Centre for East-West Cultural and Economic Studies, Bond University (Australia), Research Paper No. 11, February 2005, Copyright © Nilakantha Panigrahi 2004-2005 `





by Nilakantha Panigrahi *



Eco-tourism both at conceptual and empirical levels is significant in a number of respects. Traditionally it encapsulates scientific, aesthetic, and philosophical approaches which reflect the structure and function of the society. Over the decades numerous changes have been observed both in the content and context of eco-tourism. With globalisation the processes of these changes not only widened and multiplied, but also gained in importance. The present research paper in observing the treasure of tourism of the Orissa region in eastern India, emphasises the potential of eco-tourism in the scheduled areas which are largely dominated by the tribal communities. It argues - and concludes by way of recommendations - that if eco-tourism is properly developed it can not only attract tourists from far and near, but can also generate more revenue for the inhabitants of the region and for the state.

Key words: Eco-Tourism, Tribal Communities, Ethno-Cultural groups, Scheduled Areas, Tribal Museum.

*Dr Nilakantha Panigrahi is from the Faculty in Anthropology, NKC Center for Development Studies (ICSSR supported Center), Bhubaneswar, Orissa, India, Email: nilakantha62@yahoo.co.in and ncdsvc@sancharnet.in



India is one of the few countries of the world endowed with an array of tourism resources - from bio-cultural diversity to a wealth of histories and antiquities. These should have accelerated the growth of tourism in India at four times the world average (WTO 1994). In reality, smaller countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Hong Kong, the Maldives and Bhutan have proved more adept at promoting their national tourism as a successful industry (Singh1996). Tourism is one of the largest sources of foreign exchange in countries such as Costa Rica, Belize and Guatemala (Yadav 2002). In the Indian context, decades of dangerous development policies have threatened the integrity of the ecosystem - so much so that today, politicians, scientists, activists and local communities are struggling to balance the need for economic growth with the preservation of natural resources. The whole coastal region on the western and eastern seaboards of India, starting from Central Goa, Kovalam, Puri, to Mahabalipurum remains unattractive. The ancient cities, which once glorified the rajas and maharajas and also signify to this day religious sanctity, are no longer the magnets they once were.


The paper is divided into five parts. First, the concept of eco-tourism is explained and the major focus of the government is reviewed. Second, it briefly describes the treasure of tourism and the tourist potential in the State of Orissa. Third, it highlights the socio-cultural profile of the tribal communities in general and Primitive Tribal Communities in particular living therein, and the potential for tourism expansion from within the State. Fourth, the paper from empirical sources explains the potential for ethnic tourism, both from within and outside India. Finally, through the evidence, it analyses the potentialities and prospects of ethnic tourism in Orissa. For preparation of this paper data has been collected from secondary sources of Government and non-Government records and reports. The experiences documented by the author as a social anthropologist have helped to identify the rich potentialities of eco-tourism, particularly in tribal regions of the State. In order to establish the importance of eco-tourism the study has adopted an ethnographic approach that reflects the socio-cultural importance of tribal communities and their region.


I: The Concept of Eco-Tourism

The concept of eco-tourism has been defined differently by the various national and international agencies. Conceptually, eco-tourism encapsulates a type of

"tourism that involves travelling to relatively undisturbed or uncontaminated natural areas with the specific objective of studying, admiring and enjoying the scenery, wild plants and animals, as well as the existing cultural aspects (both past and present), found in those areas. Ecological tourism implies a scientific, aesthetic philosophical approach, although the ecological tourists are not required to be a professional scientist, artist or philosopher. The main point is that the person who practices eco-tourism has the opportunity of emmersing him or herself in nature in a way most people can not enjoy in their routine . . ." (Ziffer 1989, Boo 1990, Lindberg 1991, and WTO/UNEP 1992).

Other scholars have also used the term 'nature tourism' (Ceballos-Lascurain 1987) which is not necessarily ecologically sound; while Cohen (1984) raised the issue of neglect of development in and around protected areas. The definition of eco-tourism has changed considerably from a descriptive concept in which there is no difference between nature-tourism and eco-tourism to today's usage: that is, the 'desired state' of development in reaching a balance between 'nature conservation', 'sustainable socio-economic development', and 'nature tourism' (Boo 1992b; Ziffer1989). Most have emphasised the management of tourism and conservation of nature so as to maintain a balance between tourism and ecology on the one hand, and the requirements of local communities in terms of generating employment, enhancing their earning skill, and improving the status of women.

