Gondi people

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The Gonds
Women in tribal village, Umaria district, India.jpg
Regions with significant populations
India Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Telangana, , Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Karnataka,Bihar Andhra Pradesh
Gondi, Telugu, Marathi, Hindi

Gondi ( Koya Punem ).

Related ethnic groups

The Gondi (Gōndi) or Gond people are Adivasi people of central India, spread over the states of Madhya Pradesh, eastern Maharashtra (Vidarbha),[2] Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Western Odisha. With eleven million people, they are the second largest tribe in Central India.[3] They are a designated Scheduled Tribe in Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Telangana, Odisha and West Bengal.[4] The Gond are also known as the Raj Gond. The term was widely used in 1950s, but has now become almost obsolete, probably because of the political eclipse of the Gond Rajas.[5] The Gondi language is closely related to the Telugu, belonging to the Dravidian family of languages. About half of Gonds speak Gondi languages while the rest speak Indo-Aryan languages including Hindi. According to the 1971 census, their population was 5.1 million. By the 1991 census this had increased to 9.3 million[6] and by 2001 census this was nearly 11 million. For the past few decades they have been at the receiving end of the Naxalite–Maoist insurgency in the central part of India.[7] Gondi people are made to act as a militia against Naxalites by the Government of Chhattisgarh through Salwa Judum.[8]Gonds are the largest and most well known tribal communities in India.The name Gonds comes from telugu word 'konda' which means hills. The name thus indicates the hilly region where most of Gonds live.


Scholars believe that Gonds settled in Gondwana, now known as eastern Madhya Pradesh, between the 13th and 19th centuries AD. Muslim writers described a rise of Gond state after the 14th century. Gondas ruled in four kingdoms (Garha-Mandla, Deogarh, Chanda, and Kherla) in central India between the 16th and 18th centuries. They built number of forts, palaces, temples, tanks and lakes during the rule of the Gonds dynasty. The Gondwana kingdom survived till late 16th century. They also gained control over the Malwa after the decline of the Mughals followed by the Marathas in the year 1690.[9] The Maratha power swept into Gondland in the 1740s.The Marathas overthrew Gond Rajas (princes) and seized most of their territory. While Some Gond zamindaris (estates) survived until recently. .[10] During the British regime in India, Gonds challenged the Britishers in several battles.

Gonds in freedom struggle[edit]

This State included the regions of Sagar, Damoh, Mandla, Seoni, Narmada Valley and possibly a portion of Bhopal. The state had 53 forts. Dalpat Shah as its ruler. When he died he left behind his widow Durgawati, who was from Chandel Rajput dynasty, and their infant son Bir Narayanawati became the Regent. Abul Fazal says that Durgawati ruled her kingdom with wisdom and ability. She delighted in hunting and bringing down wild animals with her own gun. Asaf Khan,[11] the Governor of Kara or Allahabad, was tempted by the wealth of Gondwana. Occasionally he ravaged the borders of the kingdom. Rani Durgwati started negotiations with Akbar for a peaceful settlement and when those negotiation failed, she retaliated by making forays against Bhilsa. Asaf Khan[11] marched toward Gondwana. Durgawati defended her territory bravely, but she was out numbered and defeated in a battle between garh and Mandal in the modern Jabalpur District. Rani Durgawati was wounded and she plunged a dagger into her chest and ended her life to save herself from disgrace. Her kingdom was annexed in 1564 by Akbar and was devastated and a lot of the wealth fell into the hands of the Mughals. Bir Narayan died fighting in the defence of his territory. According to V.A.Smith, Akbar's attack on a princess of a character so noble was mere aggression, wholly unprovoked and devoid of all justifications other than the lust for conquest and plunder.[12] Ramji Gond formed an army, and rebelled against the British, as the local people were unhappyfor separating out Berar from the Hyderabad province of the Nizams.[13]


The Gonds paint their walls with vibrant depictions of local flora, fauna and gods. Traditionally made on festive occasions, Gond painting depicts various celebrations, rituals and man’s relationship with nature. The artists use natural colors derived from charcoal, colored soil, plant sap, leaves, and cow dung. This mystical art form is created by putting together dots and lines. The imaginative use of the line imparts a sense of movement to the still images. The paintings are an offering in of nature, and are also a mode of seeking protection and warding off evil.

This ancestral painting style changed totally with the creation of a new painting school called Jangarh Kalam, created by Jangarh Singh Shyam.

