Mundigada – Your Wanderlust in Kandhamal (Part 2)

When you are at Mundigada you don’t see any glamorous monuments around you. But you hear stories of its hoary past. You are bound to contemplate, is the history of Odisha or India just restricted to the glory of Mughals or Gajapatis…why we don’t hear the stories of unknown India. Here is an attempt!

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The Kondhs are a militant tribe and don’t want to interfere in their territory. In the past, they were virtually independent in their mountainous kingdom but also connected by alliances with the ruling chiefs from the plain, especially Ghumsar. But when the chiefs tried to exert their political influence over them, the Kondhs resisted violation which in course of time led to Kondh uprising against the rulers of the plain and the British Raj in the 19th century.

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A forgotten chapter in history, the Kondh uprising predated even the much-talked mutiny of 1857.

There are three causes of Kondh uprising.

The first is the tradition of human sacrifices, called Meriah. The Kondhs were first brought to the notice of the British during 1835-37 through the Bhanjas of Ghumsar. In February 1836 the British force for the first time, while ascending the ghats, came to know about the existence of human sacrifice among the Kondhs of the hill tracts of the present-day Kandhamal including Mundigada. The British did not like the barbaric practice and wanted to abolish. But the practice of human sacrifice was the foundation of their socio-religious life. Therefore the British authorities took many cautious steps in dealing with the problems. Interestingly, the officers exerted their influence in making the Kondhs understand the norms of civilised life. They would come in elephants through the dense jungles and crossing several mountains and mountain rivers and assemble in a field at Mundigada to interact with Kondhs.

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MUNDIGADA – YOUR WANDERLUST IN KANDHAMAL (PART 1)

It is said that through direct inducements, such as gifts of land, money and cattle, titles and employment in the company service, the Kondhs were influenced. Even they tried to influence the priests of the Kondhs. But all such attempts were miserably failed to produce a due effect on the Kondh tribes. The practice of Meriah was so deep-rooted in Kondh society that any attempt by the British to suppress it created a sharp reaction among the Kondhs.

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Kondhs have 84 deities of whom ‘Thadi’ or ‘Teri Penu’ is the supreme. The Kondhs would be united in a ceremony in the worship of this deity. There would be sometime a child with a belief that the earth would become stable and fit for ploughing. Their prosperity would be ensured.

Travel Tips

Mundigada is a small village located in Tumudiband Block of Kandhamal District at a distance of 5 km from Tumidibanda and 50 km from the Subdivisional town of Baliguda. Connected by excellent road and bus service, the state capital of Bhubaneswar is 350 km away from Mundigada. At Mundigada, you can stay at Sathi Ghara Mountain Home, a homestay specially designed for knowledge seeking travellers.

When the British authority failed to persuade the Kondhs to give up Meriah sacrifice, they decided to use force against them. But due to high altitude difficult terrain, it was not feasible. The British interference in their socio-religious rites led to prolonged states of warfare.

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The second cause was the forced taxation. Ghumsar was in a state of political turmoil from the time the British captured it in 1767 till the end of Ghumsar rising in 1837. During those 75 years, Ghumsar faced desolation, devastation and ruin. There was the failure of crops in 1836 and consequently scarcity throughout the state. The following three years were of bad harvest for the whole of Ghumsar Kingdom. It crippled the backbone of people. On top of it, the British authority levied heavy taxes on rajas of Ghumsar and Baud. The government demanded arrears and revenue from the rajas, who in turn tried to realize the amounts from the Kondh inhabitants. But the Kondhs considered themselves the owner of the soil and they would not part with their lands on any ground whatsoever.

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A JOURNEY THROUGH KONDH TERRITORY, A TRIBE THAT ONCE SACRIFICED HUMANS

The Kondhs apprehended that their land would be grabbed by the British. They were against the imposition of any land revenue or taxes when they and their ancestors have not been in the habit of paying.

The British officers and the local agents with the instruction of the Government imposed illegal taxes on the Kondhs. To extract the money from them, even their cooking utensils were carried away forcibly.

The condition of Kondhs gradually worsened. Consequently, the oppressive rule was no longer tolerable, the Kondhs violently revolted against the British authority.

