The tribe had used membranous nest of black ants to study solar eclipse

The membranous nest of black ants can well provide an insight into the astronomical knowledge of the Gond tribe, one of the most ancient of people in the country. Though the tribe is credited with possessing many a wisdom, it is believed that it had little knowledge about astronomy in general and solar eclipse in particular.

According to locals in Indervelli mandal of Adilabad district, the Gonds used to study solar eclipses by gazing at the sky through a piece of a thin but opaque brown-coloured nest found underneath rocks in agriculture fields. This aspect came to light when some children at Harkapur village were playfully gazing at the hot mid-afternoon sun through the nest membrane which they had pulled out from beneath a rock.

If looked through the fragile film of the nest, the sun appears as a sphere light blue in colour even when the unbearable brightness of the sun is at its peak. The image of the great ball of fire is also reduced considerably.

“There is no specific name for the nest, but we have known the application since childhood,” reveals Pole Ramesh, a rig operator in the mandal. No Gond contacted by The Hindu could go beyond what Ramesh had disclosed which indicates that the tribe has lost its knowledge of astronomy over the period of time.

Professor Mayank Vahia of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai and advocate Ganesh Halkare of Amaravati in Maharashtra, who had made a study on the astronomical knowledge of the Gonds last year, had concluded that the tribe has no knowledge of the solar eclipse.

The finding related to the ant nest, however, creates scope for further studies in this area.

In their paper published in the Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage on aspects of Gond astronomy, Vahia and Halkare had said that Gond astronomy has its roots in early farming needs and was designed several thousand years ago.

They concur with the general consensus that the origin of the Gonds is much older than currently known.