It’s long past sundown in Kutela village. A bride and a groom from Kushram clan of Gond tribe are midway through the traditional seven rounds around the fire. The groom is dressed in check shirt, pants and wears a pair of aviator sunglasses. The bride is in blood-red sari. Suddenly, a pig, chased by a man from the groom’s side, darts through the assembly. Growling and acting like a tiger, he corners it, clubs it repeatedly with a stick, successfully pins it down and sinks his teeth into the pig to suck the animal’s blood. The guests look on happily.
The couple now believe they are married with the blessing of a tiger, which is their god.
The Kushrams mostly live in the jungles of Amarkantak which extends to Dindori, Anoopur and Mandala districts of the state. No marriage is solemnised by the clan without offering a sacrifice, pig, to the tiger."Tiger is the kuldeva (God of the community) of Kushram community and everything is linked to this animal in our community," said Doshi, a tribal of Kutela village in Dindori district where the marriage took place.
The bride or groom from Kushram clan marrying from other Gond clans has to offer a pig to tiger.
“We believe if a pig is not offered on time to the tiger, there is a likelihood that the couple will be targeted by the animal,” said Karma Kushram, a member of Kushram community, which depends on forest for livelihood.
Gond is the largest tribe of India, concentrated mainly in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh for centuries.
“The Gond tribals are worshippers of prakriti (nature) hence each and every custom has evolved from the jungles and nature. There are 750 clans in Gond tribe and each clan has its own saviour from the nature like trees, rivers, various animals,” said Hari Marwi, a local Gond historian.
“This ensures a balance in the environment as one clan preaches one part of the nature, and sustainable habitat is maintained. Kushrams believe that tigers are their kuldevta and saviour and hence every custom is related to tiger,” said Marwi.