Jaypore turned out to be a pleasant surprise. One of the oldest and most prominent cities of Odisha, it is tucked away in the Eastern Ghats and has a rich royal history. though not much of it remains. Dense forests, waterfalls and a lively tribal culture make up contemporary Jaypore‘s urbanscape and it sees a moderate amount of tourist footfall. Being located very close to Chattisgarh and Telengana, Jaypore is home to many government offices, colleges and research centres. That is why the local hotels are much nicer, cleaner and professionally run and the city has a lovely mixed linguistic culture. Interestingly despite being so regionally important, Jaypore retained a charming lost world feel. Droopy banyan tree tunnels, lively tribal markets and hilly forested roads made the largest town of Koraput district of Odisha a very likable place.

I liked Jaypore a lot and was happy to make it my base for the next few days. That night, post dinner Sarat prepped me for my upcoming visit to the famous Ankadeli market and I listened to his strict instructions with open mouthed amazement. The Ankadeli market was used by the famous Bonda tribe and they were quite well known for their hostility towards outsiders. Belonging to the PTG (Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group) category, Bondas are found only in the undivided Koraput area (Khairput area in Malkangiri district) and are perhaps one of the most photogenic tribes of India. The ladies of these rather small statured people adorn their bare bodies with multiple coral and antique coin necklaces, hollow aluminium and bronze neck rings, metal bangles, intricate ear studs and hoops. Coin finger rings and an elaborate headgear on their clean shaved head complete their attire and the only piece of cloth, they sport, is a tiny loincloth made from the bark of a local tree.

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A beautiful morning

A heavily beaded belt holds the loincloth in place and they tuck a weapon or two inside it. On market days because of the exposure with the outside world, the Bonda ladies throw blue wraps over their bare backs, which they otherwise keep naked. Their men also wear a loincloth which cover only the front and they always carry multiple weapons on their persons. An axe always adorn their shoulders, along with a dagger, a sheaf of arrows and a bamboo bow. In the past, these poison tipped arrows were generously used and even today, the Bondas are famous for being extremely hostile, pugnacious and heavy drinkers. Due to gradual commercialisation and growing contact with the outside world, the Bonda women have become friendlier over the years, but their men remain mostly hostile.

With such jaw dropping photogenic oppurtunities, it seemed a bit sad that photography was strictly not allowed at Ankadeli market, but the heavy insurgent infestation of the area made the situation pretty grave. Despite, all the troubles, Ankadeli was a very busy market and residents of the neighbouring Telangana state frequented it too. They were joined by the Bonda, Gadaba and Mali community people and each tribe was more eye catching than the other. Held every Thursday, near the interstate border of Odisha and Telangana, Ankadeli required a long drive from Jaypore and it was a beautiful journey through the pristine hinterland.

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Remote Odisha hinterland

The morning too dawned bright and beautiful and Jaypore was veiled with soft swirling mists. We left the city early to go with our long drive and the morning air was soft and scented. Flowers bloomed riotously scenting the air wild and huge patches of agricultural fields lay dappled in green and gold. Sarat, seeing my curiosity, stopped at a tribal village en route and we went for a walk around the hamlet. The village was called Janiguda and belonged to the Paraja tribe. It was big and well planned with a headman who also doubled up as the priestess. Fully equipped with a functional school, medical clinic and a ration shop, Janiguda looked thriving. Huge tracts of government allocated cashew nut plantations stretched around it and the villagers engaged in agriculture heavily. Animal husbandry, black pepper farming and forest development work also seemed to be in full swing and large signboards proclaimed them to be government funded enterprises.

Deep connection with nature, being the essence of tribal life, the local government introduced the projects to help them be financially independent. It was a far cry from the usual deprived, exploited image of the tribal society and as we proceeded towards Ankadeli, that morning became more and more eye opening.

TRAVEL TIP – En route to Ankadeli market, do stop by at the small Gunie Pada school in Lamataput area, if time permits. It is a residential school for the tribal children and the visit is guaranteed to be eye opening. The entire education system, method of learning etc are based around nature and the residential nature prevent children from skipping classes. Squeaky clean and fully equipped with learning materials, Gunie Pada school is just another example of progress in the tribal communities. Though, slow, but steady, modern development has reached most of the tribal villages of the area and in spite of their clinging onto traditional lifestyles, the indigenous communities had access to bore wells, schools, medical dispensaries, modern toilets  and special housing loans.

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The morning of the

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Ankadeli market visit

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Dispelled many myths

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And images from my mind.                                  Image Credit – Lou Wilson

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The Gunie Pada school

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With its neat rows of students

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And the Janiguda village

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Made me see the adivasi lifestyle

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And its deep connection with nature

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With a much clearer perspective.

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It is a culture embedded with sense, values

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And gratitude

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To nature.

RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE