Libmonster ID: U.S.-1439
Author(s) of the publication: A. V. IVANOV

We spent the night by bus from Hyderabad to Chirala, on the Bay of Bengal, south of the mouth of the Krishna River, and then by morning bus to our destination, along a road between villages, fields and gardens with wonderful mango trees. An hour later, the bus dropped us off at the bus stop. The village had long since woken up, the sun had risen, and it was already getting hot. There are a lot of people around-everyone is walking or riding bicycles, shopping or just talking while looking at us.

At the time of disembarkation, we are warmly dressed people with sleepy faces. Everyone has a heavy backpack, bucket, sleeping bag and water bottles, and all together-large boxes with equipment, fortunately, not heavy. I think we looked ready for something important, difficult and long. This aroused great interest among others.


It was in December 2008 that a group of third-semester anthropology students from the University of Hyderabad reached the village of Uppugunduru, 35 kilometers from the city of Chirala. A total of 20 people, headed by the head of the Department of Anthropology, Prof. Sudakar Rao. I, a first-semester student, was allowed to join them as a free agent. The practice took place in Andhra Pradesh, the most "tribal" of all the southern states, among the Yerukala tribe. The results were to be reflected in theses.

After receiving my anthropology degree from the Russian State University for South Asia in 2008, I applied to the Cultural Center at the Embassy of India in Moscow, where I spent three years studying Hindi, with a request to grant me a scholarship to study in India, believing that without living there, I would not become a real specialist. So I ended up at Hyderabad University, one of the best universities in the country. The university is located outside the city, on an area of 50 hectares, where there is everything - a lake with pythons, excavations of ancient human sites, and a magnificent sports complex. Training is conducted in English according to the system adopted in the UK and the USA.

The students in the group were mostly from Andhra Pradesh, and they spoke to the villagers in Telugu. Apart from me, there were only three people who didn't speak the language - girls from Assam and Orissa, and a student from the United States, the friendly and talkative Maggie, who admired everyone with her real English. I, a student from Russia, completed the picture, and together with the American woman, we could seem to the residents a kind of symbol of peace.

At first, they were placed in the school building, but later that day, thanks to the professor's efforts, they were moved to a more livable place - either to a private house or to a Baptist mission (the girls lived in another house nearby). Our host was a 92-year-old gentleman, a participant in the struggle for independence, who suffered in this struggle. He and his comrades organized a political circle in the village in 1943, but the police raided, and he spent about a month in prison. When asked if he was beaten there, the old man answered correctly:"...Well, they (the British) were very kind, they fed us so well..."

The house was small and cozy, surrounded by a garden where chickens roamed; the facilities-shower and toilet-were in a separate courtyard, and of course you had to go to the pump to get water. We were given three small rooms, one for the professor and assistant, and two for the students. We slept like herrings in a barrel - "like matches in a box," as the local saying goes-and on the second night I moved into the garden. There was a traditional bed on its side, banished from the room , a rectangular wooden frame on legs, tightly bound with straps, and lying on it at night, I could watch the moon rise through the canopy of a giant acacia tree, fearing only mosquitoes.

Daily wake-up at 6.00. I tried to defend the right to an extra hour on Sunday, but without success. For breakfast, a traditional dosa (peppered dry pancake) with tea in the nearest roadside "cafe" - under a canopy on wooden poles, in the back-tiles, a refrigerator and a thermos of tea. The food, by the way, was monotonous, and, in addition to dosa, every day at 8 pm we received rice with peppered vegetables for dinner. Everything was served in separate piles on a large plate sewn from leaves, and you need to mix rice and vegetables with your right hand, and eat with it (the left one is considered "unclean" here). I tried, but this method did not seem convenient to me, and I used a spoon, just like a student from the Au-

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Maggie, an experienced traveler, always ate with her hand.

For the "dessert" they received the same rice with perugu, which resembles our curdled milk. This combination is salty to taste, although for me without salt is even better. In general, South Indian cuisine is much more diverse than North Indian, and people even say to each other when they meet: "Tena wa?", which literally means " Have you eaten?", although it does not require an equally literal answer; but we had what we had.

