Libmonster ID: IN-1261
Author(s) of the publication: A. V. IVANOV


Educational and Scientific Center of Social Anthropology of RSUH

munda peoples,Keywords: bondo (remo), ethnography of India

This article describes the author's search for a small Bondo people in the jungles of Orissa. He set out to find this community, one of the insufficiently known groups of peoples of Central India, isolated in its ecological niche.

You need to start this story from my student years, when I wrote a diploma about Santala at RSUH - there are such people in India. And it is quite numerous, and linguistically it belongs to the Munda peoples, little-known non-specialists. And yet, it is not less than 5 million people, with an ancient culture from the time of the first civilizations.

Linguists associate the ancestors of the Munda with South-East Asia (this was established by W. Schmid* in 1906, 1 confirmed by N. Zide** in the 1960s, 2 at the end of the last century, the work of D. Schmid**). Stampe and P. Donegan * * * closed this issue). The Munda languages, along with Mon-Khmer and Nicobar, form the so-called Austro-Asiatic family. Their carriers inhabit mainly the Mekong River basin, but some groups are found in China, Malaysia and India.

The Mekong is indicated as one of the possible centers of rice domestication around the fifth millennium BC. 3 Probably, the ancestors of the Munda, moving west in search of suitable conditions for rice cultivation, reached India, where they occupied land with an abundance of water. It can be said that India owes the appearance of rice to the Munda peoples: the earliest finds indicating this date back to 1600 BC (Chirand village in Bihar) .4

Now all the Munda peoples are "registered tribes"5. The exact number is difficult to name. According to my calculations from various sources, there are at least 20 of them; most of them fall on the so-called northern munda, which also includes Santala.

That was all that looked reliable. All my other knowledge of munda was very limited. There was much to learn, or at least explore. After finishing my studies in Moscow, I received a grant to study under the program of the Indian Council for Cultural Exchange and went to India.


My university was located in Hyderabad, in the heart of the country, and it was only an overnight train ride to Orissa, the southern border of the Munda settlement.

Hyderabad met me in August with tropical rain and knee-deep streets, and the university with intensive classes: Indian society, applied anthropology, evolution... Fortunately, I passed the first session normally and immediately after that I left for my first field work at yerukala 6.

That trip helped me a lot - I lived in an Indian village for the first time, saw how a group of anthropologists works, and felt the very atmosphere of research. But the main achievement is that I started eating Indian food and understood its taste. It was a real breakthrough! Since then, I have been able to travel around India without fear of being away from McDonald's...

The training program was a two-year one, and in the spring of the following year, the diploma defense was expected. And I didn't have a better time to go to Bondo's than in the fall.

On the first holiday, of which there are many at this time of year, I took a train to Vishakapatnam, a city on the Bay of Bengal, and from there took a bus to Koraput, the capital of a district almost entirely inhabited by tribes. This is a mountainous region: the bus winds up and down the serpentine between the hills quite a bit. Taking the "start" at noon, I crossed the "finish" only at three o'clock in the morning, the" ribbon " was a hotel for me, in Koraput it is open at night.

The article was prepared with the support of the RSUH as part of the implementation of the "Strategic Development Program for 2012-2013" (project 2.1.3). I also express my gratitude to the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) and the Central University of Hyderabad (HCU).

Wilhelm Schmid (1868-1954) - ethnographer and linguist, professor at the University of Vienna, founder and editor of the journal "Anthropos".

** Norman Zide (b. 1928) is a professor at the University of Chicago, a specialist in Indian languages and especially in Austro-Asiatic languages.

*** David Stamp and Patricia Donegan are American linguists from the University of Honolulu, Hawaii, who have compiled a dictionary of the Saora language and published several studies on the subject of Austroasiatic languages.

page 63

In the morning, a local museum employee provided me with a pamphlet explaining how to find Bond's main village, Madalipada: go to Malakangiri in the foothills of the Eastern Ghats. These places, I was told, were far from Koraput. I had to limit the trip to porja7 and go back to start planning a new trip.

