Days after Cyclone Phailin struck the east coast of India and in particular Orissa/Odisha , we arrived in the area.

We arrived into Vishakhapatnam early in the morning and prepared for our journey into the Wednesday weekly tribal market of the Gadabba and Kondh tribes.

Through low cloud and torrential rain we were still able to appreciate some wonderful verdant countryside, the mountain Countryside in Orissaranges looming on the horizon.

Once at the market we experienced many eyes staring at us, especially when we purchased some local sweets.  Through sign language and the help of our guide, we ascertained that the tribal man who was signing to us had lost his teeth due to eating these sweets.  They were incredibly hard but did soften up after a few days.

The different tribes are distinguished from each other by their clothing and their piercings. However they were all fascinated by seeing “pale skin” tourists and welcomed us and encouraged us to purchase items from them.We were taken to a school and with the biscuits that we had bought, handed them out to the children.

Ladies from Kondh TribeEach child came up tous, some with trepidation, to receive their “present”.  No one ate the biscuit until every child had theirs and the teacher gave them permission to do so.  It made us feel so humble to see what a simple biscuit meant to these children.  We take so much for granted and then you are brought back to earth with an almighty bang, just to see the expression on the children’s faces to receive something that is an everyday item for us, but a luxury to them.

The Thursday and Friday markets were similar to that on Wednesday but with different tribes and costumes, in fact we saw 5 different tribes at one of the markets which was brilliant.

We visited other schools and different villages and saw the conditions that they live and work in.  We learned about the Weekly marketmarriage rituals, where the girls and boys are able to select their partners rather than having arranged marriages.

Our experience in these tribal areas was something that we had not felt in any other state of India and in a way we felt it was like living in a bygone age, without the pressure of life that we accept as “normal” now.

The state of Orissa is one of the poorest in India and I would recommend you visit it whilst it still maintains its unspoilt lifestyle.  The countryside is magnificent and the markets and villages are so interesting and unspoilt.

Combine these areas with the temple areas of Puri and Bhubaneswar for an experience not to be forgotten.Temple at Puri

Rikki Wallman    November 2013

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