The UN International Year of Eco-Tourism during 2002 reviewed eco-tourism experiences worldwide, highlighting three significant aspects: 1) nature, 2) tourism, and 3) local communities. Most of the studies relating to tourism emphasise the economic dimensions at international and national levels (Gray 1970; EIU 1973; Thuens 1976; Mathieson and Wall 1982), while very few have investigated local levels (Henderson 1975; Vaughan 1977; Singh 1981; Dube 1985; Chopra 1991; Srivastava 1992 and Singh 1992; further elaborated below). Likewise, there have been proposals to link cultural and eco-tourism into a more sustainable perspective which is able ' to acknowledge the natural environment, built environment, icons, and attractions of destinations as part of the cultural package' (Greathouse Amador 1997).

Ceballos-Lascurain (1996:46-48) estimated the potential number of eco-tourists globally at between 157 to 236 million, capable of generating expenditures of up to US$1.2 trillion, while Honey (1999:9) calculated it at US$30 billion per year. In view of these estimations, it is understandable that the United Nations should have declared 2002 as the International Year of Eco-Tourism. Eco-tourism and eco-tourists are clearly significant to the tourism economy and the environment. In contrast to conventional tourists (Gossling 1999:309; Koch 1997:218) eco-tourists stays in facilities that are likely to be owned and managed by local people rather than multinational corporations, and often eat local food and consume local services (West and Carrier, 2004, 483-498). Honey (2003) thus defines eco-tourism as aimed to protect and benefit conservation; benefit, respect and help empower local communities; and educate as well as entertain tourists.

Different studies have highlighted various aspects of eco-tourism. Some have focused on the industry aspects, such as the nature and quality of provision and environmental attraction that eco-tourists expect (e.g. Khan 2003, Rudd Tupper 2002), while few have studied the relationship between eco-tourism and the local people's conventional livelihoods and forms of social organisations (e.g. Akram, Lant, and Burnett 1996; Belsky 1999; Medina 2003) and others have analysed the motivation of the eco-tourists (e.g. Duffy 2002; Munt 1994). Only over the last decade have serious efforts been made to establish strategies that link eco-tourism and cultural tourism into sustainable 'pro-poor' tourism approaches (Poyya 2003).

A review of the Indian case reveals that tourism has helped in maximising economic benefits rather than ensuring social benefits. Eco-tourism as a concept centres on the nature of the tourism and with regard to local communities, emphasises conservation, sustainability and biological diversities. In the Indian context all the Five Year Plans have built up infrastructure, including tourist circuits and centres, diversified tourism from the traditional sight-seeing tour, to non-traditional areas such as trekking, winter sports, beach resorts; restored and balanced development of national heritage of cultural, historical and tourist importance.

International tourism in India increased during the decade of 1981 to 1990 and generated foreign exchange and employment (both direct and indirect) (Mary and Chung, 1996). However, the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi (1984), the crash of Airbus (1990), the assassination of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi (1991), the brutal killing of Graham Stains and his two children (1999), caste conflicts, the occurrence of Kargil war with Pakistan (1999), reoccurrence of terrorism, communal riots, etc. have affected the growth of tourism in India. However this is offset by networks of 572 nature-endowed areas, 89 national parks, and 483 wildlife sanctuaries and 3,606 protected monuments under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains regulations that mobilise tourists from within and outside of the nation. 


II: Rediscovering the Tourism of Orissa

The State of Orissa is situated on the eastern coast of India, on the Bay of Bengal. It is endowed with natural attractions such as beaches, lakes, and forests teeming wildlife, as well as a rich cultural heritage inclusive of monuments, ethno-handicrafts from the various ethnic groups, colourful fairs and festivals, music and ethnic dances.


Tourism has been recognized as an industry in Orissa and sizeable revenue is earned for the State from domestic as well as foreign tourists. The Government during the Third Five-Year Plan (1961-1966) first mooted the idea of tourism, which was revamped during the Fifth Five-Year Plan (1974-1979). The creation of a State Department of Tourism dates back to 1973, though modifications have been made from time to time as regards functions of the Department. The Department of Tourism and Culture has been functioning in its present status since 1995. The Orissa Tourism Development Corporation was created in March 1979 and it was incorporated under the Companies Act in September 1979 (Government of Orissa, 2002).

Traditionally known as the land of Lord Jagannath, Orissa is attractive to tourists of various interests. The innumerable temples of Orissa scattered throughout the length and breadth of the State, ranging from the miniature on the Mahendragiri to the gigantic Jagannath, Lingaraj and Sun Temple of the Golden Triangle, appeal to both pilgrims and cultural tourists. The capital city of Bhubaneswar at one time is said to have had as many as 7000 temples; scores of them stand to this day. Here one can find a chronological development of temple architecture over centuries beginning with the Bharateswar, Lakshmaneswar, and Shatrughneswar group of temples to the great Lingaraj. There are 79 heritage sites in Orissa protected by Archaeological Survey of India. Bhubaneswar alone accounts for 22 out of these heritage sites. But in most of these places such sites have been encroached upon by a range of human activities.


