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Ghotul Custom And System In Bastar Among Muria Tribe

Ghotul is a kind of dormitory of Muria, who are the inhabitants of North Bastar, where unmarried men and women freely establish sexual relations. This is sanctioned by the tribe and is an integral part of Muria society.

Origin Of Ghotul In Muria Tribal Society

There is an intriguing legend behind the origin of the custom. It is said that Lingo Pen is a Muria deity and founder of the Muria Ghotul. Legend has it that Lingo Pen was a proficient musician. He first taught the art of drumming to tribal boys. Amongst the Murias, a good drummer is regarded as a good lover. A Muria proverb says: "One who can beat a drum knows how to beat a girl in love." In the mythological accounts of the Murias, Lingo Pen is all-powerful. No witch or ghost can invade the atmosphere of the Ghotul because of his invisible presence. Since Lingo is also the God of love, sin has no place within the Ghotul’s boundary.

Ghotul consists of a large hut or a group of huts. It is normally located far away from the village but is sometimes found in the center of the village also. The term comes from the Gonda dialect.

The youth of Muria assemble here after sunset. The evening begins with the arrival of boys who bring their sleeping mats, tobacco pouches and the like, along with them. They settle down round the fire or in the compound. Some of them smoke while the others start playing their instruments. Soon girls arrive and song and dance begins in earnest.

There is a great deal of singing, dancing, storytelling, chatting, fun and laughter. Most of the dances and games are sexually suggestive and provocative. Notable among these are the Mandri (drum) dance and the Hulki (somewhat like a snake dance). The latter is a particularly engaging dance wherein the boys move in a ring while the girls thread their way through them. (This dance is also performed during weddings and other celebrations).

Finally, the boys and girls start pairing off. However, the final decision regarding the pairing rests with the leader of the boys called Sirdar and the leader of the girls called Belosa. They ensure that not only romance but also an element of duty is involved in the pairing. Hence even the ones who are not physically attractive are not bypassed but get an equal chance to be paired and enjoy the romantic ambience of the democratic Ghotul.

There are two types of Ghotul. In the older type, the boys and girls pair off in a somewhat permanent relationship that lasts until marriage. In the modern type, such exclusive pairing is forbidden and partners must constantly be changed. In the Ghotul, the boy members are known as Chelik and the girls as Motiari.

There are similar institutions found amongst some other Indian tribes as well. But none of them are as disciplined and as well-organised as the Ghotul of the Murias. Inferior type of community-houses are found among other tribes of India like: Gitiora of the Hos and Mundas, Dhumkuria of the Oraons, Yo of the Ao Nagas, Morang of the Konyak and Sema Nagas, Rangbang of the Bhotias and Ilochi or Ikuichi of the Memis. However, these do not perform the same kind of role in the development of society, as does the Ghotul.

The Ghotul is a place where boys and girls are trained to overcome attachments, jealousies and possessiveness. In the Ghotul, friendliness, sympathy and unity are of prime importance. Instead of individualistic love, there is community love and individualism does not have any place within the Ghotul. The Ghotul helps in the emotional growth of the young people. It also binds their society together, and helps the Muria boys and girls to grow up in a kind of group discipline. It is ‘a kingdom of the unmarried,’ says one of the Muria folk songs.

Members of the ghotul are expected to help villagers, especially at the time of weddings, festivals and other common activities. Many of the skills connected with tribal lifestyle are picked up by the new generation in the ghotul activities, which can be described as participatory training.

Sourcenotes taken from article in Tribune ‘A kingdom of the unmarried’ by Ruby Gupta in The Sunday Tribune India – March 3, 2002.