Encounter with the British and the Coming of Kandhas to Balangir

Dr. Biyotkesh Tripathy


Dhaneswara Bhoi

[M 50. Tribe: Kandha (Kondh). Village: Karledhua (Kareldhua), Saintala, Balangir. Date: Oct 26, 1999. Interviewer: E. Raja Rao. Cassette No. 155, Side A & B, No. 156, Side A. O. Tr. Pp.: 13,491-504 & 13,504-543; & 13,544-545. F.N.: Blngr, p. 2. Transcriber: F. B. Puthal. Status: As told (minor editing; editorial explanations & additions in brackets). Type: Legend-history-lore.]

Translator: Biyotkesh Tripathy

    I shall tell you the story about how the Kandhas came into Balangir.

    In ancient times, the Kandhas did not inhabit this Kareldhua where we are living now, nor in the other Kandha parganas [territories] of this district of Balangir. Elderly Kandhas of our tribe, old people, have told us that we did not live in this region. We came from the territories of Boud and Phulbani. We asked them [the elderly people] to tell us the stories of the Kandhas. Then they told us the story of how we came from Boud to this place.

    The king of Boud was a Kandha king. And the Kandhas were respecting him as their own king and were giving him due respect and paying him obeisance. In the time of the Kandha kings, the gods and goddesses used to appear by entering the bodies of the "dehuries," those who performed the pujas, after they were duly invoked. That goddess the Kandhas worshipped in Kandhamal [Kandha Hills] region. She was the guardian goddess of the kings. And the king—the Kandha king—had good relations with the leading Kandha. Gradually, the British government came. The White people came to Orissa. The Sipoy Mutiny took place in Khurda. [The British} took over the kingdom of Ranapur. Khadapada kingdom was taken over. They conquered Raigargh. Then only one "gadajata" [princely state] remained in the deep forest, after they had conquered Daspalla. That was Boud.

    From Daspalla there was an ordinary path leading to Boud. In that path people came and went from Boud. The gradually the Kandha kings established good relationships with the other princely states [ruled by the Khyatriyas]. They also started establishing marital relationships with them. They argued, ‘We Kandhas are Khyatriyas [people of the warrior class]. Why should we, then, not establish relationships with of other people of the Khyatriya class?’ In this way, the leading Kandhas also were considered as belonging to the Khyatriya class. They themselves accepted the fact that their king was a Khyatriya. Therefore, they should not hesitate to establish relationship with the Khyatriyas of the other territories. In this way they permitted such marriages to take place. They permitted the kings to do so with other princely families.

    When they consulted about such relationships another matter came up. They said, ‘Of the gadajatas Nayagarh, Daspalla, Ranapur, and Khurda have been occupied by the British. And this Boud will also be taken over. What should we do? You yourself say that the Whites eat cow’s meat, but we consider cow as a mother. The Whites eat cow’s meat. How can we permit them to occupy Boud?’

    This is what the king said to the leading Kandha people. And the leading people among the Kandhas—Banchhanidhi Kuanr, Ramachandra Mallik, Sibarama Mallik and Dhananjay Kuanr, five six people like this—told the king, ‘Okay, we shall not let the Whites enter our land. We shall not permit those cow-eating White people to enter this territory.’

    What should be done next? The king asked, ‘What should we do? These Whites, they are coming with gunpowder and guns. We cannot do anything to that. How shall we oppose them?’

    Then those Kandhas advised the king, ‘Do not worry. We are praying to our gods. When they materialize [by entering into a person] and show us the path we shall follow that.’

