Dangs, the smallest district, has unmatched forest wealth and is nature's gift to Gujarat. It is inhabited by aboriginals like Bhils, Kunbis also known as Kukanas in Dharampur area, Warlis and Gamits who have lived here since time immemorial. Ahwa, headquarters of the district, is situated on a plateau and the Saputara hill station is popular with tourists.
Garments And Ornaments
Earlier Kunbi women wore a mass of heavy ornaments as they believed that whatever is worn must be seen. Whereas today they wear light ornaments.
Among Dangi women, the huge 'Nath' nose ring is highly sought after as it enhances their beauty and dignity. Another is the 'Horganthi', a double-chained silver necklace of one rupees coin. Another ornament that satisfies a woman's vanity is the 'Dangi Kap', a silver necklace in double chain with 48 small silver ball pendants.
A 'Baju Bandh' ornament is popular among tribals of Gujarat. It's a round silver armlet with filigree type delicate workmanship. The pattern is woven from silver threads that resemble the body of a snake. Terraced circles with a top knob indicate the sun symbol. Almost all tribes wear this ornament, as well as the Rathwas.
Singana village in Ahwa Taluka of Dangs district has a combination of communities like Gamit, Warli, Kunbi, Bhil and Kukna. It has 500 people living in about 85 houses. The Singana Sarpanch, a Gamit, lives in a Pucca house with beautifully painted carved wooden pillars. Gamits in the Dangs district appear to be far more prosperous than other tribals. Bhils, by comparison, are big spenders.
Old men wear dhoti and Khameez. Women wear Lugda, Maharashtrian style sari in red or green with flower designs or totem emblems. They wear a gold Kata Nath; silver Bali on top ear, Baju Bandh, Asura necklace, Kada and Sakar anklet. Kuknas wear a big Nath and silver Mangal Sutra. Women wear bead chains, silver Kada, and Lugdo Odhni. There is a Hanuman stone and Jalaram Bapa Mandir is also situated over here.
Kunbis generally have three joint weddings. Trousseau consists of a cupboard, 'Jhanhar' anklets, Mangal Sutra, 'Dhorlu' pendant necklace given by the family. The in-laws give a Teak Nath and Kundala earrings. The bride wears a sari in the Maharashtrian style, Choli. Bandhani Odhni called "Farki", Chudi bangles and 'Jhoduva' silver toe rings. Clothes and ornaments are bought from Waghai and Ahwa markets and villages on the Maharashtra border.
Wedding feasts consist of Dal Bhat, Aloo And Baigan Sabji, Seera, and Moti Chur Laddoo. The couple performs Satyanarayan Puja at the groom's house. The bride visits her father's house after a few days then the groom takes her home.
Kunbis celebrate Holi and Dangs durbar in March. A Waghdev Barasa Puja is held in the jungle near Sakarpatar. Their typical dances are to the accompaniment of musical instruments like 'Pavri', 'Dholak', 'Basuri', 'Sambre' (two small drums), and 'Banjo'. They join hands at the waist and dance in circle formations.
The important Goddess is Shapta Sungi Mataji. They also believe in Lord Hanuman, Ganpati, Shankar Parvati, Krishna and Vishnu. Modernism is peeping through the Dangs like the rays of the morning sun. Sudden social and cultural changes may uproot people from their way of life.
The Warli Way
From the 8th to the 10th century, Bhils, Kunbis and Warlis occupied the Dangs while Gamits and Naikas came later. All these groups form the present day population of Dangis, a heterogeneous mixture of several tribes. Cultural development is based on a common ethos through which Dangi personality has evolved, characterised by a typical mode of thinking, feeling, behaving with common beliefs, sentiments, and ideas.
Warlis are a primitive tribe living in forested regions. They live in Umargaon, Dharampur, Vansda Talukas in Valsad district and Dang district in areas near the Maharashtra border.
According to Enthoven, Warlis are a sub tribe of Bhils with three sub groups and many Gotras:' Davar', 'Nehri', 'Murday'. Majority of Davars are found in Gujarat. The language that Kunbis and Warlis speak is Gujarati.
Life In The Wild
Because their villages are remote, they are aloof even from other tribals and the village acts as a binding force. Living in hilly and remote forest areas, cut off from the main population, helps to retain their primitive lifestyle. The Patel inherits his title and plays a vital role in maintaining individual, social and religious traditions. At weddings, the custom of 'Pagri Tying' to the Patel is customary.