Konark , one of the many fine temples in Orissa

(Photo copyright R. James Ferguson 2002)

Similarly, in the Western parts of Orissa, Sambalpur and Sonepur can be regarded as 'mini' temple towns. They have developed a separate style of temple architecture, which flourished during the Chouhan rule in Western Orissa. A special mention in this connection can be made of the leaning temple of Bimaleswar at Huma, 30 kilometres from Sambalpur on the bank of the river Mahanadi. Out of four distinguished Yogini shrines of India, Orissa has the distinction of having two. One of them is at Hirapur near Bhubaneswar and the other at Ranipur Jharial in the district of Bolangir. At Ranipur and Jharial the temple stands in close proximity of numerous Saiva shrines and a Vaishnaba shrine. This speaks of the cultural synthesis that emerged in this region (Government of Orissa, 2002).

The brick temple of Ranipur, Jharial and the Pataleswar brick temple of Buddhikomna are among the finest of the very few brick temples of India. The rock-cut caves of Khandagiri and Udayagiri help to explain the hitherto obscure history of Orissa. The double storied Ranigumpha in Udayagiri reflects the socio-economic and political life of that period. The Kalinga war famed Dhauligiri contains the rock edicts of Emperor Ashok. Another rock edict of the same emperor is found at Jaugada in the district of Ganjam. Dhauligiri can be of more interest for Buddhist tourists with the peace pagoda constructed on the top of the hill in the early 1970s. Another treasure house for the Buddhists is the Ratnagiri-Lalitgiri-Udayagiri complex where once stood the famous Pushpagiri Buddha Vihar. The recent discovery of the mortal relics of Buddha at Lalitgiri, and new excavations at the nearby Langudigiri with their significant finds, have enhanced the importance of the region. However, the construction of Government offices at Udaygiri within 100 meters of the prohibited zone draws attention to the encroachment of heritage sites even by the State (Government of Orissa, 2002).

The Chinese traveller Hieun Tsang described the Nrusimhanath Plateau in the district of Bargarh as Po-lo-mo-lo-ki-li, which may be the Parimalagiri Buddha Vihar. Excavations in a place called Kuruma near Konark have also brought to light the remains of a Buddha Vihar. The pictographic sites of Vikram-khol in Sambalpur district, Yogi Math and Gudahandi in Kalahandi district provide considerable opportunity for study of the prehistoric age, as evidenced by repeated visits from a number of historians and archeologists.

Places of natural beauty are in abundance in Western Orissa, particularly the streams and forests at Harisankar in Bolangir and Nrusinghanath in Balangir. The deity of Nrusinghanath sitting in the shape of a half-human and half-lion form tearing Hiranyakasipu against the backdrop of a stream is a scene to witness. Kalahandi district is endowed with the wealth of forests (in which roams a rare species of black tiger), a natural waterfall at Rabandar, and a host of temples situated at the hilltops of Bhawanipatna. These are places of touristic importance. Other attractions include as the Patala Ganga spot at Nawapara district, Ushakothi, Hirakud and Badrama in Sambalpur district, the Khandadhar waterfall in Sundargarh district, as well as the Mahanadi and the Tel river in Suvarnapur district.

There are more than 20 sanctuaries in the State. The lush green forests of Ushakothi and Similipal filled with the chirping of birds and a rich wild life are ideal for the development of eco-tourism in Orissa. Moreover, the biosphere reserve of Nandankanan, the natural Chandka forests, the Nandankanan Zoological Park are located only 20 kilometres from the capital city of Bhubaneswar. However, with the devastation caused by the cyclone of 1999, these places need revival from the commercial point of view (Panigrahi, 2002).

Wildlife lovers have long known of the lion safari and white tiger safari of Bhubaneswar, the majestic Mahanadi gorge at Tikarapara, with the added attraction of the Crocodile Sanctuary, and the migration of millions of Olive Ridley turtles to Gahirmatha twice a year to lay eggs. Orissa also has the bird paradise of Chilika Lake, which is the largest brackish water lake in Asia. Precipitous waterfalls at a number of places - including Bagra, Duduma, Harishankar, Nrusimhanath, Pradhanpat, Khandadhar, Berehipani, and Joranda - are ideal for summer tourism. Also for summer, are the beaches of Orissa stretching over 400 kilometres from Chandaneswar to Gopalpur. They are still undeveloped and rated among the best in the world. By comparison, winter tourism may focus on the hot sulphur springs at Atri, Taptapani, Deulajhari and Tarabalo. The winter tableau may also be experienced in places resembling the Himalayan valley - that is, Daringibadi in Phulbani district and the Sunabeda plateau in Koraput district.

