The Bastar

The Bastar region and its people

Taken from

Bastar is administratively a district that is situated at the southern tip of the newly created state of Chhattisgarh of the Indian Federation.

This access to statehood is the result of a longstanding claim to political autonomy voiced by the local aboriginal tribes (Adivasi) dominated by the Marias and the Muria Gonds who feared a gradual erosion of their culture under the economic and political pressure exercised by outsiders who came to exploit the mineral and forest wealth of the region.

Under British rule, Bastar used to be a princely state under the rule of a Hindu maharaja residing in Jadgalpur, the capital city.

Ethnographically, the people of Bastar can be differentiated by the degree to which they got hinduized. The least hinduized are the Murias, the Bison-horn Marias (thus called because their wear a headgear with bison horns during marriage dances) and the Hill Marias.

The latter live isolated in the forested hills of Abhujmar and have fallen prey to an armed neo-Marxist insurgency.

The Murias are famous for their Ghotul, a village dormitory where teen-agers of both sexes live and undergo a transition to adulthood under the supervision of elders.

All Bastar Adivasi, barring the Hill Marias, are sedentary cultivators. They however sometimes indulge in hunting and food gathering.

They worship a pantheon of deities to which they make regular offerings of terracotta and brass objects: lamps, bulls,horses, elephants, snakes, horses, riders on horses… Their shrines can be seen in various locations such as a river bank, a cave or a mud shelter. Their chief deity is Danteshwari, a local avatar of Durga, who is paraded for worship on a big chariot drawn by the tribal folk on Dussehra with the Maharaja of Bastar throning on top. The most famous form of art in Bastar is its brass hollow casting using the lost wax process that is practised by a special community of Hindu casters called the Ghatwas. The local Adivasi orders from them the deity figure of their liking for an offering at a shrine or buy from the market place brass utensils of daily use. Bastar has other innumerable artistic productions be it terracotta, wood-carving, wall-painting, jewellery, etc that suit the different tastes, traditions and needs of its various tribal groups of which no exhaustive inventory has been made so far.

Bronzes of Bastar

Shrine images are made on order for the adivasi of Bastar by their family caster of the Ghatwa community, while standard images or artefacts of daily use such as ladles, trumpets, pots, grain measures, bangles, anklets, lamps…are bought from the same caster at the village market place. The metal used is mostly scrap metal consisting on the average of 1⁄4 zinc and 2/3 copper with some tin and lead used as catalyst. They used the lost wax process for hollow casting:

  1. The Ghatwa first prepares a clay core and bakes it.
  2. Fine threads of bee wax are wound tightly round the clay core
  3. A thin layer of clay paste is applied on top which takes the negative imprint of the clay core.
  4. An inlet is provided for the molten metal to be poured in, thus replacing the melting wax.
  5. The item is allowed to cool down before the outer layer of clay is broken exposing the metal image.
  6. The image is fined to give it a smooth polish while keeping the ribbed effect of the original wax threads

The Ghatwa follows his own iconographic inspiration which makes identification of images very hazardous. A few images however are popular with most adivasi and Ghatwas that can be fairly easily identified:

  1. The tragic couple of Jhitku and Mitki.
  2. Danteshwari, a local avatar of Durga, riding a tiger, an elephant or a lion, symbolizing royalty and power and Bhangaram, her consort.
  3. Rao, a guardian spirit, usually an equestrian figure holding a shield and a sword.
  4. Brass swings symbolizing the divine status of the swinging deity sometimes perched on top of an elephant.
  5. Deities on a palanquin taken out on procession.
  6. Votive animal offerings: snakes, horses, buffaloes, etc.