Meanwhile, Bali was approaching-the Festival of lights, probably the longest weekend in India. I packed up the most necessary things, including a flashlight, sleeping bag and inflatable pillow, and left the hotel at 6 pm.


I need to get to the stop in front of the university, and then take two buses to the station in Kochi, a district in Hyderabad, and then wait for another bus to go in the direction I need. There is time to buy nuts, cookies and tumz up-a local coke. At night we leave Hyderabad, there are no more traffic jams, it is cool and dark, the bus accelerates along an empty highway.

It is important not to oversleep the bus stop. Fortunately, on any long-distance Indian bus, apart from the driver, there are always a couple of young people sitting on the steps at the door or in the empty seats at the head of the bus. They woke me up in the middle of the night. There were almost no passengers left, and it was completely dark outside.

I get out, the bus pulls away and disappears around the bend, and I look around. There are no lights around, and in the moonlight, the leaning houses along the road look fantastic, like in a dream. I walk down the street, everywhere equally dark and quiet... Suddenly I see a lighted window, knock, and no one answers. I pull the door open, and it creaks open. I enter a large room with a light bulb and beds, some of which are occupied by people wrapped in colorful rags. There were not many options, so I put my backpack under the nearest bed and in five minutes I was gone, just like the whole village.

I woke up in an empty room. The room turned out to be specially adapted for sleeping, and I pay 10 rupees (about $0.25), the toilet is here, but breakfast is not provided.

I walk out into the street and stop in amazement. The sun is shining, and in front of me across the road is a wide river and huge trees on the bank. It turned out that transport to Malakangiri runs from the other side of the Godwari River, and here - only a ferry.

Sure enough, an hour later, a raft loaded with people, chickens, and motorcycles pulls away from the rocky shore and heads down the calm river to the other side, about three hundred meters away. The raft is operated by a young man with a pole, pushing off with it; if any part of the raft goes under water, he shouts at the culprit, and he obediently pulls his motorcycle away from the edge, and the raft, swaying on the waves, crawls on. It all looks extremely unreliable, and after half an hour I was relieved to get off the sand. It's time to find a bus.

He was standing nearby waiting for the ferry people, and I climbed into the backseat and stared out the window. It was midday when the bus pulled away. The road ran through low brush and through relatively sparse villages, and there were more people at each stop. After a couple of hours, I changed my seat and sat down next to the driver - I thought it wasn't as hot as it was in the back, but I was wrong - although there was a light breeze from the open door, there was dust flying and I could feel it on my teeth. Taking advantage of the long drop-off at the next stop, I managed to get to the roof, where a group of young farmers and their chickens were tied up in bunches by their paws and spread out all over the roof.

The harrowing journey instantly turned into an exciting one. Of course, the roof is hot and harsh, but the breeze saves you from the heat, and the stunning views around you-from the tedious shaking. The plain had already ended, and the bus was crawling up the road between hills covered with impenetrable jungle, and even the villages along the way were covered in greenery, covered like scales with ivy and wild grapes. After a couple of hours it began to get dark, and after a couple of hours, already in complete darkness, we arrived in Malakangiri. The journey took about eight hours.


In the morning, I figured out what to do next. The bus took me relatively quickly to Jaipur, the intersection of two roads, and I started on foot, which, I was told, was only three kilometers away. I hitched a ride on the road, and soon I reached the market in a clearing in the shade of trees.

There was nothing remarkable about it. Colored plastic, spread out on the ground, served as a counter for everything that was sold.-

* Among our compatriots, the Soviet ethnographer L. V. Shaposhnikova visited these places in 1968. She overcame the road by car at night and even saw typhus-see: Shaposhnikova L. V. The secret of the Blue Mountains tribe. M " Science. 1969.

page 64

it is being used: these are peppers, vegetables, and some strange products, stucco and forged. A few customers squat down and haggle, while I look at the people and suddenly notice one couple-they are middle-aged women. Their hair is cut short, and instead of the usual sari, they have a kind of bag that is worn over their shoulders and covers their bodies below the knees. There are metal rings around her neck and a lot of earrings in her ears. The faces are not Indian at all - they look like children's faces, with slanted eyes. These were the first bondos I saw! So I decided that I would get to Madalipada today.