No later than 8: 00, everyone went through the morning fog "to the field". At the same time, most of the villagers also go to the real field. The older women climb into the tractor trailer closer to the cab, and the younger ones sit in the back and wave at us, and we wave back.


The job of an anthropologist is primarily to understand the processes that take place in closed societies, such as tribes, of which there are many, or in artificial groups, such as hippies, who live by their own rules with slightly different values from the rest of the world. By and large, there are two approaches: either studying and comparing groups within the academic canon, in which case the specialist fixes everything as it is in the studied people or group and seeks to note original features; or it is "applied anthropology", when the task is to study the group as much as possible and as a result help people get settled in the modern world. Most of the students of our group see themselves in the future in applied anthropology - in India, where since the time of Herodotus "there are many peoples and they live in different ways", such work is really necessary.

Few people have ever found themselves in a native tribe, pursuing scientific goals that require skill and methodology. In addition to the inevitable everyday difficulties, the researcher must be able to perceive people as they are, understand their values and traditions. The main method is "included observation", but it requires a much longer immersion in culture and everyday life than we had. We, the students, were given a topic or task on a particular topic. Tasks were assigned in advance, and I remember the tears of a girl from Assam who got a topic about tribal conflicts. To get the necessary information, her observer skills were not enough, it was necessary to be more "involved" in local life and customs.

The Yerukalas speak Telugu, and the students worked in pairs where one of the partners might not know the language. Working in this way, after a week I was able to find out some questions about my assignment on my own in a mixture of Telugu, English and Hindi, but without the help of my new friends, I would not have been so ready for contact in a month. In fact, all the information was collected by their hands, or rather, through their mouths.

I was present at a village wedding, at the ceremony of starting the construction of a temple, and witnessed a big village quarrel. If in the first two cases I understood why people gathered, then I can't say so about the quarrel.

One evening there was a large crowd on the road, people were making noise, and the women were even jostling each other, and the men were talking in low voices, but quickly and simultaneously. For me, it was a stroke of luck - the opportunity to "turn on" my observation, as I was taught. I tried to communicate, but I couldn't find out what the cause of the conflict was, and I couldn't decide who was right or wrong: people refused to cooperate, advising me to leave immediately, and probably all their usual courtesy was gathered in this advice. After observing from afar and making sure that nothing new was happening, I actually left soon after.

Another important method of work was the mandatory PRA* in India, which requires a clear questionnaire. Every house where members of the community live should be interviewed, and in the early days all efforts were made to do so. First, all the houses of yerukal were numbered. Maggie and Biku (from Rajasthan - he spoke Telugu perfectly) did this all day long. I helped them for a while, too. We walked around with crayons, accompanied by a pack of boys, and put a number on each house. People took it calmly and without much interest. A few days later, I was surprised to find that our numbering had taken root, and when explaining something, the residents used their new numbers without hesitation. In total, 187 households belonging to Yerukala were found.

Then we split up in pairs and went home with the questionnaires, according to the assigned numbers. Even questions such as the amount of income, which many people try to keep relatively secret, were answered calmly, sometimes cheerfully arguing about it. On average, they have about $ 80 to spend. per month, or 100 rupees per day. Depending on the circumstances, the state can help those in need, for example, to build a house, but people do not become poor, even on the contrary, they want to show themselves more efficient. So, to the question: "Have you received any help from the government? "the answers followed:" Yes, I did","To purchase a motor rickshaw".


The village of Uppugunduru is relatively large, about 3 thousand km away.-

* Participatory Rural Appraisal - research a village by interviewing residents.

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mou. The population exceeds 12 thousand people, yerukala live in a separate quarter. As we found out in the village gram panchayat (village council), there are 16 castes in Uppugupduru, only 40 Brahmin families, and the most numerous caste is Kamma, farmers who are relatively low in the ritual hierarchy.1 Next in number are the "registered tribes"and" registered castes " 2, former untouchables included in the special list approved by the colonial authorities in 1936. They are defined in modern India as dolites - "oppressed" and are, as it were, outside the lower limit of the caste system. These include yerukala. But the" oppressed " in India are not united, and each group stands up only for itself.

