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Identification. The Gonds are an important and Numerous tribe, residing at the present time mainly in Gondavana, "the Land of the Gonds," the easternmost districts of Madhya Pradesh, formerly the Central Provinces of India. They were first called "Gonds" (hill men) by the Mogul rulers. They call themselves Koi or Koitūr; the meaning of the latter name is unclear.

Location. While the Gond live mainly in Madhya Pradesh, important clusters live also in the adjoining districts to the north, west, and south of Gondavana. Many of these subsections have assumed different tribal names so that their identity with the Gond tribe is not always clear.

Demography. The latest available Census figures are from 1971, when there were 4,728,796 Gondsone of the largest tribal groups on earth. In fact, the number of Gonds is really much higher, since many Gond communities have been fully accepted into the Hindu caste system, have adopted another name, and have completely abandoned their original tribal ways of life. While some Gond subsections thus have been lost to the tribe, some communities of different origin may have been incorporated into the Gond tribe. The Bisonhorn Marias of Bastar may be such a tribe.

Linguistic Affiliation. If the Gonds ever had a language of their own, they have lost it completely. Half of the Gonds speak a Dravidian language called Gondi at present, which is more akin to Teluga than to Karmada. In the southern parts of Gondavana the Gonds speak a language called Parsi or Parji (Persian), also of the Dravidian family. In the northern regions the Gonds often speak the local language, a dialect of Hindi or Marathi.

History and Cultural Relations

The racial history of the Gonds is unknown. From their physical appearance it is obvious that they differ from the Aryan and Dravidian speakers settled in the country. According to B. S. Guha, they are Proto-Australoids by race like the Oraons and Maler of Chota Nagpur Plateau. It is unknown when and by which route they arrived in this part of India. At one time they must have been settled in the hills between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, because their dialect, Gondi, is closely related to the languages of those regions. R. V. Russell and Hira Lal maintain that only between the ninth and thirteenth centuries a.d. did the Gonds come and settle in Present-day Gondavana. They became progressive and wealthy farmers and were gradually transformed into Ragbansi Rajputs. When the ruling Rajput dynasties in these regions Declined, Gonds established themselves as rulers at four centers. The zenith of their might was from the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries. Then the Marathas under a Bhonsle ruler of Nagpur overran their country and completely dispossessed them of their power except in the hill fastnesses, which held out against all invaders.


The Gonds invariably live in villages. But in each village the Gonds live in a hamlet of their own. The hamlet is not a closed cluster of huts, for the Gonds' homesteads are spread over a large area within the hamlet. Each homestead houses a family, often a joint family consisting of the families of the married sons living with their parents. In the plains where the Gonds are more Sanskritized, or influenced by high Hindu culture, some have adopted Hindu ways and begun to live in closed villages, yet apart from the other castes and tribes.


All Gonds are in some way or other engaged in agriculture or work in the forest. They would not dream of accepting any other occupation. Originally they must have been nomadic hunters and food gatherers and then switched to shifting cultivation, retaining, however, their close connection with the forest. Shifting cultivation is not merely one type of agriculture but a complex cultural form, a way of life. It requires no draft animals and allows the cultivators more leisure time for work in the forest, hunting, fishing, and the collection of Jungle produce. However, most Gonds have been forced to abandon shifting cultivation by the government because it is harmful to the forest, and some Gond sections had already voluntarily changed over to plow cultivation and even to terrace cultivation. They prospered economically and acquired a high social standing.


Kin Groups and Descent. The Gonds have a pronounced patrilineal and patriarchal clan system. They call it gotra or kur. A Gond clan comprises a group of persons who believe that they are descendants in the male line from a common ancestor. While a male can never change his clan, a woman on marriage is taken into the clan of her husband. The Gonds practice clan exogamy, considering intermarriage within a clan to be incest. They believe the gods would punish such a sin with a skin disease, worms in a wound, or leprosy. Offenders against the law of exogamy are excluded from the tribal community and can only be readmitted after separation. Many of the Gond clans bear animal or plant names, which suggests a totemic origin of the clans, and some Gond clans still observe totemic taboos. But generally, except for the observance of exogamy, the clan system has no important function. In the Mandla District at least, eighteen clans have been combined into a phratry. The combination of the clans varies locally, but the numbereighteenis always retained. The phratry too observes exogamy, but with the payment of a fine the marriage prohibition can be waived.

