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Lockdown Festival: Bonda tribe celebrate with a twist

Rajesh Pattnayak

Now the whole world is under lockdown to fight against Corona virus. People have locked themselves to save their life from the disease. But we might not hear lockdown for celebration. Yes, the PVTG ‘Bonda’ residing in Malkangiriof Odishadeclare lockdown during the time of their festival celebration. This is not now; they are following this from aeons.

The Bondas celebrate their most important festival Chait Parab (Giagige) in the month of March and April. In some villages this festival is celebrated for two weeks and in some villages for three weeks. During this festival time they eat mango ceremonially which is treated as the most significance event of the festival. They first offer the Sindhi Koli (plum) and after few days Amba (mango) ritually to the supreme power and then they eat. Mangoes and Plumsare generally collected by Bonda women from forest and men who go hunting for animals. After offering them to the deities and spirits then they consume it at community level. In daytime all males of the village go to the forest for hunting animal, locally called benta, they use bow and arrows for hunting animals. During this festival they declare lockdown of their village means there is restriction to go out or allow strangers and outsiders into the village throughout festival days. If someone accidentally comes near the village then the women of the village make them aware about the lockdown.  If someone enters the village violating rule, then he/she has to pay fine for that.

During this festival, women do not cook in oil,they do not use soap, or do not cook food in daytime (cook early in the morning and in evening). ManguliSisa of Dumuripada and Nakula Kirsaniof Badapada said if they violet these norms of lockdown and cook of oil etc. then male community members may be attacked by wild animals in the forest during benta. Also, it will hamper the wealth and health of the people added BudaiMuduli of Padeiguda. After this festival, they sow seeds under the shift cultivation method.

The Bondas have faith in supernatural powers Mahaprabhu or (Mahapuru)  who is regarded as almighty and holds all the power of creation and destruction. They have a belief that social system, health and wealth and all that they practice are gifts of Mahapuru. They also have belief in Sun and Moon. Bonda celebrate many feasts and festivals which are associated with agricultural cycle or socio-cultural life of the people. Patakhanda Puja, Pus Parab (Jhati Parab), Chait Parab, Bihan Puja are some festivals they celebrate with joy.

Bonda tribe is one of the oldest and most primitive in mainland India, who liveon the isolated hill regions of Khairput block of Malkangiri district on Odisha’s southern edge. There are 32 villages covering around 130 square kilometres. The Bonda are Particularly Vulnerable Tribe Group (PVTG). Their language belongs to the Munda subgroup of the Austro-Asiatic language family.  Bondo society is broadly divided into two parentage or Bansha called Hantal (COBRA) and Khillo (TIGER). In local language NAG (Cobra) and BAG (Tiger). Nag is the most numerous and is considered superior to the Bag. 

The rate of population growth among Bondas is very slow compared to other communities. In 1941 Census their number was 2565, in 1961 it was 4667, it grew in 1971 Census to 5338, in 1981 to 5895 but declined again and was recorded in 1991 Census as 5129 of which males were 2,414 and females were 2,715. In 2001 Census it grew again to 6001.Census 2011 says there are just 12,000 upper and lower Bonda populations, registering a growth rate of 30.42% between 2001 to 2011. However, only 7.65-percent growth rate among the upper Bondas who remain on their ancestral lands. In 1961 census sex ratio was 921 women in 1000 men but it is good that female population is gradually exceeded the number of males as per 2011 census.

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