Nilima Sinha
JUNGU: THE BAIGA PRINCESS by Vithal Rajan Young Zubaan, New Delhi, 2014, 115 pp., 250
November 2014, volume 38, No 11

Who are the Baigas? The author explains that the Baigas are Gonds, a tribal community that inhabits the forest areas of central India. Like the author, I have spent some years in the area around Raipur, now part of Chattisgarh, as well as in the forested areas of Jharkhand. I remember tribal women as slim, lithe figures, bare bodies wrapped only in saris, loads of firewood on heads, walking gracefully along roads we drove through. Their huts, always clean and neat, were pretty and picturesque with their painted walls.

But this was in the past, years ago.

When I travel now, in Jharkhand where I live, village women are seen dressed in colorful blouses and bright, synthetic saris. The neat mud huts with their painted walls are not visible any more. The forests are still there, but where are the people who once inhabited them? Many have been absorbed in the urban jungles that have replaced our forests, some have migrated to cities in search of work, and others may still be living there, but are giving up their old way of life to cope with a changing world.

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