Even though surrounded by 2 different states Andhra Pradesh and Orissa, Dantewada managed to have its unique cultural identity. In spite of the influence of its neighbours in living, eating & drinking, dressing, speaking, Ornamentation, Folk Art, Folk Literature; the cultural identity of the tribes of Dantewada is safe & secure.
Dantewada is inhabited by several tribal groups, out of which three particular tribes are found widely in the district namely Muriyas/Dandami Mariyas or Gonds, Dorla, Halba.
Food Habits The tribes of Dantewada are mainly non-vegetarians, they habitually take liquor, paje (a non-toxic liquid preparation made from water and small amount of cooked rice), Sulphi (Intoxic liquor collected from a tall palm like tree), Landa (a toxic liquid preparation made from water, Madiya, Rice & Corn). Kosra (a kind of grain like rice), rice, Madiya are their main food grains.
The tribes of Dantewada wear very limited clothes, The Tribal ladies decorate themselves with Khosa (beautiful lock of braid), Khinwa in ears (Ear tops), Phuli on Nose (a hanging ring type ornament made with gold or silver). The tribal ladies embellish their neck with Garland of Karipot (Black Pearl), Chapsari (a heavy necklace), Muhar Mala (A garland made with coins).They also wear Chude, Chudiya (bangles) made from Gold, Silver, Brass, Alluminium, Clay, Lead & Wood. They tattoo their skins with different designs.
Like all the tribes of India the tribes of Dantewada too believe in Gods and Goddesses, Jhad Phook (Practice of Occult arts, Exorcism), Bhooth-Preth (Evil Spirits), Jadu-Tona (Black Magic, Sorcery or Obeahism), Sirha-Guniya (Sirha is the person who invites the holy spirits upon his own self and then treats the sufferers, Guniya is the person who assists Sirha and treats his clients with Tantra-Mantra (incantation) apart from mediating between Sirha & the sufferers), Panjiyan-Perma (Panjiya is the one who forecasts and Perma is the elder person of the village who is obeyed by all the villagers and who guides them in different rituals and worship).
Tribes of Dantewada celebrate different fairs and festivals round the year which include the major festivals of Hindus like Diwali, Holi,Dashehra,Goncha (The Rath Utsav), Fagun etc. and their own festivals called as Pandum. Pandums are observed by the tribes at different occasions, a brief description of some major Pandums is shown below:-
|S.No.||Name of the Pandum Festival||Occassion||Month|
|1||Vijja Pandum||To worship Earth and seeds of Paddy and to go for hunting which they call Veta||April|
|2||Ama Pandum||To Worship God Ama before eating Mangoes for the first time in an year||May|
|3||Pane Pandum||Before Sowing Paddy Seeds||May|
|4||Dela Pandum||After completing the plough related activities in the fields||June|
|5||Podla Pandum||To drive out all diseases of crops||August|
|6||Amus||After completion of Paddy Sowing||August|
|7||Chikma||To Start eating the new crops of vegetables etc||September|
|8||Karta||To start eating new Rice||October|
|9||Pane Pandum||Thanks giving for all new crops||November|
|10||Gadi Pandum||Before picking up Mahua flower (Mahua-bassia ormadhuka latifolia)||February|
Different types of marriages are prevailing in the Tribal society of Dantewada, they are Mangni Vivah (Arranged Marriage), Bahu-Vivah (Polygamy), Vridh Vivah (Old Marriage), Dharjiya Vivah (Inviting the male to become son-in-law, living and depending on the in-laws after marriage), Apharan-Vivah / Jikunanun (Kidnapping and marrying a girl without her consent). The elders of the bridegroom go to the girl’s place for seeking her hand for their boy, which is known as Mahla-Jane, and also bears the whole expenditure of marriage ceremony. There is a custom to celebrate Chatti (the 6th day’s celebration) on the occasion of the child’s birth. Dead bodies are mostly burnt but small children are buried, and there is also a custom of observing Sutak (temporarily separating one self from the normal social gatherings) after the death of the relatives.
The main occupations of the tribes of the district Dantewada is farming, Poultry Farming, Animal Husbandry. They also sell minor forest produces like leaves, fruits, Datun (Fibrous Twin, used as a tooth brush), fire wood, Basta (new infant root of Bamboo tree), Boda, Tikhur, Chati, Dhup, Chiraunji (a dry fruit), Fish, baskets, Soop (Handy gadget used for winnowing grains and like) made from Bamboo.
Their sources of entertainment are folk songs, dances & folk-dramas. The folk songs include Leja, Reelo, Mariro, Sona, Dhankul Geet, Chait Parab Geet, Kotni and Jhaliyana Geet, each of which differ from one another and are sung at different occasions. Similarly the types of dances they perform are Dandami-Maria, Gurgal, Karsad, Dandari, Gedi etc. and their main folk dramas are Giti, Bhatra, Dandari etc. Apart from these three types of amusements yet another powerful way of enjoying themselves is the Murga Ladai (the cock fight in which two cocks are fought with each other after fixing a sharp knife to their legs and betting on the cocks). Murga-Ladai is so famous in this area that scores of viewers can be found standing around the playground thoroughly enjoying the fight on any fair or weekly market day.
The tribes of Dantewada are excellent artisans; they are experts in crafting artistic items with Clay, Stone, Bamboo, and Metals. They express their deep talent and knowledge through, Gharhwa Art, Wooden Art, and the other crafts they prepare by using Shell & Peacock Feathers.
Their main dialects are Halbi, Bhatri, Gondi, Parji, Dharvi, Dorli, Aboojhmarhi, & Damdami etc.
Their principal deities are Danteshwari, Mawli Mata, Bhima Dev, Bhairam Dev, Ghat Dev, Aanga Dev, Seethla Devi. Apart from these deities, the tribes of Dantewada also worship the nature.