Tribal Museum: Gateway to Odisha’s rich tribal world

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With Odisha boasting of many tribes and primitive tribal groups, people visit remote tribal places of the state to enjoy the tribal hinterland. There is a need for greater understanding of their lifestyle.


But if you want to see the tribal ways of life in your vicinity right in Odisha’s state capital Bhubaneswar, then the tribal museum under Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Research and Training Institute would be the best option to be explored.


Odisha is home to an ethnic mosaic of 62 tribal communities including 13 primitive tribal groups. This entire group constitutes 22 per cent of the state’s population.


It is not only a treasure trove of tribal artifacts, but a model settlement with huts of Santal, Juang, Gadaba, Saora, Kondh and other tribal communities.


Five beautiful galleries are there to display tribal items such as ornaments, paintings, photographs, hunting tools, agriculture implements, musical instruments and arts such as dokra.


Once adjudged as the best among 21 tribal museums across the country by UNESCO, this tribal museum has got an enviable collection of artifacts, tribal textiles belonging to number of tribal communities and ornaments.


The walls with tribal motifs and art forms welcome you into the tribal world when you enter the premises. Besides the display halls and tribal huts, the courtyards also have shrine crafts, i.e., samples of tribal shrines as all the tribal groups use to have different types of shrines to worship nature.


The museum exhibits a wide spectrum of the tribal treasure of Odisha and it is a place displaying their past, present and the trend of cultural and ethnic evolution.


The galleries display select items; the wall-mounted showcases include the traditional ethnic fabrics such as the ‘ringa’ of Bondas, ‘phuta’ saris of Santal, ‘gatungcap’ of Lanjia Saora, ‘shaska’ of Kutia Kondh, ‘kunti’ of Juang, ‘kerang’ of Didayi, ‘drilli’, the long-trailed loin cloth of Lanjia Soara (men) and ‘phuta-kacha’ the Santal men’s wear.


A large collection of tribal ornaments has been displayed in this section, some of which is now out of circulation and has become antiquities. Their attractive patterns, intricate designs and aesthetics are a feast to the eye.


Among the antique availability are coin and bead necklaces such as ‘taka mecodica’ of Dongria Kondh, ‘puste’ of Koya, ‘dabu lubeida’ of Bonda, ‘gunjuli mali’ of Gadaba, ‘tangam’ of Saora, silver jewelleries of Santal and brass and aluminium ornaments of other tribes.


The ethnic dokra craft and musical instruments display the creativity and aesthetic sense of the tribal people and among the dokra items Desia Kondh’s ‘lionet’, ‘pagi’ and ‘snake charmer’ are found. Several musical instruments such as horn trumpet of Kutia Kondh and Lanjia Soara, double-membrane drum of the Holva, string instrument of Santal and ‘changu’ of Juang are a hit with the visitors.


There are also agricultural implements and tribal household objects besides hunting and fishing implements including those used by primitive tribal groups. Especially axe of Kondh, spear of Paroja and peculiar bows and arrows of different tribes provide study inputs to visitors, researchers and students.


There are also presence of a variety of nets and traps showing glimpses of simple adaptive technologies of Mankidia, Kutia Kondh, Kisan, gum sticks of Juang and Paudi Bhuyan, fish basket of Bonda, fishing trap of Gond add diversity to the tribal museum.


The spacious courtyard of the tribal museum has been converted to the site of shrines of various tribal groups. The replica of tribal shrines provide the visitors first-hand information about the mode of tribal worship symbolizes element of the original jungle environment, stone slabs, carved woods and bamboo with esoteric and natural colour patterns.


The museum now has added a touch-screen kiosk where there are 10 themes on display relating to tribal lifestyle. Touching the screen, a visitor can know every details of the tribal life, including household articles, religion, needs, agriculture and other tools used by them.


There is reference library that researcher can use or visitor can spend time go into. Free guides are being provided by the state Government for better understanding of the visitors.


Group of visitors in a small auditorium that can accommodate maximum 100 visitors can also enjoy tribal film shows.


The museum is open on all working days of the week from 10 AM to 5 PM. While Sunday and Second Saturdays are official holidays, also remains closed on every State Government declared holidays. The entry to the museum is free and one can spend hours together learning and enjoying the art and artifacts of the aboriginal.


Located in NH-5 near CRP Square in the city the venue is well connected with roads. Its just 5 km from railway station and almost same distance from Biju Patnaik Airport.