Marriage and Family

Marriage. A normal marriage among the Gonds is the monogamous union of a man and a woman based on mutual choice, sanctioned by the ceremonial exchange of vows, with the approval of the tribal council, witnessed by the relatives of the partners and the village community, and concluded with a festive wedding dinner. Although the Gonds have liberal views on premarital sex, they are strict in the observance of married fidelity. They believe that adultery is punished by the ancestral spirits that can cause crop failure or an epidemic among humans and cattle. A Gond wedding is solemnized with many significant ceremonies. The essential wedding rite consists of the groom walking with his bride seven times around a wedding post erected in the center of the wedding booth. Marriage is obligatory. Originally Gond boys and girls married on reaching physical maturity. Nowadays the Gonds increasingly follow the example of the rural Hindu population and parents arrange the marriage when children are still young. The father of the groom has to pay a bride-price, the amount of which depends on the position and wealth of the two families. Cross-cousin marriages are much preferred, so much so that a youth has to pay a fine if he refuses to marry an available cross cousin. A Gond can have more than one wife, polygyny being restricted only by the capability of the man to support a number of wives. The Gonds practice the sororate and the levirate. Widow marriage is forbidden only among the Sanskritized Gonds. Gonds who are too poor to pay the bride-price and the wedding expenses contract a Service marriage. Families with no sons prefer such a marriage arrangement. Other more irregular forms of marriage among the Gonds are the elopement of an unmarried girl with a boy or the capture of a girl and her forced marriage to her captor. Marriage by capture was in the past a popular form of Marriage among the Gonds. The marriage must later be legalized by the relatives and village councils of the partners. The Gonds permit divorce and easily resort to it for various reasons. For instance, a man may obtain a divorce if his wife is barren, quarrelsome, or negligent in doing her assigned work. Likewise, a woman may elope with another man if her husband is a bad provider, a drunkard, or a wife beater, or if he is habitually unfaithful. A divorce requires the legal sanction of the tribal council of the village.

Domestic Unit. Gond marriages are as a rule happy and lasting if the husband is able to provide a frugal livelihood for wife and children and if the wife is competent in her Household tasks and field work. Gond men and women are affectionate toward children and enjoy having large families.

Inheritance. Property, primarily land, descends patrilineally to the sons equally (unless one son should move elsewhere, in which case he forfeits his rights). Daughters inherit next to nothing from their fathers. A widow usually remains in the house, which is inherited by her youngest son (ultimogeniture) . If not too old, the widow may be remarried to a close relative of her deceased husband.

Socialization. The ambition of every Gond woman is to bear a son. Barrenness in a woman is considered a curse. Pregnancy and birth are surrounded with protective rites against magic spells and evil influences. Children are generally welcome and treated with affection. Although sons are preferred, daughters are welcome too. Children grow up without much restriction, but the community teaches them correct behavior. Children are early invited to take over some tasks, first playfully, then in earnest. Boys spontaneously seem to prefer male company, while girls seem to gravitate naturally toward other females. The change to adulthood is gradual; there is no initiation ceremony. The first menstruation of a girl is not specially celebrated, but she does learn in advance what prohibitions she has to observe. Only three Gond sections in the south have youth dormitories, and only the Murías use the dormitory for the education of youth in married and civic life. The other Gond sections have no dormitory system.

Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Since the Gonds are spread over a wide area, there are many local subsections that have no Social contact with each other. The more Sanskritized these sections are, the higher is the social rank they claim. But the highest rank is given to the descendants of the Gond rajas and their retainers, the Raj-Gonds and Katholias. Among these two sections we find the greatest number of Gonds with substantial landholdings. Other Gond sections outside of Gondavana are the Kisans, in the south of Bihar and in the neighboring districts of Orissa. The Gonds reached even the hills along the southern bank of the Ganges. There they are known as Majwars or Majhis (headmen). Akin to the Gonds are a number of other tribes, such as the Bhattras, Koyas, Konda Kapus, Konda Deras, and Halbas. The Khonds of Orissa, another important tribe, also may originally have been Gonds.

Political Organization. The entire Gond tribe was never a political unit. Tribal solidarity does not extend beyond the confines of a subsection. The basic political unit is the Gond village community. It is a democratic organization in which the headman and other officials are chosen by the villagers. Each village has its council, with officials like the headman, the priest, the village watchman, and four or five elders. More important affairs are discussed and decided upon by all the men of the community. A village has also its servant castes, such as the Ahir (cowherds), Agaria (blacksmiths), Dhulia (drummers), and Pardhan (bards and singers). At the towns of Garha-Mandla, Kharla, Deogarh, and Chanda, the leading headmen managed to rise to the rank of rulers (rajas ) and to establish dynasties that lasted for centuries. But the very fact that these rajas surrounded themselves with Hindu officials and eagerly adopted Hindu or Mogul methods of administration proves that royalty was alien to tribal democracy. In the present political situation the Gonds are, despite their numbers, politically powerless, which is partly because of this Tribal disunity but also because of their comparative lack of education and drive, and their great poverty. Those few Gonds who are members of the legislative assemblies or even the national parliament (Lok Sabha) are either alienated from their tribal culture or easily manipulated by other politicians.