Jangarh Singh Shyam (1962–2001) was born into a Pardhan Gond family in the village of Patangarh, Mandla district, Eastern Madhya Pradesh. He grew up in extreme poverty which forced him to quit school and try his hand at farming. He grazed buffaloes and sold milk in a nearby town. At the age of sixteen he married Nankusia Bai from Sonpur village; she was later to become an artist herself. In October 1981, a few years into his marriage, Jangarh was approached by the talent scouts of the arts museum Bharat Bhavan. This was also when he met its first director, the artist Jagdish Swaminathan which led to a lifelong collaboration between the two. Swaminathan convinced Jangarh to come and work as a professional artist in Bhopal. Swaminathan showcased Jangarh’s first sample paintings at Bharat Bhavan’s inaugural exhibition in February 1982. Soon Jangarh was employed in Bharat Bhavan’s graphic arts department, and he began to live with his family behind Swaminathan’s house in Professor’s Colony, Bhopal.

The 1000 years old bardic tradition was for the Pardhan to sing and play to keep alive the collective memory of the Gond Kingdom, to remember their gods and traditions.

When Jangarh came to Bhopal he continued to keep alive the collective memory in another artistic way. Having begun with filling out his own figure in sand, he moved on to paint the walls in the countryside of Patangarh, and the moment he found the conditions conducive to his art, a wonderful school of art came into existence. This was a unique occasion for the transformation of the Pardhan musical tradition into the art of painting. He transformed music into colors.

His work has been exhibited widely the world over including Bhopal, Delhi, Tokyo and New York. His most notable exhibitions include the Magiciens de la Terre in Paris (1989) and Other Masters at the Crafts Museum, New Delhi (1998). He was the first Pardhan Gond artists to use acrylic on paper and canvas for his paintings, creating the school which is now known as Jangarh Kalam.

Today most Gond artist’s paints with acrylic on canvases and papers and the most gifted are exposed in India and abroad. One of the distinctive elements is the use of patterns (signatures) to infill the larger forms on the canvas. Village life, sacred trees, blending of human figures with rituals and nature depict the Gond inherited skills and creativity. In the eyes of a Gond artist, everything is sacred and intimately connected to nature. The unique oral narrative tradition of the Gonds is reflected in their paintings as well. The work of Gond artists is rooted in their folk tales and culture, and thus story-telling is a strong element in their works. However every artist today has a personal style and has developed a specific language and pattern.

Through their works, the Gond artists seek to preserve the disappearing Gond environment and their longstanding heritage of tales and legends. The artists were tutored by Jangarh Shyam. Their close association with this great artist not only helped them to master his particular style but also gave them the courage to follow his footsteps, being able to find fame around the world for a few of them. Despite Jangarh's obvious influence on their art, each artist in this collection has a distinct vocabulary and a specific voice.

Some of the best known painters of the Jangarh Kalam school are : Jangarh's wife, Nankusia Shyam,[14] his children Japani and Mayank,[15] his nephews Bhajju Shyam[16] · [17] · [18] · [19] and Venkat Singh Shyam[20] and his sister and brother-in-law Durga Bai[21] and Subhash Vyam and Ram Singh Urveti[15] · .[22]


The prime language spoken by Gond Tribe is Gondi. Beside this, the Gond tribes have a good command on Telugu, Hindi, Marathi, Parsi and many other Dravidian languages. In 1928 Munshi Mangal Singh Masaram designed brahmi based script for Gondi, but it is not widely used nowadays. A recently discovered script Gunjala Gondi Lipi is used to write Gondi language.[23][better source needed] Of late, villagers in Maoist areas are documenting their stories on memorial plaques in this Gond Art form.

In Fiction[edit]

Gondi people appear in The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling. A Gondi hunter is one of the victims of "the King's Ankus" and a Gondi diviner advises the local villagers that their village is completely lost and they should just move somewhere else.[citation needed]


Many astronomy ideas were known to ancient Gonds.[24] Gond tribals had their own local terms for Sun, Moon, Constellations and Milky way. Most of these ideas were basis for their time keeping and calendrical activities. Other than Gonds the Banjaras and Kolams are also known to have knowledge of astronomy.[25][25]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • « The tribal art of middle India », Verrier Elwin - 1951
  • Savaging the Civilized, Verrier Elwin, His Tribals & India - Ramachandra Guha - The University of Chigago Press - 1999
  • Beine, David m. 1994. A sociolinguistic survey of the Gondi-speaking communities of central India. M.A. thesis. San Diego State University. 516 p.
  • Banerjee, B. G., and Kiran Bhatia. Tribal Demography of Gonds. Delhi: Gian Pub. House, 1988. ISBN 81-212-0237-X
  • Elwin, Verrier. Phulmat of the Hills; A Tale of the Gonds. London: J. Murray, 1937.
  • Fürer-Haimendorf, Christoph von, and Elizabeth von Fürer-Haimendorf. The Gonds of Andhra Pradesh: Tradition and Change in an Indian Tribe. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1979. ISBN 0-04-301090-3
  • Kaufmann, Walter. Songs and Drummings of the Hill Maria, Jhoria Muria and Bastar Muria Gonds. And, the Musical Instruments of the Marias and Murias. 1950.
  • Mehta, B. H. Gonds of the Central Indian Highlands: A Study of the Dynamics of Gond Society. New Delhi: Concept, 1984.
  • Museum of Mankind, Shelagh Weir, and Hira Lal. The Gonds of Central India; The Material Culture of the Gonds of Chhindwara District, Madhya Pradesh. London: British Museum, 1973. ISBN 0-7141-1537-1
  • Pagdi, Setumadhava Rao. Among the Gonds of Adilabad. Bombay: Popular Book Depot, 1952.
  • Perry, William James, The Children of the Sun: a study in the early history of civilization, London: Methuen, 1927.
  • Pingle, Urmila, and Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf. Gonds and Their Neighbours: A Study in Genetic Diversity. Lucknow, India: Ethnographic & Folk Culture Society, 1987.
  • Russell, R. V., The Tribes and Castes of the Central Provinces of India, London, 1916.
  • Sharma, Anima. Tribe in Transition: A Study of Thakur Gonds. India: Mittal Publications, 2005. ISBN 81-7099-989-8
  • Singh, Indrajit. The Gondwana and the Gonds. Lucknow, India: The Universal publishers, 1944.
  • Kangalee,Motiram Chhabiram,Paree Kupar Lingo Gondi Punemi Darshan (In Hindi),Publisher ujjvala society Nagpur,2011
  • Vatti,jalpati,Mava sagaa padeeng, in Gondwana sagaa Patrika published (In Hindi) in October 1986


