The Dongria Kondh

‘We are born of this earth, and this earth is ours. Niyamgiri belongs to us.’— Laksa Majhi. The Niyamgiri hill range in Odisha state, eastern India, is home to the Dongria Kondh tribe. Niyamgiri is an area of densely forested hills, deep gorges and cascading streams. To be a Dongria Kondh is to farm the hills’ fertile slopes, harvest their produce, and worship the mountain god Niyam Raja and the hills he presides over, including the 4,000 metre Mountain of the Law, Niyam Dongar.

Yet for a decade, the 8,000-plus Dongria Kondh lived under the threat of mining by Vedanta Resources, which hoped to extract the estimated $2billion-worth of bauxite that lies under the surface of the hills. 

The company planned to create an open-cast mine that would have violated Niyam Dongar, disrupted its rivers and spelt the end of the Dongria Kondh as a distinct people.

Sacrifices and ceremonies
Sacrifices are traditionally made after the harvest and before the planting of the new year’s crop, both in the villages and on the mountain tops. Each village has specific sites for sacrifices and worship of the mother goddess Dharni, Niyam Raja, and other gods of the hills. Each house also has sacred spaces for worship of the many domestic and local gods.

Chickens, goats, pigs and – especially – buffalo are sacrificed. The Dongria Kondh have no over-arching political or religious leader; clans and villages have their own leaders and individuals with specific ceremonial functions, including the beju and bejuni, male and female priests.

The Dongria believe that animals, plants, mountains and other specific sites and streams have a life-force or soul, jela, which comes from the mother goddess. more…..