Tribes changing their religious practices with time

A scene from Gondi Mahabharat being performed at the recently concluded Keslapur Jatara in Adilabad.–Photo: S. Harpal Singh  

The Adivasis seem to be among the most misunderstood and most exploited lot even if the issue relates to the identity of their religion, a subject which incites much passion among the aboriginal tribes of Central India. The debate which was generated in Adilabad district during the recently concluded Keslapur Jatara or Nagoba Jatara, the famous tribal fair, not only focussed on the subject but helped expose the developments of the last few decades which had an impact on the religious practices of the aboriginal tribes.

Nothing was amiss until anthropologist Christopher von Furer-Haimendorf re-visited the jatara in 1982 and witnessed the changes in the form of worship comparing it with the practice in 1941 when he had first visited it.

In his book ‘Tribes Of India, The Struggle for Survival’, Baron Haimendorf noted the construction of the existing temple in the style of Hindu temple and an attempt to seek connections between the Gond mythology and Hindu scriptures and to interpret the mythology in the light of Hindu ideology.

While the legendary Austrian anthropologist clearly considered the Gonds and other aboriginal tribes to be non-Hindus, the Pardhans or Patadi priests believe in the contrary. “We are Suryavanshi Hindus,” asserted Mesram Dada Rao, the Pardhan elder from Gundala in Narnoor mandal.

“There may be some difference in the rituals and culture, but the Adivasi religion is derived from Hinduism only,” he added. Traditionally the Pardhans have played the role of guiding the Gond Kathoda priests in all religious matters.

Adilabad is an important centre of Adivasis with a population of over 3.5 lakh, the Raj Gonds being the dominant tribe. Others Adivasi tribes inhabiting the hilly lands between the Penganga river on the north and Godavari in the south are Pardhan, Kolam, Thotti, Manne and Naikpod.

The aboriginal people in Adilabad are unique in that they worship Lord Hanuman. . They perform the Gondi Ramayan and Mahabharat with the same fervour with which they celebrate Muharram. Hundreds of Adivasis, especially the Pardhans have embraced Christianity which arrived in these parts over half-a-century ago. The Jeeyar Gurukulams, first established at Allampalli in Kadem mandal, accommodate hundreds of Adivasi children who now greet with a Jai Srimannarayana instead of the customary Ram-Ram. The trend of animal sacrifice has also gone down among the tribes, apparently after they imbibed changes in their religious practices and beliefs.

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Printable version | Sep 24, 2021 2:38:57 PM |

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