It was not difficult to find out the road - you need to go a few kilometers and then turn into the mountains, another three or five kilometers, and then not far, they willingly explained to me. I walked along the road between fields, sometimes meeting streams of water where children bathed, and sometimes seeing panoramas of magnificent hills in the distance, but I did not see a clear turn that would say "To Bondo". I soon realized that I was a little lost, and now I need to go back, which is tantamount to defeat.

I needed a new way of getting around, and out of Moscow habit I raised my hand to see if anyone would stop. Soon a motorcycle with two riders pulled up beside me. In India, it doesn't seem to be unusual for three or more people to ride a single motorcycle. I sat down boldly on the edge of the seat.

I was given a lift by two young guys from Bondo! Their parents were moved to the valley, where they received a plot of land, and now the young people are going to the hospital, then they will definitely give me a ride to the turn. While we were waiting for the medicine, I wrote down some phrases in the Bondo language, and soon "flew" to the desired turn. It seemed to me that all this was a good sign that the difficulties were over and there was very little left.


At the turn was a small village with a small temple, where the lions on the pediment are dressed up in women's skirts. But this did not alarm me, and I walked towards the hill in a good mood.

It was nearly two o'clock, and the sun was at its zenith. After a couple of kilometers, the road turned into the shadow of a hill and swirled among dark green walls of dense foliage, enlivened by the fiery sun, which here and there broke through the crowns of trees. Bright flowers on tall stems are popular with equally bright spiders, which show that they are dangerous and scary with their entire appearance: the long, up to three centimeters long body is colored scarlet or bright yellow. The spider swings with icy calmness in the center of its web. No one ever thinks to touch or catch it, although it's probably perfectly safe (and probably just as tasteless).

The road continued up until it met a mountain stream in a crevice, and soon several men came around the bend with hefty knives and bundles of green bamboo. The latter, stripped to the waist, turned to me, and when I asked him again, it seemed to me that he said in Russian: "Where are you going?", but I could not believe my ears and moved further uphill along the road, which already seems endless.

...I didn't have much water left, and it was almost four o'clock. There were no Bondos in sight, but there was no one else. I was completely alone. This might have been the best time to turn back, but I decided to take my last chance.

You just need to climb a high hill and look around. I had learned a little of the way to move through the brush, and with my hands on the trunks, I climbed quickly enough. After a while, the bushes became rarer and the rocks more frequent. From above came the sounds of animals, probably monkeys. I moved on, up the rocks, which were covered with dry vines here and there. Now I'm surprised at this, but then I managed to take pictures of something.

When I finally got to-

page 65

High enough to see the road, I was rewarded with a beautiful panorama. At the edge of the steep slope was a white tree with almost no bark, but orange leaves, and beyond it was a view of the darkening valley under the majestic hill opposite and the stone cliff to the right, illuminated by the setting sun. But I couldn't see the road.

I had a small pair of binoculars, and after climbing a tree that was rather shaky, I armed myself with them. In the valley, I could make out a hut and something similar in shape to a field; at that time, the direction seemed to be the most correct.

It is always easier to go down, and at one point I came to a stream with a high sandy bank, shallow and clean. I absolutely needed water - I'd run out of bottled water long ago, even though I was trying to save money. The stream was my salvation. He needed to catch his breath, get some water, clean up after the jungle, and get back to Bondo quickly - the sun had sunk to the very edge of the hills while he bathed, washed, and rested, and when it set, it would quickly turn dark.

I remember walking along the edge of the field in the valley between the hills and passing an empty hut, climbing up a hill - I remember how surprised I was when I saw the lost road at the top. I followed it until I came to a small stone bridge over a stream far below. The sun had already set behind the hills, it was getting dark, I had a penknife and a strong stick, and the bridge is convenient for protection from animals. It was time to prepare for the night.

In fact, all the gathering consisted of firewood, which had to be collected enough before dark, and in exploring the surrounding area. This is perfectly compatible, and when I collapsed exhausted on the wide stone edge of the bridge, it was already completely dark. I was rich in a pile of dry branches and a few cleared bushes, but I was really tired and had to get as much sleep as possible.