    Then the guardian goddess. When one comes from Boud to Phulbani, there are many hills on the way. In those hills there is a goddess. I cannot tell you the name of the goddess. I had never asked the name and they had always referred to her as Devi [goddess]. They assembled all the dehuris and priests before this goddess. According to tradition, the king provided a black sheep and a black castrated goat. With all these offerings they called the goddess. The goddess materialized in a human being and assured them—the dehuris and the priests—that Whites will not be permitted to enter. And how would they be prevented from entering? Hills and forests surround this gadajata of ours. In all the trees of these forests and hills we shall stay as bees. We shall stay as ten fifteen bees in every tree. When those British people come, we shall climb on them and bite them. This what the goddess said to the dehuries and priests, who accepted this verdict and told the king. Truly enough the very next day bees appeared on every tree. The gods and goddesses stayed as bees. When the Kandhas went that way they did not sting them, but when the outsiders came they stung them. They ran away from that area like they were hit with bullets from guns. They could not cross the border.

    Then, in course of time, the British came to the Boud area to conquer it. At that time the guardian goddess of Puruna Kataka was Bhirabi. She is [also] the guardian goddess of the Kandhas. Gradually, due to the cultural degeneration of the Kandhas and their wrong eating habits, the Chhatris and Malis took over the performance of the goddess’s rituals.

    The British came to occupy Boud by the road that came to Puruna Kataka through Chari Chhak. The hills near Puruna Kataka were full of jungles. When they were coming by the path in these jungles they were bitten. When they were bitten, they ran away helter-skelter to save their lives. They could not understand what was happening. [Subsequently] they tried to come to Boud many times. For years they tried hard. But they could not succeed.

    The king of Boud was a clever king. Even if one is a Kandha king, when one comes to power his farsightedness and line of thinking becomes different. He started thinking, ‘How long shall I stay like a prisoner in Boud, cooped up in my palace? I should be able to travel to other countries.’

    So, he hatched a plan. He called his advisors: Banchhanidhi Kuanr, then Rama Mallik, Dhananjay Pradhan and others. He called all of them as well as his friends and relatives and told them, ‘Friends, you tell the gods and goddesses to show me a way so that I can visit my relatives outside the kingdom.’

    They called out the dehuris and invoked the gods. The gods said, ‘All right then. I shall recede for ninety steps. The bees will recede. The king can go through that path.’

    The king must go through that corridor of ninety steps. He went to the Daspalla region, to the Ranapur region. On this side, he went to Ali and the other gadajata territories. And, taking this opportunity, the king went and surrendered [to the British]. He told them that he had cleared a corridor of ninety hands from Daspalla to Puruna Kataka. You can go that way. So the British entered the territory.

    The British marched in. They entered Boud. They came into Boud in hundreds. People got scared at the sight of the Whites. They also got scared of the guns and ammunitions. They also made a lot of noise, [firing their guns], and harassed the people to.

    They, then, said to the king, ‘Okay, now. Tells us why these are stinging us.’

    ‘This is heavenly power. Our gods and goddesses and our guardian goddess, of the Kandhas, they have done this.’

    ‘Is that right?’

    Then they said to the king, ‘You have surrendered to us. Do you want to go as a king or do you want us to arrest you?’

    ‘I want to stay as the king here,’ the king said.

    ‘All right. We shall authorize you to continue as the king. But tell us what you would do to those people who are devoted to your gods, through whom your god speaks. Tell us that.’

    ‘What will you do with them?’

    ‘We shall send them to Kalapani [the penal colony at Andaman]. Tell us their names and where they are.’

    ‘Okay, then,’ he said. ‘I shall call them here. And their names are: (i) Ramachandra Mallik; (ii) Banchhanidhi Kuanr; (iii) Dhananjay Pradhan. I shall call all of them here.’

    The called them. They were immediately arrested. Having arrested them, they sent them to Kalapani. The king remained as the ruler there.

    Then the British told him, ‘You order the Kandhas here to leave this territory.’

    What the king, then, was that he divested the Kandhas of all their property and ordered them to leave Boud within twenty-four hours. So they left the place with their children, gold and silver—gold and silver were not much in those days—and whatever money they had.

    Where will they go?

    They said, ‘You cannot go to the east, nor to the south or the north. You cross the river Mahanadi and go to the west. In the west is the Tel River. Cross that river and go to the west. That will satisfy us.’

