Know the indigenous culture and reproductive health practices of Gadaba Tribe (Part 1)
Odisha has a great variety of tribal population. Out of sixty-two tribal communities, Gadaba community is one of the prominent tribes. It is one of the colourful tribes of Odisha, classified as speakers of Mundari of Kolarian language. They are seen in adjoining mountainous tracts of Andhra, Orissa, Chhatisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. In Odisha, they are distributed mostly in eight different districts, Koraput, Malkangiri, Nabarangapur, Kalahandi, Rayagada, Khordha, Sundergarh, and Nayagarh. However, Koraput has the highest Gadaba population in the district. They are mostly found in the southernmost part of the state in the district of Koraput. In Koraput district they are found in large concentration in Blocks of Lamtaput, Semiliguda, Potangi, Nandapur and Baipariguda. Mother and Child health issues are of great concern among the tribal community.
The need for such concern arises due to customs and traditions that are related to sexual behavior and child bearing. Studies have revealed that there are practices among some tribes of limiting the consumption of food from sixth month of pregnancy with an intention of making the process of delivery easy. Anemia is rampant among women (especially among the pregnant women) which causes not only slowness in the development of the foetus but also causes mental retardedness-thus raising morbidity and mortality among tribal women and children. Reproductive health of the Gadaba tribe has to be understood in relation to the Social, Cultural & Economic system; Geophysical environment, Religious Beliefs and Practices of the people.
Anabguni(puberty) marks the beginning of the sexual maturity of a girl in Gadaba community. When a girl gets her menarche she informs the elder woman or her mother. In comparison to the other communities living nearby the girls do not enjoy elaborate ritual in this regard. The first day is considered to be very important as they believe that this decides the fate ofher further sexual and marital life. According to their belief, if it occurs on a good day the Jalkamuni (the river demon) cannot have any negative impact on her sexual and married life. Hence, after the girl informs about her Anabguni she is usually kept in a separate room and some ritual are carried out. First of all the older woman asks the girl to touch some rice and then they go to the disari (traditional healer). Disari calculates and predicts about the fertility of the woman depending upon its occurrence on the specific day. Accordingly the small and big ritual is carried out to neutralize the bad impact. Then the eldest woman or the mother takes the girl to the nearby river to carry on further rituals. After having bath the girl wears a new cloth and worships the Jalkamuni. Afterward a sacrifice is made which differs with the dimension of ill effect as envisaged by the disari. When impact is less egg is sacrificed if the impact is more than chicken is sacrificed.There is a believe behind the worship of the Jalkamuni that since the padis washed in the river water, by not offering any sacrifice the river God i.e.Jalkamuni may become angry and will cause harm while crossing the river.The offerings therefore shield them from any problem in future.
Marriage is always deemed as a sacred institution. Among Gadabas once a girl attain menarche, they consider her to be of marriageable age is. Marriage is very simple in Gadaba society. The mean age of marriage varies between15-17 years. Usually the concept of JalaDabu(Bride Price) prevails in their community. At the time of marriage the groom has to pay certain amount of money to the bride’s family. The amount of bride price is decided by the head of bride’s family and the groom pays it as a customary rule. Crosscousin marriage is privilege among the Gadaba tribe. This is a common practice to marry their maternal uncle’s daughter and paternal aunt’s son.This practice might have an effect on their reproductive health by increasing the chance of hereditary disease. They follow exogamous form of marriage and are not allowed to marry within the same clan (Gotra). They follow various forms of marriage like marriage by Ludiringnaie (negotiation), marriage by Ann Ringnaie(capture), Marriage by LudkiNangien(service)etc. Gadabas have nuclear family setup. After marriage a married Gadabas on gets separated from his parents and establishes in a separate nuclear family. The couple starts cohabiting after the marriage. Premarital cohabitation is generally avoided; in case of premarital conception girl is permitted to marry her lover. Cohabitation is prohibited during menstruation and couple can cohabit after the menstruation period is over.During the course of pregnancy, usually cohabitation is avoided due to protect the fetus from any harm.
(The views expressed are the writer’s own.)
Dr Sili Rout is Assistant Professor & Head Department of Anthropology, Government College (Autonomous), Bhawanipatna, Kalahandi district, Odisha