A typical workshop style however exists that is passed on through generations of Ghatwas. This sometimes helps locate the place and workshop of manufacture, as for instance weasel faced figures of the Chandrapur area in Maharashtra. Dating can be very hazardous: The use of scrap metal points out to a latish date of manufacture for most brass items but the craft itself must be fairly old due the proximity of ancient copper mines. Patination only can give an idea of the age of the piece but can be misleading for pieces that are constantly rubbed and bathed for worship. Brass items bear the influence of their contemporary surrounding with representations of Maratha or Mogul warriors on horse and also of very ancient iconographic traditions such as elephants on wheels or faces of mother-goddess. The Ghatwa craftsman is basically free to give his own interpretation of local beliefs while respecting the traditional style of his workshop that the tribal client is used to from times immemorial. This is how this art kept its naïve, imaginative and spontaneous look that used to make it so appealing till it lost some of its soul to city traders selling it to the Indian middle class and foreign tourists as cheap handicraft.

Taken from

The myth of Danteshwari

According to the ancient legend, Goddess Sati committed self-immolation in the fire pit of yagna kund, due to an insult committed by her father Daksha towards her consort Lord Shiva during the Yaga. Raged by the death of Sati, Lord Shiva destroyed the Yaga of Daksha and with the body of Sati in his hands started to do 'Taandav'. Lord Vishnu cut the dead body of Goddess Sati with his Sudarshan to free Lord Shiva from the grief caused by her death. Parts of the dead body of Goddess Sati were scattered to fifty-two different places, which were consecrated as Shakti Pithas. It is believed that a tooth of Sati had fallen here and Danteshwari Shaktipith was established.

Danteshawari is the state Goddess of Bastar and is often depicted riding an elephant. Her statue is taken out of the temple on an elephant during a yearly procession, whereby the Ghatwa craftsmen do not see the actual idol, so often just the figure of the elephant itself represents the godess.

The Jhitkhu Mitki story

According to popular folklore in Bastar, Mitki was the only sister of seven brothers of a Gond family that lived in Newta Bandha village. As part of the local tradition, her brother Lamsena brought a youth –Jhitku- to the home to marry Mitki. Both fell in love but one day her brothers dreamt that the Goddess was demanding sacrifice. On not finding anyone, they sacrificed Jhitku. Mitki could not bear the separation and took her life. Poet Jogendra Mahapatra Jogi said tribals believe that their 'mannats (desires)' get fulfilled by worshipping 'Jhitku Mitki'. 'Mitki' is also regarded as deity 'Gapa Gosai'. 'Jhitku Mitki' are worshipped as 'Dokra Dokri' in some places of Bastar.

Note: I have also been told by one supplier that sometimes Jhitku is shown playing the violin to call the bad spririts whilst Mitki catches the bad spirits in a basket. Meera Mukerjee writes that Gappa dei and Lakkad dei shown together are known as Jhitku Mitki. Jhitku carries an axe on his shoulder as he was a woodcutter and Gappa carries a basket on her head and a sahal in her hand.

Rao Dev

A mythical spirit rider who rides his horse at night and protects the village boundaries. During harvesting the farmers worship Rao Dev ceremoniously at a shrine at the edge of the fields. He is also referred to as Bhangaram. His wife is Maoli Mata.

Mata devi

Each village has its Mata devi, or Mother Goddess, who is said to protect the villagers from outside enemies and evil spirits. She carries a sword and a vessel for drinking the blood of the slain. She is seen as an avatar of Durga. Chitla dei, Ganga Dei, Linga Dei and Kali Kankalin are some of the Mata Devis of the Bastar.


The Bastar district lies in Madhya Pradesh in middle India, with Orissa to the east, Maharashtra to the west and Andhra Pradesh to the south. Bastar has recently been included in the newly formed state of Chhattisgarh (central India). About 70% of Bastar is full of dense forest; about three quarters of the population are tribal and have retained their old customs. The Bastar district has been described as a "melting pot of races" and, consequently, of cultures. It is the homeland of the Muria, Muria Gond, Hill Maria, Bison-horn Maria, Halba, Dhurwa, Bhatra and Dorla tribes. For a more extensive description of the various tribes, please see the text below taken from

Bastar (pronounced Ba-stir) is the most underdeveloped district of Madhya Pradesh.


