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Delving into the Richness of Tribes around Bandhavgarh National Park

Bandhavgarh National Park is known to be surrounded by indigenous tribes who have been instrumental in protecting the forest for generations. Gonds and Baigas are the two popular tribal communities living near the Bandhavgarh National Park. These two communities have long had a strong presence in Central India and have lived interdependently with the forest for ages. They’ve shared space and resources with the big cats and other species of the woods.

When these forest regions were declared protected areas, the villagers were relocated. Many have joined the Forest Department as park guides or work at lodges and resorts around the park. Particularly during the tourist season, the group performs at the lodges. A thorough understanding of the relationship between these tribes and nature gives us insights into using natural resources best and living in harmony with them. Scroll down to learn more about the tribal communities near Bandhavgarh National Park.

Famous Tribes of Bandhavgarh National Park

Gond Community

Exploring beyond various gates at Bandhavgarh National Park, you will see the jungles giving way to rice and brown mud homes. Gonds are one such community you can see there. Their homes usually have red roofs made of baked-earthen tiles. Their rice fields have thick hedges set to keep the wild animals outside.

The Gonds, with a population of around 4 million, are one of the largest tribal groups in the world. They are also the largest Adivasi community in India, and their origins can be traced back to pre-Aryan times. The word “Gond” is derived from Kond, meaning green mountains. So, though they call themselves Koi or Koiture, other communities called them Gond because they lived among the green mountains.

Some Interesting Facts About Gond Community

Each family from the community grows enough to sustain themselves. If you visit the place, you can easily see neem, mango, various vegetables, pulses, and other produce. An interesting observation is that just before the harvest, the fields are punctuated with elevated “bamboo-thatch machans.” Villages sleep in these machines until harvest to protect their fields from wild animals.

The famous “Mahua” tree, widespread across Central India, is used by the Gonds in their daily household. They extract oil from their seeds, the leaves of the plants are used as plates, and their fruits are directly cooked and consumed. When the flowers bloom in February, they are fermented to make local liquor, which both men and women of the community savor.

Gond Community Art

They are well known for their beautiful artwork, which has helped them provide a decent income source. In addition, compared to other communities nearby, they usually have better facilities, starting with electricity. Gond art, which started on the mud walls of their houses, expanded to different forms of visual art in the early 1990s. You might have heard of the legendary artist Jangarh Singh Shyam, who comes from the Gond community. In fact, popular Gond artists have exhibited their artworks all across the world. If you are traveling to Bandhavgarh National Park, you will see Gond art in many safari lodges and resorts. 

Gond Community Tradition

The Gond people still follow the age-old traditions and rituals of nature worship. Gonds have terms for the Sun, Moon, Stars, the Milky Way, and the constellations. Interestingly, these ideas are also the basis of their calendar-related time and date-keeping. Historically, the Gonds represent a heterogeneous group inhabiting the dense forests of the Vindhyas, Satpura, and Mandla in the Narmada region in Madhya Pradesh. The central province was Gondwana, where Gonds were the prime residents. They had four separate Gond kingdoms under their control. Over time, they lost control over them, and their land slowly declined.

 Baiga Community

The other important community surrounding the Bandhavgarh National Park is the Baiga. The community has traditionally lived a semi-nomadic life and indulged in slash-and-burn cultivation. The Baiga (meaning sorcerers) is considered the community that “holds the wisdom” and is also found in Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, and Uttar Pradesh, apart from Madhya Pradesh. The Baigas also come under Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs). (PVTGs are among the most vulnerable tribal groups, and the government created the PVTG list to enable improvement in conditions on a priority basis.)

Currently, the community mainly depends on minor forest products for its livelihood—bamboo is one of the primary resources. In addition, they cultivate and store their own rice and many primitive cultivates. Like Gonds, Baigas also rely upon the Mahua for brewing toddy. In fact, the consumption of Mahua toddy has become a part of their daily routine, a way to escape the menial troubles of their day-to-day lives.

Some Interesting Facts about the Baigas Community

Baiga dance form is equally rich, with their catch songs dedicated to monsoons and harvest. The performers dress up in intricate costumes and headgear accompanied by grass braids, peacock feathers, shafts in their hair, and metallic anklets on their feet. The men are generally seen to play drums called “Mandar” slung around their necks, and the women also play a wooden instrument called “Thiski” that has knobs and produces a clapping sound.

Baigas Community Art

Tattooing is an integral part of the Baiga art and culture – every age and body part of a Baiga is reserved for an occasion. The women specifically are seen to wear tattoos across their bodies, including their faces. Amongst other reasons, the tattoos indicate the tribe they belong to and are also believed to bring luck to their community. In fact, through different phases of their life, Baiga women get tattoos representing their integration into the Baiga way of life.

Baigas Community Tradition

The women in the community wore a silver neckpiece called “Sutia,” whereas older men and women wore a heavy alloy anklet. No younger men and women wore this. Overall, anyone visiting these regions will be impressed by the richness of their costumes, jewelry, and wide range of musical instruments. Yet, despite the same, the community’s knowledge of their traditional songs and dance forms has begun slowly fading with the older generations. Hence, various efforts by the forest department have been made to preserve their history and culture.

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Significance of Tribal Tourism 

In recent years, tribal tourism in India has got major attention given the rich cultural heritage the communities possess, with the knowledge of medicinal and Ayurveda plants that are not available anywhere else. The tribal tours in India, particularly around the rich regions of Bandhavgarh, are more refreshing and energizing. The tour takes you from the hustle and bustle of the city to a calm and peaceful place where people are used to simple living as their ancestors did. The fragments of the Indian civilization, which is one of the oldest in the world, are still safely kept and cherished by the indigenous groups: their traditions, customs, rituals, etc., thus remain a major attraction for tourists.

Also, given the rich culture and tradition these tribes hold, the state’s cultural department is setting up a Tribal Art Gallery in the Tala area (the oldest safari zone of Bandhavgarh). The gallery will be designed to exhibit the culture and life of the tribes in Madhya Pradesh. It will also help in local employment as 30 tribal youth will get hired.

Tribal tourism is a form of travel in which the tribes allow outsiders to visit and temporarily stay with them to experience their lifestyle. In return, tribal tourism employs the tribal population of the region. It also paves the way for development work to reach the place sooner to add to its overall advancement. Tribal tourism also enables the authorities to save and restore the region’s culture for the ages to come.

Conclusion

So, to get a taste of this indigenous life, you must visit Bandhavgarh National Park. You will experience all the elements, including biodiversity, forts, tribal populations, villages, art forms, and so much more. Besides having a high chance of sighting tigers, the park provides this fantastic option of seeing and understanding the lifestyle of the Baiga and Gond communities, whose lives are an example of living in perfect harmony with nature.

Contact the Indian Visit by filling out the inquiry form to get all the details for a fantastic trip to the Bandhavgarh National Park. Our team provides packages that include a variety of activity-based tours for both individual and group tourists, which gives them a great deal of efficiency in offering cultural interactions and a range of insider experiences that add to an extraordinary experience.

Also, read the following articles on Bandhavgarh National Park:

Best Things to do in Bandhavgarh National Park
Flora and Fauna of Bandhavgarh National Park
Safari in Bandhavgarh National Park

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