The Ghotul System

The Ghotul custom of the Muria Tribes of Bastar

There is a very special tribal custom that is often misunderstood, the ghotul, a place of learning for the youth of the Murias tribes. It has long been described as a place of debauchery by the ‘external morality’.

Ghotul is an institution where unmarried boys (called Chellik) and girls (Motiari) spend nights together in an earthen and wooden hut at the outskirt of the village.This regulates prenuptial interest of the tribal youth. It is central to the social and religious life of the Murias. They believe their supreme deity, Lingo, created the first ghotul.

Young “apprentices” are given genuine teaching about the different tribal customs and social responsibilities and are advised to solve some of the social and psychological problems. They are also taught about sexuality.

Ghotul is a spacious tribal hut surrounded by earthen or wooden walls. It is an integral part of Gond tribal life in Bastar region of Chhattisgarh and the neighboring areas in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh in India. It’s a place by youths and for youths, an independent and autonomous children’s republic as mentioned in Verrier Elwin’s memoirs. Tribal world elsewhere too has developed such social institutions like village guardrooms by the Nagas, a boys’ club among the Uraons which exists in northern part of Chhattisgarh too or a refuge for temporary sexual association in Indonesia, but what distinguishes Ghotul is its centrality in social and religious life of the Gonds. According to Gond legend, Lingo, the supreme deity, founded the Ghotul.

Ghotul - A life University

Lingo, the supreme deity, the heroic ancestor of the tribe and founder of the first Ghotul is at the centre of Ghotul’s conduct. It has an elder facilitator with young, unmarried boys and girls as its members. Girl members of the Ghotul are called as ‘Motiaris’ with a leader ‘Belosa’ and boy members are called ‘Cheliks’ with a leader ‘Siredar’. At this place full of life and happiness, the members were taught lessons of cleanliness, discipline and hard work that remain with them throughout their lives. They were taught to take pride in their appearance, to respect themselves and their elders; above all, they were taught the spirit of service and working hard for the public good.

The Ghotul’s social sanction makes it one of most important social institution in Madia society –no major social activity could happen without participation of Ghotul members. The boys act as acolytes at festivals, the girls as bridesmaids at weddings. This participation continues until death ceremonies in the society. With boys telling stories, asking riddles, reporting daily affairs, planning expeditions and allotment of duties Ghotul is a very much organic place embedded in and nurtured by larger socio-religious landscape of Gond world –a sacred place where no ‘sin’ could be committed. It is of valuable learning for ‘modern civilised’ world to understand how all values practised in Ghotul aimed at deepening the sense of communal property and action. The Madia Gond Ghotuls are different from the Bastar Ghotuls in that boys and girls return to their homes to sleep.

While non-tribal society struggles to understand positive attitudinal changes in society understanding functioning and sustenance of such social institutions could be of great value. This is the world with values balancing individual happiness and social responsibilities; full of faces beaming with joy of freedom and service which puzzled Verrier Elwin whether these societies are 100 years behind or 100 years ahead of modern world we are living in.

Verrier Elwin wrote: “The message of the Ghotul — that youth must be served, that freedom and happiness are more to be treasured than any material gain, that friendliness and sympathy, hospitality and unity are of the first importance, and above all that human love — and its physical expression — is beautiful, clean and precious, is typically Indian.”

The GHOTUL Tribal dance, tribal song, tribal art and tribal music has played important role in the development of tribal community, it retains their spontaneous and spiritual joy of life. The folk songs are supplementary of folk dances. Presently folk arts ( Bison Horn Dance, Rela-Rilo songs, Dhokra Shilp, Mrida Shilp, Kasth Shilp) are greatly influenced by the advent of industrialization. These influences greatly harm the tradition and culture of tribals. The most important characteristics of these tribes and the tribal culture is there antique and original institution or dormitories.

In India there are various institutions in different tribal communities. In naga tribes Yakichuki, in bhutiya Rangbang, in urao Dhumkuriya, in munda Gatiyora, in bhuiya Dhangarbassa and in muriya called GHOTUL. These dormitories is important in the cultural communication point of view. By the study of these Dormitories we found that they are very much aware about the development of youth. Generally the tribal dormitories are the organisation of tribal people. The utmost duty of these dormitories is to impart and introduce the societal culture to youth and to make assure the mental development according to their culture.