The Bastar tribals are predominantly animistic (the belief that non-human objects have spirits, that animals, birds and tree possess souls) but have also been influenced by Hinduism and Hindu practices.

Their beliefs vary from tribe to tribe. Anthropologists have reported a belief in ghosts and spirits, the phenomenon of possession, animal worship, tree worship, belief in the Rain God, the Hill God, and the Earth Spirit.

The Dhurwa tribe, for example, call upon a spirit of rain or river water to bless them with good catches of fish and abundant crops. They live in fear of the spirit Rau, who marks his victims by shooting small, painful stone or clay pieces at their backs. Only a medicine man (seen as a magician) can extract the small pieces of stone, which remain invisible to the human eye. If not removed, these can lead to death. People tend to be superstitious and magicians are well respected by them.

The people from the Gond tribe are traditionally forest dwellers, and trees form the focal point of their cosmos. They believe that trees are hard at work during the day, providing shade, shelter and nourishment for all; but at night, when all the daytime visitors have left, the spirits of the trees reveal themselves.

The Mother Goddess (Devi) is very important, as are clan gods and local village gods. The people of Bastar worship Mother Earth for her life sustaining bounty. The area abounds with female deities, often called matas, or mothers, some of whom are known and venerated only within a single village.

There are various tribal deities whom they invoke to provide relief from disease and pestilence, natural calamities and also to provide them with good harvest and bountiful forest produce. Although they do not necessarily believe in the immortality of souls, they do believe in the transmigration of souls, or the passing of a soul from one body to another after death. Some believe that a person may be transmigrated into the body of an animal or a human, depending on whether he or she lived a good or evil life.

The Bastar believe that there are three worlds. The earth is considered the "middle" world, inhabited by humans and supernatural beings. The sky, or "upper" world, is thought to be the home of the supreme spirit, or "high god." He is not represented by any symbol, but is believed to be the creator and to be supreme to all other gods. He is considered too remote to directly interact in the lives of people. The third is the "underworld," or place of the dead.

Ancestor Worship and the art of Woodcarving

The Bastar people revere their hero ancestors and outside every village in Bastar are wooden carved pillars stuck in the ground, similar to a totem pole. These are memorials to the various tribal heroes and chieftains of the past. The carvings reveal interesting events in the life of these ancestors and the village.

The art employed is extremely simple. By employing triangles and circles (symbols for success in hunting) unbelievable compositions are attained. Men, horses, elephants and birds are indicated more by symbols than by details. Two triangles with a trunk and a tail make an elephant; a circle with a pair of wings makes a bird. The main theme is the dead man either accompanying or riding a horse and carrying weapons like a sword or even a gun. One or two servants holding an umbrella and other equipment indicate the man's status. Offerings like combs and coins, or one or two trees in the background lend picturesque effect to the panel. At times, a crocodile, a singing bird, a lotus or palm trees replace human figures. Text may also be inscribed in any of the panels of these memorials and multi-panel memorials are often better-planned and executed than single panels. At the base there is sometimes a human figure that the tribals claim represents their priest or god. In lower panels rows of human figures standing hand-in-hand probably indicate a row of dancers. In the upper panel the dead man is often shown riding a horse and accompanied by his people. In some memorials, a tiny human is carved in a sun and moon panel suggesting that the dead man has gone to heaven.

The art of woodcarving has flourished in many parts of Bastar and Madhya Pradesh, and the beautifully embellished wooden ceilings, doors and lintels with finely carved designs are silent testimonials of its glory. Contemporary panels and statues continue the same traditions and themes today. The wood carvers of Bastar, with great sensitivity and skill, transform different varieties of local wood such as shish, teak, dhudi, sal and kikar into works of art. In addition to geometric patterns, figures of Bison Horn Maria drummers and a Maria woman in the dancing pose are oft-repeated themes. Birds, fish, elephants, snakes, horses and even tigers occur often as images in woodcarving also.

