6 Aug

Adivasi Ecological Democracy of Forest Life


        The undivided Bastar district of Chhattisgarh state is well known and famous all over India as well as outside India for its dense forest and for the tribal population. Bastar is a district, which is bigger than Kerala state and Belgium in size. It is also rich with all kinds of forest produces, medicinal plants and all kinds of minerals. Orchha is one of the most backward blocks of Bastar district, which is also known as Abujhmad. The tribals in Abujhmad still live in old traditional fashion. It is full of natural beauty as well as it has ancient cultural heritage, so it is delightful historical place.

                The ancient Adivasis of country used to eat the forest based fruits, roots and animals. They did not use any kind of grains as food. According to their tribes they had marked some of the animals and trees as their tribe symbol, which were prohibited for them to cut and to kill, but the same were allowed to the other tribes, who were related to each other by the marriages of their children. Even today this tradition is being cherished. The relation of the Adivasis with forest is traditional; therefore in the community-based culture, they understand that protecting trees, plants and wild animals is their responsibility. To cut some of the particular trees and killing some particular animals is an offence for them. Those who destroy these trees or kill these animals are considered to be unsocial elements in the society. Some of the people in the communities do make this kind of mistake for money, and the caste Panchayat and god and goddesses punish them. In the Gond community they are allowed to eat the flesh of the animals and cut the trees that are not the symbols in the tribe. In this way the 750 tribes of people save at least their trees and animals as tribe symbols, in this way they protect 2250 kinds of trees and animals. But at the same time they eat animals and cut trees that are not their tribe symbols. Thus they keep the balance of nature with themselves. This tradition has to be maintained by all the tribes of Adivasis to keep the ecological balance. This is a law of Adivasis as well as of nature. They are interdependent on each other, one animal depends on other and an Adivasi depends on the produces of forest, like fruits, leaves, roots and flesh of the animals for their day-to-day need. 

The Adivasis are so close to nature that they can understand the activities of the nature. They understand the movements of the birds and animals and get the message from them what they are trying to say to each other. If there is any kind of danger they communicate to the other animals and birds, which Adivasi also understand. Though they are not educated in the schools but they understand by nature what is going to happen in the future. Looking at the nature they could tell that how the coming year would be, how the rain will be, what kind of crop they could get. We must remember the Tsunami, which killed thousands of people, but the tribals were saved because they could understand the activities in the sea and save their lives.   

                In recent years the outsiders have destroyed the forest by cutting the trees and killing animals, so because of that the environmental balance or ecological balance is disturbed. This has caused change in Adivasi lifestyle and food habits also. The quality of food for them has gone down. On the other hand because of the Forest Acts and control of government on the forest, they are unable to secure their food. Earlier the Adivasis used to do shift cultivation that means they use to change the place of the cultivation and sometimes they use to change the crop. In 1980 the Forest Act was implemented and they started permanent kind of cultivation, which means, they have acquired land for themselves. Adivasi always tried not to destroy plants and tree and wherever they find the vacant land there they use to produce kodo, kutki, madiya, maize, corn, etc. And now they cultivate paddy also. To get meat they have started raising some of the animals like goat, pig, cow and chicken. Earlier they used to hunt animals but they can’t hunt now. Adivasi life has become difficult; their freedom has been taken away from them. Their life without forest is just like fish without water. The Adivasis traditionally used to follow the rules and regulations prepared by their ancestors. Their all kinds of needs were fulfilled from the forest, they needed only salt, iron and clothe form outside. They were dependent on forest even for their health; they could get all kinds of medicines from the forest. Now since forest is being destroyed the medicinal plants are also vanishing.

                In other developing countries there is an existence of gradual development of human society of the different era. In India the Adivasi community lives in their own small world. To live they are dependent on forest and to protect the nature they are struggling, for day-to-day needs they depend on the munificence of the nature. Whenever they need anything they get it form forest like leaf plates from leaves and medicines from roots and skins of the trees. That is why they say that the health of the Adivasi is in their own hand. Whenever some one is sick they will go to Guniya, Baid and Baiga for treatment. Adivasis know treatment of many illnesses through medicinal plants. They know which plants are used in what kind of sickness, this they have learnt from traditions, it is inheritance from their fore fathers, and the forest dwellers worship trees, lands, and fire. They believe that interference of nature is punishable. The god and goddesses who live in nature will be angry, and people face problems because of it. So they try not to disturb these living things in forest.