    So, what the Kandhas did was, carrying their children in bullock carts or in basket carriers, they crossed the Tel River. Having come, they stayed on the other bank of the Tel River.

    When they stayed on the bank of river Tel, they said that they must build a monument here. All of them said this. What monument should they build? At this time there was a rain of gold at the place, Sonepur. The Kandhas were there on the banks of Tel River when this rain of gold came. Many people got gold from this rain of gold. And on the triangular delta formed by river Mahanadi there, they established Subarna Meru. They installed Mahadeva [Shiva] there and offered prayer and service.

But a discussion arose among them. [Some said], ‘We worship the materialized god, the spirit of god. [Those who] offer cocks as their great sacrifice.’

    [Some others argued], ‘No, no, Shiva is our son-in-law; Parbati is our daughter. She is Parbati because she is born in the "parbata’ [mountain, which is our land.] And Shiva is our son-in-law by marrying her. And everyone worships his "linga" [symbol].’

    Everyone, even the old people said, ‘We have worshipped his linga [symbol], since we have planted poles and worshipped it. So what’s the harm in worshipping a stone? We shall do it.’

    Thus, the Subarna Meru [golden pole] was established. They stayed there for some time. At that time the Kandhas had started eating the wrong kind of food. They roasted meat and ate, depended on that. They did not give importance to cultivation. And soon all the game in the Sonepur forests was exhausted. No more game was found. They could not go thirty or forty miles to hunt, since they had children. Then what they did was, they decided to move forward.

    At such a time, one day a quarrel arose over cooking. The quarrel over cooking was like this. Tel River joins our River Mahanadi. As one goes to the north on the banks of Mahanadi, at the juncture of Tel River the Subarna Meru had been built. On that bank they did their cooking. They would stay there for some time and go from there to search for food or find another place for settlement. When a few days had been left before their departure, trouble started among them at the time of cooking. The Kandhas who stayed in the north, when they cooked, the smoke went to the south because the wind blew from the north to the south. There was terrible smoke. Because of this smoke, [those who were in the south], their mothers and sisters could not cook even in their houses. The quarrel arose over this. What should they do? There were fights.

    The people lower down cried, ‘What is this happening? What has happened?’

    ‘This "dal" [group] has beaten us.’

    ‘They have beaten you?’


    ‘Okay, then, leave out that group. They should not mix with us.’

    ‘And we, we shall go our separate way.’

    So, what they did was they went out in search of food and a new place to settle in. This group, who had created the trouble, they became known as "Dal Kandha." And those who stayed on became known as "Sita Kandha" or "Sivi Kandha." In chaste language, they are Sita Kandha. Thus, Dal Kandha and Sita or Sivi Kandha. Those who stayed in the upper region, their "gotra" [originator of the clan], their marriage and other rituals, their dress, and their gods and goddesses were of a kind. And among the Sidhha Kandhas or Sivi Kandhas their dress and deportment, their clothes, their gods and goddesses, and their food habit was of another kind. But the gotra of all the Kandhas is the same, whether they are the upper Dal Kandhas or the Sidhhi Kandhas.

    What the Dal Kandha group did was that hey went along the banks of Mahanadi through Binika and Rampur to settle in the region of Kadampur and Ratnagarh. In the Harishankar Narasinghanath they were known as Dal Kandha. And we [who stayed] are Sidhha Kandha or Sita Kandha. Those who stayed, [in course of time], came away along the banks of Tel River and on the banks of Lat River, then along the banks of Munder River into Kalahandi. Thus, those who entered Kalahandi were Sidhhi Kandhas.

    There is a village called Khaikhuta on the bank of River Tel. They installed two deities there called "Kandhen Budha and Budhi" [Old Man and Old Woman Kandha]. Their statues are still there. Then gradually they came to this region. Having come here, they cleared the forest and established their settlements.

    Having settled down they started the worship of their gods and goddesses. Old people tell us that those who had secretly stayed on in Boud area are still worshipping their guardian goddess.

