Gadaba

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Gadaba is one of nearly twenty scripts created by Dr. Prasanna Sree for indigenous and minority groups, mostly in Andhra Pradesh. She writes:

Gadaba or Gutub is a Mundari language spoken by the Gadaba, a Scheduled Tribe living in the Agency Area of north coastal Andhra Pradesh.

Linguistically, people of Gadaba tribe belong to the Mundari dialect. They are farmers, but hunting and fishing make additional contributions to their food supply. The Gadaba women are good at weaving bark fiber cloth on miniature looms of their own manufacture and the woven fabric is dyed by them with various vegetable dyes. In fact, no Gadaba girl is considered qualified for marriage until she has acquired the requisite skill on the loom. The enormous wire rings worn by Gadaba women as ear ornaments have also attracted considerable notice.

The village headmen have very little power, the influence of a person in the community depending on his ability and economic resources. The village council holds its meetings on stone seats under a tree. As these stone seats are associated with the spirits of the dead, the discussions are conducted in a sacred atmosphere and the decisions arrived at have added validity for that reason. They call themselves mogililu or modililu in their own dialect in the Srikakulam District. The Gadaba were formerly employed as palanquin-bearers.

This tribe owes its name to the fact that its ancestors emigrated from the banks of the Gadabari (Godavari) river, and settled at Nandapur, the former capital of the Rajas of Jeypore. Some evidence says that they can be called Kadava, as in Tamil, because of their prominent earrings, kadu in Tamil meaning “ear.” It may be more proper to derive their name from the Sanskrit gatvara, which in Odia means “locomotive,” and palanquin-bearers may deserve the adjective gatvara. Another derivation may be from the Sanskrit kadavada, which means speaking indistinctly. There is no more indistinct speech than that of the Gadaba, for their words are rarely heard. Kadavada also means vile or contemptible.

The Gadaba are distributed in the Agency Area of Visakhapatnam, Vizanagaram and Srikakulam districts and in certain agency tracts of Koraput and Ganjam districts of Orissa. According to the 1971 Census the total population of the Gadaba was 25,108. In the State of Jeypore they are the only representative of the Munda speaking people and they are “now a small occupational group of palanquin-bearers, living east of Jagadalpur.”

There is a low level of literacy among the Gadaba, and their language is rarely written.

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