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An (Ab)Original Way

The highlands of the Bastar region in the southern part of central Indian Province of Chhattisgarh are the home of three important Gond tribes: the Muria, the Bisonhorn Maria, and the Hill Maria. As a section of these aboriginal people used to wear horns of bison on their heads as headgear, members of this community are popularly known as Bisonhorn Maria. Now, they use horns of other animal, instead of bison, mainly as a part of their culture. This community believes that physical relationship between a man and a woman is necessary before marriage. If each one of them is unhappy with that relationship, they do not get married.

The Bisonhorn Maria believes that premarital physical relationship can only keep the nuptial bond intact. Hence, marriage takes place, if both the partners are happy with their physical relationship. If the husband or the wife likes another woman or man, respectively, after their marriage; they can sever their relationship sans much hindrance. They also believe that there is no point in maintaining a relationship, if there is no love. In fact, the Bisonhorn Maria are famous for their youth dormitories, or Ghotul, in the framework of which the unmarried of both genders lead a highly organised social life; as they receive training in civic duties, as well as in sexual practices.

Bisonhorn Maria women

When a woman gets widowed, it is often seen that the in-laws look for a husband for her, and also arrange her wedding with a suitable man. Interestingly, one of the important events of the marriage ceremony is a dance programme, as participants take part in the event while keeping the upper portion of their bodies uncovered.

The 1938 publication The Maria Gonds of Bastar by colonial British Bureaucrat Sir Wilfred Grigson has attained the status of a classic of Indian tribal studies, as the author analysed different aspects of Gond lives in this book. Sir Wilfred’s book has been in the curriculum of world’s renowned universities for a long time. According to the author, the Gonds strictly follow their rules. Interestingly, there is no cultural uniformity among the Gond, as the religion of all Gond peoples centres in the cult of clan and village deities, together with ancestor worship.


The most developed among them are the Raj Gonds, who had an elaborate feudal order in the past. Local rulers, linked by ties of blood or marriage to a Royal house, used to exercise authority over groups of villages. The Raj Gonds still exist outside the Hindu caste system, neither acknowledging the superiority of Brahmins, nor feeling bound by Hindu rules, such as the ban on killing cows, et al, among others.

There are about two million of Gond people (now officially designated as Scheduled Tribes), who live in the Indian Provinces of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Odisha, apart from Chhattisgarh. Although the majority of Gond tribe speak various, mutually unintelligible dialects of Gondi, an unwritten language of the Dravidian family; some can also converse in Hindi, Marathi or Telugu.

As information about this community spreads, Chhattisgarh has witnessed an increase in the number of tourists. Experts have warned that the increasing urbanisation and influx of foreign tourists may have a negative impact on the minds of these communities.

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