The third cause was to maintain political autonomy of Kondhs. The Kondhs carried on prolonged warfare against the British for upholding the prestige of the native people. Chakra Bisoi, a Kondh rebel took the leadership of the Kondhs. He established Lakshmi Narayan Bhanj, a scion of the royal family as the new ruler of Ghumsar against the wishes of the British Government. Such a move immediately attracted the attention of Kondhs, who eventually fought for the re-establishment of the native rule, in which it was believed their privilege could be safeguarded and grievances removed.

Today Mundigada is transformed, its native, especially the new generation has forgotten its pride history. Thanks to Sri Suresh Patra, who in this film narrates an incident of Kandh rising near Munigada in the 1850s.

Author: Jitu Mishra

He can be contacted at jitumisra@gmail.com

Mundigada – Your Wanderlust in Kandhamal (Part 1)

Mundigada, no tourism brochure will ever let you find this. Hidden far from any big town or city, Mundigada is an obscured tribal village at the foothills of Belghar in Odisha’s Kandhamal Highlands. At Mundigada you turn into wanderlust, a seeker of knowledge and listener of intense human stories.

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Rustic Panorama in and around Mundigada

As the name suggests, Mundigada’s history is steeped in mysteries. It was once at the heartland of barbaric human sacrifices.

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Sacrificial Posts, Grafitti and Other Remains of Mundigada’s Barbaric Past

Also, Read Here:

A JOURNEY THROUGH KONDH TERRITORY, A TRIBE THAT ONCE SACRIFICED HUMANS

A story goes:

‘Once upon a time, the ground was all wet, and there was only earth, and there were only two females on the earth, named Karaboodi and Thartaboodi, each of whom was blessed with a single male child. The names of the children were Kasarodi and Singarodi. All these individuals sprang from the interior of the earth, together with two small plants called Nangakoocha and Badokoocha, on which they depended for subsistence. One day, when Karaboodi was cutting these plants for cooking, she accidentally cut the little finger of her left hand, and the blood dropped on the ground. Instantly the wet soft earth on which it fell became dry and hard. The women then cooked the food and gave some of it to her son, who asked her why it tasted so much sweeter than usual. She replied that she might have a dream that night, and, it, so, would let him know. Next morning, the women told him that, if he would act on her advice, he would prosper in this world that he was not to think of her as his mother, and was to cut away the flesh of her back, dig several holes in the ground, bury her flesh, and cover the holes with stones. This her son did, and the rest of the body was cremated. The wet soil dried up and became hard, and all kinds of animals and trees came into existence.

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A partridge scratched the ground with its feet, and ragi (millet), maize, dhal (pea) and rice sprang from it. The two brothers argued that as the sacrifice of their mother produced food in such abundance, they must sacrifice their brothers, sisters and others, once a year in future.

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KANDHAMAL – HERITAGE IN WOOD

A god, by name Boora Panoo, came, with his wife and children, to Thartaboodi and her two young men, to whom Boora Panoo’s daughter was married. They begat children, who were divided equally between Boora Panoo, the grandfather and their fathers. Thartaboodi objected to this division on the grounds that Boora Panoo’s son stand in the relation of Mamoo to the children of Kasarodi and Singarodi, that if the child was a female when she got married, she would give a rupee to the Mamoo, and that, if it is a male that Boora Panoo’s daughter brought forth, the boy when he grew up would have to give the head of any animal he shot to Mamoo (Boora Panoo’s son).

Travel Tips

Mundigada is a small village located in Tumudiband Block of Kandhamal District at a distance of 5 km from Tumidibanda and 50 km from the Subdivisional town of Baliguda. Connected by excellent road and bus service, the state capital of Bhubaneswar is 350 km away from Mundigada. At Mundigada, you can stay at Sathi Ghara Mountain Home, a homestay specially designed for knowledge seeking travellers.

 

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Then Boora Panoo built a house, and Kasarodi and Singarodi built two houses. All lived happily for two years.

