Gonds and Bharias mainly constitute the population of Patalkot. It is said that Bharias have been living here for more than 500 years. Though there are almost 51 Gothras (lineage in the Hindu community) in Bharia tribes but only 16 Gothra have been traced in the valley. Tribals never allow their daughter to get marry in in same Gothras. Tribal men, women and children wear traditional dresses during their festive times and enjoy it. Chulki, Mundri, Binoria, Toda, Hasli, Kardona, Paijan, Mohanmala, Kushmala, Mungiamala, Markadhana mala and Patli are the common ornaments they show off at this time.
Gods and Goddesses
Tribals perform prayers and rituals everyday. The place where they perform Pooja (prayer) is called as Devghar. Tribals worship Mahadev, Badadev, Madai, Madmi Mai, Dhuladev, Nandia, Surjadev, Agiadev as their gods and goddesses.
Nagda, Timki, Shehnai, Chakule, Singa, Tambura, Chikara, Bansuri, Ghunghru, Khadtaal, Madar, Dhol, Dahak and Tudiya are the common instruments they play during various ceremonies and rituals.
Bharia tribes perform Dahiya cultivation. In this method, soil is ploughed with a Khurpi. As the land is not plain, ladder shaped or canal shaped rifts are made on soil and seedlings are planted. Bharias believe that soil is their mother and they should not apply Bhakkhar (Ploughing instrument pulled by bullocks). As per them, Bakkhar hurts their motherland. Nari, Basula, Girma, Pans, Hasiya, Tapar, Khant, Por, etc. are the material goods required for the cultivation.
Rituals and Tradition
Tribals dance and enjoy each and every social and cultural gathering. Some popular dances they perform are: Holi, Gusai, Karma, Rreena, Saila, Gendi, Dadariya, Jharpat, Bilma, Tapadi, Cherta, Sing Madiya, Hulki, Rela, Choli, Ghanti, Madri, Gour, Sahul, Tunta, Karama, Dumkuch, Dhuriya, Thapti, etc.
Saila Dance: A festival called Bhujaliya is celebrated with a lot of joy and excitement in the valley. This festival lasts throughout the month. A group of 8-10 men perform dance holding a drum stick (1-1/2 feet long) in their hands. They make a circle and keep on singing folk songs continuously. Dhol and Timki are the musical instruments which are played at this time.
Karma Dance: It is basically a dance of Baigas (Another tribe in Central India)who live in Mandla district but Patalkot tribals have also adopted this form of dance. Tribals bring Karmi/ Kalmi or Haldu twig from the forest, cover it with a cotton cloth and they place it in a drench or pit. Instruments such as Madar, Dhol and Bansuri are played. Tribals dance near the place where they put the twig. At one side, a group of men hold their hands and dance in semi lunar pattern. On the other side, girls and ladies hold their hands together and they also dance. In the songs, question and answer each other. Dhol and Madar players put themselves in between both the groups.
Meghnath is one the most important fair of the valley. This fair is celebrated on Chait Purnima (According to Hindu calendar, full moon night in March or April, depending upon the position of planet system). On this occasion, tribals make a wish and encircle on a big pillar. The place where Meghnath is worshipped is predestined and it is said to be a holy place in the village. A dais is made on the base of 4 big Saal tree trunks. A thick trunk of Saal tree is also put near the Meghnath. This is known as Jheri. Oil, ghee and other oily substances are applied on the surface of the trunk. Coconut, Ghee and few coins are tied at the distal end of Jheri. Tribal men try to climb on the trunk and women stops them doing this. Men are beaten by a stick during the course. Whosoever climbs and plucks the tied stuff, he receives an award. If none succeeded, the award is generally given to the ladies those who stop men.
Madai: This festival is celebrated during Deepawali (Festival of lamps). The festival brings happiness among the tribals. Idols of their respective Gods and Goddesses are brought to a place. Tribals perform dance all throughout the day and night. Madai is generally the last festival in any year. They try to enjoy it as much as possible.
Herbs in their life
Tribals in Patalkot are reliant upon the forest turn out. This valley is known as treasure of medicinal plants. Herbal healers known as Bhumkas are real knowledge bank. They utilize medicinal plants which are grown in the valley. Medicinal herbs and trees are part of tribal lives. Few important and highly effective medicinal plants of this valley includes: Addhajira (Chaff Tree), Bach(Sweet Flag), Adusa (Malabar nut), Ajgandha, Soorankand (Corm), Kalmegh (Andrographis), Narbod/ Satavar (Wild Asperagus), Kachnaar (Variegated mountain ebony), Punarnava (Spreading Hogweed), Shivlingi, Khatua (Sprout leaf plant), Van Karonda, Van kela, Maida Lakdi, Brahmi (Indian pennywort), Safed musli, Hadjori, Jangali Piyaz (Indian squill), Jaljamani, Sankhpusphi, Kalimusli, Kalihaldi, Baichandi (Wild Yam), Dudhi, Gular, Anantmul (Indian sarparilla), Chandrajot, Musakani, Ban Karela (Bitter gourd), Bach (Cowhage), Chitavar (Rove colour leadwort), Sarpagandha, Shitaab, Patharchata (Indian rockfoil), Bhilwa, Cheeval, Pithkarenti, Makoy (Black night shade), Sahdehi, Arjun (Arjuna), Baheda (Beleric-myrabolam), Harra (Myrabolam), Giloy/ Guduchi, Banda (Vanda/orchid), etc.
