Gondi People
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Gondi People

Gondi people
Women in adivasi village, Umaria district, India.jpg
Gondi women in Umaria district
Total population
c. 13 million[1]
Regions with significant populations
Madhya Pradesh5,093,124[1]
Uttar Pradesh569,035[1]
Andhra Pradesh (undivided)304,537[1]
West Bengal13,535[1]
Gondi o Regional languages
Hinduism (as mentioned in the 2011 census)[2]
Related ethnic groups
Dravidian people o Muria people o Madia Gond

The Gondi (G?ndi) or Gond or Koitur[3] are an Indian ethnic group. They speak the Gondi language which is a Dravidian language. They are one of the largest tribal groups in India.[4] They are spread over the states of Madhya Pradesh, eastern Maharashtra (Vidarbha),[5]Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Odisha. They are listed as a Scheduled Tribe for the purpose of India's system of positive discrimination.[6] They are an Adivasi group (indigenous people) of India[7]

The Gond are also known as the Raj Gond. The term was widely used in the 1950s, but has now become almost obsolete, probably because of the political eclipse of the Gond Rajas.[8][page needed] The Gondi language is closely related to Telugu. The 2011 Census of India recorded about 2.98 million Gondi speakers, concentrated in southeastern Madhya Pradesh, eastern Maharashtra, southern Chhattisgarh and northern Telangana. Most Gonds, however, speak the broader languages of the region they live in.[9]

According to the 1971 census, their population was 5.01 million. By the 1991 census, this had increased to 9.3 million[8][page needed] and by the 2001 census the figure was nearly 11 million. For the past few decades they have been witnesses to the Naxalite-Maoist insurgency in the central part of India.[10] Gondi people, at the behest of the Chhattisgarh government, formed the Salwa Judum, an armed militant group to fight the Naxalite insurgency.[11]


A wood engraving depicting the Gonds

The origins of the Gonds are still in debate. Some have claimed that the Gonds were a collection of disparate tribes that adopted a proto-Gondi language as a mother tongue from a class of rulers, originally speaking various pre-Dravidian languages.[12] Genetic evidence notes extensive gene flow between the Gonds and Munda peoples to the east, but rules out a common origin, instead noting the Gonds and Munda peoples have distinct origins.[13]

The first historical references from the Gonds comes from Muslim writers in the 14th century. Scholars believe that Gonds ruled in Gondwana, a region extending from what is now eastern Madhya Pradesh to western Odisha and from northern Andhra Pradesh to the southeastern corner of Uttar Pradesh, between the 13th and 19th centuries AD.

The first kingdom of the Gonds was that of Chanda, founded in 1200. Next was the kingdom of Garha-Mandla, whose founder, Jadurai, deposed the previous Kalchuri rulers in the early 14th century. Afterwards the kingdoms of Kherla and Deogarh were founded. Mandla is particularly well-known for their warrior-queen Rani Durgavati, who fought against Akbar until her death in 1564. The kingdom of Chanda developed extensive irrigation and the first defined revenue system of the Gond kingdoms. These kingdoms were briefly conquered by the Mughals, but eventually were deposed and the Gond Rajas were simply under Mughal hegemony.[12] The Maratha power swept into Gondwana in the 1740s. The Marathas overthrew the Gond Rajas (princes) and seized most of their territory, while some Gond zamindaris (estates) survived until the advent of Indian independence.[14]


Pictographic depiction of a Gond lady.

Many astronomical ideas were known to ancient Gonds.[15] Gonds had their own local terms for the Sun, Moon, Milky Way, and constellations. Most of these ideas were basis for their time-keeping and calendrical activities.[a]


Most Gonds follow their folk religion, which retains the animist beliefs of nature, and ancestor worship.[17][18][19] Some Gonds also practice Sarnaism.[20] Pola, a cattle festival, Phag, and Dassera are some of their major festivals.[18]

In Gond folk religion, adherents worship a high god known as Baradeo, whose alternate names are Bhagavan, Sri Shambu Mahadeo, and Persa Pen. Baradeo oversees activities of lesser gods such as clan and village deities, as well as ancestors.[18] Baradeo is respected but he does not receive fervent devotion, which is shown only to clan and village deities, ancestors, and totems.[21] These village deities include Aki Pen, the village guardian and the anwal, the village mother goddess, a similar paradigm to folk traditions of other Dravidian peoples. Before any festival occurs these two deities are worshipped. Each clan has their own persa pen, meaning "great god." This god is benign at heart, but can display violent tendencies. However these tendencies are reduced when a pardhan, a bard, plays a fiddle.[22]

Like village deity worship in South India, Gonds believe their small deities have the capability of possession. The person being possessed by the spirit ceases to have any responsibility for their actions. Gonds also believe disease is caused by spirit possession.[23]

