Patangarh: Unveiling the Riches of a Timeless Village

Welcome to our comprehensive guide to the village of Patangarh. In this article, we will lead you through a curated collection of information, providing insights into the rich heritage, cultural traditions, and captivating landmarks that define this remarkable village. Join us as we delve into the essence of Patangarh, unveiling its unique charm and highlighting the experiences that await those who venture into its embrace.




Image Credits: People's Archive of Rural India


The history of the Patangarh community dates back several centuries, tracing their roots to a migration from neighboring states to the Dindori district of Madhya Pradesh.[2] According to local folklore, they ventured into the region in search of fertile land for agriculture. Over time, they established a distinct cultural identity shaped by their traditional customs and beliefs. The region where the Patangarh people reside boasts a rich history of tribal culture and art. It was once ruled by several tribal kingdoms, including the Gond and the Baiga, whose influence can still be seen in the artistic expressions and cultural practices of the Patangarh community.[1]

During the era of British colonial rule in India, the region was part of the Central Provinces and Berar, a British administrative unit.[2] As a result, the community was largely isolated from the rest of India and faced underdevelopment, with limited access to essential services such as healthcare and education. However, the region's integration into the newly formed state of Madhya Pradesh after India's independence in 1947 brought about various government programs aimed at promoting the welfare of tribal communities, including the Patangarh people. Unfortunately, these programs encountered challenges due to poor implementation and corruption.[2] 

Verrier Elwin, a prominent figure in Indian history, played a significant role in the Gond community's connection with the wider Indian society.[1] Initially appointed as Vice-Principal of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, and later as a lecturer at Merton College, Oxford, he embarked on a missionary journey to India in 1927. Influenced by the philosophies of Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore, Elwin aligned himself with the Congress and became deeply involved in the movement against British rule. Seeking to immerse himself fully in the lives of the indigenous Gond people, he joined the Christian Service Society in Pune before making his home among the Gonds in Central India. Teaming up with Shamrao Hivale, an Indian companion, Elwin spent two decades living with and advocating for tribal rights in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and parts of eastern Maharashtra. Their studies on the tribes were pioneering anthropological works in the country. Elwin's commitment to India was further exemplified when he became the first foreigner to be accepted as an Indian citizen in 1954. He was appointed as the anthropological adviser to the Indian Government, specializing in the hill tribes of the northeast, and moved to Shillong to carry out his missionary work.[1]

Elwin's contributions extended beyond his involvement with the Gonds. Following India's independence, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru assigned him the task of addressing the challenges faced by tribal communities in the North East Frontier Agency (NEFA). His expertise and dedication earned him high regard, and he was awarded the Padma Bhushan and other prestigious honors.Elwin's extensive writings on various tribal groups, particularly the Maria and Baigas, brought him acclaim and shed light on the lives and cultures of indigenous peoples in India.  In his personal life, Elwin married a Raj Gond tribal girl and former student at his school, but the marriage ended in divorce.[4] Verrier Elwin's life and contributions gained renewed attention in India through Ramachandra Guha's biography, "Savaging the Civilized: Verrier Elwin, His Tribals, and India" (1999). His work and dedication to understanding and advocating for tribal communities have left a lasting impact, shaping our understanding of India's diverse cultural landscape.

Despite the obstacles faced, the Patangarh community has managed to preserve its cultural heritage and way of life. Their art has become a source of pride and economic empowerment, gaining recognition and acclaim for their region.[1][3] In recent years, efforts have been made to improve infrastructure and living conditions, including the provision of basic services such as healthcare and education, to enhance the well-being of the Patangarh people.[1][3]



Image Credits: @harrajgond/instagram


The Patangarh people, a tribal community residing in the Dindori district of Madhya Pradesh, India, have a rich cultural identity that sets them apart from other communities. Having migrated from neighboring states centuries ago, they have established their roots in the region and developed a distinct way of life. The primary occupation of the Patangarh community revolves around agriculture, with a focus on cultivating crops such as rice, wheat, and pulses. The Patangarh community have their own dialect of Gondi, a Dravidian language spoken by several tribal communities in central India.[4] However, in recent times, the use of Hindi as the primary language has become more widespread among community members. Social cohesion is a hallmark of the Patangarh community, with a governance structure centered around a council of esteemed elders. These elders are highly respected for their wisdom and experience, and their decisions play a significant role in shaping the community's affairs. The Patangarh people adhere to their traditional customs and beliefs, which are deeply rooted in nature worship and animism. They hold reverence for various deities, ancestors, and spirits, incorporating rituals and ceremonies into their daily lives.