I woke up to the sound of a car and a bright light in my eyes. A Jeep was parked in front of my pile of wood, and two men in white shirts got out. While I was destroying my ramparts, the men said they were going to Madalipada (there was nothing else on that road, they said, but I was beginning to guess).

I asked for a ride, and we haggled for 50 rupees (a mere penny, considering my position). It was more than 9 o'clock, and the journey took about another half hour. Even knowing that the speed of the car on the serpentine on the hill is not very high, the distance was not less than 15 km, and, according to my calculations, the entire road was 25 - 30 km - three times more than what is written in the brochure. You can say that I paid the driver cheap.

On the way, it turned out that both men were teachers from a school in the village of Bondo. Today is Diwali-the festival of lights, they decided to visit the village. How I forgot about Diwali!.. However, there was nothing to be surprised about. This festival is popular with Hindus, but will bondo lights be lit this evening? It was urgent to find out.


When we arrived, I was immediately placed in a house on the square,

page 66

owned by a Hindu family living here. Three children, boys under 13, their father, mustachioed and wearing a white tank top, and his madame-ma'am, a plump woman in yellow. In the corner of the large room, a fireplace is burning, metal dishes are on the walls, the prosperity of the house. While I chat with the boys, they feed me something and then show me a room in the shed at the back of the house. It has an impressive lock on the outside, but inside it is completely empty and dark. There are no windows.

We returned to the house, where I received a portion of delicious pies stuffed with what might have been apples; they were baking on the hearth when I arrived. After that, the holiday began: the owner and his son set off fireworks in the courtyard, and I cursed myself: in the morning at the market (it was today!) I saw a whole tray of different exploding balloons and sparklers and didn't buy them! They would have saved me in the jungle and would have been useful here, but then no one advised me.

Late in the evening, I went around the village to watch Bondo's party. He didn't go far, it was quiet and dark everywhere, although many of the houses were lit with dim colored light bulbs. In a small square, I came across a bonfire and startled everyone with the flash of my camera - five bondo women with rings around their necks, and two boys, one of them snuggled up to his mother, but their faces were cheerful in the photo. I walked around a little more, and when I got back to my shed, I literally passed out, sitting on my sleeping bag with my head against the open door - if anything else is waiting for me today, then let it come, I don't care anymore...

I woke up to bright sunlight. My landlord was hanging up laundry in the yard, and when he saw me, he called me to get something to eat, and then I went through the village. It was located on both sides of the ravine, and, as the head of the village explained, all the bondos are no more than 9 thousand people (exaggerated), and in the village there are 46 bondo households (bondo lee?), and almost all of them are Hindus (!), but this is the official version.

A temple has been built in the village and schools for boys and girls have been opened, so now there are at least 20 teachers who are engaged in teaching the younger generation. Their work should produce results. At the end of the day, leaving the village, I was escorted by a pack of boys to a large mango tree with a small house under it. "Siba marpu!" one of them said solemnly, meaning "God Shiva"in his language. At the same time, he did not know a word of English, although he had been going to school for a long time.

So, it turned out that I was staying in a new part of the village, in Podeguda, near the main panchayat (village council) and schools. The village head's house is located here, a little lower down the hill, next to the temple, where mostly visitors live (for the Diwali festival). Even lower is a stream with a bridge and beyond it-Bondoguda, the village of bondo.

It is located on a flat and surprisingly dry place for a lowland, and the orange color here prevails. When the street is flooded with sun, the ground is red and the road is yellow; tin roofs on sand houses are in color with bricks and shingles on sheds. Dry straw under the roofs, dried poles and firewood under the awnings only set off these bright colors. There are no trees in the village, and a woman can sit right on the road, grabbing a short shadow from the corner of her own house,and stretch out her legs, sorting millet, while a chicken or a small child scurries around.

In the center of Bondoguda, old mango trees give shade to a circular rise of stones about three meters in diameter. Several stones in the outer circle are larger than others, which visually raises the platform above the ground. I was told that this place is sacred because it is connected with the ancestors, but no one hesitated to climb there and wander around the site. It was more like a "frontal place", where it is convenient to discuss common matters and express personal opinions. I sat here for a while, drank some water, and drove on.