Conflict and Social Control. In settling disputes the court of first instance is the village council (panch ), which is presided over by the headman. Usually it strives to restore harmony between the litigants rather than to implement customary law. A settlement commonly involves a fine, or excommunication in varying degrees. Those who offend against the rule of clan exogamy incur supernatural sanctions.

Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. The religion of the Gonds does not differ much from that of the numerous other tribes in central India. Like them, the Gonds believe in a high god whom they call either by his Hindu name, "Bhagwan," or by his tribal name, "Bara Deo," the "Great God." But he is an otiose deity and is rarely worshiped, though his name is often invoked. He is a personal godeternal, just, merciful, maker of the fertile earth and of manthough the universe is conceived as coexisting with him. In the Gond belief system, besides this high god there also exist a great number of male and female deities and spirits that personify various natural features. Every hill, river, lake, tree, and rock is inhabited by a spirit. The earth, water, and air are ruled by deities that must be venerated and appeased with sacrifices and offerings. These deities and spirits may be benevolent, but often they are capricious, malevolent, and prone to harming human beings, especially Individuals who have made themselves vulnerable by breaking a rule of the tribal code. The deities and spirits, especially the ancestor spirits, watch over the strict observance of the tribal rules and punish offenders.

Religious Practitioners. Gonds distinguish between priests and magicians. The village priest is appointed by the village council; however, his appointment is often hereditary. His responsibility is to perform all the sacrifices held at Certain feasts for the village community for which he receives a special remuneration. Sacrifices and religious ceremonies on family occasions are usually performed by the head of the family. The diviners and magicians, on the other hand, are unofficial charismatic intermediaries between the supernatural world and human beings. The Gonds, like the other Tribals of central India, believe that most diseases and misfortunes are caused by the machinations of evil spirits and offended deities. It is the task of the soothsayers and diviners to find out which supernatural agencies have caused the Present sickness or misfortune and how they can be appeased. If soothsayers and diviners cannot help, magicians and shamans must be employed. Magicians believe that by magic formulas and devices they can force a particular deity or spirit to carry out their commands. Shamans are persons who easily fall into trances and are then believed to be possessed by deities or spirits that prophesy through their mouths. These frequent ecstasies do not seem to have any detrimental mental or physical effects on the shamans, who may be male or female. Magic may be "white" or "black": it is white if it counteracts black magic or effects a cure when a sickness has been caused by black magic. Gonds also believe in the evil eye and in witchcraft. A witch is usually a woman who by her evil power brings sickness and death to people in the neighborhood. When discovered, she is publicly disgraced and expelled from the village or even killed.

Ceremonies. The Gonds celebrate many feasts connected mainly with the agricultural seasons and with life-cycle events (birth, marriage, sickness, and death). On all festive occasions sacrifices and offerings are performed either by the Official village priest, by the soothsayers and magicians, or by the head of the family that is celebrating an event. All these Sacrifices are accompanied by appropriate ceremonies of symbolic significance. The offerings and sacrifices can be either animal or vegetable; it depends on the type of deity being addressed. Female deities generally demand that blood be spilled; the victims are usually chickens or goats, sometimes male buffalo, and, occasionally in the past, human beings. Vegetable offerings include fruits (especially coconuts), flowers, colored powder, and strings.

Arts. Like most tribals, the Gonds are accomplished artisans and can manufacture almost all the implements they require for their work on the farm and in the forest, all furniture in house and kitchen, and all of their ornaments and decorations. They are artistically gifted: they paint their house walls with artistic designs, and they carve memorial pillars in wood and stone for their dead. They have invented various original dances and are passionate dancers. They are good musicians on the drum, the flute, and other instruments. They are good singers, though the melodies of their songs sometimes sound monotonous and may not be of their own invention. They are inventive in composing new songs, folktales, legends, and myths and in retelling them dramatically. They have composed a great epic celebrating the origins and exploits of a Culture hero named Lingo.

