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.