Bhubaneswar, August 9 (LocalWire): Every year the world commemorates 9 August as the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples to mark the inaugural session of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations at the United Nations in 1982.
While the theme of this year’s celebration is on indigenous languages, the day has been marked to take stock of the current situation of indigenous languages around the world within the framework of the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages.
The aim is to highlight the critical need to revitalize, preserve, and promote indigenous languages and share good practices through expert and interactive panels and presentation of innovative initiatives on indigenous languages.
Odisha has a 9.6 million tribal population, or 22.8% of the total population, including 62 tribal communities of which there are 13 vulnerable tribal communities in the state.
The tribal people express their cultural identity and distinctiveness in their social organisation, language, rituals and festivals and also in their dress, ornaments, art, and craft.
The religion of the tribes in Odisha is a mixture of animism, animalism, nature-worship, fetishism, shamanism, anthropomorphism and ancestor worship.
As most of the tribes of Odisha, practice agriculture in some form or the other, and as rest others have a vital stake in agriculture, sowing, planting, first-fruit eating, and harvest rites are common amongst them.
Thus the ideological system of all the tribes surrounds supernaturalism and the pantheon in most cases consists of the Sun god, the Mother Earth and a lower hierarchy of gods.
Besides, there are village tutelary, nature spirits, presiding deities, and ancestor spirits, which are also propitiated and offered sacrifices.
Gods and spirits are classified into benevolent and malevolent categories.
An integral part of tribal culture, 700 sacred groves in Odisha out of 2,100 identified by the state government will be conserved this year with the involvement of local communities and over 44.7% of the state’s geographical area has been declared a scheduled area covering 12 districts.
However, activists point out that the government has not included the groves in mineral-rich areas such as Niyamgiri and Khandadhar, where tribal communities are protesting against mining by private companies.
It may be recalled that the Dongaria Kondh communities had rejected Vedanta’s mining project in Niyamgiri hills in 2013 and the Supreme Court has also recognised the religious rights of the tribal population over the hills.
On its part, the government has been promoting the tribal culture as a means of attracting foreign tourists and it also organises special tribal exhibitions to make the city folk aware of indigenous culture.
Special provisions have also been made to help tribal people market their products in a fair and open market.