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Tribe with an identity of its own

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COLOURFUL LOT: Members of the Bonda tribe from Orissa who were in the city for the recent Visakha Utsav. Photo: K.R. Deepak
COLOURFUL LOT: Members of the Bonda tribe from Orissa who were in the city for the recent Visakha Utsav. Photo: K.R. Deepak

Santosh Patnaik

Despite being on the verge of extinction, the Bondas believe in family planning in their own way

VISAKHAPATNAM: Despite on the verge of extinction, Bondas - one of the most primitive tribal groups (PTGs) in the country - believe in family planning in their own style.

They do not indulge in sex till the child is weaned (stops breastfeeding) irrespective of his age.

Though the Orissa Government has set up the Bonda Development Authority (BDA) to enable them to join the mainstream through a special drive, they continue to maintain their distinct identity.

Bonda women mostly live semi-nude by covering their bodies with beads and leaves and go to forests and shandies along with husbands sporting bow and arrows.

Numbering around 5,000, they are spread over 36 hamlets in and around Mudilipada of Khoipur panchayat in Malkangiri district bordering Andhra Pradesh. The awareness camps held by BDA and several NGOs notwithstanding, the Bondas do not give up such type of family planning. Their number is on the decline owing to high mortality rate. Their average life span is 50 years and most of them die of cancer and other chronic diseases. Instead of coffee or tea, they consume liquor on regular basis.

Enjoying the trip

The Bondas presented folk dances at the just-concluded Visakha Utsav and became quite popular among thousands of people who thronged the Utsav venues. On the orders of District Collector Praveen Prakash they were taken on a jolly ride of the city.

All of them were thrilled seeing the sea, hilltop park at Kailasagiri and Jaatara - the Shilparamam of Visakhapatnam - for the first time in their life.

"We are very orthodox and generally do not mingle with others due to fear," remarks Mongolobari Bodonaik, one of the team members, who enjoyed her four-day stay here.

"The accommodation and food was good. Only thing we missed was 'mohuli' and 'handia' (liquor brewed by them)," she told The Hindu .

Matriarchal clan

Earning their livelihood by pursuing podu (also called zoom/shifting) cultivation, Bonda families are matriarchal. Shaik Kasim (Babuli), a tourist guide, who arranges trips of foreigners and others to Bonda hamlets, said that women head the Bonda families and the grooms had to pay dowry to the bride's family.

Once a girl attains the age of 18 years, she will select her life partner - a boy younger to her by five or six years. Forced or captured marriages are also in vogue during 'pousa' and other festivals. Widow marriages are also popular. In the event of husband's death, a widow marries her partner's brother irrespective of his age. If a prospective groom likes a girl, his family will offer two or three bottles of liquor to her family. They will visit the house after two days and if the bottles are found empty, it will be confirmed that the bride's family has accepted the proposal.

Fun loving

"They lead a fun-filled life and don't think about tomorrow. They worship sun, water and leaves. Owing to constant persuasion by the BDA, slowly they are trying to come under the influence of modernisation," Mr. Kasim said.


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