    When the Kandhas left their land in Boud, who would cultivate their land? So, the king of Boud talked with the Sonepur king. [He said], ‘My Kandhas went away to your region. Cultivation has stopped here and I am getting no taxes or revenue. There is a shortage of food. Give us some farmers. The king of Sonepur had kept some "domal" and "kultha" farmers whom they sent. Where? To Boud. In exchange for this the king of Boud gave some "Utkali Brahmins" [native Brahmins of Orissa, then known as Utkala]. The living proof of that is, when I had gone to visit the Sonepur region I found Utkali Brahmins as "gountias" [landlords] in every village. The king of Sonepur made them gountias. Many of the domal and kultha farmers who had come to Boud also became gountias there. In Boud, in the Kantamal region there are quite a few Kandhas and Brahmins are rare. Kandhas have here settlements there. They did not go away, or maybe they surrendered to the king. Those Khantapada Kandhas must have surrendered. That’s how they were able to stay. And there are many Brahmins too. And this region of Khantapada and Kantamali was neither in Ganjam or Phulbani at the time. It was on the border of Ganjam. Because it was on the border of Ganjam some of them might have gone over there. And they have made their settlements there. My guess is that this happened after the decline of the British rule here.

    Then, the leader of that region was Sadananda Kanra. He was also a Kandha, of that  Ghantapada. Then he was called "Usri" landlord. He stayed as a leader of the Kandhas and looked after the administration.

    On this side, the Kandhas came away to Kantabanjhi, Bangamunda and Kalahandi. Here, in the regions where the Kandhas settled, they called it "pragana" [Sub-division] and established their rule. And they made praganas. In this Titlagarh Sub-division, I shall say something about Balangir Sub-division. I am staying in Titlagarh Sub-division. There are seventeen kinds of Kandhas in Titlagarh Sub-division. Of the seventeen kinds of Kandhas some were formed into praganas. The main ones are Banbgamunda where Budka Kandhas were the landlords of 154 villages. Then come Luha Kandhas. In their territory remained Bagipuria Kandhas or Budbudka Kandhas. Then come Chupa pragana, Gahka pragana, and Sika pragana. Our Saintala is Sika pragana. Under the then king of Balangir, the Sika Kandhas converted to another gotra [clan]. Sika is a type of Kandha. Twelve brothers combined to form the Sika clan. With these brothers they established a community and created their own land. The Budkas are like that. They are four brothers. Taking their descendants with them they obtained 154 villages from the British or the king and established themselves as landlords. In the Luha pragana Chandutara became landlords. In Luha pragana there were two Usuris, which we call Gandhergala and Themra. Usuris are bigger than gountias. If the landlord has 50 to 100 villages, the Usuri has 10 to 12 villages. The gountias has one or two villages.

    This is the way their established their settlements and stayed. The proof of this is in the fact that all the villages of Titlagarh and Balangir Sub-division the deities that are there called either Duarsuni or Mauli or Patkhanda or Pauti. The chief priests of all these gods and goddesses are Kandhas. And you will see that the guardian deities of the Kandhas—Kandh Budha and Kandh Budhi [Kandha Old Man and Kandha Old Woman]—are being worshipped in the middle of every village. And every 12 years they are offered a "podha bali" [buffalo sacrifice]. During the buffalo sacrifice rituals they remain pure. There is a clan of Kandhas called Ghugias. They narrate the chronicle of the descent of the Kandhas during this buffalo sacrifice. Many Kandha men and women and their relatives listen to this chronicle at the place of sacrifice. The buffalo sacrifice is given on the Akhi Trutiya [3rd day after new moon in the month of Jyestha, April-May, when the plough is taken to the field to dig the first furrow]. In Titlagarh Sub-division there are 17 clans of Kandhas.

    This is what our older people have told us.

The Ghugias

    (Q: Who are these Ghugias who recite the chronicles of the Kandhas? Are they Harijans or what?)

