India – History and Society – for those who wish to think and learn for themselves
The Baiga tribe of central India are one of the scheduled tribes of Madhya Pradesh, the central province of India. Madhya Pradesh is a large state, with many forests inhabited by tribes such as the Gond, the Baiga, the Bhil, the Bharia and the Halba. The most numerous and widespread are the Gond.
The Baiga are true inhabitants of forests, retaining customs and traditions handed down by their ancestors. Genetically, it appears they are linked to the Indo-Australian aboroginal group. Recent anthropological studies have found mitochondrial DNA shared only between these tribes and Australian Aborigines. They spoke a tongue in the past which was an Indo-Australian tongue with links to the Australian Aboriginal population. Over the last few centuries, this language has disappeared and the dialect currently spoken by the Baiga is a form of Hindi.
The Baiga are fierce protectors and worshippers of the forest and mother nature. Their sacred beliefs prohibit them from ploughing the land as this is perceived as traumatising Mother Earth. They therefore adopt the slash and burn form of shifting agriculture, constantly remaining on the move. Deaths in families lead to abandonment of their dwelling and the building of a new one. The Baiga seldom interact or intermarry with other tribes, often avoiding formal settlements, formal education and formal trades or work.
The Baiga often tattoo themselves in very elaborate and colourful manners using elements and materials from the forests they live in.
More information is available at www.baiga.org
This map shows the forest regions of Madhya Pradesh with the Kanha National Park to the north, Nainpur and Balaghat forest ranges to the east and south respectively.
The picture is sourced via Wikipedia – Wikimedia Creative Commons Share-Alike – photo taken by LRBurdak – May 2008