Key Facts about Koya Tribe

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In Godavari Valley, the Koya tribe faces a cultural crisis as raids by the Special Enforcement Bureau threaten their cherished tradition of Mahua liquor consumption.

About Koya Tribe: 

  • Koya are one of the few multi-racial and multi-lingual tribal communities in India.
  • They live in the forests, plains, and valleys on both sides of the Godavari River, in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Chhattisgarh, and Odisha
  • The Koya are said to have migrated to central India from their original home in Bastar, northern India.
  • Language:
    • The Koya language, also called Koyi, is a Dravidian language. It is closely related to Gondi and has been strongly influenced by Telugu.
    • Most Koyaspeak either Gondi or Telugu, in addition to Koyi.
  • Occupation
    • Traditionally, they were pastoralists and shifting cultivators, but now-a-days, they have taken to settled cultivation supplemented by animal husbandry and seasonal forest collections.
    • They grow Jowar, Ragi, Bajra, and other millets. 
  • Society and Culture:
    • All Koya belong to one of five sub-divisions called gotrams. Every Koya is born into a clan, and he cannot leave it.
    • The Koyas have a patrilineal and patrilocal family. The family is called "Kutum". The nuclear family is the predominant type.
    • Monogamy is prevalent among the Koyas.
    • The Koya practice their own ethnic religion, but also worship a number of Hindu gods and goddesses.
    • Many Koya deities are female, the most important being the "mother earth."
    • They maintain community funds and grain banks at the village level to help the needy families and provide food security.
    • Koyas either bury or cremate the dead. They erect menhirs in memory of the dead.
    • Their main festivals are Vijji Pandum (seeds charming festival) and KondalaKolupu (festival to appease Hill deities). 
    • Koyas perform a robust, colourful dance called Permakok (Bison horn dance) during festivals and marriage ceremonies.

Q1: What is Mahua?

The flowers of the Mahua tree (Madhuca longifolia) are fermented to produce an alcoholic drink also called Mahua. Tribal men and women in various parts of India traditionally make this liquor. It is found in West Bengal, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, in parts of northern and central India, in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Mahua is considered holy amongst the tribes of India.

Source: Andhra’s Koya tribe faces brewing conflict over sacred Mahua flower