These Dormitories are prevalent in many parts of India. These organisations are the foundation of their unique cultural identity. According to Mr.Majumdar- “In tribal the Youth dormitories are establish to enrich culture and customs under specific rules and regulations.” In India there are individual youth houses in every Tribal community like Muriya, Ghotiya, Urao, Munda, koynak but at present all youth houses are in declining stage. The importantce of Ghotul and such other organisations to save tribal language, culture and their tradition. But due to the influence of alien culture these traditional organisation are struggling for their survival and existence. Ghotul was like the educational institutes in which youth were trained for their future life by following their cultural norms. And all these social disciplined help in forming a sincere, productive and useful member of their clan and community.

The working mechanism of the Ghotul is very intresting. They assembles to learn tribal language , tribal arts and Culture in Ghotul. Ghotul is an important source of knowledge in gond tribes. The gathering of all Ghotul members is a great symbol of social integrity. It is a myth that the god LINGO DEV has given the boon of the Ghotul to the tribal youth. At first god LINGO DEV taught arts of tribal music and dance in the Ghotul. God LINGO DEV had devine powers and he was the master of 18 musical instruments. The first gondi song was written and sung by the God LINGO DEV. So every members of the Ghotul pays their respect and devotion to the God LINGO DEV by following rules and regulation of the GHOTUL .

God LINGO DEV had established the Ghotul for the upliftment of their community and the God LINGO DEV considered the Ghotul as an educational institute as well as place of worship where youths are introduced with their culture and tradition. The Ghotul teaches the humanity, affection and co-operation with other people of the society. The Ghotul also helps in financial purposes like cropping, harvesting, sheltering, to protect from wild animal terror and also other important welfare programmes.

The aim of the Ghotul to teach social, financial and spiritual values of life and to dissaminate the philosophy of God LINGO DEV. Hence the objectives of the Ghotul were to trained the tribal people to unite and educate. According to God LINGO DEV recreation by dancing and singing is not only one aim of gathering there. But dancing and singing is associated with their religion, customs and above all with their culture. In order to preserve the Indian ancient language and culture we must have a systematic, scientific, anthropological and communication study of tribal culture.

The preservation of ancient tribal culture does not mean that they should not be educated but they should educate in their own primitive language. The declination of the Ghotul causes great harm to tribal community and also the great Indian culture and tradition, because important motives of tribal institution like the Ghotul is to impart wisdom and knowledge. The government should initiate to preserve these tribal institute like the Ghotul and all other tribal languages like Gondi, halbi, Bhatri, Kuduk etc. because the roots of tribes is hidden in their own language, tradition and culture. And institutions like the Ghotul is the only sign of its presence. Government should make plans and programmes to connect these separated and alone community with national main stream. The upliftment of tribal society is only possible with the betterment of tribal institution like The Ghotul.

Communication of any state can be strong only by folk arts and language. Tribal language is developed and prosperous. It is proved by excavation in which we found many written material, coins etc. In Communication the traditional folk arts is the important medium of tribal communication. This traditional media is prosperous by song, dance, drama, play and emerges from folk arts. This medium establishes the moral victory of tribal people on tribal problem and their struggles. The events, incidents and problems of the tribal people is presented by folk arts. In 19 th and 20 th century Indian tribal community had participated in freedom movement against Britishers by these traditional mediums. These tribal folk mediums are songs, drama, play, dance, puppet show etc.

UNESCO writes in its reports In context of these traditional media that – “Traditional media can gather large audience for folk artist and also the traditional media can prospered and give variety to the subject of mass media.” The traditional art is emerges from the tribal Community. The tribal perception is simple for moral customs and there struggle for their land and forest, that is the reason that they reveals their all compassion for their customs. In tribal society folk songs are the songs which focuses on the different dimensions of their life.

According to Mr.Sampson –“ Rhythm is the important part in folk songs. It has lyrical music and motion of life.” They sungs their folk songs on every important occasion like marriage, child birth, festivals etc. In the tribal customs tribal song is important . The symbolic articulation of the naturally gentle and simple feelings of these tribal people reveals in their folk songs. The systematic presentation have important place in folk songs. These traditional media are the way of enthusiastic articulation of such people who lives in primitive age. The common words makes it convienient in pronunciation. Besides folk songs folk dances are also a good medium of tribal communication. folk songs sungs with folk dances. These Folk songs and dances are the symbols of social integration. Illiteracy, superstitions, class division, population blast, malnutrition these social evils are prevalent in tribal society and the struggle against these social evil is possible only by traditional media. The upliftment of the tribal society is necessary with the promotion of such institutions like GHOTUL, therefore the overall development progress of our country is only possible with the right initiation for tribal community.