Food Nutrition And Culture Of Dongria Kondhs

Laxmikant Paikray

    "DONGRIA KONDHS" - a group of tribes, who are inhabiting in the "NIYAMAGIRI HILLS" the Easter-Ghat Hill Ranges of Southern-Orissa. They are very culturally distinctive group of tribes, which has very rich sense of aesthetics in their dress and costumes. Male Members of this group are very distinctive due to their long hair and "a comb" that they put on their head inserted within their hairstyle. They move around in jungle with an axe (Kdati) on their left shoulder. Whether they go for hunting or for incipient-agriculture or fire wood collection or visiting any of their kith or kin’s houses. What ever is the situation/scenario an axe (kadti) is always with a male-member of this society.

    This is a "typical tribe" whom clams themselves as "Hill-Dwelling "or Mountain dwelling. Tribe, hence there name is derived as such. Donger Means Hills or Mountains, of course these hills were covered with dense forest, which is first dwelling due to multiple factors, Shifting cultivation or "podu chasa" is one of the for must cause for forest -destruction. But there is no "alternative subsistence" before the group with which they could thrive and get their lively hood.

    However, demographically these tribe are abundantly seen in 60 to 65 very small village as well as hamlets in blocks of Rayagada district namely Munigoda and Bissum-cuttack Block. However very few of them are also inhabit in Kdyansinghpur and Chandrapur Block of the same district.

    Vital feature of Dongria Kondh tribe is these people are very strong and heavily built and consume profusely much "Nutritious Food", that are available to them from their echo-niche. Although the consumption of milk and milk product are almost nil, the consumption of meat; Fruits and roots, green leafy vegetables and yams, are plenty which has contributed a lot for the physical growth and general nourishment of the members (male and female) of this community, morbidity and mortality are due to infection and malaria, but not due to food starvation or mal-nourishment.

    This researcher has stayed amongst he "Dongria Kondh" for 3 years and has observed their "Dietary-practices" and has recorded 10 varieties of minor millets, 20 variety of "fruits" and apart from 10 variety of roots and tubers and many varieties of berries.

    Miles and miles of banana-cultivation, alongside "pine apple’’ is a remarkable feature of Dongria Kondh’s economy. The yields of these orchards, they sale to get cash and spend their income in making rituals of various type, in which they sacrifice an animal (May be a pig, chicken or a big buffalo) and consume its meat. Meat consumption- rate is very high, as for any social or religious activities as a "Ritual" is a must an animal is to be killed as a "sacrificial offering" to the deities. After the animal is killed its meat is either distributed among the members of the community or a grand feast is made. As it is mentioned many rituals are observed by the members of this community, from the birth of a child to the death of a member of this community, from marriage to the starting of agriculture /agriculture practices from crop harvesting to hunting expedites, from getting recovery from ailments "conflict resolve" and traditional (tribal) political decision making feasting is a must and in this feasting either a big animal like buffalo or a few goats or pig are to be killed and its meat is usually consumed by the members of this community . It is really a Herculean task to count or document the serial /number of such "rituals"(as same as purely private and secrets) in which sacrifice are made with an animal or bird. However it is an establish fact that "DONGRIA KONDHS" have a very high rate of meat consumption which supplements their protein consumption/intake. This is very much embodied in their way of life as it sanctified by the masters of their rudimentary religious practices called JAN1; Who used to advice them on matters pertaining to performance of their religious /ritual practices. Not only "meat" or an animal protein that keeps them healthy, robust and active, but also consumption of fresh fruits roots, tubers, nuts, berries and plants-liquor (Plant juices) has been plenty in-their "ABODE" i.e. in-their dwelling environment for which a "Natural food –security" is already existing which contributes a lot for the general nutrition of the community