We have included the wonderfully vivid description of the ghotul system written by K.L. Kamat.

Stories of Bastar Travel taken from

The Ghotul System of Education by K. L. Kamat

The author writes about the fascinating system of education prevalent among the tribals of Central India, known as Ghotul. The young ones of the tribe are taught the ways of life from their early years. Among some tribal sects, the male and female are not distinguished from each other in their upbringing and they grow up in perfect harmony, in preparation for perfect relationships. The social life of a Ghotul (gho-two-ll) is both interesting and exotic.

Visit to a Ghotul

It was dusk and the cows were returning home after spending the entire day grazing in forest. The Abujamara Murias (name of a tribe in Central India) were engaged in an unhurried meal. They chatted, joked, and smoked around camp fires. The kids made enough noise to scare even the wildlife. When they beat the drums, it was indication that the youth were preparing for the Ghotul. A group of boys was being pursued by excited girls. Some of the boys went directly to the Ghotul, while a few others went to girls' houses to fetch them. A musical party was in progress outside a hut designated as the Ghotul. One member played the Mandri (Mridungum, a two sided hand-drum) with great enthusiasm, and another the flute. The girls started dancing in circles.

Anthropologists (among them, Verier Elvin) feel that the Ghotul is an ancient institution. It is a living university. There are no books or tests, yet one is taught life's education. Students are teachers here, and teachers, students. It is truly a wonder.

The Ghotul is typically located outside the village. A long time before the land grant universities were a norm in the western world, the Adivasis ("original dwellers") reserved empty tracts of land for educating the young. They grew vegetables in the Ghotul garden and taught community living to the children. The Ghotul is also a cultural center; every youth older than six years is automatically a member.

Some youngsters started a campfire. Others started singing and dancing. Some even played a game that resembled the modern game of Antyashkari (a.k.a. Antakshari -a contest of memory and singing abilities, played all over India). They exchanged jokes, stories, and much laughter. All of a sudden one of the girls who was singing shook her sari in panic, and the crowd had a hearty laugh when a frog jumped out. She eventually traced the mischief-monger, and punched him. In return, he promised to take his revenge that night.

A teenager suffered from a bad stomach, but didn't want to miss out on the fun. Unfortunately he did not go too far away to relieve himself. The sounds and foul smell of his condition betrayed him, and he was punished by the crowd for his misdemeanor with ten rabbit jumps (hopping like a rabbit while squatting).

Then the wooden bell rang. This was the indication of the beginning of formal evening activities at the Ghotul. The newly-enrolled kids bowed to the older children who then examined their homework. Students were tested for skills in leaf-weaving, vegetable-growing, ash-cleaning, and wood-carving. Some were punished for clumsy work. The punishment once again involved rabbit-jumping, spanking, standing on one foot in the cold, hanging from the ceiling, etc. A young man distributed tobacco to those who smoked. Then they resumed the poetry-contests, exchanging puzzles, and jokes. The boys and girls kept teasing and taunting each other till late in the night.

The village-minister, (Kotwaal or deputy) then called to the captain of the class, who read out the names of male-female pairs. A Motiyari (maiden) massaged her boyfriend's head with oil, and picked lice off his hair. She told him he would look better with short hair. Then she massaged the rest of his body with her soft delicate hands. In the proximity of her youthful curvature, the boy started a romantic conversation. The girl, then, pressurized him into making her a comb. He agreed on the condition that she becomes his girl, to which she refused. Experienced youngsters knew that the real meaning of the refusal was that she desired more cajoling.

The comb collection is a matter of great prestige for the Motiyaris. The bigger the collection, the more popular she is. Combs are worn as ornaments in the hair. The boys make them out of wood or bamboo. The connoisseurs among them decorate their combs with mirror pieces, beads, and colors. The boys also wear them, but only for decoration; no attention is paid to the actual numbers. If a Motiyari likes a Chilak (her male counterpart) she steals his comb, thereby allowing him to steal her heart. But this results in an undesirable situation, because typically the gifts of combs have to be given (and received) in the presence of elders only.

