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future. The proverb says, ‘The Gond considers himself a king as long as he has a pot of grain in the house,’ meaning that while he has food for a day or two he will not work for any more. During the hot weather the Gonds go about in parties and pay visits to their relatives, staying with them several days, and the time is spent simply in eating, drinking when liquor is available, and conversation. The visitors take presents of grain and pulse with them and these go to augment the host’s resources. The latter will kill a chicken or, as a great treat, a young pig. Mr. Montgomerie writes of the Gonds as follows:1 “They are a pleasant people, and leave kindly memories in those who have to do with them. Comparatively truthful, always ready for a laugh, familiar with the paths and animals and fruits of the forest, lazy cultivators on their own account but good farmservants under supervision, the broad-nosed Gonds are the fit inhabitants of the hilly and jungly tracts in which they are found. With a marigold tucked into his hair above his left ear, with an axe in his hand and a grin on his face, the Gond turns out cheerfully to beat for game, and at the end of the day spends his beating pay on liquor for himself or on sweetmeats for his children. He may, in the previous year, have been subsisting largely on jungle fruits and roots because his harvest failed, but he does not dream of investing his modest beating pay in grain.”
In the wilder tracts the Gonds were, until recently, extremely shy of strangers, and would fly at their approach. Their tribute to the Raja of Bastar, paid in kind, was collected once a year by an officer who beat a tom-tom outside the village and forthwith hid himself, whereupon the inhabitants brought out whatever they had to give and deposited it on an appointed spot. Colonel Glasfurd notes that they had great fear of a horse, and the sight of a man on horseback would put a whole village to flight.2 Even within the writer’s experience, in the wilder forest tracts of Chanda Gond women picking up mahua would run and climb a tree at one’s approach on a pony. As displaying the ignorance of the Gonds, Mr. Cain relates 3 that about forty years ago a Gond
1 Chhindwzira Settlement Report.
was sent with a basket of mangoes from Palvatsa to Bhadrachalam, and was warned not to eat any of the fruit, as it would be known if he did so from a note placed in the basket. On the way, however, the Gond and his companion were overcome by the attraction of the fruit, and decided that if they buried the note it would be unable to see them eating. They accordingly did so and ate some of the mangoes, and when taxed with their dishonesty at the journey’s end, could not understand how the note could have known of their eating the mangoes when it had not seen them.
The Gonds can now count up to twenty, and beyond that they use the word kori or a score, in talking of cattle, grain or rupees, so that this, perhaps, takes them up to twenty score. They say they learnt to count up to twenty on their ten fingers and ten toes.
When residing in the centre of a Hindu population the Gonds inhabit mud houses, like the low-class Hindus. But in the jungles their huts are of bamboo matting plastered with mud, with thatched roofs. The internal arrangements are of the simplest kind, comprising two apartments separated from each other by a row of tall baskets, in which they store up their grain. Adjoining the house is a shed for cattle, and round both a bamboo fence for protection from wild beasts. In Bastar the walls of the hut are only four or five feet high, and the door three feet. Here there are one or two sheds, in which all the villagers store their grain in common, and no man steals another’s grain. In Gond villages the houses are seen perched about on little bluffs or other high ground, overlooking the fields, one, two and three together. The Gond does not like to live in a street. He likes a large bdri or fenced enclosure, about an acre in size, besides his house. In this he will grow mustard for sale, or his own annual supply of tobacco or vegetables. He arranges that the village cattle shall come and stand in the bdri on their way to and from pasture, and that the cows shall be milked there for some time. His family also perform natural functions in it, which the Hindus will not do in their fields. Thus the bdri gets well manured and will easily give two crops in the year, and the Gond sets great store by this field. When building a new house a man plants as the first post a pole
60. Villages and houses.
61. Clothes and ornaments.
of the sdj tree, and ties a bundle of thatching-grass round it, and buries a pice (id) and a b/zilawa nut beneath it. They feed two or three friends and scatter a little of the food over the post. The post is called Khirkhut Deo, and protects the house from harm.
A brass or pewter dish and Iota or drinking-vessel of the same material, a few earthen cooking-pots, a hatchet and a clay 0/zilam or pipe-bowl comprise the furniture of a Gond.
In Sir R. Jenkins’ time, a century ago, the Gonds were represented as naked savages, living on roots and fruits, and hunting for strangers to sacrifice. About fifty years later, when Mr. Hislop wrote, the-Maria women of the wilder tracts were said only to have a bundle of leafy twigs fastened with a string round their waist to cover them before and behind. Now men have a narrow strip of cloth round the waist and women a broader one, but in the south of Bastar they still leave their breasts uncovered. Here a woman covers her breasts for the first time when she becomes pregnant, and if a young woman did it, she would be thought to be big with child. . In other localities men and women clothe themselves more like Hindus, but the women leave the greater part of the thighs bare, and men often have only one cloth round the loins and another small rag on the head. They have bangles of glass, brass and zinc, and large circlets of brass round the legs, though these are now being discarded. In Bastar both men and women have ten to twenty iron and brass hoops round their necks, and on to these rings of the same metal are strung. Rai Bahadur Panda Baijnath counted I81 rings on one hoop round an old woman’s neck. In the Maria country the boys have small separate plots of land, which they cultivate themselves and use the proceeds as their pocket-money, and this enables them to indulge in a profusion of ornaments sometimes exceeding those worn by the girls. In Mandla women wear a number of strings of yellow and bluish-white beads. A married woman has both colours, and several cowries tied to the end of the necklace. Widows and girls may only wear the bluish-white beads without cowries, and a remarried widow may not have any yellow beads, but she can have one cowrie on her necklace. Yellow beads are thus confined to married