People,customs and Rituals of Madhya Pradesh
Home to abundant forest cover, an expansive network of rivers, numerous indigenous tribes and cultural history that can be traced back to the Mahabharata, Madhya Pradesh is a state that, by itself, symbolizes every kind of richness its mother country is known for.
The customs and rituals of the people of Madhya Pradesh is extremely interesting.
Madhya Pradesh is fondly referred to as “The Heart of India”. The name is not only a reflection of its location right at the centre of the country, but also of its significant contribution to the country`s culture and traditional heritage. The region occupied by present-day Madhya Pradesh has witnessed the comings and goings of all the major dynasties that have ruled over India throughout history – beginning with the Mauryas and Guptas, followed by the Rajputs, Afghans, Mughals and finally the Marathas.
A large part of Madhya Pradesh’s appeal—to the policy makers of the present as well as the conquerors of the past—is its rich geographical location. The State is situated between the Vindhya and Satpura mountain ranges, and boasts natural defenses that would have appealed to ancient rulers. It was also ideally placed on the trade routes that ran between the seaports of the west and the mountain passes of the north, and is easily accessible from most of the primary political centers of the country.
Another significant contributor to Madhya Pradesh`s popularity as a site of early human settlement is its location on the Ganges basin. This land-locked State in fed by an expansive network of Gangetic rivers—the most prominent being the Narmada and Tapti. The land surrounding these rivers is rich with sediment brought down from the Himalayan mountains, and is perfectly suited for agriculture and cultivation. As a result, Madhya Pradesh has been rife with agrarian settlements throughout history. In addition to contributing to soil quality, the network of rivers has also benefited the State`s position as a centre of trade—connecting it more effectively to the surrounding settlements.
Madhya Pradesh, like most tropical regions, experiences hot, dry summers, rich monsoon showers, followed by a cool and relatively dry winter. The monsoon winds wane from west to east, and are halted by the Vindhya mountain range in the south. The unique orientation and distribution of rainfall has rendered the southwest region of the State far more forested than the northeast—consequently, the latter forms the primary segment of the urban landscape.
An interesting result of the temperate climate and the diverse distribution of monsoon showers is that Madhya Pradesh has an eclectic blend of soil types. A variety of crops are grown here, and some farmers are even able to alternate crops between summers and winters—this not only boosts productivity but, if done with the right crop-types, can also help regenerate the fertility of the soil with each subsequent batch. Madhya Pradesh boasts some of the country`s most valuable and fertile agricultural soil, and over 70% of the population has remained agrarian to this day.
Madhya Pradesh is also known for its luxuriant forest cover, which accounts for more than 12% of India`s total forested land. A lot of the State`s forests have either been classified a “reserved” or “protected”, and comprise a large percentage of India`s National Parks. Madhya Pradesh has 11 National Parks in total, six of which are Project Tiger Reserves—making it India`s hotspot for wildlife safaris and the Best Place in India to see Tigers in wild. Besides tigers, the National Parks are host to numerous other exotic species of flora and fauna.
White the State`s plant and animal life engages the ecologist, the tribal culture of Madhya Pradesh is any anthropologist`s dream. The forests have been a source of livelihood for a number of indigenous tribes, who have lived off the land for centuries. The tribal people of Madhya Pradesh account for nearly 20% of the State`s population, with a total of 46 tribes having been officially documented by the Constitution of India. The tribes have lived in harmony with their land and helped preserve the quality of the natural environment for generations.
The customs and rituals of Madhya Pradesh’s Adivasis, each of these tribes follows a vastly different culture. The Bhils, for instance, live in drier areas, and to compensate for their arid environment, dress in bold, vibrant colours. The Baigas, however, live primarily amidst the sal forests, and therefore prefer to wear white. Many tribal women decorate their faces with tattoos, but each tribe has adopted its own distinctive symbols.
The traditional practices in Madhya Pradesh are predominantly versions of vedic rites and rituals.
Korku women have an “M” – like mark between their eyes, while Bhadia women have bow-shaped lines above their eyebrows, and dots and lines on their foreheads,
The tribes have significantly different languages, traditions, religious beliefs and social structures, and have remained largely isolated and excluded from mainstream development. Until the last century, many of these tribes remained semi-nomadic. Some would live solely off the food they could forage or hunt, while others would rely in shifting cultivation—an agricultural technique by which they would burn a strip of forest ground, grow crops in the ashes for a few years and then leave the land behind for regeneration as they moved on to a new site.
Today, however, many tribal communities have adjusted to modern agrarian practices—they have abandoned the how and axe for the plough and tractor, so to speak, and have established themselves in the local farming communities. Other tribal folk have moved to urban centers, and are now working in factories, hawking wares, making a living as street performers, or selling handicrafts. Despite their realignment, however, the tribal people continue to remain deeply invested in their own traditional beliefs.
Madhya Pradesh owes a significant part of its acclaim to the indigenous tribes that have contributed to its culture. The handicrafts, jewelery, fabrics, handloom carpets and furniture that have made the State so popular around the world are made primarily by tribal folk, and are based in their ancient traditions of art and design. The indigenous tribes continue to be a force of magnitude in Madhya Pradesh, and are notable contributors to the life and vibrancy that the State is so well known for.
The people of Madhya Pradesh celebrate their cultural traditions in great pomp 7 show and is a feast for the eyes for a traveler.