Experiences I have gathered on minimalist lifestyle, cultural values, sustainability and eco-friendly habits while spending time with the tribes of Madhya Pradesh.
“Hum aaj kamate hai, aaj khate hai. Kal ke chinta hume nehi hai”
We earn today and eat today. We don’t care about tomorrow.
These are a few life-changing words I have heard from the tribes of Madhya Pradesh. There are 46 recognized tribes from MP. I was lucky to meet three of them which are Bhariya, Gond and Baiga on my tribal trail journey conducted by Times Passion Trail and MP tourism and got a chance to observe their lifestyle very closely.
The tribals I met traditionally lived in the forest in mud and bamboo huts and generally cultivated kodo-kutki, jowar, and corn in a small patch of land. Many loved to wear silver jewellery, colourful clothes, multiple tattoos, combs in their hair and handmade ornaments and many did not wear but a piece of cloth. They knew the secret of medicinal herbs, the usage of plants for multi-purpose and how to survive on minimal possessions.
Here are the experiences of the unique confluence of lifestyle and cultural values which I gleaned from the tribes of Madhya Pradesh.
As per Verrier Elwin Bhariya Tribe is a Dravidian Tribe and most prestigious tribe among other tribes. They have another name called Bhumia which means lord of the soil as it is believed that they worship Nature and soil. They were cut off from the World completely and only a decade ago their existence was discovered at the Patalkot valley in MP.
Patalkot valley is a nature’s miracle, encompassed by exquisite rocky heels. Doodhi River flows through this valley. Around 12 villages situated in this valley and, attributable to their picturesque beauty, are considered one of the best-kept secrets in MP. Over the years, this tribe community has kept up with their originality without adapting to the traditions of the modern world. For years they have lived and fostered a close connection with nature. The valley is isolated from the world, but a few pathways are there to arrive at the villages.
I met Krishnadas Bharti here who is a scholar and studies mathematics Hons. In Chhindwara district. According to him, the Karyam village (one of the prominent villages of Bhariya Tribe) is completely plastic-free and clean. They do not use modern amenities like refrigerators, television, Air Conditioning but they are happy in their world. Bhariya tribe majorly into cultivation and they also possess deep knowledge about medicinal plants as Patalkot where this tribe dwells is quite rich in medicinal plants.
Note: Leave your urban egos and knowledge while visiting karyam and learn how to live in a minimalistic way.
While travelling to Mandla I got to know that Gonds are one of the largest tribal groups in the world. Not only Madhya Pradesh Gonds are also spreading in Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Odisha. In Mandla, we witnessed one of the prominent tribal temples established by the Gond King called Raj Rajeshwari Temple.
Every Gond village has a headman and a panchayat picked by the tribe people. Villages additionally have service castes like Ahir (cowherds), Agaria (metalworkers), Dhulia (drummers), and Pardhan (versifiers and vocalists).
An ordinary Gond village has a few hamlets. Houses are usually built of mud and thatch. They consist of a living room, kitchen, veranda, a special room for women to use while menstruating, and a shrine for clan gods. Gond houses contain bunks and a couple of wooden stools; mats are utilised for sitting and dozing. Their staple food is kodo and kutki but they consume rice only during festivals as rice appears expensive to them.
Gonds believe that earth, water and air are ruled by Gods. To worship those natural calamities and gods they celebrate most festivals with songs and dances. On certain occasions, for example, with the Dandari artists, dances retell occasions from Gond folklore. Dhulias are expert musicians and Pardhans (bards) protect legends, fantasies, and history, passing these customs on from generation to generation. The Gond tribe love to wear heavy silver ornaments and colourful clothes.
Gonds have a rich arts tradition that includes painting, art and pottery. The paintings have geometric designs and have colourful depictions of flora, humans, and animals. Gond tribe is famous for its vibrant artworks, which generally describes men’s close connection with nature, lifestyle, habitat via colourful paintings.
Note: Respect and value Gond Tribe’s ancient art and artisans, their love for history and culture.
The Baiga tribe is well known for body tattoos. They, especially Baiga women, believe that tattoos are conveyed into eternity because the ink coordinates with the actual body itself. Also, to maintain the tradition, Baiga women made elaborate meaningful tattoos on their forehead, arms, legs, back, neck and this tradition are strongly linked with the beauty of these women. As per legends, the tattoos are the only ornaments that will go with them to heaven when they die. The patterns usually signify fire, moon and sun, grains, God, peacocks, chariot, flowers, and so on. Also, they have faith in magic and the Baigas regard themselves as the most powerful of magicians.
Baiga tribes generally live in the middle of the forest and are mostly dependent on forest plants too for their livelihood. They can perceive many species around them and know their use in myriad ways. The Baiga don’t furrow the land, as they think of it as a transgression to scratch the mother earth. The Baiga clans work on moving development, called ‘bewar’ or ‘dahiya’. Other ways Baigas obtained their living are cutting bewar and growing crops, hunting and fishing, collecting forest roots and fruits and selling forest produce such as honey and harra, selling bamboo mats and baskets and the most interesting one is serving as village priests, practising exorcism and herbalism.
Note: If you want to be curious about the Baiga tribe then you must follow their rules and respect their beliefs.