'Adai' or slash and burn cultivation is followed, starting in April and May. Main cultivation is in the monsoon. Then they migrate in search of work. They collect forest produce like gum, honey, Doli, Mahuwa, Ambla, and Timroo leaves to sell in the market. Warlis are considered to be 'children of nature'. To them, the forest is more important than agriculture. They are very independent by nature and tend to marry at a late age.
The geographical conditions of Warli habitat are quite peculiar. The whole region is hilly, so it is not possible to see one 'Falia' from another cluster whose members belong to the same Gotra.
Mahal village, Ahwa Taluka, district Dangs, has about 100 Warli houses forming the majority community in the village. Their homes have no wall paintings or drawings but have Lipan work. Main earnings are from farms on which they grow Nagli, Rice, Varai, Urad, Tuwar, Khulit, Oilseeds, and Brinjals.
Farming and cattle herding forms the main occupation. Their staple diet is Nagli Rotlo, Urad Dal, Warai Rice, Warai Sweet, and Sweet Urad Dal.
Women wear Maharashtrian style saris and 'Farki Odhnis', also 'Sakar' anklets, 'Kanthi' necklaces, 'Jhulkha' earrings, glass or plastic bangles or silver 'Kada'. Among Gamits, Warli and Kunbis the groom gives clothes and jewellery to the bride. They believe in Wagh Dev and Nag Dev Tera. A Bhagat performs Pujas and wedding ceremonies.
All tribal groups in Subir worship Ram Teer, Sita Mata Seat and Laxman 'Teer' (arrow). The ancient art of making masks, wall drawings are no longer practiced but children's toys are still made in wood. At Holi, Dhol and Manjira accompany dances. They eat the usual Dal, Bhat, Sag and Rotla that the majority of people generally have in Gujarat.
Light Tribal Attire
Bhil, Kunbi, Warli and Gamit women in Dangs show differences and similarities in their mode of dress. Bhils, Gamits and Warlis like green, snuff and other colours for their clothes like the 'Fadaka' or upper garment. Women's clothes are lighter and less cumbersome. Men wear pants and shirts but earlier wore Salu Paghdi, Khameez, Langoti, and Dhoti.
A Woman's Pride And Joy
Warlis beam with pride even when wearing plastic necklaces because these are considered modern, or bead necklaces in intricate patterns. A symbol of the Acasia tree is the totem of the Kunbis and Warlis and is also found in their tattoos.
A traditional ornament called 'Ganthi' is a silver necklace generally worn by Warlis and Bhils. Women also wear a round necklace with delicate silver work and three silver chain pendants. Kukanas and Warlis of Dharampur wear a Sakali. They wear Bhilde in ears, Nath or Muddi in nose, Gathi chain also worn by children, Mala of Tulsi beads, 'Bhomani' chain made of 'Rudraksha' with Hanuman pendant, Sakar on ankles also worn by children, but no toe rings. They also wear a 'Tamba ka Kada' on wrist and glass bangles.
Khatranpujan is worship of paternal deity by Gamits and Warlis. Wagh Dev is a sacred animal god of the Dangis that was originally a totem animal of Bhils. They have several house and village gods. They play music on social and religious occasions on Toor, bronze Thali, Khali, Samal Dholak, Pawi, Ghangali, and Tarpu.
From cradle to grave, Warlis perform certain ceremonies that are religiously and socially important.
A midwife delivers babies in her respective 'Falia'. A pregnant woman is given alcohol before delivery because Warlis believe this reduces the intensity of pain. The midwife cuts the umbilical cord with a dried stalk of Jowar. In Vansda this umbilical cord is buried in a cattle barn. In Dharampur it is buried in the backyard of the house. A mother's daily diet consists of rice gruel. Fish, onions, garlic and sour dishes are forbidden.
Marriage in the same Gotra is prohibited. Arranged marriages are prevalent, also marriage by kidnapping, forced marriage, Khanddhadio and elopement. Girl's parents get customary bride price and expenses of marriage ceremony. If the groom's parents cannot afford the bride price, the 'Nanipen' ceremony is performed and marriage takes place later.
Engagement ceremony is known as Magni or Bolpen. Divorce proceedings called 'Kalki-Molvi' where elders hold alcohol in Khakhara leaves and break a wooden stick called 'Kolki' in two pieces signifying that the couple's relationship has now been severed. It is common for two sisters to be married to the same man but marrying the older sister is not allowed.