The traditional fairs and festivals of Orissa, observed with colourful ceremony, include Rathayatra at Puri, Dhanu Yatra at Bargarh, Sitalsasthi at Sambalpur, Nila Parva at Chandaneswar, and the Chhou dance at Baripada. The State is also rich in folk dances, including Odissi, Gotipua Nacha, Palla, and Danda Nacha. Tribal folk dances such as 'dhemsa' and 'chau', plus other different forms, enrich the folk dance repertoire of the State. In addition to these traditional dances, special dance and cultural programs like the Konark Festival (at Konark), the Adivasi Festival at Bhubaneswar, and the beach festival at Puri, are also organised every year. The Zilla Mahostavas organised every year in different districts and the district level cultural festivals (such as Parav in Koraput and Malyabanta in Malkangiri) also attract tourists locally and from further afield. Souvenirs of cultural interest are made by the tie and dye textiles of Western Orissa, popularly known as sambalpuri textiles, the appliqué works of Pipili, the horn and soap stone works of Puri, the patta paintings of Raghurajpur and the silver filigree of Cuttack.

At the commencement of the Sixth Five-Year Plan (1980-1985) sustained efforts were made to improve the infrastructure for the promotion of tourism in the State. The hotel industry increased the number of rooms available as well as their price range. In 1980 there were only 188 hotels in Orissa with a total of 3,202 rooms; in 1999 (during the Ninth Five-Year Plan, 1997-2002) the figures rose to 733 hotels accounting for 14,939 rooms. The tourism industry benefits from an international airport at Bhubaneswar, with direct or convenient air links with Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta, Madras, Hyderabad, and other cities, plus fast train services to tourist destinations of the State (Government of Orissa, 2002). This has helped increase both domestic and foreign tourism into the State (see Table 1) and associated spending while in Orissa (see Table 2) (Government of Orissa, 2002). The employment opportunities in this sector have also increased. Tourism in the State generated a rise in employment from 26,695 persons in the year 1996-97, to 46,103 persons in the year 2000-2001 (Government of Orissa, 2002). This clearly indicates the employment potential of the tourism sector.



III: Ethno-Cultural Resources of the Tribal Communities in Orissa

Orissa has a large tribal population: out of India's 427 Scheduled Tribes, Orissa accounts for 62 tribal communities who constitute 27.08 percent of State's population (2001). The tribal communities living in the State range from small communities like Chenchu, Bonda, Juanga, Didayi, to large communities like Munda, Santalas, Kondh, Oraon, Saora and Bhuyan. Almost 44.21 percent of the total land area of the State has been Constitutionally declared as a Scheduled Area, which covers most of the districts except the coastal and few in-land areas. The districts largely dominated by Scheduled Tribes are Malkangiri (58.51%), Mayurbhanja (57.87%), Nawarangpur (55.26%), Rayagada (54.99%), Sundargarh (50.74%), Koraput (50.67%), Kondhaland (50.13%), Keonjhar (44.62%), Gajapati (47.88%), and Jharsuguda (33.31%) (1991 Census of India). The tribal communities of the State can be categorised as hunter-gatherer-nomads; hunter-gatherer and shifting cultivators; simple artisans; settled agriculturists; industrial and urban unskilled and semi-skilled workers (Behura, 1990-93).

The Scheduled Tribe communities differ in their political, economic and socio-cultural life. However, these communities have similarities as regard their dependency on nature to collect their livelihood requirements and in adherence to nature-spirit belief complexes. A few tribal communities including the Birhor, Kondh and Paudi Bhuyan are also found beyond the State boundaries and are distributed in the States of Jharkhand, Chhatishgarh, Assam and West Bengal. Many of these communities belong to the Austric sub-family of the Austro-Asiatic language family. Almost all are divided into sub-groups who reside on hill-tops and hill slopes. They tend to be patrilineal, partilocal, patriarchal and possess both nuclear and extended forms of family, patri-lineages and clans. For them, marriage by negotiation is always considered as socially approved and most prestigious. However, they also pursue other methods, such as marriage by capture, marriage by exchange and marriage by service. Since these tribal communities are conservative and tradition-bound, their social organisation and marriages are basically regulated by clans or similar organisations like Birinda (among the Saoras). Any breach of customary practices by the members results in social excommunication and imposition of fines. The secular and sacerdotal village functionaries, known differently among different communities, perform the role of village head, priest, medicine man, shaman, and look after their politico-jural and religious functions. The ethnic identities of these communities are reflected through their dress pattern, housing structure, ornaments, god, goddess and spirits of both benevolent and malevolent nature.

