India has the largest population of tribal people in the world making up 8.6% of its population. Odisha (also known as Orissa) is home to the largest number of tribes (sixty two in total) and is one of the few places in India that remains relatively undiscovered.
Each tribe expresses their distinct identity through traditional dress, jewellery, tattoos, dance and music, resulting in Odisha’s intricate patchwork of culture.
We stayed in a place called Chandoori Sai, an oasis in the middle of a rural pottery village encircled by rice paddy fields. We were greeted by Leon, a rather eccentric Aussie who visited India over 50 times before moving here permanently. He has a beautiful team of Paraja girls who belong to the village tribe. The girls are kept busy cooking, cleaning and maintaining the 2 acre stretch of land which is home to a beautiful mango tree (Chandoori means mango tree and Sai is the word used to describe the row of potters houses just outside).
We were taken to the local fruit and veg market which was the highlight for me. Meeting the tribal people here was amazing and even though no one spoke a word of English, they were so welcoming and interacted with us as best they could be. I was fascinated by the way they looked, the different ways they tie their saris depending on which tribe they belong to – not to mention the array of elaborate facial jewellery.
Another highlight for me was a German lady named Ruth who stayed at Chandoori Sai with us. I really clicked with her and can’t wait to visit her in Hamburg at some point. She was so interesting and had the best one liners. During a walk around the village we were lucky enough to be joined by a villager named Ravendra who also works for Leon – he acted as a translator so that we could interact with the tribespeople. They were so curious about us with so many questions to ask: Were we married? Did we have children? Why didn’t we have children? Why is my hair so light? Is my hair real? Etc. They asked Ruth if she was married, she explained she was but is now divorced. Divorce is very rare in India, almost unheard of in rural communities so they were quite taken aback. Ruth gave them a good talking to about how women don’t need lazy men! The women found this completely hilarious as did we.
Raw tobacco & its photogenic seller.
Luke sampling the local home brew at 9am
image We swung by the sheep and goat market on the way back, it would have been rude not to.
Leon happened to make the most incredible pizza’s which was unexpected and a lovely break from our constant diet of curries. Replacing the usual tomato base with mustard and horseradish sounds weird but once you try it I guarantee you will never look back.