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Gondi people

The Gondi (G?ndi) are a people in central India. The Gondi, or Gond people are spread over the states of Madhya Pradesh, eastern Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, northern Andhra Pradesh, and western Orissa. With over four million people, they are the largest tribe in Central India.

The Gondi language is related to Telugu and other Dravidian languages. About half of Gonds speak Gondi languages, while the rest speak Indo-Aryan languages including Hindi.


The Gondi (G?ndi) are a people in central India. The Gondi, or Gond people are spread over the states of Madhya Pradesh, eastern Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, northern Andhra Pradesh, and western Orissa. With over four million people, they are the largest tribe in Central India.

The Gondi language is related to Telugu and other Dravidian languages. About half of Gonds speak Gondi languages, while the rest speak Indo-Aryan languages including Hindi.

The Gonds are traditionally agriculturalists; some practice shifting cultivation, while others raise cereals or herd cattle. Gond society is highly stratified and does not conform to the usual image of egalitarianism among tribals. The Gonds belong to a category of very large tribes (also including Santals and Bhils) that have traditionally dominated the regions in which they have lived. However, like other Adivasis, the Gonds have suffered from increasing landlessness since the 1960s.

Traditional Gond religion involves a distinct pantheon of gods and spirits, which many Gonds practice along with Hinduism.

Gondwana or “land of the Gonds”, is a loosely-defined area of southeastern Madhya Pradesh, eastern Maharashtra, and parts of Chhattisgarh, Orissa, and northern Andhra Pradesh. The region was home to several Gond kingdoms from the 15th century to the mid-18th century, when the Marathas expanded into the region from the west. The region gave its name to Gondwanaland, the ancient southern supercontinent which comprised present-day Africa, Madagascar, South America, Australia, the Indian subcontinent and Antarctica.

The Gonds of Andhra Pradesh effectively lost their only advantage in trying to protect their lands when the Banjaras, a group of nomadic cattle herders that had been settling in Gond territory, were classified as a Scheduled Tribe in 1977. Their newly acquired tribal status made the Banjaras eligible to acquire Gond land ‘legally’ and to compete with Gonds for reserved political seats, places in education institutions, and other benefits. Because the Banjaras are not scheduled in neighboring Maharashtra, there has been an influx of Banjara emigrants from that state into Andhra Pradesh in search of better opportunities.

Education

Commission after commission on the “language question” has called for instruction, at least at the primary level, in the students’ native tongue. However, state governments have often demanded the introduction of regional language instruction in Gondi areas. Primary schooling among the Gonds of Andhra Pradesh, for example, began in the 1940s and 1950s. The government selected a group of Gonds who were semiliterate in Telugu and taught them the basics of written script. These individuals became teachers who taught in Gondi, and their efforts enjoyed a measure of success until the 1970s, when state policy demanded instruction in Telugu. The switch in the language of instruction both made the Gond teachers superfluous because they could not teach in Telugu and also presented the government with the problem of finding reasonably qualified teachers willing to teach in outlying tribal schools.

Gonds frequently are reluctant to send their children to school, needing them to work in the fields instead.