• Since 2019, members of the Kondh tribe in Odisha have added one more event to their calendar of festivals and celebrations called Bihan Mela
  • It is literally the seed festival.
  • It includes both hybrid and indigenous varieties of paddy, millets, maize and sorghum.

How is it celebrated?

  • Women, who are at the helm of this festival, carefully collect seeds of the indigenous varieties and store them in earthen pots.
  • Then, on a designated day in December, they decorate the pots with red and white motifs, place them in a bamboo basket and carry it on head to the village where the fair is being organised.
  • Along the way, they are accompanied by men beating drums and other traditional instruments.
  • The fair mimics a traditional market where farmers used to exchange seeds.

Significance of the festival:

  • Farmers in the region are mostly marginal and depend on the monsoon rains.
  • In recent years, they have seen repeated crop failures either due to erratic rainfall or pest attacks.
  • Since the Green Revolution, farmers in the region have abandoned native crops and varieties that are naturally resistant to pests and better suited to the region’s climate.
  • Even in dongars or hilltops, where families used to practice mixed cropping until recently, have shifted to monoculture cash crops like cashew.
  • This has not only affected their food and nutritional security, but also degraded the soil and made the farmers more vulnerable to crop loss.
  • The seed festival was thus introduced to help farmers return to their traditional ways of farming like mixed-cropping.

Kondh Tribe:

The Khonds are the largest tribal group in Odisha.

They are a designated Scheduled Tribe in:

  1. Andhra Pradesh, `
  2. Bihar,
  3. Chhattisgarh,
  4. Madhya Pradesh,
  5. Maharashtra,
  6. Odisha,
  7. Jharkhand and
  8. West Bengal.

The Khonds speak the Kui language as their native language.

  • It is most closely related to the Gondi language.
  • Kui is a Dravidian language and is written with the Odia alphabet.


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