Primitive Tribal Communities of Orissa

Of the 62 Scheduled Tribes, the State has declared 11 tribal communities as Primitive Tribal Groups. These communities are: Bonda Paraja, Chuktia Bhunjia, Didayi, Dongaria Kondha, Hill Kharia (also known as Mankiridia, Birhor) Juanga, Kutia Kondh, Lanjia Saora, Lodha, Paudi Bhuiyan and Saora. Each of these tribal communities is rich in social institutions, socio-cultural profile and ethnic identity, as noted below:

BIRHOR: In Orissa, Birhors are mainly distributed in the districts of Sambalpur, Sundargarh, Balasore, Cuttack, Ganjam. The meaning of the term Birhor in their language is Bir (forest) and Hor (men) - i.e. men of the forest. They are traditionally semi-nomadic hunter-gatherers and their economy is subsistence-oriented. They are divided into the nomadic Uthlas and the settled Jagi. The wandering group has a temporary habitation, known as the Kumbha, made of twigs and leaves and a cluster of Kumbhas for 10-15 households, giving rise to a temporary camp-site, known as the Tanda. The forest and the Birhor are inter-connected since time immemorial, as their basic survival is dependent upon the forest eco-system. Their social organisation popularly known as Tanda is multi-clan, and does not have any restriction for marriage within a Tanda. Each Tanda has a headman who plays simultaneously secular and sacerdotal roles. The Birhors are polytheists as they believe in and perform rituals for a number of deities and spirits, both benevolent and malevolent. They worship ancestral cults at regular intervals for their safety and social security.

The Birhor are interchangeably known as the Mankirdia (in Sambalpur and Mayurbhanj districts), and Mankidi (in Kalahandi and Sundargarh), as they are expert monkey catchers. Because of their pre-agricultural economy and low literacy, they have been identified as one of the Primitive Tribal Groups. Since the Fifth Plan, the Union Government has been exerting itself to bring them to sedentary settlement from their nomadic/semi-nomadic habitat through planned development intervention.


BONDO: The Bondo are only found in Orissa State. They are the speakers of the 'Kemo language which belongs to the Austro-Asiatic language family. There are three sub-groups: the Bondo highlanders, Lower Bondo and the Gadaba-Bondo group. The Bondo villages are found in hilltops and hill slopes, as well, and their economic life centres on cultivation, both shifting and settled. Their social organisation consists of such social institutions as clans, lineage groups, extended families and nuclear families. There are a number of village functionaries, both secular and sacerdotal, namely the priest, medicine man, and shaman, to look after the politico-jural and religious functions in their society. The Patkhanda Maha-pravu is their presiding deity and a number of deities and spirits are also worshipped from time to time. Although liquor is prohibited for use in various religious rituals, animal sacrifice is not tabooed.

The Bondo observe a number of rituals and ceremonies throughout the year. They use scanty clothes and especially the womenfolk traditionally use country-made ringa of kerang fibre. They wear a number of coloured bead necklaces hanging from the neck to the navel, and in addition there are bangles, neck and head-bands, anklets, and rings. The Bondo, both men and women, have shown increasing interest in participating in the ongoing development processes.

CHUKTIA BHUNJIA: The Chuktia Bhunjia are members of the Bhunjia tribal groups, concentrated in the Sonabera plateau of Kalahandi (old) district, which is located at an altitude of approximately 3,000 feet above the sea level. The area is distinguished by high and undulating hill ranges, streams and dense forest. It is a sparsely populated area with small, dispersed villages and hamlets. Their erstwhile practice of shifting cultivation has affected the landscape of the region; and now the Chuktia Bhunjia earn their livelihood through the collection and sale of minor non-timber forest produce.

The Chuktia section of the Bhunjia is more conservative, tradition-bound and inward-looking. They have a number of exogamous units or clans, which regulate their marriage. A simple/nuclear family with a monogamous form of marriage is found in their society. Their kitchen shed is considered sacred and the entry of married daughters into the kitchen is strictly forbidden. Traditionally, the socio-political system recognised the village council with elderly members as the basic unit and there existed the inter-village council at the apex. The Bhunjias worship the Sunadei as their supreme deity and the Pujari performs the priestly functions. Besides this, a large number of deities are propitiated for the tribe's well-being and prosperity, prevention and cure from diseases, and good crops. Both the region and the community attract tourists during winter.