Edibles and Beverages
It includes various types of delicacies. The ladies love to prepare Rotis (Chapatis) of Maize, Jowar, Bajra, Kodo, Wheat, Gram, Udad, Kulthi or Jhurjhuru flour. The flour is made in the homeitself. Few popular pulses they use are, Masur, Tuar, Chana, Moong, Kulthi and Tevda. Daliya is one of the favorite items they cook. Maize, Jowar and Wheat are mixed together and cooked to make Daliya. Tribals like to have Bhat (Rice) everyday but Kodo, Kulthi, Bhadli, Sama & Dodma are few alternatives for the same. Kaddu, Tumdi, Karela, Gataru, Rethu, Bhura, Bhata, Kacharia, Kunduru, Bathua, Chirota, Rajbhaji and Rirua are common vegetable prepared in tribal homes. Peja is a very important preparation in each tribal hut. Bhaat, Kodo, Kutki and Sama are mixed together and fermented for 3-4 days for preparing Peja. Buttermilk is also added for enhancing flavor. Peja can be a better probiotic medicine.
Tribals are non-vegetarians. They hunt and cook flesh of Goat, Sheep, Sambhar, Deer, Rabbit, Wild Pig or Bore, Cheetal, Keetri, Teetar, Fadki, Hariyal, Peacock, Cock, Hen, Fish, Crab, Pigeon, etc. Mirchi, Haldi, Dhaniya, Amchoor, Imli, Ambaadi, are some of the spices and food additives. They use Gulli (Fruit of Mahua) and Jowar oils for cooking purposes.
Tribals smoke Beedi and Ganja. They prepare country liquor known as Gapai, Chhidi, Sulphi, Mahua and Handi.
Uncultivated plants have contributed to the diet of both humans and animals since their first emergence on planet Earth. Human beings ate a range of wild plants, whereas today the diet of developed societies is limited to only some cultivated vegetables. However, there are few tribal pockets in India like Patalkot where diet is rich in edible wild plants. This diet may be a reference standard for modern human nutrition and a model for defense against certain diseases of affluence.
Tribals form a distinct group compared to other populations. Their food intake is influenced by nature, with large seasonal variations, depending upon availability of agricultural and forest produce. Several studies have documented a close relationship between the tribal ecosystems and their nutritional status. In the last two decades a number of scientists have studied the composition of wild plants as good sources of natural nutrient suppliers, because of a trend towards natural ingredients in food. Wild plants are storehouses of essential fatty acids – especially linolenic acid and micronutrients such as calcium, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, zinc, copper and iron. In developing countries, micronutrient deficiencies are a significant health problem, particularly for maternal, infant and child health. The use of indigenous delicacies has been is use to correct these deficiencies with great success.
The average intake of green leafy vegetables and fruits is relatively higher among the Patalkot tribals. Consumption of fruits and vegetables has been associated with protection against various human health ailments. Tribal delicacies can be used as functional foods with specific health effects. It is important to identify vegetable foods of high value such as leafy greens that are native to these regions and establish their nutritional profile. These delicacies are not commercially exploited, as they are not sold in the market. It could well be a repository of important microconstituents that can provide nutritional support and optimize health and wellbeing with a potential for world agriculture.
Munga (Moringa oleifera) leaves are eaten as Chutney in Patalkot. The bioavailability of carotene from fresh and dehydrated Munga leaves has already compared favorably with the bioavailability of synthetic vitamin A. Bharia tribe in Patalkot prepare Pakodas by using Munga leaves. The leaves are reported to give energy and also kill intestinal worms. Kundru (Coccinia grandis) fruit is rich in carotene, a major precursor of vitamin A from plant sources, also a good source of protein, fiber and a moderate source of calcium. Kundru curry is a common serving among Patalkot tribals. Bans (Bambusa bambos) curry prepared by tribals is said to be effective against various disorders. It is tonic, blood purifier, wound healing and treats urinary disorders. Mahua (Madhuca indica) flowers are dried and powdered by the Patalkot tribals and then they make Chapatis out of it. Dried fruit powder and leaves are effective in urinary tract problems and also a good tonic.
Peja is a common dish among the tribes of Patalkot which actually is a mixture of fermented rice water (starch), buttermilk, Barley water, Lemon, and Kutki (local millet). According to the Bhumkas (Local Healers), this mixture increases availability of nutrient in body and boosts the immune response. Tribal healers prescribe this mixture to the patients suffering from diarrhea, constipation, gastrointestinal distress, and/or irritable bowel syndrome. Dangis prescribe a sort of this mixture containing almost same contents for the women who suffer from chronic skin infections. It also decreases prevalence of allergies. People taking antibiotics which kill off the ‘health supporting microbes’ in the intestinal tract can be served with Peja as a probiotic supplement.
Primary evidences collected by us show that the tribal diet represents one of the primary ways to shed those unwanted pounds and keep them off. We are currently under the process of validating those herbal practices. Tribals concentrate on eating foods that are high in fiber to reduce appetite and help reduce the risk of cancer. They look for good sources of protein throughout the day such as meats, fish, eggs, beans and nuts. It is interesting to know that Bharias in Patalkot love to have tomatoes in their daily servings. Yes, Tomatoes are great source of fiber, carbohydrate, potassium and iron. Tomatoes are also low in fat and sodium. Tomatoes also contain an antioxidant called lycopene.
It is true that major emphasis and awareness generation activities should focus on edible wild plant species for combating nutrient deficiencies. Life style & food habits of the tribals of Patalkot should be studied furthermore for a thorough outcome. A collective contribution from botanists, experimental biologists, agronomists, food technologists, nutritionists, pharmacologists, physicians, economists, policy-makers and anthropologists will discover a new way to fight micro nutrient deficiency in country like India.