When a person dies, men and women put rice, liquor and five to 10 paise coins in the dead person's mouth, before cremation. Articles used by the dead person are also carried to the crematorium. Then they apply a full bottle of liquor on the body and set it on fire. They bathe, return to the house of the deceased and are served liquor and Rotlas. Death by accident involves a burial. The next day a statue is made which is then burnt. In social hierarchy, Dhodias are superior to Warlis. Warlis from Mahal village all attend the Dangs Durbar.
How It All Began With Kuknas
The Neolithic period saw settled ways of life in the Dangs. Langhaj man resembled the hermitic people of Egypt who were the ancestors of Kuknas, Kunbis, Warlis whose history goes back to prehistoric times. Kuknas of Dharampur used a square stone pillar with half moon shaped top for capital punishment resembling a pillar in the Egyptian pyramids dating to pre historic times.
The Kukna name is derived from 'Kankan' armlet worn by the tribe or because they migrated to Gujarat from some part of Konkan in olden times. They live in Dharampur, Vansda, Valsad, Dangs. Kuknas are also called "Kokni" or "Kokna". Kuknas of Dangs and Dharampur are very similar. They speak Kokni, a dialect of Marathi, also speak Gujarati and Hindi.
They are divided into 'Kuls' or clans. Monogamous, they have a strong sense of unity of family and community. Outside their village, they move in groups. Trends show that the joint family is replaced by the elementary family system among most Gujarat tribes.
One With Nature
Kukna houses have walls with mud and whitewash, no windows and thatched grass roof. Pucca houses are rare. Kuknas collect forest produce like wild fruits, roots, plants, honey which forms a major part of their diet. They have a high status among tribals and their literacy is improving. Their staple diet is similar to other tribal groups in the region. Ghee and spice is not used but sweet oil is used in preparation of vegetables.
Kadmal village in Ahwa Taluka of Dangs district has a combination of Warli, Kukna and Nayak communities. All groups believe in the ancestral stone in the village. There is an ancestral totem carved in a single piece of wood with Moon, Sun, Wagh Dev, Snake that is worshipped by all communities.
Villagers confide that the older generation did not teach young ones the art of wall paintings, stone and woodcarving. The younger generation have built a Hanuman Mandir and installed a new idol. There are two old stones - one of Hanuman and the other a Shivlinga. Diwali is celebrated in the temple decorated with bamboo work.
A quaint custom is followed where a Tulsi Mala or necklace is worn by vegetarians. There are 200 homes in the village with Kuknas, Nayaks and Warlis but no mixed marriages.
Dangi dances like Tin Tal in a pyramid formation to the accompaniment of Pavri, Dholak, Pungri and songs in the Dangi language are performed.
A Love Of Ornaments
Kuknas are fond of ornaments made of white metal, lead, iron or silver. Women wear multi coloured small bead necklaces and wear flowers and tattoos. They wear silver coin necklaces, 'Boriyudul', 'Khutla', 'Nakhli-Vitlo' in ears, 'Fulki' in nose and 'Zanzar' on ankles. These traditional ornaments are still used. Women wear silver anklets and breast shaped toe ornaments called 'Gend'. Tattoos or 'Chhundna' are also used.
Kuknas wear a Khadi headdress, jacket, coat and Langot, gold rings in ears. The Langot is an essential sign of their culture.
Customs And Culture
The custom of polygamy is generally on the wane among Kuknas. They believe in extended families but due to occupational mobility now nuclear families are most prevalent. Among Kuknas, the actual 'Lagan' or marriage ritual can take place even after the birth of one or two children, but the marriage ceremony is essential.
The art of mimic along with tribal dances still survives in Gujarat. Kuknas, Kunbis, Warlis and Dangis perform dance dramas to the accompaniment of singing and music. During Holi, Kukna dramatic groups, sometimes using masks, perform in villages with young boys playing female roles laced with wit and humour. Songs of Mahabharata and Ramayana epics are sung to music.
Kuldev And Kuldevi Worship
Their Kuldevi idols are kept on a heap of rice and 'Nagli' grain inside a big bamboo basket. They celebrate Shivratri, Dussera, Navratri, and Diwali. At the Dussera fair both men and women perform the Garba dance.