India is a country with rich culture and fascinating traditions arising from these cultures. While the country is turning a modernist by leaps and bounds, the geographical diversity paints a fascinating picture for all the tourists to see and explore. India accounts roughly for 68% of the world’s tribal population. The tribal belt as it is called, randomly spread over western and middle India.
Odisha is one state with one of the highest share of tribes of India. At present, there are 62 tribes sustaining their livelihood in Odisha with 13 of them belonging to the primitive tribal group. The tribes are a distinct flavour to Odisha with their rich history and their love for art, dance, music and myths; some of them even finding mention in mythological legends like Ramayana and Mahabharata.
The tribes here account for 24% of the total population of the state and each one of them have a different tale to them. Mostly happy with their farming, hunting and artistry skills, these tribes follow the theory of work hard but celebrate harder and are pretty rigorous about preserving their heritage.
A lot of art is produced by these tribes which are sold on to nearby villages including pottery, metal work, stone sculptures, bamboo work, articles and jewelry from golden grass, wooden carvings, paintings, handloom and horn craft among others.
Here is a list of some of the noted tribes in Odisha:
The Kisans, mainly residing in Sambalpur, Keonjhar and Sundergarh area of Odisha, are predominantly farmers and get involved in hunting, fishing and using simple means of agriculture to sustain themselves. Due to the limited produce and restricting agriculture methods they use, many tribals are now resorting to working in factory and mines.
Speaking fluently in their Kisan dialect and Oriya, this tribe is every so popular for their sparkling dance and music heritage. There is almost no tradition for which the tribals don’t celebrate with music and dance routine.
Another one on the cards is Kondh tribe, also called as Kui. The tribe is one of the largest tribe communities in Odisha and once was notorious for their human sacrifice practices to please their goddess. They are highly skilled in their agricultural skills as well as hunting with proficiency using bows and axes. Most of this tribe can be found in Bolangir, Koraput, Kandhmal and Ganjam districts.
Another one, called Gadaba, traces its origins in legends like Ramayana and is also referred as Guthans. Mainly loaders and farmers, the tribe still works mainly as carriers in hilly areas. They are mostly found in Kalahandi, Sundergarh, Malkangiri, Koraput, Boudh Phulbani, Gangam and Sampalpur districts.
Juang tribe, who are also known as leaf-wearers are prominently the jungle tribe of Odisha. Located basically in Dhenkanal and Keonjhar, this tribe is pretty different from the rest of them be it in terms of culture or the traditional history. Highly skilled in basket making, the tribe trades its weaving articles with the nearby villages in return of food, money and other articles. This has resulted in tribe culture getting heavily influenced by the Hindu traditions of the nearby villages.