Then Karaboodi appears in a dream and told Kasarodi and Singarodi that, if they offered another human victim, their lands would be very fertile, and their cattle would flourish. The two men with their eight children sought a victory for twelve years. At the end of that time, they found a poor man, who had a son four years old, and found him, his wife, and child good food, clothing and shelter for a year.  Then they asked permission to sacrifice the son in return for their kindness and the father gave his ascent. The boy was fettered and handcuffed to prevent his running away, and was taken good care of. Liquor was prepared from grains, and bamboo, with a flag, hoisted on it, planted in the ground.

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Next day, a pig was sacrificed near this post, and a feast was held. It was proclaimed that the boy would be tied to a post on the following day and sacrificed on the third day. On the night previous to the sacrifice, the Janni (priest) took a reed and poked it into the ground in several places. When it entered to a depth of about 8 inches, it was believed that the god and goddesses Tada Panoo and Dasa Panoo were there. Round this spot, seven pieces of wood were arranged lengthways and crossways and an egg were placed in the centre of the structure. The Kondhs arrived from the various villages and indulged in a drink. The boy was teased and told that he had been sold to them, that his sorrow would affect his parents only, and that he was to be sacrificed for the prosperity of the people. He was conducted to the spot where the god and goddess had been found, tied with ropes, and held fast by the Kondhs. He was made to lie on his stomach on the wooden structure and head there. Pieces of flesh were removed from the back, arms and legs, and portions thereof buried at the Kondha’s place of worship. Portions were also set up near a well of drinking water, and placed around the villages. The remaining of the sacrificed corpse was cremated on a pyre set alight with a fire produced by the friction of two pieces of wood. On the following day, a buffalo was sacrificed, and a feast partaken of.

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Next day, the bamboo post was removed outside the village, and a fowl and eggs were offered to the deity.

The following stanza is still recited by the Janni at the buffalo sacrifices around Mundigada, which has been substituted for that of a human victim:

‘Oh! Come male slave; Come female slave. What do you say? What do you call out for? You have been brought, ensnared by the Haddi. You have been called, ensured by the Domba. What can I do, even if you are my child? You are sold for a pot of food.’

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Mundigarh today is free from this barbaric culture. But a walk through its corridors will immerse you with countless such stories in the abode of nature.

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To be continued.

Author – Jitu Mishra

He can be contacted at jitumisra@gmail.com

Poda Poda Nrusingha Temple – A Wooden Heritage Treasure in Kandhamal

Odisha, unlike Gujarat, Kerala and Himachal, has not been known for wood carving heritage to the outside world.  However, it does not mean that the state has a shortage of wooden heritage. More than one-third of the state’s geography is densely covered with forest. Little wonder, Odisha’s state deity Lord Jagannath is made of wood.

In the late 18th and early 19th century, Odisha had reached its climax in the construction of wooden temples. The Biranchi Narayan Temple in Buguda of Ganjam District testifies the culmination of the skill of Odia woodcarvers. Dedicated to Lord Surya, the temple is often regarded as the Wooden Konark of Odisha. The temple of Biranchi Narayan Temple was patronized by the Bhanja rulers of Ghumsar, the present Bhanjanagar region.

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ILLUSTRATING RAMAYANA KATHA – BIRANCHI NARAYAN TEMPLE AT BUGUDA

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Biranchi Narayan Temple at Buguda

Apart from Biranchi Narayan Temple, in a large part of south coastal Odisha and around the holy town of Puri, one of the finest wood carving heritages of South Asia flourished depicting the rasa of Lord Krishna and Radha and episodes from the Mahabharata, the Ramayana and Lord Jagannath. Some of these wooden wonders are now shown in various museums including the Odiarat Purvasa Museum at Chilika Lake.

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MONKS, MONASTERIES AND MURALS – A PHOTO STORY ON PURI’S TWO LEGENDARY MATHAS

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Wooden Carving of Lord Krishna and Gopis at Ganga Mata Matha in Puri

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Exhibit at Odiart Museum

For more than 800 years the Bhanjas of Ghumsar had ruled over Kandhamal region in highland central Odisha. Kandhamal is inhabited by various branches of Kondh tribes who speak in Kui language, a branch of Indo Dravidian language family. The Kondhs are known for their aboriginal beliefs and lifestyle resembling prehistoric ways of life. In the past, they were notoriously known for human sacrifices under the guidance of their Jani (the tribal priest) with a belief that planting human flesh and sprinkling blood would yield a good harvest. Today the human sacrifice is mostly replaced with buffalo sacrifice.

