The Gond Community: An Overview

If you have any knowledge of India's folk art, you might be familiar with Gond art, a unique art form originating from the Gond community. In recent years, it has gained international recognition and has been featured in various art installations, including the walls of Hong Kong in this fascinating project, and in the movie RRR. The Gond tribe has become a prominent part of the global art scene. Here's a quick introduction to the Gond tribe and their art form.




The Gond tribe is one of the largest and most prominent indigenous groups in India, with a history, culture, and heritage dating back centuries. Today, there are approximately 12 million Gonds residing in the central states of India, including Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, and Andhra Pradesh.

The Gonds have a long and fascinating history steeped in mythology and legend. According to legend, Lord Shiva created the Gonds, giving them their unique language, culture, and traditions. The tribe's recorded history dates back to the 14th century when they established their rule in central India. The Gonds were renowned for their expertise in agriculture, hunting, and warfare, and they created a formidable kingdom that lasted for centuries.


Map of "Central Provinces" from Pope, G. U. (1880)

Unfortunately, the arrival of British colonialism in the 18th century disrupted the Gonds' way of life. The colonial forest management practices controlled their land and resources, resulting in a decline in their economy and social structure. After India gained independence from British rule in 1947, the Gonds, like many other indigenous communities, faced numerous challenges. The Indian government launched several initiatives over the years to integrate the communities into mainstream society, such as resettlement and assimilation programs. However, these programs frequently disregarded the unique cultural and social identities of these communities, resulting in resentment and alienation.


Portrait of a Gond lady by Rao Bahadur M. V. Dhurandhar, 1928.


In recent years, there has been an increasing recognition of the significance of preserving the cultural heritage of indigenous communities in India. The government has implemented various programs to support the development and promotion of traditional art forms, such as Gond art and music. Additionally, numerous non-governmental organizations have been working to promote and preserve the cultural identity of the Gond people. Despite the challenges they faced, the Gonds have managed to preserve their culture and traditions over the years. Today, they are recognized as one of India's most important indigenous groups.




The Gonds follow a unique blend of animism and Hinduism in their religious practices. The Gonds believe in 'Koyapunem,' which includes the belief that everything in nature possesses a soul and can communicate with humans. They worship a variety of deities, including the chief deity Bada Dev or Badadeo. The Gonds also have a rich tradition of nature worship in religious ceremonies. They believe that objects in nature have spiritual power and can help them connect with the divine. In addition, the Gonds have a complex system of ancestor worship, where they honour their ancestors and seek their guidance in daily life.

The Gond people predominantly follow their traditions of nature worship, which have influenced other religions of India. The majority practice either their own indigenous religion, Koyapunem, or Hinduism. Additionally, some Gonds practice Sarnaism and celebrate major festivals such as Pola, Phag, and Dassera. A minority of Gonds have also adopted Christianity or Islam.




While nearly 13 million people identified themselves as Gonds on the 2011 census, only 2.98 million of them identified themselves as speakers of Gondi. However, the actual number is believed to be significantly higher, with estimates ranging as high as 20 million. 

The Gondi language is an important part of the Gond cultural heritage, and efforts are being made to preserve it. The Indian government has recognized Gondi as a scheduled language under the Constitution, and initiatives have been taken to promote its use and teaching in schools. However, the increasing use of Hindi and other dominant languages in education and media has resulted in the decline of Gondi. Some NGOs and community-based organizations are working to promote the language and encourage its use in daily life. Nevertheless, the Gondi language continues to face the threat of extinction, and urgent measures are needed to ensure its survival for future generations.


Popular People


The Gond tribe has a rich history of producing notable individuals who have made significant contributions in various fields. Among these individuals are artists, musicians, and political leaders. Two of the most famous Gonds are Venkat Shyam and Jangarh Singh Shyam, who were renowned for their vivid and colourful paintings that captured the essence of the tribe's culture and traditions. In addition to artists, the Gond tribe has also produced a number of activists and political leaders who have fought for the rights of indigenous people in India. One such notable figure is Soni Sori, a tribal rights activist who has been working tirelessly to protect the rights of indigenous people and raise awareness about their struggles. The Gond tribe also boasts historical figures such as Rani Kamlapati, queen of the Gond dynasty of Mandla, who ruled during the 18th century and is remembered for her leadership and bravery in defending her kingdom against invaders.


Soni Sori (source:




The Gonds have a vibrant tradition of art and music that is deeply intertwined with their cultural and religious beliefs. The Gond art is characterised by its bright colours and intricate designs, often featuring animals, plants, and other elements of nature.  Gond art is a unique form of traditional art that originated from the Gond tribe in central India. The art is characterised by its use of vivid colours, intricate patterns, and bold designs that depict the tribe's mythology, nature, and day-to-day life. The art form is created using natural colours made from charcoal, soil, and plant sap, and is traditionally painted on walls, floors, and other surfaces. However, in recent years, Gond art has gained popularity and is now created on canvas, paper, and other modern mediums. Gond art has a strong spiritual significance for the tribe, and each design carries a story or message that reflects their culture and beliefs  (Arur and Wyeld 2016). The art form has gained recognition worldwide for its unique style and intricate details, and has become a source of livelihood for many Gond artists who sell their works locally and internationally. 


Birds Gond Painting by Kailash Pradhan




The Gond tribe's musical heritage is diverse and rich, with a wide range of folk songs and dances that are an integral part of their culture. The music is characterised by its use of simple, repetitive rhythms and traditional instruments such as the Mandar, Dholak, and Timki. Gond musicians are highly respected within the community and are believed to have the power to communicate with the gods through their music. The tribe has produced many talented musicians over the years, including Teejan Bai, a renowned folk singer who has received numerous accolades for her contributions to Indian music. Gond music has gained popularity in recent years and is now being performed at music festivals and cultural events around the world. The tribe's musical tradition also includes devotional songs, which are sung during religious ceremonies and festivals. These songs express the tribe's deep spiritual connection with nature and their belief in the interconnectedness of all living beings. 


Gond tribal dance of Central India from the archive of Wilderness Films India (2016)




The Gond diet is based on simple, nutritious, and locally available ingredients. Two types of millets, known as Kodo and Kutki, are staples of their diet and provide a good source of energy. These millets are highly nutritious, gluten-free, and rich in fiber, protein, and essential vitamins and minerals (Koreti 2016). In addition to Kodo and Kutki, the Gond diet includes a variety of other grains, such as rice and maize, legumes like lentils and beans, vegetables such as pumpkin and okra, and fruits like mangoes and bananas. The Gonds also consume wild edibles and mushrooms that are available in their local forests. Their diet is not only nutritious but also sustainable and eco-friendly, as it is based on locally sourced, organic ingredients.


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