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    Niyamgiri & Its Tribes
Niyamgiri Hill is not a single mountain but it is a hill range consisting of a number of hills. The lands in hill slopes are called Dangar land and as such Niyamgiri Hills are also known as Niyamgiri Dangar. Dongaria Kandha are found in Niyamgiri Hill ranges which comprise of three community development blocks viz. Bissamcuttack, Kalyansighpur and Muniguda of Rayagada-Gunpur sub divisions of Rayagada District of Orissa. The whole life of Dongaria Kandha people - economic, social & political is pervaded by their religion. Their religion consists of regular propitiation of Gods, Spirits, and manes and performance of rituals. Propitiation is done through appropriates rites and sacrifices, charms and spells.

At the top of all the Gods, deities, and spirits Darani Penu (Earth Goddess) is the Supreme Goddess. Niyam Raja is a male deity, who is represented by a Sword, worshipped during Dashara and Jura Parab. In the temple of Goddess Durga at Bissamcuttack, this sword representing Niyam Raja is worshipped by the Dongaria Kandha during Jura Perb. The festival has become obsolete. Now the Niyam Raja is worshipped at the village, who is supposed to save the people from unnatural deaths and accidents. This deity does not have any permanent abode in the village.

The Dongaria Kandha believes in the sanctity of places and sacredness of various objects. The Hill at Hundijali village in Niyamgiri hill range located at a distance of approximately 20-25 Km, east of Lanjigarh Bauxite deposit is considered to be a sacred place as the seat of Niyam Raja. All gigantic Neem and Tamarind Trees, Caves, the hill at Hundijai are considered as sacred objects. Only Hundijali Hill in the Niyamgiri Hill range is considered as Sacred Hill. Not the entire mountain range.

The Tribes or Kandha of Orissa are divided into following three groups depending upon their habitat.

  • The Kutia (Hill) Kandha: This is the weakest section leading an isolated life of poverty and indigence and mainly located in Phulbani and Boudh-Kandhamal.
  • The Dongaria (Hill) Kandha: This section is comparatively less primitive and is skilled in Horticulture. Mainly located in Rayagada and Koraput district.
  • The Desia (Low country) Kandha: This section have left their hill Kandha and have settled down in the plains to pursue cultivation.
Located on the eastern shores of India, the State of Orissa was established in 1936. The land is rich, accumulating natural and mineral resources over time. While the interior of the state is densely mountainous and sparsely populated, the narrow coastal strip, including the Mahanadi River delta supports the bulk of the population.

According to Business World’s Competitive Ranking Report 2010 (Special Edition- India’s Most Competitive States, 5 April 2010) based on the World Economic Forum’s framework of national competitiveness, the state is ranked as one of the 10 least developed states of the country. However, it can achieve growth and development by exploring latent avenues available within the state. Multiple areas of economic growth within the state have been identified by the Government of Orissa. Its vast bank of mineral resources holds much promise and the ability to bring the much needed economic development required by the state. The estimated reserves of Bauxite in India are approximately 2.9 billion tonnes and Orissa alone has over 50% of India’s Bauxite Reserves. Some of these resources are located in Orissa’s most rural districts which now stand to gain from the progress.

Situated in the south-west portion of Orissa is Kalahandi District. As per India’s planning authorities, Kalahandi is one of the least developed districts of the country. 62.7% of the population of Kalahandi lives below the poverty line (Source: development of the area has been the focus of both the State and Central Governments, but Kalahandi is still an area that needs further economic and social investment. According to the planning authorities, agriculture alone cannot provide the development and employment opportunities that are needed to raise the standards of living of the district, and they have identified industrialization and mining as opportunities for the socio-economic development of the region.

In the process of industrialisation, the district will stand to gain from infrastructure development including power, access to primary education, quality healthcare services, employment generation, diversification of the agrarian economy, thus accelerating the process of economic development.

Particulars India Orissa Kalahandi
Population (million) 1,028.7 36.8 1.3
Geographical Area (million sq km) 3.28 0.16 0.08
Literacy 64.8% 63.1% 45.9 %
Per Capita Income (2004-05) US$ 534 US$ 283 NA
Percentage of Families below Poverty Line 23.3% 42.0% 62.7%

Sources: Census of India 2001, Central Statistical Organisation, Planning Commission of India and, National Institute of Rural Development
NA: Not available
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