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KANDHAMAL – HERITAGE IN WOOD

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The Bhanja rulers of Ghumsar had largely patronized the Kandha beliefs and practices and incorporated many of their ritual elements in Hinduism to draw the hegemony of their tribal subjects. For instance, there are dedicated shrines of Kandhuni Devi and Maa Patakhanda in various villages in the erstwhile territory of Bhanjas. In these shrines, one finds an interesting blend of tribal beliefs and Hindu rituals.

Travel Tips

Poda Poda is located in between Baliguda and Phubani towns in Kandhamal District. Connected by excellent road, one can visit Poda Poda from Darigibadi and Mandasaru as well. For accommodation, the nearest town is Baliguda (30 km).

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Shrines of Kandhuni Devi

The Bhanjas also had built temples in Kandhamal in the same fashion and artistic style which they had erected in and around their capital. Today, however, most of these temples are lost over time except Poda Poda, a small village located on Phulbani – Baliguda Highway in Phiringia Block. Surrounded by enchanting hills and valleys, Poda Poda has preserved the remains of a wooden temple dedicated to Lord Nrusingha, one of the incarnations of Lord Vishnu.

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Built as a rectangular structure the temple is a single building without having any porch. Its original roof is long gone and now replaced with asbestos sheets. The shrine of Nrusingha is shown as a bearded man sitting on a serpentine coil and protected by the cobra hood. Conventionally the display of the deity does not fit into the iconographic canons of mainstream Hinduism.

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As you approach the temple what draws your immediate attention is the wooden door jamb depicting a tantric ritual tale. The panel has a display of various forms of sex perhaps associated with fertility cult. Women are shown having sexual intercourse with multiple men in various actions. Above the lintel, there is a mastika panel displaying the popular Gaja Sihmha character of Hindu temples in Odisha. On its top, there is a display of yet another woman showing her virginal.

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The backside of the jamb has the depiction of beautiful geometrical patterns and a group of peacocks forming a circle.

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On tops of wooden posts, there are depictions of animals, such as bear, elephant, lion and tiger in different cardinal directions. There is also a depiction of birds like parrot and swan. These panels were painted with various shades of colours as one finds at Biranchi Narayan Temple in Buguda. However, only traces are left.

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In the interior part of the temple, there is yet another door jamb depicting the scene of Dasavatra (10 incarnations of Vishnu). On its mastika panel is a pair of fish displayed with intricate design as one sees in Ganjam. Fish symbolises peace in Odia culture.

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The wooden temple of Nrusingha at Poda Poda is truly a remarkable example of Odisha’s splendid wooden heritage now lost in time. It is difficult to believe that a tribal-dominated region like Kandhamal could possess such intricate heritage. However, if no immediate attention is paid we may lose this wonderful wooden structure forever.

Author – Jitu Mishra

He can be contacted at jitumisra@gmail.com

 

5 Offbeat Travel Experiences in Kandhamal – Odisha’s Tribal Heartland

With no airport and railways, Kandhamal region can be viewed as Odisha’s untamed territory and a paradise for travellers of all kind. A highland mountainous region, 80% of Kandhamal is forested, perhaps the highest in India excluding Northeast. Home to Kondh tribes, this ancient aboriginal land has retained a beautiful mix of old-world charm and modern aspiration. For outsiders, Kandhamal is widely known for Daringibadi, an enchanting hill station nicknamed as ‘Kashmir of Odisha’. However, there are tons of surprises at every part this forested territory beyond the popular hangout points of Daringibadi.

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These are 5 offbeat travel experiences that are guaranteed to charm any curious traveller to this emerging destination in Odisha’s rural heartland.