    No they are tribal people. They are not Kandha. Ghugia is a separate race. Their tribe is Ghugia. They receive the ritual gifts from the Kandhas during rituals of death, marriage and other cardinal occasions. They will recite chronicle of the ancestry of the Kandhas, while playing on their drums, and receive such gifts that the Kandhas give them, on which they live.

    They are tribal people. But they do not figure in the list of tribes. They cannot be called Kandhas, but they are tribal people, not Harijans. The Kandhas give them gifts but would not tough them. One who takes our gift is inferior to us. Those who live on the gifts of Kandhas are inferior. They will eat from us, but we shall not eat from them. If they toughed us, the gods leave the temple. But things are changing now. They would not dare to come near our place of cooking.


    (Q: But I have seen in many villages that the Harijans are the Chiefs of Kandha villages.)

    Yes. There is a reason for Harijans becoming Chiefs of Kandhas.

    The Kandhas say, ‘Hey you offal eating Dom, come and do this work for me.’

‘What do you want, Thukria [people who worship Thakur]. What work do you want done?’

    ‘Go. Go to my samdhi’s [samdhi or samudhi is the father-in-law of one’s children] place. Our children have grown fruits and grains. Ask him to come and see how things are growing.’

    So, the Chief of Kandhas is not Harijan. Kandhas saw the Harijan as slaves. And according to the advice of the gods and goddesses we may choose a Harijan girl, after verifying whether she was beautiful or not, was it a good family or not. Only then we may accept their daughter. The Harijans called the Kandhas Thukria; even today this is done. But it is going gradually. They are not the Chiefs of the Kandhas. Harijan are those who are called Doms or Ganda. I have traveled in Phulbani region, the Baliguda region, and the Puruna Kataka region. I have been to G. Udayagiri, Boud, and Madhapur. Nowadays, in our Balangir area we are keeping the Harijans near us. But in those areas they have ordered the Harijans to stay at least half a kilometer away. How will they become Chiefs? They are not the Chiefs. And I have alsogone to the Balangir area and I testify that even today, I speak from my own experience, even today; in the Balangir district and Titlagarh sub-division the Harijans call our Kandhas Thukria.

    (Q: Why do they call them Thukria?)

    "Thukria" means master [or owner]. Here our Adibasis [ancient inhabitants] have a separate culture-language, in terms of which I told you about Adibasis and Kandhas and Doms.

    Here we have 17 kinds of Kandhas: Sika, Midat [Bodat?], Kantamalia, Turkiat, Budbudka, Luha, Tupa, Budka, Bagepuria [Bageguria?], Ganja, Milkit and others like this. Luha or Lohar, in our chaste language it is Lohar but we call them Luhurat [or Luhura.] There were no Luhuras in this region. Only Kandhas ruled here. There were no "Sudras" [people of the lower caste] here. [The territory] was of the Kandhas. Although the Kandhas became landlords, they were illiterate. To keep accounts of the estate they brought "Mahantys" from the coastal area or from Sambalpur and gave them the title of Bahidar [bookkeeper] instead of Mahanty. The Bahidars maintained the record books. They are Bahidars. Their relatives who came with them became Mahantys and Patnaiks.

    The Brahmins who live in this region do not have their guardian goddess here. The guardian deity here is only of the Kandhas. The Brahmins came to change the food habits of the Kandhas. And when Kings and such came to the houses of the landlords, to organize their food and drink in the proper manner. They said they had divine knowledge. When they came, the landlords kept them to cook food for the kings and emperors. They were kept as specialized servants. But they are a clever people. In course of time, taking land and property from the Kandhas they became known as the highest caste.

    The Kandhas needed oil for the their gods and goddesses and for lamps. So they invited the Teli [oil man]. They gave village land and kept the Telis. And who will provide flowers for the gods and goddesses? So they the Mali [gardener] and kept him and gave them land. The potter will provide the lamps for the gods and goddesses, to be lit [at homes]. So they brought and kept the potter. The potter for the lamps. They kept the Doms for their music. To play when the ritual of the gods was performed. What was the work of the Ganda [the Dom]? They stayed to play the musical instruments. That was their main work of Ganda or Dom.

