Adivasi Economics and Re-awakening the Indigenous Mind

twoadivasigirlsFelix Padel writes: An Adivasi economy, in its traditional or pre-globalization form at least, was based in many ways on ecological principles. In the words of a Kond elder in Kandhamal district, Odisha, “Where are the saints in your society? In this village we are all saints. We consume little, share everything, and waste nothing.”

Consuming little involves restraint in what is taken from nature. The first time I stayed in an Adivasi village, which was a Santal village in Mayurbhanj district, I was told that no food from the fields or forest is consumed before the puja (or prayer) has been done for it. Most of the main Adivasi festivals are ‘first fruits’ festivals. For forest foods, this means some mangoes return to the soil and sprout, bamboos are allowed to flower before they are cut, and so on. ‘Taboo’ comes from the Maori word tapu, which also means ‘sacred’. Dongria Konds have a taboo or nigam against cutting trees on the top of Niyamgiri, seeing it as the abode of Niyam Raja — ‘king of rules/law’, understanding that their intact mountain summit is the source of water and fertility for miles around, which is why they have evolved such a strong movement to prevent its bauxite from being mined by Vedanta corporation. “It’s not crores of rupees up there,” says Lado Sikoka, “It’s our Maa-Baap, and we’ll defend her.” Or as a Dongria woman puts it, “We need the mountain and the mountain needs us.”

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