This caste phenomenon - "separation" - has been analyzed by many researchers, many hypotheses have been put forward, and the main ones at the moment are the theory of the French sociologists L. Dumont about "ritual hierarchy" and in addition to it - the idea of A. Bouglet about "mutual rejection"3. The fact that all castes have different social and ritual status, and members of one caste do not like all others, is generally recognized, and this explains the many customs, rituals and even gods of each of them. But differences are not demonstrated by behavior, and I have never observed the imperious and arrogant attitude of "higher" to " lower." The villagers behave with dignity and politeness, do not swear every now and then, although they have a lot of reasons.

The houses in Uppugunduru are mostly 2-storey and stone, with flat roofs, like everywhere else in Andhra Pradesh, and the poorer ones in Yerukal are kaccas, buildings made of manure with straw and covered with leaves, in one room (or kitchen-whatever you want to call it), with many pots and buckets, and one bed (regardless of the number of residents) - during the day it stands on its side against the wall.

There are, of course, well-to-do houses, modern in Indian style. The owner of such a house usually has a truck and is engaged in business. I've been to two of them - all the same: lots of buckets and a bed on the side, a wardrobe and a TV. Anyone enters the house, the doors are always open.

The courtyards vary in size and are almost unused - only trampled earth, and in the middle there is a tree with leaves like a mountain ash. Yerukala chew the young shoots of this tree, I tasted it-bitterly. There are no vegetable gardens or they are quite stunted, and mostly something that looks like onions grows.

Residents spend a lot of time outside, old people sit on stone benches along the walls of houses, and young people play volleyball on the playground in the center of the village or loiter around. On weekends, men drink "liqueur", as it is customary to call any alcoholic drink here. On Saturday evening, we watched the return of two friends, as it turned out - the son-in-law and father-in-law, from the "shink" (you could say that from the bar, the function is the same-a different entourage). They did not make any noise or quarrel, but fell asleep in the courtyard. On Sundays, visiting the quarter in the evening was prohibited.

There are two lakes in the village. One provides residents with drinking water, and the second is like a filter. They are separated by an artificial causeway, along which the bus goes. The roads are paved in some places, in particular on the dam, and, as usual, broken.

And the nature is wonderful-huge banyans hang on the shores of lakes, many acacias with huge pods, there are firs. The grass is tough everywhere, and there is not enough of it, the cows do not leave her a chance. They roam all over the village and the villagers take great care of them. Chickens and roosters are exceptionally long-legged, and dogs are shy, just like everywhere else in India. There are also sheep with short hair, which are called goats, maybe they are goats, but they look like sheep, and a lot of pigs with piglets.

The wildlife is represented by chipmunks, butterflies and birds, among which there are more crows and herons. There are a lot of insects, and mostly they are ants of all stripes and sizes, they move only along the roads they know and "talk" with everyone they meet, touching it with their antennae.


For modern India, the problem of tribes is acute, and the government is trying to solve it in many ways-from providing material assistance to those in need to creating a staff of specialists in anthropology. People who have lost their traditional occupations roam the country in search of work in large numbers, which leads to conflicts and unrest. It is no longer possible to restore their previous type of economy. As a result of global warming, monsoon rains have increased, soils are becoming more salty, and erosion-all this leads to the loss of forest areas.

Currently, the tribes live on an area of about 75 thousand hectares, which is very small, given the total number of tribes (about 80 million people), previously engaged in slash-and-burn agriculture, after which the forest is almost not restored. The British established the "Forest Police" in 1894, and since then the forests have been inaccessible to the tribes. Only those who lived by hunting and gathering remained there (for example, chen-chu or birkhor). And many tribes, including the Yerukala, whose lives were connected with the forest, lost their traditional means of support, receiving almost nothing in return.

Current efforts to "plant" nomadic tribes on the land of re-

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the result is poor, not because no one wants to give them land, but because they simply don't have it to give to someone else. So there is not much to" plant " on. Private ownership of land in India has not been abolished - the cultivated land belongs to four Varks* for the last couple of thousand years.

Attempts have been made to relocate tribes, including those from areas of natural deposits, to untreated and swampy soils, providing a loan for the development of horticultural4, and this policy will probably continue simply because of its inevitability. The main occupation of the tribes today is all kinds of services and crafts, and even then in the best case.

