Gond, one of Central India’s largest indigenous communities, find their roots in the ancient Gond dynasty which ruled the Gondwana kingdom (now in eastern Madhya Pradesh and western Odisha). These tribesmen are now clustered in the highlands of Central India and much of Southern India. A sheen of spirituality surrounds Gonds. A legend tells of a Gond origin story.
Once upon a time, five Gond kings and Bada Dev (the mighty Gond God) ruled the large and mighty Gond Empire which had numerous forts at its expanse. The most powerful among the five kings was King Kuhamanachha. He was a proud and cunning king having a large kingdom of his own at his feet. When King Kuhamanachha’s daughter Mancchal Ramo came of age, he sent out invitations far and wide to other small and powerful kings for her swayamvar, but it wasa conspiracy by the King to capture all the other kings and take over the whole kingdom. When the day of swayamvar came, he put forth a tricky condition for the other kings that they should be able to resist three attacks by a divine spear. When the kings refused to fulfil the condition, King Kuhamanaccha made them all his prisoners.
Seeing this, the warm-hearted princess Mancchal Rao penned a letter to one of the five mighty Gond kings Babadandi who was deliberately not invited by Kuhamanachha in the first place since he was too sharp to become a victim of such conspiracies. When Babadandi arrived, Kuhamanaccha played yet another sly trick and killed Babadandi with the divine spear, but Babadandi himself was blessed with divine powers and soon after regained life. Babadandi killed Kuhamanaccha shortly after and freed all the other Gond kings returning them back to their respective kingdoms. Mancchal Rao seeing Babadandi’s bravery married him and thereafter originated Gonds.
The earth awakens when a Bhil plays music
At the beginning of time, Veelu Bai created the Earth, the Sun, the Moon, the God Mahadev, flora and fauna of the Earth and human beings. Things were in place; teak trees stood tall, ocean waves washed up the surface, birds soared high. Only one thing was missing: there wasn’t any sound. Mahadev realised that something must be done in order to bring the repertory of sounds to Earth. He went to a carpenter and asked him to make drums, trumpets and other musical instruments so that the Earth could come alive. Soon after the carpenter went to the jungles and sought permission of a teak tree to cut it down to make instruments, the tree obliged. The carpenter made instruments like Dhol, Mandar, Dholki, Sania Baja, Kundi & Dhaak. He took all of them to Mahadev, and Mahadev distributed all the instruments to common folks and asked them to play it all together. The soothing sound of the musical instruments and the lively dance beats of people reverberated in the remotest and corners of the Earth and Mahadev rejoiced “My sister Earth is waking up”.
Bhil, the second largest tribe of India, find their homes in the western Deccan regions and Central India. ‘Bhil’ comes from the Dravidian word ‘Billie’ meaning bow and these tribesmen have been known to love their bows, as traditionally they have always kept it with themselves.
Bhil are at one with nature; their famous folk paintings depict their deep connection with nature; art being their sincerest expression of life. They paint beautiful images onto the clay walls of their homes. The images would be painted with Neem sticks and natural dyes would also be used. Each painting consists of myriad dots which form various patterns and colours which prominently stand against a deep background. They also use many herbs like Bhringraja, Reetha, Kachnaar, Amalatas for holistic and organic beauty care.