Social Documentary Photography – The Baiga Tribe Of India

Wife
Baiga Tribe Village outside Kanha National Forest in Madhya Pradesh, India.

 

This social documentary photography was submitted to Edge of Humanity Magazine by Visual Anthropologist Niqita Gupta.

 

Husband

Husband
Baiga Tribe Village outside Kanha National Forest in Madhya Pradesh, India.

Premarital relations between men and women are common and socially sanctioned. Formal engagement takes place frequently after puberty, which is initiated by the male. Chote Lal and his wife Himat bai are dressed in their traditional attire, which is worn during weddings.

 

From project “Baiga: The Vanishing Tribe” by Niqita Gupta.

 

The Baigas, concentrated in central India, are forest-dwelling aboriginals who claim to be Indian harbingers of the human race, having lived there for over 20,000 years. Before Kanha forest was declared a national park in 1955, the tree worshiping tribe lived in the forest that used to provide everything that they needed for their survival. They have now been relocated from the core region of the forest to the outskirts of the wildlife reserve, in order to protect animal life.

A tribe that lived a hand-to-mouth existence without money, education or any interaction with civilisation are lost in their new environment and are finding it difficult to cope. While adapting to their new surroundings of towns and civilisation, their indigenous cultural traditions which were their unique identification are now diluting. It won’t be long before the tribe will scatter to different slums in cities in search of employment, leaving behind mere traces of their tribal life.

 

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Traditionally a sect of the tribe called the Nanga Biaga wore no clothes but women now cover up with a saree (with or without a blouse). A typical Baiga woman wears her saree above the knees and has her body and face covered in identifiable tattoos with shapes like triangles, dots and circles. Baiga Tribe Village outside Kanha National Forest in Madhya Pradesh, India.

Traditionally a sect of the tribe called the Nanga Biaga wore no clothes but women now cover up with a saree (with or without a blouse). A typical Baiga woman wears her saree above the knees and has her body and face covered in identifiable tattoos with shapes like triangles, dots and circles.
Baiga Tribe Village outside Kanha National Forest in Madhya Pradesh, India.

The Baiga men have in depth knowledge about medicinal herbs which they collect from the forest that heal common ailments and some have knowledge to treat even paralysis. They are also known to be master of black and white magic that they claim to perform with their left and right shoulders respectively.<br/> Baiga Tribe Village outside Kanha National Forest in Madhya Pradesh, India.

The Baiga men have in depth knowledge about medicinal herbs which they collect from the forest that heal common ailments and some have knowledge to treat even paralysis. They are also known to be master of black and white magic that they claim to perform with their left and right shoulders respectively.
Baiga Tribe Village outside Kanha National Forest in Madhya Pradesh, India.

A family portrait of members of the Baiga Tribe. Baiga Tribe Village outside Kanha National Forest in Madhya Pradesh, India.

A family portrait of members of the Baiga Tribe.
Baiga Tribe Village outside Kanha National Forest in Madhya Pradesh, India.

The man in the centre is cooking fish for his family of fourteen members. The walls of the house are lined with fish traps made out of bamboo which are present in every typical Baiga household. Baiga Tribe Village outside Kanha National Forest in Madhya Pradesh, India.

The man in the centre is cooking fish for his family of fourteen members. The walls of the house are lined with fish traps made out of bamboo which are present in every typical Baiga household.
Baiga Tribe Village outside Kanha National Forest in Madhya Pradesh, India.

During this religious ceremony, the wheat plant is worshipped in the form of a Devi (or goddess). Women carry baskets of freshly grown wheat on their heads while the men sing and dance with musical instruments as they walk down to a water body where the plant is, washed and distributed as an offering to every family. This celebration is carried out to pay tribute to the plants that sustain human life. Baiga Tribe Village outside Kanha National Forest in Madhya Pradesh, India.

During this religious ceremony, the wheat plant is worshipped in the form of a Devi (or goddess). Women carry baskets of freshly grown wheat on their heads while the men sing and dance with musical instruments as they walk down to a water body where the plant is, washed and distributed as an offering to every family. This celebration is carried out to pay tribute to the plants that sustain human life.
Baiga Tribe Village outside Kanha National Forest in Madhya Pradesh, India.

 A Baiga woman draws water from the community well in the outskirts of the forest. Baiga Tribe Village outside Kanha National Forest in Madhya Pradesh, India.

A Baiga woman draws water from the community well in the outskirts of the forest.
Baiga Tribe Village outside Kanha National Forest in Madhya Pradesh, India.

Tendu leaves are stitched together and used as plates for occasions such as weddings. This environmentally conscious alternative has now also become a meagre source of income for the womenfolk. Baiga Tribe Village outside Kanha National Forest in Madhya Pradesh, India.

Tendu leaves are stitched together and used as plates for occasions such as weddings. This environmentally conscious alternative has now also become a meagre source of income for the womenfolk.
Baiga Tribe Village outside Kanha National Forest in Madhya Pradesh, India.

The Baiga tribe lives in union with Mother Nature and considers it their duty to protect her from destruction. Baiga Tribe Village outside Kanha National Forest in Madhya Pradesh, India.

The Baiga tribe lives in union with Mother Nature and considers it their duty to protect her from destruction.
Baiga Tribe Village outside Kanha National Forest in Madhya Pradesh, India.

Traditional footwear made out of wood and iron is worn while performing religious ceremonies where plants are worshiped. Baiga Tribe Village outside Kanha National Forest in Madhya Pradesh, India.

Traditional footwear made out of wood and iron is worn while performing religious ceremonies where plants are worshiped.
Baiga Tribe Village outside Kanha National Forest in Madhya Pradesh, India.

The forest, in its entirety with its plant and animal life is home and has been for over 20,000 years for the tribe. They have recently lost it to the Wildlife Act that prohibits them from entering the forest. The tribe is struggling to create a balance between their nomadic and civilized lifestyle. In a few years, the tribe, which is dwindling in numbers (much like the tigers in the forest) is going to be lost to, developed cities where they will migrate in search of work. Baiga Tribe Village outside Kanha National Forest in Madhya Pradesh, India.

The forest, in its entirety with its plant and animal life is home and has been for over 20,000 years for the tribe. They have recently lost it to the Wildlife Act that prohibits them from entering the forest. The tribe is struggling to create a balance between their nomadic and civilized lifestyle. In a few years, the tribe, which is dwindling in numbers (much like the tigers in the forest) is going to be lost to, developed cities where they will migrate in search of work.
Baiga Tribe Village outside Kanha National Forest in Madhya Pradesh, India.

 

See also:

Boyhood Of Buddhist Monks

Parsi Archive

By Niqita Gupta

 


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