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Kutia kondh woman.JPG
A Kutia Kondh woman in Odisha.
Total population
ca. 430,000
Regions with significant populations
Kui, Kuvi
Related ethnic groups
Meriah sacrifice post.

Khonds (Odia: କନ୍ଧ; Hindi: खोंड, also spelled Kondha) are an ethnic group of India. They are a designated Scheduled Tribe in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha and West Bengal.[1] Traditionally hunter-gatherers, their main divisions are the Kutia, or hill Khonds and plain-dwelling Khonds; the landowners among them are known as Raj Khonds. The Khonds speak the Kui language.


Meriah sacrifice[edit]

The Khonds became known during the British occupation of their district about 1835 for the practice of human sacrifice. These sacrifices were known as Meriah and were intended to further the fertilization of the earth. It was incumbent on the Khonds to purchase their victims. Unless bought with a price, they were not deemed acceptable. They seldom sacrificed Khonds, though in hard times Khonds were obliged to sell their children and they could then be purchased as ''meriahs''. Persons of any race, age or sex were acceptable if purchased. Many were bought and kept and well treated. ''Meriah'' women were encouraged to become mothers.

The Raja of Angul State was deposed by the British in 1847, and his estate confiscated, when he opposed the British officers that had been sent to suppress the Meriah sacrifice among the Khonds.[2]


Some of the major groups are derived from the principal professions they follow and the crafts they practice- for example, the cattle-breeding group takes the name Gawli, derived from Sanskrit word for cow. Similarly, the names of the shepherd castes seem to be derived from words meaning "sheep". Such is at least the case with ''Gadaria'', derived from ''gadar'', an old Hindi word for "sheep". Other major groups bear merely tribal or ethnic names. Examples include: Gujjar, Lohana, Bhatia, Meena, Bhil, Dom, Oraon, Munda, Santal, Koch, Ahir, Mahar, Nayar, Maratha, Gond and Khond, as well as others.[3]

Culture and economy[edit]

The Kondhs, or the Kui as they are locally known, are the largest tribal group in Odisha. They are known for their cultural heritage and values which center on respecting nature. Amongst the Kondhs, Maliah Kondhs are the majority group.

They go out for collective hunts eating the fruits and roots they collect. They usually cook food with oil extracted from sal and mahua seeds. They also use medicinal plants. These practices make them mainly dependent on forest resources for survival. Their religion is animistic, and their pantheon includes eighty-three Gods. The Kandhamal district in Odisha (erstwhile a part of Phulbani district), has a fifty-five percent Kandha population, and was named after the tribe.

Dongria Kondhs inhabit the steep slopes of the Niyamgiri Range of Koraput district and over the border into Kalahandi. They work entirely on the steep slopes for their livelihood. The Niyamgiri range provides a wealth of perennial springs and streams which greatly enrich Dongria cultivation.


The Khonds speak the Kui language as their mother tongue. It is most closely related to Gondi, Konda and Kuvi and more distantly to Telugu.[4]


  1. ^ "List of notified Scheduled Tribes" (PDF). Census India. Retrieved 15 December 2013. 
  2. ^ L. E. B. Cobden-Ramsay, Feudatory States of Orissa: Bengal District Gazetteers, Logos Press, 2011
  3. ^ G.S. Ghurye, Caste And Race In India, Popular Prakashan, 2004 reprint, pages 31-33.
  4. ^ Krishnamurti, Bhadriraju (2002). The Dravidian languages (1st ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-77111-0. 

External links[edit]