Khond Birds

Ref. Number: 1075, 1076

Country: India

Material: Bronze alloy

Khond bronze sculpture

Khond bronze sculpture

The Khonds, or Kandhs are an aboriginal tribe of India, inhabiting the tributary states of Orissa and Srikakulam, in the Visakhapatnam districts of Andhra Pradesh. They are hunter gatherers.

The Khonds became notorious during the British occupation of their district about 1835 for the prevalence and cruelty of the human sacrifices they practiced. These Meriah sacrifices were intended to further the fertilization of the earth. The old Khond sacrifice of the Meriah involved a human subject held in captivity for long periods prior to the rite. After several days of devotional rituals and sanctification, the victim was put to death by strangulation or pressure. The body was then dismembered and the pieces strewn among the fields, except for the portion offered to the earth goddess which was buried. Ultmately this practice was prohibited in the year 1845. Today Khonds have resorted to giving goats and buffaloes as offerings.

Many rural people in India, including the Khond, hold strong animist religious beliefs in addition to Hindu beliefs; therefore, the themes of tribal Dhokra statues include figures of people, monkeys, buffaloes, snakes and birds.

Khond bronze sculpture

Khond bronze sculpture

Most metal images are made in brass of various compositions. In the lost-wax casting process the artist utilizes beeswax to create the desired sculptural form, wrapping coils or sheets of wax around a central clay armature. Once the final shape is achieved a mold of fine clay is made around the wax, leaving channels for molten metal to be poured in and for melted wax to flow out. The whole assembly is then fired to harden the clay and to expel the wax. Next, the molten alloy is poured into the mold and allowed to cool. Finally, the mold is broken apart with a hammer and the metal figure is revealed.

Also, many of the tribal peoples of India have a tradition of ancestor worship. Most of the statues were made to fulfill the religious needs of the rural people, to put in the village shrine or household altar.

More information:
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Castes and Tribes of Southern India, Volume 1 By Edgar Thurston, K. Rangachari
Music, Possession and Shamanism among Khond Tribes (PDF zipped)

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