DIDAYI: The Didayi is an ethnic group that occupies the area of the Konda Kamberu hill ranges and the Machhkund River. Their habitat constitutes riverine plains, undulating plateau and rugged mountainous terrain. Economically, they are mostly subsistence-oriented, attuned to the environment, and they earn their livelihood through food-gathering, hunting, fishing, domestication of animals, cultivation (both settled and shifting), and wage-earning. In their politico-jural arrangements, the Naik officiates as the secular chief of the traditional village Panchayat. They believe in a large number of gods and goddesses, demi-gods and spirits and the palasi is their sacred Chief. The Didayis are patriarchal, patrilineal and patrilocal and their social organisation comprises of clans, which are characteristically totemistic and include lineage, consisting of a number of families. Although monogamy is the rule, polygamous unions are practised, as per need and the cross-cousin marriage is a preferential form of marriage among them. Also prevalent are marriage by mutual consent and elopement (udlia), marriage by capture (cubboi), marriage by intrusion (gaisamuddi) and marriage by service (garijya). The bride price, although not uniform in all cases of marriages, is paid to the bride's parents. Divorce is socially permissible and remarriages of widow/widower, divorcee/separated are also allowed.

DONGRIA KANDHA: The Dongria Kandha, members of the Kandha tribe of Orissa, are found in the Niyamgiri hill ranges of the Eastern Ghats and particularly in the Rayagada and Koraput districts. Dongria Kandhas speak a language, called the kuvi, which is of Dravidian linguistic ancestry. They are able horticulturists and grow jackfruit, mango, pineapple, banana, citrus fruits, ginger, and turmeric. Besides horticulture, they earn their livelihood through shifting cultivation along hill slopes, collection of materials from forests, animal husbandry and wage-earning. The Dongria Kandhas are patrilineal and patriarchal; they have nuclear families, extended families, lineage and clans. Although marriage by negotiation appears to be more prestigious, they too have other ways of acquiring marriage partners, such as the marriage by capture, exchange, or service. Their economies centre round the dongar - hill slopes of shifting cultivation and the dongar is the abode of their deities and supernatural beings. It provides them also with a metaphor for their worldview.

The secular and sacerdotal chieftainship continues to enjoy confidence and esteem. The Bismajhi, Barika, Pujari, Disari, Bejuni, Jhateni and Gouda are the other village functionaries who play specific roles in various contexts. The theological pantheon of the Dongria Kandha has the 'Dharni penu', the earth goddess, at the apex and in addition there are a large number of village deities, ancestral cults, household deities, and spirits (both benevolent and malevolent). Deities and spirits are propitiated for their blessings, and rituals and ceremonies are observed throughout the year. Dongria Kandhas employ traditional knowledge of the causes and cure of diseases and ailments, and consult their Disari, the medicine man, at times of need.


JUANG: The Juang are found only in Orissa State, concentrated in the districts of Keonjhar (the Thaniya section) and Dhenkanal (the Bhagudiya section). Gonasika, which is situated in Keonihar district, is the principal seat of the tribe. The Gonasika area constitutes sedentary landscape with hills, slopes, ridges, and valleys. The vegetative cover in the area ranges from barren to thin forest, within a sub-tropical monsoon climate. The Gonasika (meaning 'cow's nostril') marks the origin of the river Baitarani. The Juang speak a language classified under the Munda, belonging to the Austric subfamily of the Austro-Asiatic language family.

They have patrilineal and totemistic septs/clans, which have two broad divisions, namely the Kutumb/Bhai septs (non-intermarrying/consanguineous) and the Bandbu septs (intermarrying/affinal). Their secular and sacerdotal chiefs are the Pradhan and Nagam/Boita, respectively. They are polytheists and the two principal deities are the Dharam Debta/Mahapuru and the Dharti Mata/Basuki. The Rushi (benefactor) and the Rushain (benefactoress) are considered as the deified tribal heroes (Elwin 1948). There are also deities presiding over villages, hills, rivers, and forest. Ancestral cults are also in evidence. Interestingly, there is an absence of the practice of witchcraft and sorcery. They observe a number of rituals, ceremonies and festivals throughout the year. The Juang consider the neighbouring tribal group, the Bhuiyan, as their brothers.