Medicine. The Gonds are fully aware that certain diseases have a natural cause, and they know many jungle medicines to cure such diseases. But when these remedies remain ineffective, they resort to magical devices.

Death and Afterlife. After death an adult Gond man or woman is cremated; children are buried without much Ceremony. Ceremonies are performed at the funeral to prevent the soul of the deceased from finding its way back to its house and village. The Gonds believe in an afterlife. They believe each human being has two souls, the life spirit and the shadow. The shadow must be prevented from returning to its home, or it will harm the surviving relatives. The life spirit goes to Bhagwan to be judged and rewarded by reincarnation into a higher form or punished in a pool of biting worms; after a while the soul is reborn and begins a new life. Others believe that the soul joins the other ancestors of the clan, especially after a stone memorial has been erected. Still others believe that the soul is absorbed in Bhagwan or Bara Deo. The belief in the survival of the ancestral spirits is, however, quite strong. These ancestor spirits watch over the moral behavior of the living Gond and punish offenders of tribal law. Thus they act as strict guardians of the Gond community.

See also Agaria; Ahir; Baiga; Kond; Koya


Elwin, Verrier (1943). Maria Murder and Suicide. London: Oxford University Press. 2nd ed. 1950.

Elwin, Verrier (1944). The Muria and Their Ghotul. London: Oxford University Press.

Fuchs, Stephen (1960). The Gond and Bhumia of Eastern Mandla. Bombay: Asia Publishing House. 2nd ed. 1968. Bombay: New Literature Publishing Co.

Fürer-Haimendorf, Christoph von (1948). The Aboriginal Tribes of Hyderabad. Vol. 3, The Raj Gonds of Adilabad. London: Macmillan.

Fürer-Haimendorf, Christoph von, and Elizabeth von Fürer-Haimendorf (1979). The Gonds of Andhra Pradesh: Tradition and Change in an Indian Tribe. New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House.

Grigson, William (1938). The Hill Marias of Bastar. London: Oxford University Press.

Russell, R. V., and Hira Lal (1916). "Gond." In The Tribes and Castes of the Central Provinces of India. Vol. 3, 38-143. London: Oxford University Press. Reprint. 1969. Oosterhout: Anthropological Publications.

Singh, Indrajit (1944). The Gondwana and the Gond. Lucknow: University Publishers.


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POPULATION: Over 9 million


RELIGION: Cult of the Persa Pen (clan deities); ancestor spirit worship


The Gonds are among the largest tribal groups in South Asia and perhaps the world. The term Gond refers to tribal peoples who live all over India's Deccan Peninsula. Most describe themselves as Gonds (hill people) or as Koi or Koitur.

Scholars believe Gonds settled in Gondwana, now known as eastern Madhya Pradesh, between the ninth and thirteenth centuries ad. Muslim writers describe a rise of Gond states after the fourteenth century. Gond dynasties ruled in four kingdoms (Garha-Mandla, Deogarh, Chanda, and Kherla) in central India between the sixteenth and mid-eighteenth centuries.

Maratha power swept into Gond land in the 1740s. They overthrew Gond rajas (princes) and seized most of their territory. Some Gond zamindaris (estates) survived until recently. However, Gonds are similar to many tribal groups today in that they face severe economic hardships. Although some Gond groups own a great deal of land, others are classified as Scheduled Tribes, which means they need special social and economic help.


Gonds live all over central India, and in the states of Maharashtra and Orissa. As "hill people," they traditionally have been associated with hills and uplands in the Deccan Peninsula. Many Gonds live around the Satpura Hills, Maikala Range and Son-Deogarh uplands, and on the Bastar plateau. Many Gond tribes also live in the Garhjat Hills of northern Orissa. The upland areas generally lie between 2,000 to 3,000 feet (600 to 900 meters), with isolated peaks occasionally exceeding approximately 4,000 feet (1,200 meters). The region is drained by the head-waters of many of India's major rivers (such as the Narmada, Tapti, Son, Mahanadi, and Godavari). Forest cover is dense in places, and communications are generally difficult. February sees the start of the hot season, with temperatures rising to over 40° C (104° F) in early June. The summer brings the monsoon rains, with precipitation amounts varying from 47 inches (120 centimeters) to over 63 inches (160 centimeters) in the more southeasterly locations. Late September marks the return of the cool, dry weather of winter.


Gondi belongs to the Dravidian family of languages and is related to Tamil and Kannada. The language offers a cultural connection between the many Gond groups. Many Gonds also speak Hindi, Marathi, or Telegu.


