Museum of Tribal Art & Artefacts

Museum of Tribal Art & Artefacts in Bhubaneswar is popularly known as tribal museum of Odisha. The state of Odisha is uniquely proud for its tinted spread of ethnic mosaic brought over by its 62 culturally vibrant tribes including 13 Primitive Tribal Groups (PTGs), who are found sprinkled all over the state. Constituting 22.13% of the state population and numbering 81.45 lacks of people as per 2001 census, the tribal people showcase a rainbow of material culture and cultural trappings, which are held beautifully in an ethnic kaleidoscope. One can see them in different stages of mainstreaming, but the inbuilt ethnicity is still there, reflecting the vibes of tribal world in their culturally significant objects, indigenous knowledge and technology, settlement pattern, house types, mode of subsistence, food habits, adornment, language, dance, music, belief system and shrines, social organization, customary law, painting and traditional practice of health and hygiene. In each aspect, the aesthetic manifestation is blended inclusively with its utilitarian and cultural specific motifs.

The tribal museum is located in the sprawling campus of SCSTRTI in Bhubaneswar near CRPF Square, adjacent to NH-5. The grandiloquent edifice of the museum building amid deep greenery and never fading flower garden all around provides endlessly an ambience of tribal environ, where the museum exhibits panoramic view of the tribal world of Odisha. In nutshell, it is a Museum of Man, showing the continuum of past and present on the canvas of evolution of material culture vis-à-vis the man himself.

The textile and ornaments section, exhibits the indigenously woven textiles of the tribal people by their make shift loom. Various items of textiles and ornaments different tribes are spectacularly displayed in wall mounted showcases. The traditional ethnic fabrics include textiles like the Ringas of Bondas, Phuta Saree of Santal, Gatungkap of Lanjia Saora, Shaska of Kutia Kondh, Kunti of Juang, Kerang of Gadaba, Kisal of Didayi, Drilli – the long tailed loin cloth of Lanjia Saora men, and Phuta Kacha – the Santal men’s wear etc. The Ringa, Kerang and Kisal are traditional women’s wear hand woven by the tribal women themselves out of natural fiber and by application of vegetable dyes. A large collection of tribal ornaments have been displayed in this section some of which are now out of circulation and have become antiquities. Their attractive patterns, intricate designs and aesthetics are a feast to the eye. Among them, there are coin and bead necklaces like Taka Mecodica of Dongria Kondh, Puste of Koya, Dabu Lubeida of Bonda, Gunjuli Mali of Gadaba, Shaska of Kutia Kondh, Tangam of Saora Silver jewelleries of Santal, and brass and aluminum ornaments of various other tribes.

The ethnic Dhokra craft and musical instrument section displays the creativity and aesthetic sense of our tribesmen. Many Dhokra items and varieties of musical instruments are exhibited in the gallery belonging to different tribes such as Bathudi, Desia, Kondh, Dongria Kondh, etc. Among Dhokra items, Desia Kondh’s Lionet, Pagi and Snake Charmer are found cheek-in-jowl with ox-head of Bathudi and elephant of Bhuinyan. These are special attractions for the visitors. Several musical instruments like horn trumpet of Kutia Kondh and Lanjia Saora, double membrane drum of the Holva, string instrument of Santal, Changu of Juang etc transport the visitors to musical friendly tribes living in the distant tribal habitation.

The agricultural implements and tribal household objects section provides the panoramic view of the shifting and settled agricultural practice and the concomitant building of an ethnic civilization. Most importantly variety of hoes of PTGs like Juang, Mankirdia and Kutia Kondh, wooden plough of advanced tribal farmers like Oraon and Kisan are showcased. A large collection of tribal household objects, such as gourd container of Dongria Kondh, oil extractor pot of Siali fibre of Mankirdia, wine container of Paroja and Lanjia Saora provide a tribal ambience of tribal households in the exhibiting place.

The hunting and fishing implements of various tribes including the PTGs are placed in another display hall. It includes axe of Kondh, spear of Paroja, peculiar bows and arrows of different tribes that provide study inputs to inquisitive visitors and researchers. The presence of a variety of nets, traps showing glimpses of simple adaptive technologies of Mankirdia, Kutia Kondh, Kisan, gum sticks of Juang and Paudi Bhuyan, fish basket of Bondo, fishing trap of Gond add beauty and diversity to the museum.

The art & photo gallery section captures shots of tribal men and women pursuing their routine activities. The visitor’s attention is drawn to the well snapped photographs of magico- religious practices and functionaries of Saora, Dongria Kondh and other tribes, famous wall paintings (Anital) of Lanjia Saora, Koya dance, and Bonda and Dongria Kondh women in their traditional costumes.

Tribal people are religiously very idiosyncratic to be held by their respective seat of the holy shrines. In the spacious open air courtyard inside the museum building several shrines of different tribes have been installed. The replication of these sacred institutions provides the visitors firsthand information about the mode of tribal worship symbolized by elements of nature i.e., stone slabs and of carved wood and bamboo with esoteric and natural color combination.

Five tribal huts replicating the traditional housing architecture of five important tribes viz, the Santal, Juang, Gadaba, Saora and Kondh stand on the eastern side of the museum complex. The surrounding green cover and grassy knoll bring a sense of déjà-vue of the forlorn tribal habitation.

A centrally air-conditioned auditorium having sitting arrangement for 112 people annexed to the museum building provides a venue for cultural interface of the ethnic performing arts, dance, musical get together with the visitors.

The Tribal Museum, surrounded by a sprawling campus has steadily grown over past five decades. It has been serving as a springboard for eco-tourism in Tribal Odisha. Overseas eco-tourists come to the museum as their first itinerary before fanning out to the backwater of tribal Odisha. Scholars, students and general public are also visiting this institution and their number is increasing over years. This ethnographic museum depicting the ethnicity and rich tribal heritage of Odisha has found place in the map of UNESCO.

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