having weekly shopping in the Chatikona market .
No one knows the beginning of the Dongaria kandha people however it is accepted that the Dongaria kandhas are the first pioneers of Niyamgiri slope and have been living there since days of yore. As per their legend and folktales , Dongarias believe themselves to be the siblings of other kandhas, for example, kutia kandha and desia Kandha people dwelling in the fields closer to the niyamgiri slopes. As they are living on the dongers( slopes), they call themselves Dongaria kandha . To separate them from others, the Dongaria kandhas keep long hair which gives their ethnic character and uniqueness of their hairdo.
Socio-cultural Life of Dongarias
Fundamentally the Dongaria family is a patriarchal and patrilineal one. The father is the top of the family however when the children get married, they are isolated from their folks in the wake of separating their property into equivalent shares. As long as the parents are alive nobody in their village perceives the wedded children. A couple are accomplices in all walks of life because the husband seeks the advice of the wife in different matters.They don’t address each other by their individual names. The different socio-religious units of the Dongaria society are known as ‘Mutha’ or ‘Padar’. These units are shaped for the titles of Dongaria individuals, for example, wadaka, kudraka, jakaka ,pisika, prasika,kunjelia,sikaka etç. Marriage inside a similar faction or clan or title or Mutha is denied. There are various kinds of marriage, for example, @marriage by choice , @marriage by arrangement, @marriage by catch or also called Jhika marriage. Let me describe the unique system of marriage called Jhika Bibah prevailing in their society.
During the time of Rath Yatra celebration in Bisamkatak or Niyamada jatra( celebration of village goddess) or during the time of mariah penance, the unmarried Dongaria male (called Dhangda) picks his partner among the gathering of unmarried Dongaria female ( called as Dhangdi). In this framework, the Dhangda offers another towel to his preferred Dhangdi. In the event that the Dhangdi acknowledges the towel, in the period of pausha or magha, the marriage between the two happens. In the event that the Dhangdi doesn’t acknowledge the proposition then the Dhangda and his companions take the Dhangdi forcibly. All things considered, the Mutha assumes an imperative part and levies a fine upon the Dhangda family. Ordinarily, it has been seen that the Dhangda is requested to work for about a year ( at the most extreme) in the place of the Dhangdi. Subsequently the village cleric known as Jani ( the post is hereditary) plays out the marriage ceremonies and solemnises the marriage. Levirate kinds of marriage is likewise widely practised in Dongaria society. Honeymoon nights are observed in the Dongers ( slopes) yet not in their homes.
Dongaria kandhas are animistic and polytheist and have belief in an enormous number of supernatural creatures who control their whole society and day today life . One of their principal celebrations is ‘ jura parva’ observed during Mariah’s sacrifice. The Jani( village cleric), the Bejuni( devine cum medication man who likewise works as stargazer and clinician) and the Gurumai( the religious lady who assumes an essential part in mollifying spirits at individual level) are the three religious experts of the Dongaria community.During kodru parva( Mariah sacrifice), the Dharani penu(Earth God) is revered for better reap and favourable luck. They truly do have an odd conviction that mother earth needs human blood to improve its fertility. Such blind beliefs likewise exist in a few different places of the earth.The establishment of Dharani penu and her partner called ‘ Kotiasal’ in the focal point of the village junction is a common sight of a Dongaria settlement.
The Kandh tribal community at large ( including kutia kandha and desia Kandha) were infamous and notorious in colonial records because of their custom of human sacrifice, known as ‘mariah’. To individuals of Kandha tribal group, mariah sacrifice is only one of numerous ceremonies for better fortune and better harvest, where animal sacrifice is fundamental. The act of human sacrifice went under Prohibition Act of 1829, subject to the authority of the Governor General of British India, Lord William Bentick (1828-35) . However in reality, such sacrifices continued for many more years in several inaccessible villages of tribal hinterlands. Later on people were supplanted by monkeys and consequently by bison. Here I have given a photograph of the wooden ‘ jupa’ or ‘ Saja Khunta’ ( bison’s head used to rest there prior to sacrificing).
Their primary food is ‘mandia jau’ ( gruel made of one sort of grain called Ragi) and peja( a kind of gruel prepared from millet and rice). Also, they eat bison meat, beef, pork ,lamb and so on. Alongside this , they used to take leaves and roots of plants . Their most preferred dish is dry fish. They use turmeric paste, red chilli stew and salt for the purpose of cooking. They drink country made alcohol like salap ( sago palm juice ), tadi ( date palm juice), mohuli (alcohol produced using Mahua blossoms ) . During their socio religious events both male and female individuals take those country made alcohols .
Young men and young ladies used to dance in the night in the focal spot of their villages in a circle joined by different musical instruments like clapper ( gini) , drums ( dudung) and metal rings( ghagudi)etc. They used to weave their own garments called kapda ganda. Both men and women love to wear ornaments.All most all Dongaria kandha ladies decorate their ears and noses with hoops and nose rings . The Dongaria ladies keep a little blade called pipli or Mila katri having a copper or metal handle in their hair bun. There are so many other worthy details of Dongaria people which need a mention, but here I am putting a full stop keeping in mind the constraints of a blog. Please go through my following articles if you want to know more about so many other intriguing details……
Dr. Manoj Mishra