Globalization and Adivasi

               Because of globalization, marketization and privatization the multi national companies have infiltrated in the country especially in Adivasi areas. We can see its effect among Adivasis also. These policies of globalization and privatization are bad for the Adivasi, labor, women and dalits. Globalization has opened the market for all, which is the reason why foreign goods can be seen among the Adivasis also. The World Bank has financed the big- big projects into the Adivasi areas and these have evicted Adivasis from their own traditional lands. The social forestry project is one of the biggest examples of it. Due to globalization all kind of the local and foreign big companies are given place in forest areas, which is causing danger to the life of an Adivasi.  Traditional cottage industries are destroyed and the people are being migrated from their own land. Globalization policy is destroying the forest, environment, traditional seeds, manure, the village technology and skills. The middlemen for their own benefit exploit the forest produces. The slogan of the globalization is “To bring together the whole world in one unit.” This is a conspiracy to seize the water, forest and land, which is the source of livelihood for the Adivasis. This policy of globalization will evict the Adivasi from their land and they will be in bondage again.

Bastar is known as Dandkaranya. In the ancient time it was believed that among Adivasis who ever revolted against the ruler, they were punished in that particular area only. Geographically there are hundreds of small mountains. As per the view of history, sociology and leadership it is an unknown piece of land. In Bastar there are mountain and dense forest all around in almost four thousand-square kilometers of area. People, who live here, are mostly backward primitive tribe known as Gond Muriya. They are here for thousands of years and maintaining their traditional ways of living.

Since Bastar has dense forest so the land is very fertile. They don’t need any chemical fertilizer. They use their traditional seeds only to produce crops. The high breed seeds cannot bear the weather of Bastar. So the Adivasi don’t use the high breed seeds at all.

Right on Land

Farming and forest produces are now main sources of their livelihood Though they don’t produce much rice and wheat but they produce maize, kodo, madia, kosra, kulthi and kutki. The minor forest produces they collect from the forest are the other source of their income. Land is very important property as it is permanent. On land only their life depends. The land on which they and their ancestors lived for years belonged to them and it is the source of social and economic empowermen That is the reason the Adivasis have very intimate relation with land. The land on which they cultivate, secure their social status, respect and dignity.

Adivasis are by nature very simple and innocent people. They have a tendency to be honest, compassionate and kind. That is gift of nature. The exploiters do exploit them and seize their properties, because of their innocent nature they are cheated very easily. Very cunningly they get married with Adivasi girls or make friendship with them and seize their land some times they provide liquor to them and give them loan to convert their land in their own name.

sources in the
Forest for Livelihood

Bastar is full of dense forest and in the forest there are medicinal plants, leaves, roots and other things on which they live on. They are traditionally not much interested in rice cultivation. Still they cultivate a little bit of paddy depending on the availability of the land to produce rice. Their actual cultivation is Grain Kodo (little millet), Kutki (small millet), Kosra, Jawar (millet), Makka (Maize), Sawa, Madia, Semi, oil-crops, Tilli (oil-seeds), Sarso (mustard) and pulse crops Mung, Arhar, Urad, Kulthi, Hirwa, Munaga etc. The Mahua seed oil is used for cooking and light. Tribal of Bastar mostly use bamboo for their day-to-day use. Kamvar(having slings or baskets suspended at each end for carrying loads), Kand (having to do with hut), Supa (winnowing basket to clean the grains), Pinjaras (cages), rope, staff, pots to keep oil, mat, hat, flute and arrow etc. are made from bamboo. The Saja tree ash is used as washing powder, Kusum wood is used for threshing machine, Tendu wood is used for Anga Dev (tribal god), Chhind leaves for mat to sleep and brooms, Palash leaves for making plates and Mahua flowers for liquor and seed for oil, Sal tree for traditional oil machine. When people don’t find water to drink in the forest they cut Sargi tree and it gives good drinking water. Salfi, Tadi and Landa used for local liquor, Salfi tree produces flour to prepare breads. Tadi tree also gives water, people get juice from Tadi almost for whole year, but since it is cold in nature that is why it is used in the months of April to June only, it also known as Bastar beer. The Adivasi survive on Tadi juice and Madiya Pej (Madiya Pej is thick liqid of Madiya) which can add up to between 2-3 months in total.  Tendu leaves are used for Bidi making a local cigarette. The Tendu leaf collection gives job for 30 days; this work is done in the month of May and June. Wild animals are also present in the forest as natural resources; they are deer, stag, rabbit, hind, tiger, lion, bear, wild boar, leopard, spotted deer, panther, fox, hound, wolf etc. Birds like peacock, partridge, guinea fowl, wild hen, Pahadi Maina, cuckoo, baghapak etc.