The Ghotul building can be as small as a hut or as big as a meeting hall, depending on the village population and leadership. Some have plenty of lighting while a few others are built small in order to conserve heat. Wherever there is problem of wildlife attacks, the Ghotuls are built on a raised platform. The students decorate the Ghotul walls with paintings and take turns to keep the surroundings clean and meticulous. I found that many of the paintings were exaggerated representations of male and female anatomy.

Sex Education

Equality, simplicity, and freedom form the fundamental fabric of the Ghotul life. Members eat, play, dress, and sleep without any separation of males and females. They can even swim in the river together without clothes on. In contrast, the so-called modern society of India does not accept it if man and women share the same bed before marriage.

The Ghotul tradition of the Muria tribals points to the equality and unisexuality of primitive humans. In the tribe, young men and women 'date' from the age of ten onwards, whereas we in the modern world wonder what age is appropriate for beginning sex education. The advocates of free sex and safe sex should study this system of natural sex education at the Ghotuls. Since the Ghotuls do not have formal teachers, the students never develop the attitude that the teachers are of a different generation. The tribals of Bastar do not have teenage pregnancies, the abuse of money, damage to the future because of neglected academic responsibilities, and other modern ills of the society.

In Ghotuls, no distinction is made between love and sex. Everybody is free and behaves responsibly. In the beginning, they may sleep together as the brothers do with sisters, and as their hormones begin to operate, they may go further. I do not believe that there is any other society where a brother and a sister can sleep in the same room with their respective lovers. As a result, children learn about love at an early age, by watching others. They imitate what they see. Mothers typically teach their daughters about the extent to which they can go at the Ghotuls. Should any problems occur, the Motiyari tells the elders and they collectively sort out the problem. Nobody feels embarrassed by this, nor is anybody despised; they are such light-hearted folks!

When grown-up Chilaks (boy students at the Ghotul) are on duty protecting the fields or are away on other work, the younger Chilaks get the chance to spend the time with the Motiyaris. This is how the young ones get educated. There are strict rules of confidentiality regarding the happenings at the Ghotuls. Since sex is considered a very natural phenomenon at the Ghotuls, there arise no perversions. Sex is seen as natural as hunger or sleep. In some civilized societies, sex is considered to be a man's right and woman's duty, whereas at the Ghotul, it's a Motiyari's privilege and the Chilak's duty. Since partners are continuously rotated, every pair gets a chance sooner or later.

Although dating is restricted to Ghotuls, it is not uncommon for the couples to meet outside the Ghotul, in the forest or at the river. If someone finds out, both of them are punished. If a Motiyari singles out a boy to treats him specially, she is punished by the other boys. Because of their sexual freedom, at the time of marriage, neither is the bride a virgin, nor is the groom inexperienced.

In spite of social restrictions on falling in love, once in a while one does come across passionate love stories. Once a poor Chilak wanted to marry a Kotwaal's daughter, but could not afford the dowry. So the young couple eloped to another village. The Kotwaal registered a police complaint. The tribals are typically very scared of the police. Out of this fear for the police, the couple hid in the forest, only to be eventually eaten by a tiger. This story is very popular among the boys, who sing poems in the couple's honor.

Although youngsters enjoy free sex at Ghotuls, they practice strict monogamy during married life. Those who succumb to weaknesses are sometimes punished even with death. Married people cannot enter the Ghotuls. The youngsters strongly protest any meddling in the Ghotul's affairs by their elders.

Motiyaris get up early in the morning denying Chilaks of early morning pleasures, and head home to help their mothers with chores. Chilaks get up late, smoke hand rolled cigarettes (beedis), and then go to work. A few Motiyaris refuse to go to the Ghotul because of their shyness, but even they will yield to male advances during festive ceremonies under the influence of arrack (homemade alcohol.)