Many Gonds worship Ravana, whom they consider to be the tenth dharmaguru of their people and the ancestor-king of one of their four lineages. They also worship Kupar Lingo as their supreme deity and their ancestor before Ravana. On Dussehra, the Gondi inhabitants of Paraswadi carry an image of Ravana riding an elephant in a procession to worship him, and protest the burning of Ravana's effigies.[b][24][25]

The Gonds venerate plants and animals, especially the Saja tree. In some places, death is associated with a saja tree. Stones representing souls of the dead, or hanals, are kept in a hanalkot at the foot of a saja tree. When there is no specific shrine for the village mother goddess, the saja tree is her abode. In addition, the Penkara, or holy circle of the clan, is under this tree. Seoni gonds believe Baradeo lives in a saja tree. The Mahua plant, whose flowers produce a liquor considered purifying, is also revered. In many Gond weddings, the bride and groom circle a post made out of a Mahua tree during the ceremony, and the Gonds of Adilabad perform the first ceremonies of the year when Mahua flowers bloom.[23]

Gonds also believe in rain gods. One early British anthropologist noted how during the pre-Monsoon hunting ceremony, the amount of blood spilled by the animals was indicative of the amount of rain to follow.[23]

Their typical reaction to death has been described as one of anger, because Gonds believe death is caused magically, by demons.[26] Gonds usually bury their dead, but their kings usually cremated as per Vedic practices. Increasing Brahminical influence has meant that cremation has become more and more common. With a person were buried their worldly possessions. According to Gond mythology, the dead have an interest in the future of the living, and so the dead are placated so that the living remain prosperous.[]


They are a designated Scheduled Tribe in Andhra Pradesh, parts of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Telangana, Odisha, and West Bengal.[27]

The Government of Uttar Pradesh had classified the Gondi people as a Scheduled Caste but by 2007, they were one of several groups that the Uttar Pradesh government had redesignated as Scheduled Tribes.[28] As of 2017, that tribal designation applies only to certain districts, not the entire state.[29] The 2011 Census of India for Uttar Pradesh showed the Scheduled Caste Gond population as 21,992.[30]

See also


  1. ^ The Banjaras and Kolams are also known to have knowledge of astronomy.[16]
  2. ^ The Gonds' worship of Ravana is also a vehicle for resisting pressure from Christian missionaries and right-wing Hindu groups, and to preserve the distinct Gond culture.



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "A-11 Individual Scheduled Tribe Primary Census Abstract Data and its Appendix". Census of India 2011. Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India. Retrieved 2017.
  2. ^ "ST-14 Scheduled Tribe Population By Religious Community". www.censusindia.gov.in. Census of India Website : Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India. Retrieved 2017.
  3. ^ Poyam, Akash (9 August 2019). "The Koitur community is reclaiming their linguistic identity despite the state's historical biases". The Caravan. Retrieved 2019.
  4. ^ "Gonds". everyculture.
  5. ^ Deogaonkar, Shashishekhar Gopal (23 November 2017). The Gonds of Vidarbha. Concept Publishing Company. ISBN 9788180694745.
  6. ^ "List of notified Scheduled Tribes" (PDF). Census India. Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 November 2013. Retrieved 2013.
  7. ^ Srinivasa Rao, V. (2018). Adivasi Rights and Exclusion in India. ISBN 9780429792861.
  8. ^ a b Verma, R. C. (2002). Indian Tribes Through the Ages. Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. ISBN 978-8-12300-328-3.
  9. ^ "Census of India 2011" (PDF).
  10. ^ Rashid, Omar (29 August 2015). "Bringing rural realities on stage in urban India". The Hindu – via www.thehindu.com.
  11. ^ "Salwa Judum is the only effective weapon against Maoist terror at present". Hindustan Times. 6 June 2017.
  12. ^ a b Beine, David Karl (1994). A sociolinguistic survey of the Gondi-speaking communities of Central India. OCLC 896425593.
  13. ^ Chaubey, Gyaneshwer; Tamang, Rakesh; Pennarun, Erwan; Dubey, Pavan; Rai, Niraj; Upadhyay, Rakesh Kumar; Meena, Rajendra Prasad; Patel, Jayanti R; van Driem, George; Thangaraj, Kumarasamy; Metspalu, Mait (12 October 2017). "Erratum: Reconstructing the population history of the largest tribe of India: the Dravidian speaking Gond". European Journal of Human Genetics. 25 (11): 1291. doi:10.1038/ejhg.2017.46. ISSN 1018-4813. PMID 29023439. S2CID 7755962.
  14. ^ Bates, Crispin (1995). "Race, Caste and Tribe in Central India: the early origins of Indian ...anthropomorphize". In Robb, Peter (ed.). The Concept of Race in South Asia. Delhi: Oxford University Press. p. 233. ISBN 978-0-19-563767-0. Retrieved 2011.
  15. ^ Vahia, M.N.; Halkare, Ganesh (2013). "Aspects of Gond astronomy". Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage. 16 (1): 29-44. arXiv:1306.2416. Bibcode:2013JAHH...16...29V.
  16. ^ Vahia, M.N.; Halkare, Ganesh; Menon, Kishore; Calamur, Harini (2014). "The astronomy of two Indian tribes: the Banjaras and the Kolams". Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage. 17 (1): 65-84. arXiv:1406.3044. Bibcode:2014JAHH...17...65V.
  17. ^ Murkute, S. R. (1984). Socio-Cultural Study of Scheduled Tribes. p. 155 – via Google Books.
  18. ^ a b c "Gonds". Everyday Cultures.
  19. ^ Mehta, B.H. (1990). Gonds of the Central Indian Highlands. p. 118. ISBN 9788170222620. Retrieved 2019.
  20. ^ Winston, Robert, ed. (2004). Human: The definitive visual guide. New York, NY: Dorling Kindersley. p. 438. ISBN 0-7566-0520-2.
  21. ^ "Gond (people)". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2018.
  22. ^ Bhagvat, Durga (1968). "Tribal Gods and Festivals in Central India". Asian Folklore Studies. 27 (2): 27-106. doi:10.2307/1177671. ISSN 0385-2342. JSTOR 1177671.
  23. ^ a b c Mehta, B. H. (Behram H.), 1906-1981. Gonds of the central Indian highlands : a study of the dynamics of Gond society. New Delhi. ISBN 978-81-7022-850-9. OCLC 971540084.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  24. ^ "Asuras? No, just Indians". Outlook India. 291677.
  25. ^ "Celebrating Ravan". The Hindu. article 7799972.
  26. ^ Santrock, John W. (2017). Life-Span Development (16th International ed.). McGraw Hill. p. 598. ISBN 9781259254833.
  27. ^ "List of notified Scheduled Tribes" (PDF). Census India. Retrieved 2013.
  28. ^ Darpan, Pratiyogita (July 2007). "State At A Glance - Uttar Pradesh". Pratiyogita Darpan. 2 (13): 81.
  29. ^ "State wise Scheduled Tribes -- Uttar Pradesh" (PDF). Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 November 2016. Retrieved 2017.
  30. ^ "A-10 Individual Scheduled Caste Primary Census Abstract Data and its Appendix - Uttar Pradesh". Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India. Retrieved 2017.