The Yerukala were a nomadic tribe with a clear craft specialization - men made baskets, and women read fortunes by hand. Currently, most of them have settled on land, although they almost do not own it, renting it from more" arranged " castes in life. A rich Indian family has 5 acres or more of land, which is a lot to farm on their own, and is often rented out. In the Cirala area, almost all the land is rice-growing and well-watered by the British-built canal, so the harvest is plentiful and the rent pays for itself. An ordinary yerukala family has several sources of income : agriculture, various services, traditional basket making, and fortune-telling, which should be mentioned separately.

Fortune-telling is bad. In Uppugunduru, women are ready to guess if they are asked, but few people ask for reasons that are generally understandable in the XXI century, which leads to a reluctance to master this difficult specialty for the younger generation. The session costs about Rs 10 and doesn't take much time. Only one woman from yerukal in the village is considered a true fortune teller, but, as residents complained, she cannot eliminate negative factors from the client's point of view, but only indicates their source or cause. In my understanding of divination, this is quite enough, but people want more for their money.

Basket weaving is also not easy. The source of the material is far away - the Nalomala forest is 60 km away, but you can find the right plants closer, they grow along the banks of streams and rivulets, and as a business, weaving is still alive. A basket on the market costs between Rs 40 and Rs 150 depending on the properties and size. Traditionally, two main types of baskets are made - metasuwa and etasuwa. The first option is more expensive and more durable, since such a basket has special longitudinal stiffeners; etasuva does not have them, and it is, in fact, an ordinary basket. The size can be any, but it seems to me that they are trying to make them larger, there is not much more trouble, the main difficulty is to make the bottom and transverse ribs. They are also more expensive, and it is easier for a large basket to compete with a plastic bucket - a bucket of the same size is really expensive.


Of the main four places of worship in the village, the largest is dedicated to Shiva** and decorated with cobras, the second is Sai Baba***, the third is the yerukala temple, and the fourth, a Christian one, I saw only briefly from the bus window.

Usually, a caste or tribe has its own patron deity, who is served in their small temples. Most often, these are small buildings with a dome too small to enter-you can only see through the bars what is inside. Most often, it is impossible to understand, and it is pointless to ask: no one except the members of the idol-worshipping caste knows or cares about its name. Such painted buildings can be on the road, can be in the yards - I did not see them at yerukal.

They dedicated a temple to their god - four pilasters support a rectangular portico under a canopy; above, along the edges - two lambs, and in the central niche - a light-skinned man "in glory", two more lambs at crossed legs, and flowers in his hands. His name is Polyrama (or Polraj), and the Yerukalas worship him and his two sisters, Maramma and Ankamma, as they call them.

People from the village call the gods by their own names, which eventually take root. This promotes religious tolerance. The phenomenon of "universalization" 5, when a "local" deity enters the Hindu pantheon with his status as a full-fledged god, thereby, as it were, including the group worshipping him in the caste system, is characteristic of the entire unique Indian religion and explains a lot. The Yerukalas do not reject the main deities of Hinduism; and Allah and Jesus, as it turned out, are not questioned by them, but this is rather from a reluctance to quarrel and empty disputes.

Each tribe has its own "divine comedy" and its own pantheon of gods. Yerukala prefer Polyrama with their sisters.

I happened to be present at the groundbreaking of the temple in honor of the last of the sisters, Ankamma. Brahmans from the village conducted

* The Sanskrit Varnas-Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Sudras-are a social stratification of the Aryan tribes since the Rig Veda, and do not include any tribes or Dalits.

** Shiva (Skt. - good, merciful) - in Hinduism represents the power of creative destruction. One of the deities of the supreme triad (trimurti) along with Brahma and Vishnu.

*** Sai Baba I (Shirdu Sai Baba ) is an Indian miracle worker and preacher. He taught religious tolerance and openness to knowledge. Usually Sai Baba is depicted as an old man with a small beard, sitting in a characteristic pose with his right leg on his left knee, as if in a half-lotus, and leaning forward a little, blessing the interested person with his right hand.

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a puja (worship ceremony) that was very carefully designed for this occasion, but also included local elements, or rather one that could be identified. To explain it, you will have to briefly describe the entire procedure.

