“Lessons that can teach us about humanity itself”: Collective and dignified survival celebrated at the Dongria Kondhs’ seed festival – Odisha

Seed festival for the Kondhs of Niyamgiri
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There will always be a seed for everyone | To read the full article and view more photos, click here >>

In the early summer month of April, around the magnificent Niyamgiri range in southern Odisha, the desi mango trees are already fruiting and mahua flowers have begun to blossom. Soon Kondh women will squeeze out the mango juice and dry it to make ambosoda, gather the mahua flowers to sell in the market while of its fruit they will make flavourful alcohol. These women have also harvested some forest turmeric and after boiling it, are beginning to dry and pound it. While the forests are replete, providing the adivasis of this area a nutritious diet in the midst of extreme heat and dryness, field work is at a lull and will only resume closer to the promise of the first rains.

During this time, in addition to the forests, people also depend on the foods harvested earlier on in the year: millets, pulses, tubers, dried fruits, roots and tubers. All these seeds have been safeguarded, some saved to be grown in the next season, while others have been stored to be eaten in months such as these. It is in this month that various Kondh communities organise the Bijun Parab or seed festival.

The festival begins with the mud walls of the home painted, the mud and cow dung floors swept and freshened, and, most importantly, the selecting of seeds. […]

In recent years, there has been an increasing effort to limit the human sharing of seeds, and the state has even created a large central authority to control this activity, which is simply one of collective and dignified survival. Seed bills and other such legislations that give less meaning to people’s seeds and more concessions to company-laboratory seeds, are being pushed. Adivasis, who live as one with the forests and land, are being bulldozed by such legislations and other forms of violence. We must remember that the Kondhs, many of whom live high up in the mountainous forests and call themselves Dongria Kondh, do not safeguard humanity with just their seeds. They do so with their food systems, their bond with the forests and wildlife, their belief system, social ways, and culture. Kondh society carries within it several lessons that can teach us about humanity itself.

Aditi manages to write. She shares this story in the written form, but the oral and lived experience was provided by many people who are fighting for humanity.

Source: “There will always be a seed for everyone” by Aditi Pinto, The Hindu (Sunday Magazine), 23 April 2017
Address: https://www.thehindu.com/society/there-will-always-be-a-seed-for-everyone/article18194781.ece
Date Visited: 17 July 2020

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