Hereditary bards and professional storytellers called Pardhans tell stories about Gond legends and myths. This makes for a rich oral tradition. In these stories, it is said that when Gond gods were born, their mother abandoned them. The goddess Parvati rescued them, but her consort Sri Shambhu Mahadeo (Shiva) kept them captive in a cave. Pahandi Kapar Lingal, a Gond hero, who received help from the goddess Jangu Bai, rescued them from the cave. They came out of the cave in four groups, thus laying the foundations of the basic fourfold division of Gond society. Lingal also is responsible for creating a Gond kinship system and establishing a group of great Gond gods.


Persa Pen is the most distinctive feature of Gond religion. Like many other tribes, Gonds worship a high god known as Baradeo, whose alternate names are Bhagavan, Sri Shambu Mahadeo, and Persa Pen. Baradeo oversees activities of lesser gods. He is respected but he does not receive fervent devotion, which is shown only to clan deities. Each Gond clan has its Persa Pen, who protects all clan members. The Persa Pen is essentially good but can be dangerous and violent. Many Gonds believe that when a Pardhan (bard) plays his fiddle, the deity's fierce powers can be controlled.

Each village has its Village-Guardian and Village-Mother who are worshipped when villagers celebrate regular festivities. Gonds also worship family and household gods, gods of the field, and gods of cattle. Deities such as Shitala Mata, goddess of smallpox, help ward off disease. Spirits are also believed to inhabit hills, rivers, lakes and trees.

Village priests (devari), perform sacrifices and rituals for village festivals. The head of a household typically carries out family ceremonies. Clan priests (katora) tend the shrine and ritual objects of the clan's Persa Pen. These priests also guard the sacred spear point and organize annual festivals.

Most aspects of Gond life, from the greatest festivals to the building of a new cattle shed, are accompanied by sacrifice. Certain deities, especially female ones, demand chickens, goats, and sometimes male buffaloes. Every nine or twelve years, Gonds sacrifice a pig to the god Narayan Deo in an important ceremony known as the Laru Kaj (Pig's Wedding). Other rituals also involve offerings of fruits, coconuts, flowers, colored powder, and strings.

Gonds believe evil spirits and the gods' displeasure cause most diseases and misfortunes. They ask soothsayers and diviners to find out the cause of problems and to suggest remedies. Sometimes, magicians and shamans (healers) can provide this advice. Magicians use special formulas to control the actions of a deity or spirit that is causing a particular affliction. Shamans fall into a trance and give voice to the demands of an offended god or spirit.


Many Gond festivals are connected to agriculture. Pola, a cattle festival, and Nagpanchami, the snake festival, are very popular.

Dasahara is an important Gond holiday. A Gond custom is stick dancing undertaken by young people. Bands of young people travel from village to village, dancing and singing. The dancing is a religious duty. It is also an occasion for fun.


Gonds protect pregnant women against spells and evil influences, and perform several rituals after a baby is born. A mother's brother generally names a baby boy, while the father's sister names a girl. Children grow up as part of a family, clan, and phratry (one of the four main divisions of Gond society), and gradually learn the ways of their people. Both boys and girls help guard family crops from birds and monkeys. Males undergo a ritual shaving of the beard, mustache, and eyebrows as a sign of adulthood. Girls are considered full-grown at their first menstruation.

Gonds cremate or bury their dead. Children, unmarried persons, and individuals dying an inauspicious death (for instance, in an epidemic) are buried without much ceremony. Gonds believe humans have a life force and a spirit. On death, the life force is reincarnated into another earthly existence, but the spirit remains in the other world. Gonds perform death rituals to help the spirit move into the other world and to ease its acceptance by other clan spirits. This rite, known as karun, must be done to fulfill an obligation to the deceased. Memorial pillars honor the dead. Gonds believe ancestral spirits watch over the living, punish offenders, and guard Gond communities.


Gonds welcome visitors with dried tobacco leaves, fruits, or other small gifts. Many villages have guest huts.


Each Gond village has a headman (known by local names such as mukhia, mahji, or patel ) and a village council (panchayat) chosen by the villagers. The council consists of the headman, priest, village watchman, and four or five elders. It helps keep the village running smoothly and upholds Gond customs. Villages also have service castes such as Ahir (cowherds), Agaria (blacksmiths), Dhulia (drummers), and Pardhan (bards and singers).

A typical Gond village has several hamlets. Each consists of homesteads that house extended families. Houses are usually built of mud and thatch. They consist of a living room, kitchen, veranda, a special room for women to use while menstruating, and a shrine for clan gods.