And then I met the real bondo. Most of the men are probably at work during the day; the women are picturesque but taciturn and busy with babies; I don't like old people and don't understand them. I usually get the kids. They are able to tell the most important things with true directness, but I get tired of their noise, and the best informant is always a middle-aged man.

I got a real Austroloid, tall and athletic. At first, I was more afraid of him - naked to the waist, broad pectoral muscles, black skin, a wide and shapeless nose. But I took a closer look: a kind face, a high forehead, from the point of view of bondo girls, he might be holo-

page 67

my fiance. He was interested in the world around him, and he undertook to accompany me. His name was simply something like Baloo.

"This is not a real village," he said. The real village, Mudlipuda, is higher up, there is a road there, and he will guide me. A path leads up, and with steps in dangerous places. There are many Bondo villages, my companion told me on the way: Andrahol here, Paregudab here. And there are only about 30 villages scattered over the hills in the area. His Mudlipuda is the capital, and we were heading straight there. Perhaps this is a good time to say what ethnographers know about this ethnic community.

...Not much attention has been paid to bondos8, and they are mostly handled by local specialists from the Tribal Museum, collecting statistics, and developing development and relocation programs. Here is the official information:

"The Bondo are a' Group of Primitive Tribes ' in the United States. Orissa (Malakangiri district), their population is 5,129 (according to the 2001 Indian Census). The self - name is remo (people), the language is related to the Munda languages. They are engaged in gardening, self-employment, and hunting and gathering are the mainstay of life support. The bondo are divided into two groups - ontal (cobra) and kilo (tiger)."

In general, this information can be trusted, it is given here from the special edition "Tribes in Koraput" 9, and some data coincide with what is already known, in particular, about the social structure of this society. What is called "gardening" is absolutely true. Bondo's vegetable gardens are vast and shady, with what looks like our gourds of various shapes hanging from the spreading trees, and, surprisingly, there are flowers growing in the garden that you won't find in a practical Indian.

We passed a couple of such vegetable gardens, and I realized that the village had begun. It's quite small, just a couple of lanes. And the colors here are different-mostly green and brown. Everything is buried in foliage, the roofs of low houses are covered with dry straw, pressed down by branches, the paths are paved with stone. In front of the door is a threshold and a canopy of leaves. To enter a cool and dark house with an earthen floor, you need to go down two steps.

The streets converge on a square. There, just like in the lower village, there is a stone elevation again, but the platform here is larger and located above a low cliff. Large stones are placed at the edge as a railing and are absent from the village side, which, in general, confirms my impression of the "sacred" place as a podium for speaking. But I saw someone climbing on the rocks, taking pictures, and the children even poured water on each other, and this did not interfere with the ancestors in any way!

In the center of the square, opposite the "sacred stones", another platform was made, round, one meter high and about five in diameter. It resembles a millstone with a handle, whose role is played by a clay-coated tank closer to the edge, as high as a man. In the center of the circle - millet spilled out for drying. Probably, there is threshing here, and the tank is used either for flour or for grains, it only matters that it is one, which means it is shared.

Several young women dressed in traditional costumes were sitting on the platform, two of them wearing rings around their necks and one of them not. This is a sign of marriage, a gift from her husband, but all three of them entered into conversation with me and Baloo, who seemed a little shy. We settled down next to them, and soon half the village was drawn to us, even the very elderly ladies arrived. I wrote something down in my notebook, but I didn't write down the name of the ring around my neck, although I remember asking and even holding it in my hands (it turned out to be easy).

At one point, we started downhill and came out right in front of my barn. I felt tired from the experience, I needed to be alone in some quiet place. I made an appointment with a teacher from the school, and he took me on a motorcycle to the road for Rs 100 (the journey took 40 minutes).

Almost immediately, by some miracle, I stopped a big bus that was going, you won't believe it, straight to Hyderabad! And in the morning of the next day I was at the station in Kochi. I rode the rickshaw proudly into the university , too tired to walk...

* I didn't save his name. In general, my field notes during this trip are more full of emotions than facts, as well as the story, however.