The students at the Ghotul consider it their duty to provide entertainment during festive ceremonies. They play music, sing songs, and dance. Whenever they have many dancers they form large circles and dance hours on end, in monotonic tones. They do not believe in short dances, and literally dance all night long. If they get tired, they have a smoke or drink, and resume dancing. After a while, I felt it a torture to watch the same movements over and over again. I was told that Muria tribals who are skilled at dancing are not permitted to dance outdoors!

It is very easy to notice the equality of sexes among Chilaks and Motiyaris. Both grow their hair long, wear combs and jewelry, and adorn themselves with decorations. The Chilaks often outshine the girls in decoration. They wear beads, tusks of boars, feathers and anything colorful that is available, in every imaginable form. The decoration of Motiyaris is limited to their hair, in which they wear combs, mirrors, balloons, and even paper fans. They typically have tattoos as permanent decorations on their bodies.

It is said that a fisherman never finds the beach beautiful. It is unlikely that freedom, free sex, and the equality of sexes are as attractive to the tribals as they are to us. Since they always live amidst accidents, diseases, and natural dangers, their times of enjoyment are very few. These special occasions are shared only with special guests. After the forest-department, police, and tax officials started taking advantage of the tribals, they were excluded from the Ghotuls. I felt privileged and honored to be offered food, drinks, and introductions to Motiyaris. I almost regretted having brought my wife along on the trip!

Description of Bastar tribes taken from


The Gonds are one of the most famous and important tribes in India, known for their unique customs and traditions. They are mainly a nomadic tribe and call themselves as Koytoria. The term 'Gond' is derived from the Telugu word 'Konda' which means hill. Gond Tribes are primarily located in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, eastern Maharashtra, northern Andhra Pradesh and western Orissa. With a population of over 4 millions, Gonds also form the largest tribal group in central India. In Chhattisgarh, Gonds are the largest tribal group in terms of population and are mainly concentrated in the southern part of the state. More than 20 % of Gonds in Chhattisgarh live in Bastar region only. There are 3 major sub-castes of Gonds in Bastar - Maria, Muria and Dorla. The Gonds are predominantly Hindus and like to live to live in groups in small villages.

The main language of the Gonds is Gondi but about half of Gond populations also speak Indo-Aryan dialects including Hindi. The Gonds are traditionally agriculturalists and some practice shifting cultivation even today. Other major activities of Gonds include collecting forest produce, fishing, hunting, and forging metal goods in cottage industries and other primary sector activities. Gonds also have a special skill that has been passed down every generation and that is the secrets of the medicine plants. As there are no proper health facilities in several areas, they still follow the traditional system of medicines and use plants and herbs for curing various ailments.

Gonds are also known for practicing social hierarchy system like Hindus and the Gond society is regarded as highly stratified and not conforming to the usual image of egalitarianism among tribals. But, the Gonds have gained enormous popularity for their unique and distinct social customs and traditions and have become the subject of great interest among sociologists and researchers all over the world.

They prefer marriages within the blood relations mostly according to Hindu rites and customs. Sometimes mock elopements are also arranged. Divorces, remarriages, widow marriages, marriages with the wives of the brothers and between brothers and sisters are common. One of the unique characteristics of the Gonds marriages is that the groom has to pay bridal price to the father of the girl and in this way the system gives respect and power to women in the society.

Other most popular practice among Gonds of Bastar is the 'Ghotul' system. In this system, the unmarried young boys and girls live together in separately made huts and allowed to intermingle and practice everything they desire. During this period they interact and enjoy themselves by participating in dancing, music, local story telling and much more in a drunken mood. If everything is fine and both of them are happy, they can get out of the Ghotul and marry. The Ghotul system is mainly practiced among the Muria Gonds and the origin of this system is related with their goddess 'Lingopan'.

