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Body art among the tribal women of Kandhamal: An unrevealed truth

Body art or tattoo is one of the important arts prevalent among Indian tribes since long time. There are number of believes associated with this art. Some tribe belief that having tattoo ontheir body is a sign of strength and courage because of the pain they endure during carving process.

Many tribal women get their faces and other parts of the body carved only to get an experience of pain associated with motherhood. Some others believe that it as a precaution which keeps witches and magicians away from them. It was also carved as a mark of identification by some tribes to distinguish themselves from other tribes.

But this art has now become a fashion statement. Now it is being practiced even by non-tribal throughout the globe. Body art or tattoo carving has a different story in Kandhamal district of Odisha. Kandhamal or the land of Kandha people is a tribal dominated district of the state.

The district is mainly inhabited by Kandha tribe. Kutia is one of the types of Kandha found largely in the district.The KutiaKandhatribal women of this region have been getting tattoos carved on their body since long. It is believed that earlier tribal women of this region were sexually abused by upper caste, zamindars and British officers. To save themselves from these human form of demons they started disfiguring their faces and other parts of the body.

Though such types of abuse are not seen these days still the tattoo carving is still prevalent among them. It has become an ancient tradition among tribal communities. Now it is also accepted as a fashion statement by many young girls.

(The views expressed are the writer’s own)

PrakashBhue is pursuing his Ph.D in Sociology at Sambalpur University, Odisha. He is a Research Fellow under Odisha University Research and Innovation Incentivisation Plan (OURIIP).  His articles have been published in various national and international journals. You can reach him at: [email protected]

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