The Koya tribe, thickly populated in the Chinthur Mandal, of the Bhadrachalam agency in Andhra Pradesh, are migrants from the Bastar region in northern India, who live on both sides of the Godavari river. Physically they are classified as Australoid and they call themselves “Koithur”.
They are one of the few multi-lingual and multi-racial tribes in India. Their population in Andhra Pradesh counts up to 106,000 and almost 795,000 spread out in other states of India like Telangana and Odisha.
Cultural Heritage The Koya Tribe
Koyas also live in Chhattisgarh as a mixed tribe with the Gond tribe, which had a considerable
influence on their language, Koyi, which is closely related to both Gondi and Telugu, which is their primary language.
They believed life to be originated from water, according to their mythology. All Koya belong to one of five sub-divisions called gotrams. Every Koya is born into a clan, and he cannot leave it.
The Koyas are farmers by occupation, who depend on rain for irrigation, with the slash and burn cultivation techniques being their traditional mode of agriculture.
However, the government has now restricted their movement and has encouraged them to farm on fixed plots. They showed the Koya how to farm coconut and coffee. They also granted the Koya permanent ownership rights to their land if they would grow rice there.
Their staple diet is sorghum and they survive on palm juice for over 4 months, and consider the palm tree as a gift of nature and to secure this gift they worship the village Goddess “Muthyalamma” and consume mohuva liquor to get relief from the physical hardship of the day and to withstand extreme variations in the climate. They are also expert hunters, owing to their need for food and safety from the wild animals. In their culture, Cattle are symbols of wealth.
Most of their festivals are related to agricultural operations, and they worship the Earth-Goddess “Bhudevi” and enlist the co-operation of the Goddess by offering animal sacrifices during the festival. They believe that sowing seeds that are soaked in sacrificial blood bring them good crops.
Birth, marriage, and death are the three important aspects of life and each event is celebrated on a grand scale in Koya society. The Bison-horn dance is a special feature on the occasion of a marriage ceremony among the Koyas. And they do not believe in heaven, hell, or reincarnation.