|Regions with significant populations|
The Bonda (also known as the Bondo, Bondo Poraja, Bhonda, or Remo) are an ancient tribe of people numbering approximately 12,000 (2011 census) who live in the isolated hill regions of the Malkangiri district of southwestern Odisha, India, near the junction of the three states of Odisha, Chhattisgarh, and Andhra Pradesh.
Remo, the Bonda language
The Bonda are a scheduled tribe of India and are also known as the Remo (meaning "people" in the Bonda language). The tribe is one of the oldest and most primitive in mainland India; their culture has changed little for more than a thousand years. They are one of the 75 Primitive Tribal Groups identified by the Government of India. Their isolation and known aggressiveness continue to preserve their culture despite the pressures of an expanding Indian population. Their language belongs to the Munda branch of the Austroasiatic language family.
The Bonda are generally semi-clothed, the women wear thick silver neck bands. The Bonda attire is explained in a legend relating to the Ramayana. According to it, some Bonda women chanced upon Sita who was bathing at a pond in the Bonda hills and, seeing her naked, they sniggered. Enraged, Sita cursed them to a life where they would be condemned to remaining naked and having their heads shaven. When the Bonda women pleaded forgiveness, Sita gave them a piece of cloth she tore off her sari. This explains, according to the legend, why Bonda women have shorn heads and wear only a ringa, a length of cloth that covers the waist. Their torsos are covered in strings of colourful beads. Bonda women also wear metal rings that cover their necks and bangles on their arms. Since Bonda women hunt and forage for food in the forest, it is thought that these ornaments have a function of protecting them from injuries and attacks by wild animals.
Gender roles among the Bonda
In Bonda society, the women enjoy a privileged position. They are the primary workers and providers of food for the community. This matriarchal dominance is also seen in the marital norms of the community. Bonda girls largely marry boys who are at least five to ten years younger than them. Thus the girl looks after her husband as he grows up and in turn he cares for his elder wife. In contrast with many other populations in India, the number of women among the Bonda greatly exceeds the number of men. Among the men alcoholism is a major issue. They spend much time brewing and consuming liquor from rice, palm and the mahua flower. The Bondas are trained in using arms at a young age. This, coupled with rampant alcoholism and their reputation for a quick temper, has contributed to high rates of fratricide among them.
The best way to see members of the tribe is to go to one of the local town markets. It is not safe to go into their tribal areas. The Bondas still use binnimoy protha, or barter, and they customarily go to a market every Sunday.
They like to put castor oil on their heads. The women make worli paintings in their homes.
Threats to Bonda culture
The Government of Orissa has over the years tried to bring the Bonda into the mainstream and set up the Bonda Development Agency (BDA) in 1977 with this aim. The Bonda have begun to take up non traditional occupations as migrant labourers and as peons and clerks in government offices. This process of mainstreaming has however also had its fallout. The Remo language is now an endangered tongue as more Bondas have taken to Oriya or Oriya pidgin as their primary language of communication. The absence of a script or text for Remo adds to the threat of its extinction. It is also feared that other indigenous knowledge of the Bondas will also become casualty to this emphasis on integrating them with Oriya society.
- Pancorbo, Luis (2008):"Bonda" en "Avatares. Viajes por la India de los dioses". pp. 147–167. Miraguano Ediciones, Madrid.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Bonda people.|
- Manushi on INDIA TOGETHER: Reversal of family roles / Societal patterns of Orissa's Bonda tribals
- Sinlung Sinlung — Indian tribes.
- L'Inde Fantôme (Louis Malle, 1969) 6 — Les etrangers en Inde Part I. A French documentary film about the Bonda.