Koya/Khondhu Tribe…


The Khondhu Dongria have syncretic beliefs combining animism. Their pantheon has both the common Hindu gods and their own. The gods and goddesses are always attributed to various natural phenomena, objects, trees, animals, etc. They have a god or deity for everything and anything. The Dongrias give highest importance to the Dharani penu (the Earth god) and Niyam penu (associated with Niyamgiri Hill), who is held to be the creator and sustainer of the Dongria. For instance, in a house, there is a deity for both the back and front street, kitchen, living room, implements and so on and so forth.

In the Dongria society, a breach of accepted religious conduct by any member of their society invites the wrath of spirits in the form of lack of rain fall, soaking of streams, destruction of forest produce, and other natural calamities. Hence, the customary laws, norms, taboos, and values are greatly adhered to and enforced with high to heavy punishments, depending upon the seriousness of the crimes committed.

As with any culture, the ethical practices of the Dongria reinforce the economic practices that define the people. Thus, the sacredness of the mountains perpetuates tribal socio-economics, whereas outside cultures that neglect the sacredness of the land find no problem in committing deforestation, strip-mining etc.

For social control in the village and at the muttha level (regional), the Kondha religion requires a tradition of hereditary religious leaders, such as Jani (religious head), Mondal (secular head), Bejuni (sorcerer), Barik (messenger) to co-ordinate and decide, by holding a meeting, where punishment or appeasement are to be awarded. The procedure is usually followed by sacrifices of buffaloes and cocks. The punishment may be in cash or kind and may lead to ostracism from the community, if not obeyed.