Further reading

  • The tribal art of middle India - Verrier Elwin - 1951
  • Savaging the Civilized, Verrier Elwin, His Tribals & India - Ramachandra Guha - The University of Chicago Press - 1999
  • Beine, David m. 1994. A sociolinguistic survey of the Gondi-speaking communities of central India. M.A. thesis. San Diego State University. 516 p.
  • Banerjee, B. G., and Kiran Bhatia. Tribal Demography of Gonds. Delhi: Gian Pub. House, 1988. ISBN 81-212-0237-X
  • Elwin, Verrier. Phulmat of the Hills; A Tale of the Gonds. London: J. Murray, 1937.
  • Fürer-Haimendorf, Christoph von, and Elizabeth von Fürer-Haimendorf. The Gonds of Andhra Pradesh: Tradition and Change in an Indian Tribe. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1979. ISBN 0-04-301090-3
  • Kaufmann, Walter. Songs and Drummings of the Hill Maria, Jhoria Muria and Bastar Muria Gonds. And, the Musical Instruments of the Marias and Murias. 1950.
  • Mehta, B. H. Gonds of the Central Indian Highlands: A Study of the Dynamics of Gond Society. New Delhi: Concept, 1984.
  • Museum of Mankind, Shelagh Weir, and Hira Lal. The Gonds of Central India; The Material Culture of the Gonds of Chhindwara District, Madhya Pradesh. London: British Museum, 1973. ISBN 0-7141-1537-1
  • Pagdi, Setumadhava Rao. Among the Gonds of Adilabad. Bombay: Popular Book Depot, 1952.
  • Pingle, Urmila, and Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf. Gonds and Their Neighbours: A Study in Genetic Diversity. Lucknow, India: Ethnographic & Folk Culture Society, 1987.
  • Sharma, Anima. Tribe in Transition: A Study of Thakur Gonds. India: Mittal Publications, 2005. ISBN 81-7099-989-8
  • Singh, Indrajit. The Gondwana and the Gonds. Lucknow, India: The Universal publishers, 1944.
  • Kangalee, Motiram Chhabiram, Paree Kupar Lingo Gondi Punemi Darshan (In Hindi),Publisher ujjvala society Nagpur,2011
  • Vatti, Jalpati,Mava sagaa padeeng, in Gondwana sagaa Patrika published (In Hindi) in October 1986

External links

This article includes material from the 1995 public domain Library of Congress Country Study on India.

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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