KHARIA: The Pahari/Hill Kharia, members of Kharia tribe, are considered the most 'backward' insofar as their economic status is concerned. The Hill Kharias are the autochthonous inhabitants of the Similipal hill ranges of Mayurbhanj district. They live in small villages consisting of roughly 20 to 30 households and their villages are found scattered on hilltops, hill slopes and foothills. The subsistence economy of the Hill Kharia centres on the collection of minor forest produce, such as resin, honey, bees' wax, lac, tusser cocoon, and hunting. The Kharia family is patrilineal, patriarchal and patrilocal and there is a preponderance of nuclear families. As with the other tribes, marriage by negotiation is preferred. Bride price is practised; and widow remarriage and divorce are socially allowed. The Hill Kharias consider the earth goddess, Thakurani, as their supreme deity. They also believe in a number of deities and spirits, propitiating them through performance of rituals. The Pradhan heads the traditional socio-political organisation; and both village-level and inter-village level councils attend to the internal and external affairs of the community.

KUTIA KANDHA: The Kutia Kandha is a sub-section of the Kandha tribal group of Orissa and they are mainly concentrated in Belghar area of the Balliguda subdivision in Phulbani district. Their habitat is located in the north-eastern fringe of the Eastern Ghats and contains hills, rivers and streams. The area is approximately 3,000 feet above sea level. Patrilineality, patriarchy and patrilocality prevail in Kutia Kandha villages. They have nuclear and extended families, lineage, clans and clan exogamy regulates marriage. The secular functionaries are the Mutha Majhi, Pat Majhi, Bis Majhi and Chhatia; while the Jani is the sacerdotal head. The Kutia Kandhas are polytheists and believe in a large number of deities, spirits, supernatural elements, both benevolent and malevolent. They propitiate their deities and spirits through performance of rituals for their blessings. They observe various ceremonies and festivals throughout the year and perform magico-religious rituals as per the prescription of the Jani. 

The techno-economic base of the Kutia Kandha is centred on the sylvan forest eco-system. They practise slash-and-burn cultivation, otherwise known as 'podu chas', and also grow crops in wet cultivation, horticultural plantations, animal husbandry and wage-earning for their livelihood. The Kutia Kandha women play a significant role in socio-economic, socio-religious and socio-cultural system maintenance. 

LODHA: In Orissa, the Lodhas are concentrated in two areas, namely Morada and Suliapada in the Sadar subdivision of Mayurbhanj district. They are originally a Mundari speaking tribe. Their economy is subsistence-oriented and depends upon the collection of minor forest produce, wage-earning and agricultural labour. The Lodha social organisation is characterised by patrilineal and totemistic clans, and most of the families are nuclear. Their marriages are usually post-pubescent and monogamous, although polygynous unions are not totally ruled out. Divorce and remarriage are socially permissible. In the socio-political domain, the Mukhia/Sardar plays the role of headman and the traditional village Panchayat is called Desh. The Lodhas are polytheists. Like other tribes, they have village deities, tutelary deities, ancestral cults, benevolent and malevolent spirits, and all of them constitute the supernatural constellation. The Lodhas observe a number of rituals and festivals throughout the year to gain the favour of spirits and the blessings of deities for their overall well-being.

PAUDI BHUYAN: The Bhuyan is one of the major tribes of Orissa. They are found in the districts of Keonjhar, Sundargarh, Mayurbhanj and Sambalpur and are chiefly concentrated in the Bhuyan pirha of Keonjhar district and Bonai subdivision of Sundargarh district. Their habitat constitutes hilly terrain and valleys.

They practise a slash-and-burn type of cultivation (Kamani) on hill slopes, settled cultivation on wetlands and vegetable cultivation in kitchen gardens. They also collect food materials, fuel wood, honey, resin Iac, medicinal plants and herbs from the forest. Monogamy is the norm and marriage by negotiation is preferred but not always adhered to. There is the prevalence of a bride price, which is paid to the bride's father in cash and/or kind. Their family, which is the smallest social unit, is characterised by patriarchy, patrilocality and patrilineality. The tribe functions according to lineage and clans. The village head is called the Naik/Padhan, who presides over the village assembly, or Darbar; and the inter-village traditional political organisation is known as the Bar in the Sundargarh district and Pirh in the Keonjhar district. The Dharam Devta and Basukimata, who represent Sun and Earth, respectively, are at the apex of their pantheon. The Dihuri is the sacerdotal chief, who performs all rituals connected with worship of deities. When sickness arises, the tribe applies magico-religious methods through Raulia, the witch doctor, and utilises medicinal plants and herbs.