The construction of the temple in stages already lasted a whole year, first-the demolition of the shed, then-the transfer of idols, and so on. I witnessed a ceremony on the occasion of digging holes under the roof supports, or rather, laying the foundation.

At first, a well-respected man in the village would pick up a crowbar, drive it into the ground where the pile would be dug in, and hit it on top with a coconut until it broke. The nut split easily, perhaps as a good omen, and the coconut milk spilled onto the ground. You could start digging holes. Then a lingam (phallic stone) was placed in each one, and the women went down and rubbed it with various spices and dyes and poured water over it. When a large puddle formed at the bottom, the women tied colored rags around the linga and left it alone.

The men built bonfires between the pits and sat in a circle, the women joined them, and puja began, with various gifts of nature pleasing to the gods, starting from rice and ending with red and yellow powders that are both spice, dye, and flavor at the same time. Whenever something new got into the fire and smoke came out, people smoothly collected it in their hands and washed their faces with it, as they do everywhere in India.

Everything happened under a song-prayer sung into the microphone by two young brahmins and interspersed with the recitative of the older, bass-toned one. Usually such a service can last an hour or more, and when I began to lose interest at the end of the second hour, something happened that seemed unexpected and funny to me. The men around the campfires got up and began to spin rapidly in a counterclockwise direction for three minutes or more. There was something primal about it, like dancing around a campfire.

What exactly? Let's make a small digression into the cult of Polyrama. The keepers of the tradition, amanmala, tell stories about Polyram. Others, madhiga, accompany the story with a drum accompaniment, and at midnight a "secret" prabba ceremony takes place at the temple door. All of this-sacred stories and secret night drum-driven ceremonies-harkens back to a time when both baskets and fortune-telling were in high demand. And, perhaps, this rotation around its own axis is an element of entering the state necessary to meet Polyrama in his wonderful world, the head is spinning. But whether this is true or not, we are unlikely to know for certain...

Maramma is also quite revered. On the right day, people come together from all sides of the village, craftsmen make a figure of the deity from manure with straw, and a sacrifice is made: they kill and roast a pig, drink "liquor" and have fun. And then the idol is destroyed - the head is torn off and thrown into the bushes, and then everything else.

And finally-the demon Disti Boma (Purili, or Rakshegi, or whatever you want). His image with his tongue sticking out and three front teeth hangs on every house in the village, scaring away other spirits, regardless of whether it is a house of a brahmana, Zalit or a Muslim. Everyone is well aware that such a scary face can not fail to protect them. Disti Boma is not a "classical" Hindu phenomenon, but it is ubiquitous in Andhra Pradesh, at least among students it did not cause any questions or surprise.

* * *

The path of the Yerukala tribe to traditional Indian society began a long time ago, much was taken from the "Big Tradition", and the Yerukala quite fit into the Indian social structure. But changes in people's minds take time, and the world is changing faster and faster. The East is particularly dynamic - the Indian economy is growing steadily with second-best results after China, and Yerukal faces intense competition with all the "many nations" that collectively inhabit the country.

And I hope that the staff of applied anthropologists trained by Indian universities will help all these people not only to find a place in the new world, but also to preserve for it their gaiety and frivolity, curiosity and openness, childlike spontaneity and natural joy. Save something of your own.

* The residents did not go into explanations, and it can be said that its meaning was not clear to me.

1 L. Dumont believes that the current system of hierarchy in Indian society is based on the idea of ritual purity and this determines the position and status of the individual. See: Dumont L. Homo Hierarchicus: The Caste System and its Implications. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1988.

Dumont L. 2 Op. cit.

Bougie C. 3 The Essence and Reality of the Caste System. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2006.

4 As a result of the Kolcha and Kotwali resettlement program in south Gujarat, which is being presented as a success, 20% of families have managed to survive and somehow make ends meet, with incomes of about $ 100 a year. A lot of land was developed and a lot of trees were grown, but what happened to the remaining 80% of families is not delicately reported.

5 The concepts of" parallelization "and" universalization "(parochialization & universalization) were introduced by Marriott McKim to determine the influence of the" Big " religious tradition of Hinduism on local cults in the first case and the degree of perception of local deities by the "Big" religious tradition in the second. See: McKim Marriott. Little Communities in an Indigenous Civilization. London: University of Chicago Press, 1954.


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