Gond houses contain cots and a few wooden stools; mats are used for sitting and sleeping.


Gond society is divided into four groups known as phratries or sagas in Gondi. Each saga traces its descent to one of the four groups of gods who emerged from the cave after their release by the hero Lingal. The saga is divided into several clans (pari). A clan consists of a group of people who believe they share a common ancestor. Generally, it is good to marry outside the clan.

Kinship and marriage customs among Gonds reflect broader regional patterns. The norm is cross-cousin marriage (for example, marrying one's mother's brother's daughter), which is typical in southern India. Gond groups that have been influenced by northern peoples such as Marathas, however, follow northern customs in determining marriage partners. Similarly, northern Gonds allow widows to remarry a brother of the deceased husband.

Gonds typically choose their marriage mates, and a tribal council approves the matches. The father of a groom pays a bride price. Gond weddings include many significant ceremonies. The main part of the wedding occurs when the bride and groom walk seven times around a wedding post. Newlyweds live with the groom's family until it is possible for them to move into a house of their own.

Sometimes, Gond matches are made when a groom and bride elope. These marriages must be approved later by relatives and the village council. The council also can approve divorces.


Gond men typically wear the dhoti, or loincloth. The dhoti is a long piece of white cotton cloth wrapped around the waist and then drawn between the legs and tucked into the waist. Women wear a cotton sari (a length of fabric wrapped around the waist, with one end thrown over the right shoulder) and choli (tight-fitting, cropped blouse).


The staples of the Gond diet are two millets known as kodo and kutki. These are either boiled to a broth or cooked to a dry cereal. Broth is preferred for the first two meals of the day and the dry cereal is eaten at night, often with vegetables. Vegetables are either grown in gardens or collected from forests along with roots and tubers. Honey is also gathered from forests.

Rice is a luxury item that Gonds enjoy during feasts and festivals. Most Gonds like meat. Animals sacrificed at ceremonies are eagerly consumed, and animals hunted in the forest supplement the diet. Gonds must abstain from the flesh of animals that are their clan totems.

Gonds grow tobacco for smoking and for celebrations make liquor from the mahua tree.


Literacy (percentage of the population who can read and write) among Gonds varies from just over 25 percent in Maharashtra to less than 15 percent in Madhya Pradesh. Among females in Madhya Pradesh, it drops to about 4 percent. Few children attend school regularly, and girls rarely continue past primary school.


Gonds celebrate most festive occasions with song and dance. In some instances, such as with the Dandari dancers, dances retell events from Gond mythology. At other times, dances are performed simply for fun. Dhulia are a professional musician caste and Pardhans (bards) preserve legends, myths, and history, passing these traditions on from generation to generation. Gonds also enjoy assembling on full-moon nights to sing and dance. Cockfighting is a favorite pastime.

Both men and women enjoy wearing heavy silver ornaments. Women also like to wear colored glass bangles and marriage necklaces made of small black beads. They often tattoo their bodies.


Gonds today are mainly farmers. Although some Gond communities have risen to the status of landowners, many are landless laborers.


No sporting activities are associated with traditional Gond society.


Gonds enjoy singing and dancing. Some also enjoy cock-fighting (battle between two roosters, with spectators placing bets on the outcome).


Gonds have a rich arts tradition that includes pottery, basket making, body tattooing, and floor painting. They paint designs in red and black on the walls of their houses. These drawings often celebrate festivals and depict animals, birds, human figures, hunting, and dancing. Gonds make musical instruments. They carve memorial pillars in wood and stone for their dead. They often decorate houses with carved doors and panels.


Gonds face problems typical of tribal peoples throughout South Asia and much of the world. They suffer exploitation and discrimination, and often are forced to live on less productive lands in remote areas. They are experiencing increasing pressure on their land, a rise in the number of landless laborers, and high levels of poverty. Lack of education and low levels of literacy further reduce economic opportunity.


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Gond (gŏnd), ethnic group of central India. The group is now found especially in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh and in neighboring areas of Maharashtra, Telangana, Odisha, Jharkhand, and Uttar Pradesh and in NE Karnataka and Assam. In Madhya Pradesh there was a small but powerful Gond kingdom until the 18th cent. The Gonds, predominantly Hindu, speak a Dravidian language and are mainly organized into tribes in small villages.

See V. Elwin, Leaves from the Jungle; Life in a Gond Village (2d ed. 1958); S. Fuchs, The Gond and Bhumia of Eastern Mandla (2d ed. 1968).

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