    This the way the Kandhas had acquired hundreds of acres of land and kept hundreds of Sundhis to supply liquor. The Sundhis distilled liquor for them. This is the way [also] they brought the higher caste people into the village. When one family came into the village, they brought in their relatives and grew in number. And everybody accepted the Kandhas as their masters.

    Then, when the Kandhas became masters like the king of Boud by first becoming gountias in villages, they only relaxed on their beds and the Goudas fanned them. They did the fanning and carrying water, and during marriages they washed their feet. This tradition continues even today. And in some places the Goudas are saying that they are Yadavas, the people of Krshna. They have been saying, ‘We maybe the Goudas to the Kandha, but are we Krshna’s Goudas?’ Those who obey their elders say this thing. In this way, in our Balangir district on the land of the Kandhas, with the blessing of the Kandhas, the higher castes and the Khyatriyas [warrior class] made their settlements. Day by day, because of the laziness of the Kandhas their land holding got reduced.

    I, Dhaneswar Bhoi, am saying today that I am not of this Saintala pragana. I am of Budka pragana of Bangamunda. I have settled down in the Kareldhua area of Saintala for the last 20 years. I had 54 acres of cultivable land, got from my ancestors. They reduced this holding. Now there are only 7 acres. I have difficulty in living on only 7 acres. We are two sons of lour father. My younger brother lives in the village. My own village is Bibang. I have come away to Saintala. I earned money in many ways. Now I have taken 20 acres of land in Kareldhua and am living comfortably by cultivation.

    (Q: How much have you studied?)

    I am a Matriculate and CT and a special hand at teaching the deaf, dumb and blind with CTB and CTD. I worked in Bhubaneswar from 1961 to 1968. Among the higher castes I was the only Kandha from Balangir district. There the teachers were Brahmins or of other Sudra castes. They hated me. They would not touch what I had touched. What I suggested was not accepted. Yet among them I led an ideal life. I became fed up with their hatred and decided that I would not work where there was no peace. I was the lone person from Titlagarh sub-division working there. When people of my region went to see the capital, they would ask, ‘Who’s there from our place so that we can stay with him?’ At that time lodges were few. Moreover who could afford staying in hotels and lodges? [Then they would say], ‘No, no I have a nephew or I have a grandson called Dhaneswar Bhoi, living in a fine house. We’ll go to his place.’ Then they would come and say in my house. I used tjo eat in restaurants. I was not married then. When members of my family or relatives or respectable people of our community came I fed them in restaurants. I was getting a small salary. My scale of pay was not much. Although there was a special allowance of 20%, it was not enough to feed these guests. Because of this monetary inadequacy and the hatred of colleagues I resigned and came away.

    Now I depend on cultivation and do not do any job. I have four sons. Of the four sons, two are graduates; one is studying in the 2nd year in college, and one son did not study. He dropped out before Matriculating. He is doing cultivation. My last two children are daughters. One studying in class VII and other in class II. And my wife is a Matriculate of 1968, with a CT. She is a school Mistress. The land gives us paddy. My wife who is in government service [as a teacher] gets her due salary. We are able to buy our groceries and we live on. Now I am proud of myself, that the land and property my ancestors had wasted, [are being compensated for by me].

[Transits to 156A]

(Q: Okay. Now about these Ghugias; do they only talk about the Kandhas or also about the other Adibasis?)

    No. Ghugias are in many regions and are of many kinds. There are people in other communities also who mainly talk about social history of the community. But they are called Ghugias in Titlagarh. In Patanagarh and Padmapur sub-divisions they are called "bhat" ["bhata"]. I’ll tell you another story that we are Budka Kandhas. The princely families accept our offerings. That princely family is snow in Sindhei Kola. There is a story about why the king’s family received gifts from the Budka Kandhas, the Bangamunda landlords, their families and people of their gotra.   

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