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All About the Exquisite Gadaba Tribe of Koraput And Their Fading Legacy

by Arpita Mohanty
All About the Exquisite Gadaba Tribe of Koraput And Their Fading Legacy

Explore the Ethnography of Odisha

The very name of Odisha has been derived from the word “Ordes”, a predominant tribe of the place. Housing the largest variety of tribal population, with 62 recognised tribal communities. Koraput is blessed with a bulk of the rich heritage and ethnic diversity in Odisha. One such tribe of Odisha is the Gadaba tribe, inhabiting Koraput, with the highest population density. Occupying a plateau of 3000ft, they live mostly in the southernmost part. Numerous theories of their origin surface after thorough research. Few theses trace their roots to Ramayana, few others to Godavari valley and Vindhya hills. The word “Gadaba” refers to a person who carries loads on his shoulders, thus speaking for the professions like agriculturist, coolie, or palanquin bearer, that they are invested in.

The tribe is divided into two types, the “Bada Gadabas” and the “Sana Gadabas”. The Bada Gadabas use “Gutab” , which is the dialect specific to their tribe belonging to the Munda language family. Whereas Sana Gadabas use the Olaro tongue of the Dravidian language family. The Gadabas have a characteristic dressing style, ornament collection and designs of hair. They tie their hair with linseed oil and adorn it with flowers. The men wear “Lenguti”, a small piece of cloth around the bottom with a flap hanging in front. The women wear “Kerang”, a long cloth wrapped around the waist, along with a wrap-around blouse. Their ornaments are made of brass and aluminium.

Their appetite for Gadabas rounds to thrice a day, though they do not take breakfast. “Pej”, gruel made up of ragi flour, locally called “Mandia”, is their staple food. Their dinner plate is often occupied by some or the other chutney. During festivals they prefer non-veg like fish, chicken and mutton. In their culture drinking liquor is believed to be sacred, so they consume alcohol on a regular basis.

Amidst the struggles of life and lingering poverty, the Gadabas make efforts to keep their culture alive through dance and music. Dhemsa dance is performed by women of the tribe, while the men play musical instruments like huge drums, Tal Mudibaja, Madal, flute, Tamak and Mahuri. Their performances generally depict their emotions and passion. Gutor Parab, Bandapana Parab, Dasahara Parab, Pusha Parab, and Chaita Parab are few major festivals that they celebrate with great pomp and show. The whole community starts the preparations of every occasion before 15 days, to fit everyone’s schedule and make the necessary arrangements. They believe in a peculiar superstition of “Palata Bagha”. According to them, this phenomenon can occur due to the wizardry of evil people, who have the ability to take the form of a tiger and prey on human beings. To get rid of this phenomenon they perform rituals and animal sacrifices. They also believe in divinity, and call their chief deity, “Thakurani”, whose idol is structured with slabs of stone as it resides in the Hundi.

One customary rule of Gadabas which the society can learn from is their egalitarian family structure, where the women have equal social status as that of men and also participate in every decision-making process. They worship a deity called “Sadar”, dedicated to mother earth, which is made up of stone and is enshrined under banyan trees. They prefer living in the moment and sharing with one another. With the advancement in technology and the interference to bring them to mainstream, changes in their dressing pattern, lingua franca, lifestyle, food preferences etc. are evident. Hardly women can be found wearing Kerang Sarees these days. “Gotar”, a major Gadaba festival has come to a halt for various speculated reasons. Though modernization is paving the path towards development, the goals should be kept sustainable, so that the cultural diversity of the tribes is not compromised in the process. Modern facilities, advanced lifestyle and traditional ethics should go hand in hand to conserve our rich heritage.

Gadaba Tribe of Koraput



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