  1. ^ Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC), 2011
  2. ^ https://books.google.com/books?id=X39c2VODLT0C&pg=PA16&lpg=PA16&dq=royal+gonds&source=bl&ots=0Ma0RGj47o&sig=rurWYLnJxqTJZnGHtkrfXUECmOI&hl=en&sa=X&ei=sf29VJDEHZfh8AXC8oHQCw&ved=0CEQQ6AEwBw#v=onepage&q=royal%20gonds&f=false
  3. ^ "Gondi people". 
  4. ^ "List of notified Scheduled Tribes" (PDF). Census India. Retrieved 15 December 2013. 
  5. ^ Indian Tribes -R.C.Verma ISBN 81-230-0328-5
  6. ^ Indian Tribes ISBN 81-230-0328-5
  7. ^ http://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/theatre/bringing-rural-realities-on-stage-in-urban-india/article7592193.ece?homepage=true
  8. ^ Salwa Judum
  9. ^ http://www.ecoindia.com/tribes/gonds.html
  10. ^ *Bates, Crispin (1995). "Race, Caste and Tribe in Central India: the early origins of Indian anthropometry". In Robb, Peter. The Concept of Race in South Asia. Delhi: Oxford University Press. p. 233. ISBN 978-0-19-563767-0. Retrieved 2011-12-02. 
  11. ^ a b http://narsinghpur.nic.in/history.htm
  12. ^ History of Medieval India-V.D.Mahajan ISBN 81-219-0364-5
  13. ^ http://www.scribd.com/doc/194993577/Tribal-Rebellions-of-India#scribd
  14. ^ Bulli & The Tiger - Shalina Reys and Nankusia Shyam - Pratham Books - 2010 - ISBN 9789350220177
  15. ^ a b Freedom : Sixty Years After Indian Independence, illustrations: Mayank Kumar Shyam, Ram Singh Urveti, Bhuri Bai ... - Art and Heritage Foundations - 2007 - ISBN 978-8190485807
  16. ^ La petite sirène - Gita Wolf et Sirish Rao, illustrations: Bhajju Shyam - Syros - 2009 - ISBN 9782748508413
  17. ^ La vie nocturne des arbres - Bhajju Shyam, illustrations: Durge Bai et Ram Singh Urveti - Acte Sud Junior - 2013 - ISBN 978-2-330-02132-0
  18. ^ Mon voyage inoubliable - Bhajju Shyam, illustrations: Bhajju Shyam - Syros - 2014 - ISBN 9782748514902
  19. ^ Alone in the Forest - Gita Wolf & Andrea Anastasio - illustrations: Bhajju Shyam - Tara Books - 2012 - ISBN 978-81-923171-5-1
  20. ^ Finding My Way - A Gondwana Journey - Venkat Raman Singh Shyam with S. Anand - navayana 2012 - A draft sample for Frankfurt Buchmesse 2012
  21. ^ Book of Rhyme - Gita Wolf, illustrations: Durga Bai - taraBOOKS - 2010 - ISBN 978-93-80340-06-7
  22. ^ I saw a Peacock with a fiery Tail - illustrations: Ram Singh Urveti - Tara Books - 2011 - ISBN 978-93-80340-14-2
  23. ^ Gunjala Gondi Lipi
  24. ^ http://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/1306/1306.2416.pdf
  25. ^ a b http://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/1406/1406.3044.pdf


External links[edit]

This article includes material from the 1995 public domain Library of Congress Country Study on India.