Mandasaru

Kerala’s Silence Valley is well-known. However, very few know that Odisha has its own silence Valley in Kandhamal. The Mandasaru Silence Valley is an enchanting mountain gorge having splendid wildlife and dense forest. A destination for all seasons, the Mandasaru Silence Valley is also an eco-tourism hotspot. There are beautiful wooden cottages built by the forest department overlooking the mountain gorge. Surrounded by picturesque ethnic villages and rural charm Mandasaru also has one of Odisha’s oldest Catholic Churches built in the early part of the 19th century. There are also small waterfalls and trek options for adventure seekers.

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KANDHAMAL – HERITAGE IN WOOD

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Ludo Waterfall

Located at the heart of Kotgadh Wildlife Sanctuary, Ludo Waterfall is Kandhamal’s best-kept secret. Surrounded by scenic forest villages of Desia Kondh Tribe and enchanting turmeric and mustard fields, the Ludo waterfall is 3 tired having splendid views of nature. One can relax here for hours enjoying the tranquilly of the forest and listening to the musical chores of the cascading fall. The waterfall is worshipped as Mother Goddess by local villagers.

Also, Read Here:

A JOURNEY THROUGH KONDH TERRITORY, A TRIBE THAT ONCE SACRIFICED HUMANS

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Desia Kond Villages around Baliguda

Baliguda is your entry point to the tribal kingdom of Odisha. Located at a distance of 300 km from Bhubaneswar, Baliguda is surrounded by villages inhabited by Desia Kondh tribe, whose women have a unique tradition of tattooing their face. A visit to their villages will drive to a mysterious wonderland where you hear tons of stories of their hoary past when human sacrifices were a common sight. Isolated from the norms of civilisations there used to a strong belief that sacrificing a human life would yield a good harvest. Today the human sacrificed is replaced with buffalo sacrifice. In every village, you will discover the remnants of sacrificial posts depicting buffalo icons in wood.

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Belghar

Belghar located at a height of 1000 m is the territory of Kutia Kondh Tribe, one of the most primitive in Odisha. Inhabiting around thickly forested hills, the Kutia Kondhs have unique customs and beliefs. Until recently Belghar remained fairly isolated. Like Desia Kondhs the Kutias also sacrificed humans until the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A visit to their villages will drag you into a prehistoric setting. To bring into control and expose them into the norms of civilisation the British also had made attempts. A beautiful wooden lodge from the British Era carries the colonial legacy. The elderly local will tell you how the British officials would reach Belghar sitting on elephant back through the dense jungle paths.

Travel Tips

Kandhamal is largely rural and one of Odisha’s largest districts. Phubani, the district headquarter and the largest town is located at a distance of 200 km from Bhubaneswar. Baliguda is the second largest town having staying options. However, for a unique Kandhamal experience try out the Nature Camps at Mandasaru and Belghar, both can be booked online. Keep a minimum of 3 nights and 4 days for your Kandhamal trip.

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Podapoda

Podapada is a small village on Phulbani – Baliguda Highway. The village is known for preserving one of Odisha’s unique wooden temples, the Nrusingha Temple. The temple was built in the 18th century by a Bhanja King from Ghumsar. The most eye-catchy part of the temple is the wooden beams and the parapet where along with conventional Odia icons there is the depiction of mysterious tribal and tantric rituals. The wooden sculptures and geometric motifs are intricately carved.

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Author – Jitu Mishra

He can be contacted at jitumisra@gmail.com

 

 

Kandhamal – Heritage in Wood

They call themselves children of Kui Dina (Kui Country) and for outsiders, it is Kandhamal (named after Kondh Tribe). Thousands of square miles of rolling hills and dense jungle, Kandhamal is a nature lover’s paradise. Her forest is rich in majestic Sal trees followed by Piasal, Kendu, Gambhari, Kusum, Harida, Bahada, Amla, Mango, Tamarind, Mahua, and many more.

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The forests of Kandhamal can be classified as dry and wet deciduous forests depending upon the season you visit. On its deep valley mountain floors, there are hundreds of villages of Kondh Tribe scattered around the deep jungles. The 19th-century British romanticists referred to this area as ‘Kondhistan’.

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The Kondhs speak in a Dravidian language called ‘Kui’ which is spoken in an extreme nasal form.

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The utilisation of forest wood is an integral part of their heritage. Their houses are made of wooden posts plastered with mud. Their settlements are fenced with wooden posts erected in a line, some time for hundreds of meters.