Abhuj Maria

Predominantly found in the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh, the Abhuj Maria tribes are one of the major sub-castes of the Gonds. Known with various names such as Abudjamadis, Abujmariya and Hill Maria, these tribes are mainly live in the deep interiors of forests in Narayanpur Tehsil of Bastar districts. Abhuj Marias speak a Dravidian language called Abujmaria.

The 1,500 sq miles of lush green and dense forest area where these unique tribes are inhabited is known as the Abhuj Maria region. The Abhuj Marias love to live in isolation and avoid intermingling with outsiders. It's believed that the Abhuj Marias could shoot down the strangers with their arrows and so are very feared by the outsiders. Since they are living in isolation with the outside world, their way of living, customs, traditions and moral values has well been retained and they are one of very few tribal groups of India living still practicing their unique and traditional way of life.

Drinking liquor is very common among men and women. The Abhuj Maria are mainly semi-nomadic farmers practicing shifting cultivation method of agriculture. After cultivating an area for two to three years, they abandon the land and move to a much fertile location. They also do not plough the earth, as it would mean inflicting pain on her body. Pointed wood pieces are used for piercing for cultivation and stone implements are used for harvesting produce.

The primary activities of Abhuj Marias are agriculture, hunting, and gathering the fruits of the forests. They hunt with spears and arrows, and enjoy eating the roasted meat of the hunted animal. They also protect the tigers from poachers, which is highly honored and feared among these tribals.

Although the Hill Marias are regarded as the less civilized than other sub-castes of Gond, they far surpass the others in strength and ability. Also a strong sense of community feeling exists between them and equality and brotherhood are highly valued principles among these tribes.

Like Gonds, they also practice Ghotul System for marriages. Divorces and remarriages are common but adultery is not allowed. Marriages amongst the blood relations including brothers and sisters are common.

As far as their dress is concerned, both men and women use only a piece of fabric and don't cover their body completely. Women of the Abhuj Marias love to wear several iron rings, sometimes as many as 20 round their necks. The Abhuj Marias worship the local village deity 'Kaksar' and dance for blessings for reaping a good harvest. Kaksar is a group dance, performed by young boys and girls, dressed in their best.

BisonHorn Maria

Primarily found in the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh, the BisonHorn Maria tribes are another major sub-castes of the Gonds. They mainly reside in Jagdalpur Tehsil of Chhattisgarh, south of Indravati River. Like Abhuj Marias these tribes also like to live in isolation into deep interiors of forests and avoid contacts from outside world. The majority of BisonHorn Marias speak various and, in part, mutually unintelligible dialects of Gondi, an unwritten language of the Dravidian family.

Their culture and traditions and daily life is almost similar to Abhuj Marias. They also practice shifting cultivation method of agriculture and collect forest produce for survival. Like Abhuj Marias, they do not plough the earth, as it would mean inflicting pain on her body. Pointed wood pieces are used for piercing for cultivation and stone implements are used for harvesting produce.

They derive their name from Bison Horn and very much adorn the bison horns during their dancing rituals. They also perform the marriages through Ghotul System. Divorces and widow remarriages are common but adultery is strictly forbidden. Marriages amongst the blood relations including brothers and sisters are common.


Murias, another major sub-castes of the Gonds, are found in the Narayanpur and Kondagaon Tehsils of Bastar district. Unlike Marias who live in isolation deep into the dense forests, the Murias live in plains and are comparatively more civilized than the primitive Marias. But their primary activities are similar to other Gond sub-castes and they survive on agriculture and collection of minor forest produces.

As far as religious and social beliefs are concerned, Murias have several totems and several gods of villages and tribal sub-groups and. They are highly superstitious and strongly believe in sorcery practices.

Unlike Hindus, there is no functional division of castes in the society and they have their own socio-legal hierarchy of tribal administration.

One of the main characteristics of Murias is that they prefer intoxicating and traditional Mahua drinks rather than medicines for curing ailments.

Like Gonds, they also practice Ghotul System for marriages where the prospective couples stay in separately built huts and interact with each other including free sex. Divorces and remarriages are common but adultery is strictly prohibited.


