Dandami Maria or Bison-horn Maria as they are popularly known as, are among the oldest tribes of Central India. Their distinctive headgear is one of the most charming cultural attributes.
Over centuries the Dandami Maria tribals have led a secluded and isolated life in Orchha, a tiny, sleepy village in Bastar district of Madhya Pradesh. The Dandami Maria tribe considers the market-day as an opportunity for socializing, and hence the entire family is walks on their toes. In a competition held at market they would win awards for long-distance speed walking: a family may cover forty to fifty kilometers a day, with a load on each member’s head, through difficult forests and mountain terrain, and yet go without eating food for a whole day! The tribals have a unique way of carrying their belongings: they carry their bow on the shoulders, and from either end hangs a bamboo basket in which is stored cookware and the produce to be sold.
To entertain themselves, young boys and girls chat and sing, reminding one of a flock of screeching parrots. Dandami Marias are starved of hard cash, and therefore have to go for barter for goods. They exchange produce such as honey, liquor, and mustard-seeds for oil, salt, chilies, and jaggery.
For Dandami Marias their life partner is a gift of God. There is nothing the female partner will not or cannot do. The wife fondles the husband like a child, loves him like a lover, keeps him company like a true companion, respects him like a partner, and works with him as an equal.
Dandami Marias wear headgear made of a pair of buffalo horns, wrapped with yellow and red ribbons and a bunch of rare plumes tucked in the center. (This sort of headgear has led to the tribe’s popular name `Buffalo-Horn Maria` even though they prefer to be called ‘Dandami Maria’). Numerous cowrie strands dangled from this headgear hiding the dancer’s faces from onlookers. An elongated drum was tied to their waist.
The girls’ hair-buns were decorated with red, blue and white ribbons, wooden combs, and hairpins. They wear numerous, colorful strands of beads around their foreheads. They also decorate their necks with necklaces made of coins, and also wore glass bangles. Each dancer carried a baton that had tiny bells attached. Though they do not use any color for their make-up, their costumes themselves gave them a very majestic look.
The boys move forward and backward in a semi-circle and the girls follow their steps. When the drums and bells synchronized to produce rhythmic music, the girls commence singing in very low voice.
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