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BARBARA FOREST – A BLEND OF NATURE, INDIGENOUS CULTURE AND ARCHAEOLOGY

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When you get into their huts you will be surprised to discover most of their material objects, such as plough, yoke, spade, pounding posts, and bells for cows and goats, are made of wood.

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However, what strikes you most is their Meriah Sacrifice wooden posts. The Kondhs in the interior hills practises Meriah sacrifice (earlier they would sacrifice a human, now a buffalo).

Also, Read Here:

A JOURNEY THROUGH KONDH TERRITORY, A TRIBE THAT ONCE SACRIFICED HUMANS

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The term Meriah is a corrupt form of the Kondh term ‘Mervi’, which refers to the Kondh God Mervi Pennu, a brother of the Earth Goddess Tari Pennu. The Kondhs believe that buffalo sacrifice would give them good crops and protection against all diseases and natural disaster. The buffalo is purchased and brought to the middle of the village. After worshipping earth goddess and the victim, the buffalo is tied to a wooden pole.

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The victim is decorated with flowers and vermillion. Then the Kondhs bring their knives and tangi (axe) and after getting intoxicated they sing and dance around the victim for a few hours. Then at a particular moment, the priest (Jani) signals and all of them (numbering between 30 and 50) hit the buffalo at the same time. The blood stuck to the instrument is considered auspicious and the instrument would prove ultimately to be very lucky, efficient and productive that year.

Throughout this event, the Kondhs assign the buffalo the supernatural soul carrier. Inside many Kondh traditional houses you will find buffalo horned wooden posts showing nice carved designs (clan marks), which are worshipped as symbols of the household ancestors.

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Interestingly, the Hindu God of Death, Yama is also associated with water buffalo acting as a mythic vehicle (vahana) to the ether world. Archaeological interpretations also suggest that sacrifices of buffalos were seemingly performed by the people of the Indus Valley Civilisation for some unknown religious rituals. Today, not only Kandhamal but in many parts of Eastern India, buffalo acts as the chief sacrificial animal in a class of structurally related death and ancestor worship ceremonies.

Travel Tips:

Baliguda is at the heart of Kandhamal strategically located on the highway that connects Bhubaneswar with Rayagada, Kandhamal and Kalahandi. Most of the Kondh villages are around Baliguda, which has also decent staying options. The village of Podpada is before Baliguda (20 km) on the highway from Bhubaneswar. It takes about 7 hours in a private vehicle to reach Baliguda. There are also comfortable night buses. The other option for stay is at Daringibadi, a popular tourist place among Indians located at a distance of 50 km from Baliguda.

The Baliguda region of Kandhamal, which also forms the core of Kui Dina, was under the rule of the Gangas from the 10th century and under the Bhanjas of Ghumsar from 18th century until the time it was annexed by the British in the mid 19th century. During the reign of the Bhanjas (18th-19th centuries), Kandhamal also saw architectural activities, similar to the coastal plains of Odisha.

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One major aspect of the architectural tradition is the extensive use of wood carvings in-ceiling and doorjambs, similar to ones found at Biranchi Narayan Temple at Buguda.

The Nrusingha Temple at Podapoda Village on the highway that connects Phulbani with Baliguda is the only remains of rich wooden heritage. Though mostly gone, the temple has been known for its wooden gems featuring Tantric rituals and geometrical motifs on its lintel. Unfortunately, its roof is replaced with tin sheets now. Depiction of peacocks forming a circle at the central part of the lintel is a major draw. Besides, there are representations of garudas and monkeys noticed in the interior of the structure.

Also, Read Here:

ILLUSTRATING RAMAYANA KATHA – BIRANCHI NARAYAN TEMPLE AT BUGUDA

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The wooden heritage of Kandhamal is truly unique, but sadly many of its priceless treasures are in a sorry state of preservation due to lack of patronage and loss of interest among Kondhs. To save them we need a strategic plan inviting heritage conservationists, historians, travel professionals and of course involving local stakeholders, such the community members of Kondh Tribe and non-Tribal communities.

Author – Jitu Mishra

He can be contacted at jitumisra@gmail.com