The Koya Tribe – Andhra Pradesh

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The Koyas, thickly populated in the Chinthur Mandal, of the Bhadrachalam agency in
Andhra Pradesh, are migrants from the Bastar region in northern India, who live on
both the sides of the Godavari river. Physically they are classified as Australoid and
they call themselves “Koithur”. They are one of the few multi-lingual and multi-
racial tribes in India. Their population in Andhra Pradesh counts up to 106,000 and
almost 795,000 spread out in other states of India like Telangana and Odisha.

Koyas also live in Chhattisgarh as a mixed tribe with Gond tribe, which had a considerable
influence on their language, Koyi, which is closely related to both Gondi and Telugu,
which is their primary language. They believed life to be originated from water,
according to their mythology. 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 are farmers by occupation, who depend on rain for irrigation, with slash
and burn cultivation techniques being their traditional mode of agriculture. However,
the government has now restricted their movement and has encouraged them to
farm on fixed plots. They showed the Koya how to farm coconut and coffee. They
also granted the Koya permanent ownership rights to their land if they would grow
rice there.

Their staple diet is sorghum and they survive on palm juice for over 4
months, and consider the palm tree as a gift of nature and to secure this gift they
worship the village Goddess “Muthyalamma” and consume mohuva liquor to get
relief from the physical hardship of the day and to withstand extreme variations in
the climate. They are also expert hunters, owing to their need for food and safety
from the wild animals. In their culture, Cattle are symbols of wealth.

Most of their festivals are related to agricultural operations, and they worship the
Earth-Goddess “Bhudevi” and enlist the co-operation of the Goddess by offering
animal sacrifices during the festival. They believe that sowing seeds that are soaked
in sacrificial blood bring them good crops. Birth, marriage and death are the three
important aspects of life and each event is celebrated on a grand scale in Koya
society. The Bison-horn dance is a special feature on the occasion of a marriage
ceremony among the Koyas. And they do not believe in heaven, hell, or
reincarnation.