We started our journey from the capital city of Madhya Pradesh, Bhopal. If you want to explore the same way we travelled then plan your travel as per the below routes :
The tribal trail experience was fascinating and an eye-opener for me. With completely plastic-free areas these tribal people are amazingly managing their lifestyle. They neither have a fancy lifestyle nor have worries which fade away from their smiles. They know how to live and enjoy being together. Despite this, they are regarded as backwards because money and contemporary conveniences hold little importance in their off-the-grid lives.
This post is in collaboration with Times Passion Trail & MP Tourism, but the experiences and views are mine…
22 thoughts on “Experience The Unique Confluence Of Lifestyle And Cultural Values From The Tribal Of Madhya Pradesh”
I have 3 very good friends who live in MP and I have heard so much from them about how authentic the place is. I would love to visit MP. I loved your pictures and article.
The tribal trail was indeed such an enriching and enlightening experience. There is so much to learn from the minimalistic and simple lifestyles of the tribals. Sandy N Vyjay
What an interesting journey and experience. The photographs are a lovely snippet of the place and people. It is amazing how art and craft have continued so strongly here, and they are quite pretty.
I can relate to, and rather liked their theory behind tattoos – a lovely way to connect to the beyond.
I loved reading it. What a fascinating tribe to research. I adore the women’s tattoos. I also thought it was cool that they lived in harmony with nature at first. That is how I wish life could be.
The village looks very beautiful and welcoming, Pamela. I’m so interested in their tattoos. Also the tribal life has caught my attention. Thanks for sharing this travel exploit of yours with us.
Like Madhya Pradesh there is just so much richness in your post. I am pinning it for reading later at leisure. Mean while drooling at all the beautiful photographs. You go girl!
Learning about and appreciating culture is a key part of travel for me, so I’m very interested in your piece about the tribes of Madhya Pradesh. That there are communities still living a traditional forest way of life is good to learn about and experience for yourself. And a good lesson to see how they live an eco-friendly existence, as well. Insights into art, culture, religion, lifestyle, all of this appeals. And your portraits of community members are especially appealing and show that you achieved some great connections.
I 100% agree with you – we have a lot to learn from these tribes, whether it means going plastic-free, living off the land, using medicinal herbs, or fortifying our spiritual beliefs. What an incredible opportunity you had to experience each tribe’s unique lifestyle and culture. I especially love the colorful art of the Gonds! Even living simply, it demonstrates to me the importance of creativity.
That was so well documented. These tribes teach us a lot about simple lifestyle.
The full body tattoo on women of Bharia tribe is really amazing. I can’t muster courage to take a single prick. Love the colorful costume of Gond tribals.
I imagine life in Karyam Village to be simple and serene, which is something I’d like to experience for a long time. I like their body tattoos, especially since they each have a different meaning. I admire the simplicity and minimalism of their lifestyle too — it’s simply another example of how money can’t buy happiness.
How interesting to find out about the Madhya Pradesh tribes, I had not been aware of them before I read your post. I am interested in the body tattoos of the ladies, they reminded me of the Maori tribal markings on the indigenous peoples of New Zealand.
It is amazing how the bharia tribe in Karyam village are living without plastic and have adopted minimalistic living – something that none of us have achieved. The terracotta mud handicrafts created in various colors look so beautiful! Their tattoo designs are unique and their theories and beliefs behind the tattoos are interesting. Enjoyed reading your blog post. 🙂
What a fascinating article. The village sounds amazing, to be so far away from the madness of modern society, to maintain sustainability and traditional practice.
This was such an interesting article. I have never known very much of tribes in Madhya Pradesh and I enjoyed reading about it. I hope these traditions carry on to future generations to come. For example the meaning of tattooing is so powerful. Thanks for teaching me all these things.
Wonderful post on your journey through Times tribal trails. It was a pleasure reading about the lifestyle of Gond and Baiga tribes and how they believe in sustainable living and plastic free environment. We have so much to learn from these tribal people their culture. And they interesting aspect on the tattooing culture of Baigas carrying them to the other world is truly fascinating.
The art, their tattoos, and their mantra towards life is unreal. It’s bold if I could say and not something many of us would dream of doing. Pretty interesting post.
It is so interesting to understand the cultural heritage of the rural areas and their connection with nature and Gods. Your article has made me even more curious and lures me to visit this beautiful place rich in so many ways.
I have followed your write-ups on the tribes of MP and have learned something new in each post and video. It’s really fascinating to know-how about their sustainable lifestyle, something we all need to follow.
The Times Tribal trail was itself a confluence of experiences of a different kind. It was an enlightening journey that opened new frontiers of thought and gave us a peep into the fascinating world of the tribals of Madhya Pradesh. A journey that shall live evergreen in our memories.
Wow so fascinating to learn about this tribe. I have tried my hands at Gond art and it is surely one of the most beautiful art forms. Thanks for sharing about this tribe, hope to visit them someday.
This was quite a fascinating read about the tribal trail in Madhya Pradesh. The Baiga tribes and their tattoos are quite interesting. And the art and handicrafts are also so beautiful. And thanks for sharing the tentative itinerary for experiencing the tribal trail. I am quite sure that i would do this one.
Seems like you had one of the most culturally rich journeys in the heart of India. MP has so much to offer. We are forever trying to figure MP out.