SAORA: The Saora is one of the major tribes of Orissa and they speak a language, Sora, which can be classified under the Austro-Asiatic language family. They are found in almost all districts of the State, but are chiefly concentrated in Gajapati and Rayagada districts. The Saoras have been classified into various groups. The Lanjiya Saoras are the more 'primitive' group and the Sudha Saoras are a Hinduised acculturated group (Mohanty 1990: 249-50).

The Saora family is patriarchal, patrilocal and patrilineal. Unlike other tribal groups, the Saora do not have a clan system. Instead, they have another institution, called the Birinda, a patrilineage that performs the functions of the clan. Moreover, the Birinda is exogamous and regulates marriage, inheritance and succession. A Saora woman's Birinda does not change after her marriage and after the death of a woman, her Birinda members have the right to perform her death rituals.

Although monogamy is the rule, polygynous unions are also prevalent. Besides marriage by negotiation, marriage by ceremonial capture occurs. Various life-cycle rituals are observed as per their customs and the Guar ceremony as a death ritual is significant among them. The Saoras practise shifting, terrace and settled cultivation, collect minor forest produce, pursue animal husbandry, horticulture, and wage earning. The Saoras are noted for their iconography, craftsmanship and their rich cultural heritage.


IV: The Tribal Museum

The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Research and Training Institute (thus known as SC & STR & TI) is one of the State level agencies working for tribal development in the State. This Institute started as a semi-official organisation in 1952 when it was known as Tribal Research Bureau. The objective of this Bureau was to collect and process basic data on various aspects of the culture processes of scheduled groups in the State of Orissa, and render advisory services to both the Government of Orissa and the Government of India on matters of their socio-economic development.

The concept of the 'Museum of Men' at the Institute was started in 1986 and Government of Orissa thought to take the idea further and establish a museum. Accordingly, five typical huts were made representing the Santhal, Juanga, Gadaba, Saora, and Dangaria Kondh while also displaying their artefacts. There are 2038 artefacts collected from among 21 tribal communities of Koya, Gondia, Ganda, Didayi, Kohva, Bhumija, Dangaria Kondha, Kutia Kondha, Juanga, Pauri Bhuiyan, Santhal, Oraon, Khadia-Mankiridia, Bathudi, Gond, Pahadia, Gadaba, and Bonda. The collected artefacts can be classified as hunting weapons, fishing tools, agriculture implements, household items, jewellery, textile, musical instruments, combs, dhokara, basketry, gourd items, wood carving, and decorative objects. All these artefacts have been displayed on their functional basis relating to agriculture, hunting, and music. The collections on each artefact are not sufficient to show the evolutionary process/form during the display. The Institute has adopted four types of card system (index card, chemical card, documentation card, and exhibition card) to develop a documentation process of all 2038 artefacts; while the chemical conservation method is used to preserve the artefacts.

Tribal House replications (Santhal at left and Juang above) at the Museum Of Tribal Arts and Artefacts (Orissa)

(Photo copyrights R. James Ferguson 2002)


An attempt was made to review the register of the visitors to the museum from the period of 1990 to 1998. During the period the museum attracted a mere 313 tourists, though we can assume that not all visitors signed the register. Of the total, 271 (86.58%) came from abroad (see Table 3), while only 36 (11.50%) came from other States of India, and the rest were from different districts of Orissa (SC and ST R and TI Museum Record, 2000). While total visitor numbers were small, the majority were foreign tourists. This indicates the as yet unrealised potential for development of ethno-tourism in Orissa, especially among foreign tourists.


Conclusion and Recommendations

The state of Orissa can be a successful tourist destination if the industry is encouraged. So far, tourism has been developed by the State in coastal regions and a few inland sites. The State Government has not given due and appropriate importance to develop and/or enrich tourism from an ecological and cultural point of view. For this reason, the following recommendations are made:



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Table 1: Distribution of Tourist flow to Orissa in different years


Domestic Tourists

Foreign Tourists


































Source: Govt. of Orissa, Dept. of Tourism and Culture, Bhubaneswar.


Table 2: Distribution of tourist spending in Orissa in different years (In Crore)





































Source: Govt. of Orissa, Dept. of Tourism and Culture, Bhubaneswar.


Table 3: Distribution of Foreign Tourists who visited Museum of Men at SC and ST R and TI at Bhubaneswar.

Sl No

Foreign countries

No of Foreign Tourists

Per cent of Foreign Tourists














The Netherlands












































Other countries







Source: Govt of Orissa, SC and ST R and T I, Museum Records. 1998.


Centre for East-West Cultural and Economic Studies,

Bond University (Australia),

Research Paper No. 11, February 2005,

Copyright © Nilakantha Panigrahi 2004-2005