Indian forests, rivers and mountains owe their survival to Adivasis: “the most civilised people” – Mahasweta Devi

West Ghats near Kanyakumari in the Tamil Nadu – Kerala border region
Photo courtesy Davidson Sargunam >>

Renowned writer and social activist Mahasweta Devi termed Adivasis as “the most civilised people” to whom Indian forests, rivers and mountains owe their survival.

She praised their egalitarian social structure where nobody is greater than anybody, and where social evils such as dowry do not exist.

Addressing students at the University of Hyderabad here on Monday, she attributed whatever natural balance left to survive in India to the presence of Adivasis. […]

She also reminisced her days in Shantinikethan, and how she embarked on her first work ‘Jhansir Rani’. […]

The interactive session was organised by the Centre for Dalit and Adivasi Studies and Translation, University of Hyderabad.

Source: “Adivasis most civilised people”, The Hindu, 2 October 2012
Address :‘Adivasis-most-civilised-people’/article12542421.ece
Date Visited: 11 April 2021

Shanthi Kunjan with mother © Priti David in 
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Wildlife conservationist Ramesh in “Bomman thatha and his forest”, a conversation with his grandfather on “bonding between adivasi people and the forest” | Read the full story >>

My name is Ramesh. I work in The Shola Trust as a wildlife conservationist. In this blog, I am writing about my conversation with my grandfather, Bomman thatha (grandfather) about the bonding between adivasi people and the forest.
Bomman thatha is from the Bettakurumba tribe. He lives in the village, Kanjikolly, along the edge of Mudmalai and of course has a great knowledge about forest and honey collection, fishing, collecting tubers and medicinal plants.

Bomman thatha told me that our gods live in stones, big rocks and trees. We won’t cut aal maram (Ficus religiosa) because gods will be in that tree. Even the water in the area around the tree should be used neatly and not destroyed. In our community our god Ajji (grandmother) lives in Ellamalai mountain. She is also called Thrithri Eributham. While going there we should not wear slippers and men should wear mundu above the knees. Women should also wear sari little bit below the knees. We should not spit or cut the cane there. There is a lot of vethalai (betel leaf) which we can eat but before eating we should wash our legs and hands and pray to god. […]

When we have to cut trees, we won’t cut all the trees; we will cut only what we need. There are a lot of dangerous trees also. There is one tree with very big leaves. If we touch that leaf, it feels like burning. […]

Bomman thatha also told me about the small honey bees that make combs on lantana sticks. The honey will be 100gm or 200 gram only. It is good quality honey and also the best medicine for cold.

I asked him about the way in which they collect tubers and fish. While collecting tubers, we take only what we need and we will cover the rest with mud again. Usually the main root is not taken because we need it for next year. […]

Before fishing or taking tubers, we will pray to god and only then we will take it. If we do not pray to god we won’t get anything. We don’t have boundaries for collecting tubers or fish but if people from one village are going to another village to collect anything from the forest, they will inform their relatives in that village and go only with them. […]

Deer and elephants are coming to our homes from the forest because of two things – one, they are afraid of tigers and leopards and second, there is no food for them in the forest. So we have to remove lantana and then burn it. After six months we should see how nicely the grass will grow. […]

Ramesh is from the Bettakurumba tribe. He works with The Shola Trust on Human-Elephant conflict.

Source: “Bomman thatha and his forest” by wildlife conservationist Ramesh, At the Edge of Existence, 29 October 2014
Date Visited: 8 August 2022

[Bold typeface added above for emphasis]

“The tribal world and the tribal way is complete in itself.” – Mahasweta Devi quoted by Gopalkrishna Gandhi in “Swearing by Mahasweta” (The Hindu, 6 August 2016)

Her notable works include Hajar Chaurashir Maa, Breast Stories, and Tin Korir Sadh, among many others. Several of her works have been adapted in films over the years. The leading Bengali fiction writer was known for her contribution towards the welfare of tribal people.

Source: “Eminent writer Mahasweta Devi dies at 90 in Kolkata” (, 28 July 2016)
Date visited: 11 April 2021

“In his play Muktadhara (The Waterfall), Tagore robustly employs this element of freedom. The play relates the story of an exploited people and their eventual release from it. [Today, when] tribal populations across India are being uprooted with impudence Tagore’s message of freedom, in all its shades, is of utmost relevance.” – Bhaswati Ghosh in Freedom in Tagore’s Plays | Learn more >>

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