Schmid W. 1 Die Mon-Khmer-Volker, ein Bindeglied zwischen Volkern Zentralasiens und Austronesiens. Archiv fur Anthropologic Braunschweig, 1906. New series, p. 5:59 - 109.

2 См.: Studies in Comparative Austro-asiatic Linguistics (Zide N.H. ed.). The Hague: Mouton. 1966.

3 See: Chesnov Ya. V. Domestication of rice and the origin of the peoples of East and South-East Asia. 1973.

4 See: Bongard-Levin G. M., Il'in G. F. India v drevnosti [India in Ancient Times]. 1985.

5 In 1936, the colonial authorities issued a decree approving a list of" castes, communities and tribes " for which members of the Hindu community were considered untouchable. Since that time, they have been listed as "registered castes"in official documents. Under the same name, they were included in the Constitution of India in 1950. See: Yurlova E. S. India, from untouchables to Dalits. Moscow, IV RAS. 2003, p. 20.

Ivanov A.V. 6 The Yerukala tribe in the Indian village / / Asia and Africa today. 2010, N 2.

Ivanov A.V. 7 Porja na Yugu Orissa [7 Porja in the South of Orissa]. 2012, N 2.

8 Among the works known to the author is Elwin V. Bondo Highlander. Bombay, Oxford University Press. 1950; Parkin R. The Munda of Central India: An Account of their Social Organization. Delhi, Oxford University Press. 1992; and Shaposhnikova L. V. The Secret of the tribe of the Blue Mountains. Moscow, Nauka. 1969.

Mohanti K. K., Mohapatro P. C., Samal J. 9 Tribes of Koraput. Koraput. COATS. 2006, p. 47 - 50.


Permanent link to this publication:

Similar publications: LIndia LWorld Y G


Aamir NehruContacts and other materials (articles, photo, files etc)

Author's official page at Libmonster:

Find other author's materials at: Libmonster (all the World)GoogleYandex

Permanent link for scientific papers (for citations):

A. V. IVANOV, India: IN SEARCH OF BONDO // Delhi: India (ELIB.ORG.IN). Updated: 28.01.2024. URL: (date of access: 21.07.2024).

Found source (search robot):

Publication author(s) - A. V. IVANOV:

A. V. IVANOV → other publications, search: Libmonster IndiaLibmonster WorldGoogleYandex


Reviews of professional authors
Order by: 
Per page: 
  • There are no comments yet
Related topics
Aamir Nehru
Delhi, India
87 views rating
28.01.2024 (174 days ago)
0 subscribers
0 votes
Related Articles
15 hours ago · From Kahri Jamma
16 hours ago · From Kahri Jamma
16 hours ago · From Kahri Jamma
2 days ago · From Kahri Jamma
2 days ago · From Kahri Jamma
2 days ago · From Kahri Jamma
2 days ago · From Kahri Jamma
3 days ago · From Kahri Jamma
3 days ago · From Kahri Jamma
4 days ago · From Kahri Jamma

New publications:

Popular with readers:

News from other countries:

ELIB.ORG.IN - Indian Digital Library

Create your author's collection of articles, books, author's works, biographies, photographic documents, files. Save forever your author's legacy in digital form. Click here to register as an author.
Library Partners


Editorial Contacts
Chat for Authors: IN LIVE: We are in social networks:

About · News · For Advertisers

Indian Digital Library ® All rights reserved.
2023-2024, ELIB.ORG.IN is a part of Libmonster, international library network (open map)
Preserving the Indian heritage


US-Great Britain Sweden Serbia
Russia Belarus Ukraine Kazakhstan Moldova Tajikistan Estonia Russia-2 Belarus-2

Create and store your author's collection at Libmonster: articles, books, studies. Libmonster will spread your heritage all over the world (through a network of affiliates, partner libraries, search engines, social networks). You will be able to share a link to your profile with colleagues, students, readers and other interested parties, in order to acquaint them with your copyright heritage. Once you register, you have more than 100 tools at your disposal to build your own author collection. It's free: it was, it is, and it always will be.

Download app for Android