The Halbaas are one of the major tribes found in central India. Known for their unique culture and way of life, Halbaas reside in relatively larger part of central India covering Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, the eastern Maharashtra and the western Orissa. In Chhattisgarh they are mainly found in Bastar, Raipur and Durg districts.

Perhaps, the name 'Halbaa' has been derived from the Hindi word 'Hal', the plough, which goes on to prove that they are primarily agriculturists. Other major activities of Halbaas are collecting fruits and other forest goods and iron working (Bastar has a large reserve of easily accessible iron ore).

Halbaas can be divided into three major types - Chhatisgarhia, Marathia and Bastaria. Also, the Bastaria Halbaas (Halbaas of Bastar district) enjoy great similarities with the tribals of the Warangal district of Andhra Pradesh.

Halbaas are comparatively more developed and rich tribal groups in the region mainly due to the fact that they practice sedentary farming and most of them are landowners and landlords also. Halbaas also enjoy high and respectful 'local caste status' amongst the tribals in the region.

Their customs and traditions, costumes and dialect make them different from the much popular Gonds tribes. Halbaas speak a dialect, which is a raw blend of three main languages in the region- Marathi, Oriya and Chhattisgarhi.

The Bastaria Halbaas perform marriages only in their own clan living in Bastar district. Though, women enjoy a respectful status in the society, they cannot divorce their husbands. Other interesting feature of Halbaa society is that the widower can remarry only widows. Halbaas don't practice the Ghotul system of marriages but marriages amongst the same bloods are preferred.

As far as eating habits of Halbaas are concerned, they eat meat and consume wine and mahua drinks with exception to Kabirpanthis (followers of saint Kabir regarding themselves as Hindu, though still maintaining monotheism and being opposed to idol worship) who are strictly vegetarians.


The Bhatras are one of the major tribal groups of the Chhattisgarh found mostly in Bastar and Raipur divisions of the state. Bhatras are known for their unique costumes and traditions but their origin is still a mystery. Bhatras have three sub-groups - Pit, Amnet and Sebhatra. Women folks enjoy high status in the society and the Bhatra girls have full freedom to choose their husbands or live as wife with the person they like with or without marriage. As far as their eating habits are concerned, like other tribals they too prefer liquor consumption, fruits and animal food.

The Bhatras practice shifting cultivation type of agriculture and don't have private lands. Other major activity of the Bhatras is collecting minor forest produces and selling that to the traders of Bastar. Most of them work as farm or household workers for their survival. They love intoxicating Mahua drinks and the Mahua tree is so much revered by them that the marriage ceremonies can't be completed without taking rounds of this tree. Like other tribes, Bhatras too are superstitious and believe in magic and sorcery.


The Dhurvaas are one of the most important tribal groups in Bastar district. Also known as Parjaas (the public), they rank only second in the hierarchy of the Bastar tribals after Bhatras. To prove their high status among the tribals of the region, they preferred to be called as Dhurvaas that connotes the status of some type of Mukhia (the Village Chief). They are very caste conscious people and do not mix with tribes of lower status.

The practice of polygamy, having more than one wife, is quite common among them. Like other tribal societies, the women of Dhurvaas too enjoy high status and are liable for most of family maintenance.

Normally, men are lethargic and work less except hunting, agriculture and protection of the family.

The primary activities of Dhurvaas mainly include agriculture, hunting, crafts with cane and gathering minor forest products which they sell to traders at a throw away price. Dhurvaa tribes are very brave and can do anything to protect their prestige and dignity. Also, they are very religious and worship many village goddesses. Feasts and animal sacrifices are very much part of their social life and sacrifices of goats, pigs, ducks, chicken and coconuts are made to appease the village goddess.

Marriage system is quite similar to other tribes and their women folks enjoy better status in the society. The tobacco and liquor consumption (Mahuva drinks) is a must for celebrations and evening activities of Dhurvaas and are used by men and women, young and old, alike.