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Andhra Pradesh

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About Us  >>  Indigenous People
Indigenous People

The Nallamalai Hills spread over in the districts of Kurnool, Prakasham, Guntur (State of Andhra Pradesh), Mahaboobnagar and Nalgonda (State of Telangana) constitute the traditional habitat of Chenchus, the food gathering and hunting tribe of Andhra Pradesh.

The population of Chenchus is 49,232 as per 2001 census. The total literacy rate among them is 32.28 out of which male literacy rate is 40.87 and female is 23.45 as per 2001 census. Their mother tongue is Telugu.

The chenchu tribe is divided into a number of exogamous clans which are prefixed to their names. Some of the clans found among Chenchus are Mandli, Chigurla, Udathala, Tokala, Mekala, Bhumani, Katraju, Arthi, Dasari etc.

Family is nuclear. A very few joint families are also found. Chenchu tribe is patriarchal and patrilineal. Monogamy is the most prevalent form of marriage. Polygyny is also practiced but it is rare. Marriage by negotiation, by elopement and by mutual consent are found to be methods of acquiring mates. Cross-cousin marriages are the most preferred. Marriage by service and by exchange are also practiced. Levirate or marrying oneís own elder brotherís widow seems to have been practiced in the past but now-a days it is on the wane. In addition to the payment of bride price, the groom or his parents have to bear the expenditure for the marriage.

They collect varieties of roots, tubers, wild fruits, edible leaves etc., and consume them. They are non-vegetarians but abstain from eating beef. The traditional house of a chenchu is a small conical or oblong hut with wattle walls and thatched roof.

Goats, sheep, buffaloes and cows are the domestic animals and there may be plough bullocks with cultivating families.

Chenchus are adept in honey collection from honey combs perched on the mountain cliffs and caves. They also collect minor forest produce items like gum, tamarind, myrobalans, nuxvomica, honey wax, mohwa flowers, chironji, soap nuts, broom-sticks etc., and sell them to Girijan Co-operative Corporation.

The measures of social control are practiced among chenchus through a council of elders of the village and is headed by a man called a Peddamanishi. Chenchus generally state that Peddamanishi is always succeeded in office by his eldest son but they also admit that this rule is by no means always followed and that any sensible man may become Peddamanishi even if there is a son to the deceased holder. The disputes among Chenchus are generally settled by the traditional council.

They worship and believe in many deities and spirits both malevolent and benevolent and follow all Hindu festivals. Their religious pantheon includes Mysamma, Rakta Veradu, Onti Veeradu, Peddamma, Lingamaiah, Mallanna, Narasimhaswamy, Pothuraju, Nagamaiah Sunkulamma, Manthanalamma, Ankalamma etc.

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