In the forest the dangerous wild animals and Adivasi people live together. They live in forest without harming anybody but some of the tribal communities hunt some animals for flesh. As for the exploitation of forest is concern they use only what they need. Otherwise their god and goddesses will be angry with them.


In Baster, among the Gond and Muriya tribes, the adolescent boys and girls spent their nights in one house where they chose their friends for each other. These friends can be changed regularly or once in a while till they are not married. When they get married they leave the house. This house is known as Gotul. This house use to be in the middle of the village and built by the young people only. Those who live in Gotul, all of them don’t get married with the members of the same Gotul, but they marry from other villages most of the time. According to their religious traditions their Lingo god started Gotul. The purpose of the Gotul was to teach their children social norms and manners and customs. In the families whenever there was any problem they use to go to the Lingo, so Lingo was tired of solving their problems. They thought how long we would be able to solve their family problems. They were fed up with solving their problems, so they started Gotul, and told their children to stay there and learn ways and customs and thus the tradition of Gotul came into being.

In Gotul young boys and girls of 13 to 16 years of age from village could get admission they use to meet in Gotul after having their dinner. Ghotul is ancient tradition and culture of the Adivasi of Bastar. It was a center of education for the young people. In Gotul these young men and women learn to live a disciplined life. They also learn to maintain unity in community, cooperation in farming, collecting forest produces and hunting. To maintain the discipline, there were rules and regulation in Gotul. Their use to be a committee of 13 members, the chief of the Ghotul is known as Manjhi or Sirdar. The boy members were known as Chelik and girl members were known as Motiyarin. All the members have different responsibilities. Gotul is still going on in some of the areas in Baster. The modernization and interference of non-tribal people have destroyed the tradition of Gotul. It has to be saved. The Adivasi ancient traditional system Gotul is going to be vanished due to modernization and educational system. The young Adivasis have to work hard to save these traditional practices because it is the part of their culture.

Gotul is a place of Adivasi unity and discipline .On the border of Chhattisgarh in Maharastra, there is a village known as Kachhargarh, the Lingo Deo started the Gotul and it spread all over the world among the tribal. In the Gotul young people dance, play and sing at the same time they discuss about their social life and its growth. All of them had to maintain discipline; if some one breaks the discipline then they are punished at Gotul only. Gotul gives a chance to the boys and girls to choose their life partners in a traditional ways. Here you can

find musical instruments, which they learn to play. Gotul tradition has been wrongly presented by some of the educated people, but Gotul is a way of life and good for development of Adivasi young generation.

Environment, Power and Society

Pollution of environment is taking place very fast due to cutting of the forest. To control the pollution the administrative and political power and society both must take steps together. For the healthy society we need to have healthy environment. We can see the effect of environmental pollutions on the Adivasi community also. Declining of the clean and fresh air, clean water and food may cause sickness to people. People’s participation in forest security is very urgent. They must check on the cutting of the trees, encourage a forestation on vacant land, saving the forest from burning, managing the rain water and stop the government from commandeering the land for big projects. The protection of the forest should be given to the local people, as per the fifth schedule the right to Adivasi Panchayat must be brought into the practice, the fallen trees must be taken away from forest, there must be strict prohibition on cutting and transporting of the green trees and the Adivasi must become partner in the income from the forest. Only then environment will be useful for the people.

Adivasi has an inexhaustible relation with the forest. As mother is related to her son, water is to fish, in the same way Adivasi have with forest. Forest is a way of life for the Adivasi. They don’t harm trees to collect its produces. Where as the non-Adivasi destroy the forest and exploit it. Adivasi collect the produce from forest for today’s need where as others will take from forest for future also. Non-Adivasi destroys the forest, cut the trees and kill the animals for their own selfish motives. They cut the tall green tree to embezzle the land. All these destroy the environment as well as it creates problems for the livelihood of the Adivasi.


There is much to say about the Adivasi in Bastar. There is a need to developmental programs in Bastar but before that there is a need of some kind of research work to be done. Earlier other people have done research in their own ways but now there is need to do a research with the view of an Adivasi.




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