Despite facing challenges such as poverty and limited access to essential services like healthcare and education, the Patangarh community has shown resilience in preserving their cultural heritage and way of life. They have successfully carved a niche for themselves through their artistic endeavors, which have become a source of economic empowerment and cultural expression. Their artistic skills, particularly in Gond art, have garnered recognition and acclaim, bringing pride to the entire community.[1][^3] The Patangarh people take immense pride in their close bond with nature. They hold deep respect for trees, considering them sacred and believing that gods reside within them. The Patan tree, situated on top of a hill, holds special significance as the dwelling place of their deity, Lord Thakur Dev. Other trees, such as the Mahua Tree and the Semal Tree, also carry cultural and medicinal importance within the community. Animals are integral to the Patangarh community's way of life. They share a close bond with domestic animals like cows, bulls, goats, and dogs. Sheds are constructed near their homes to provide shelter for these animals. Additionally, the village is home to various birds, fishes, snakes, and small wild animals, further enriching the natural environment in which the Patangarh people thrive.

The cultural heritage of the Patangarh community is preserved and passed down through generations by a group of revered individuals called Bhujrukhs. These elderly men hold the responsibility of reciting Gond stories, including tales of kings and folklores. Using a stringed instrument called 'bana,' crafted with locally available resources like horsehair, the Bhujrukhs captivate their audience with their melodic recitations. Before singing, they sprinkle Mahua water on the instrument, following the auspicious traditions of the Gond belief system. The Bhujrukhs hold a position of great respect in the village and are often sought after to share their stories on various occasions [1].

The Patangarh community stands as a testament to the power of cultural preservation and resilience. Despite the challenges they face, they remain deeply connected to their roots, demonstrating a profound appreciation for nature,  strong community bonds, and a commitment to sustaining their unique way of life.

Gond Art


Image Credits: Tribal Tours in India


The art of the Patangarh community is deeply rooted in their traditional customs and beliefs, reflecting their close connection with nature and the surrounding environment. Patangarh art encompasses various mediums, including painting, drawing, and sculpture. Inspired by the Gond art style that has been practiced in the central Indian region for centuries, Patangarh artists have developed their own unique artistic expressions. Distinctive characteristics of Patangarh art include intricate patterns, bold and vibrant colors, and the integration of natural elements such as leaves, flowers, and twigs. These artistic creations serve as a visual representation of the community's cultural heritage and way of life. Patangarh art has gained recognition both nationally and internationally, with exhibitions and workshops held across India and in other countries. It has become a source of pride for the Patnagarh community, playing a vital role in preserving their cultural identity and contributing to their economic well-being.[1][3]

One notable figure who significantly contributed to the development and recognition of Patnagarh art is the late Jangarh Singh Shyam. Hailing from the Patnagarh community, Jangarh Singh Shyam played a pivotal role in bringing their art form into the limelight. Jangarh Singh Shyam, an exceptionally talented artist, began his artistic journey by experimenting with traditional Gond art forms. Gond art, deeply rooted in tribal traditions, has been practiced in the central Indian region for centuries. With his innate talent and passion, Jangarh Singh Shyam pushed the boundaries of Gond art, infusing it with his unique style and interpretations.[^3] His artistic prowess and ability to blend traditional Gond art techniques with contemporary influences garnered him widespread acclaim and shed light on the rich artistic heritage of the Patnagarh community which resonated with art enthusiasts and collectors worldwide.[3][5]



Image Credits: MP Tourism


Politics plays a significant role in the lives of the Patangarh community, as they navigate the challenges and opportunities presented by the political landscape. Historically, during the colonial period, the community faced isolation and limited access to basic services as part of the Central Provinces and Berar administrative unit. In the post-independence era, the Indian government introduced welfare programs aimed at uplifting tribal communities, including the Patangarh people. However, the effectiveness of these programs has been hindered by obstacles such as poor implementation and corruption.

Efforts have been made in recent years to improve infrastructure and living conditions for the Patangarh community, including better access to healthcare and education services. Nonetheless, political engagement and representation remain crucial in addressing the unique needs and concerns of the Patangarh community. It is through political participation that their voices can be heard, their rights protected, and their specific challenges effectively addressed. By actively engaging in the political process, the Patangarh community can work towards overcoming the socio-economic gaps and achieving all-round development [2].


  1. Diksha, Surendrakumar Singh, and Ankita Roy. "To bring forth the Gond Art of Patangarh through Publication Design." PhD diss., Indian Institute of Technology Hyderabad., 2021.
  2. Migration of tribals and their settlement: A study in Dindori district of Madhya Pradesh Jayanta Bumar Behera
  3. Goswami, M. P. (2018). Gond Painting: A Study of Contemporary Scenario. Indian Journal of Communication Review. AMU. p, 28.
  4. Mandelbaum, David. "Verrier Elwin (1902–1964)." American Anthropologist 67, no. 2 (1965): 448–452. doi:10.1525/aa.1965.67.2.02a00140.
  6. Bhajju Shyam and Kodai Matsuoka - Origins of Art Book (for information collection about the life of gonds in Patangarh and inspiration for graphics)
  7. Guha, Ramachandra. Savaging the Civilized: Verrier Elwin, His Tribals, and India. New Delhi: University of Chicago Press, 1999.
  8. Udayan Vajpeyi. 2008. Jangarh Kalam. Vanya.



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