Cashless Economy - The Barter System of Tribes
Spread in 4200 sq km, larger then the state of Goa, Abujmarh is a huge area of dense forest, mountains and several rivers, isolated from the outside world and largely inaccessible,and is also known as "liberated-zone" as it is an alleged hub of Naxalite-Maoist insurgency. It is part of chattisgarh state of India and it is home to indigenous tribes of India, including Muria, Abuj Maria, Gond and Halbaas. Govt. had restricted on the entry of common people in this region, however, couple of year back it has been lifted. It remained untouched by any govt. presence and civil administration since independence of India. Here, Moaoist runs own government known as Janta Sarkar and their courts known as Jan Adalat. Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India has proposed to designate Abujmarh as a biosphere reserve.
It covers 3 district of Chhattisgarh state and is close to the borders of neighboring Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra states. Abujhmah is possibly the only piece of land in the country where there is no revenue map as yet; villagers have no title deeds (patta) to the land they live in or cultivate.
58 year old, Jhotiakhim Khulma belongs to Abuj Maria tribe, living with his tribe deep inside the lush green virgin forest hilly region which is 150 km from Dantewada district. Abuj Maria's gods includes clan gods, an earth-mother, village deities, mountain gods, ancestor spirits and spirits associated with every hill, lake, tree, rock and river. Jhotiakhim is suffering from knee-joint pain since last 2-3 years and "Jebdeba" (local Hakeem / Vaidhya) have urged Jhotiakhim to take greater caution while treking the hill ranges.
He has been advised to exercise caution while carrying any type of load / weight, however, this warning could not stop Jhotiakhim from two day trek, negotiating a hilly terrain, wild animals and rivulets, down the hills of Kabdidola in Abujmarh to the plains of Dantewada to attend annual barter fair.
He along with his tribal group will be carrying head-loads of home grown paddy, forest honey, Jobra (tribal sweets), Chapada Chutney and handcraft items to exchange with other tribes and non-tribal peoples for salt, sugar, mustard oil, soaps and clothes, ornaments and other basic daily needs via barter trade method-- without any monetary transaction. Dressed in a fitted red check cotton lungi with a white gamchha and a strip of printed cloth wrapped around his waist, walked with his tribe group to reach what the locals call their bazaar.
His tribe is proud being part of centuries-old tradition in Abujmarh where people from the hills and plains get together once a year and buy and sell their commodities via barter method. Like Jhotiakhim, thousands of people from across Abujmarh have been part of this tradition of seamless cashless transaction for three days every year at Baisakhi Mela. This is perhaps the world’s oldest barter trading system which is till alive and even people from urban settlements flock to the fair to enjoy the essence of cashless trading.
Forest honey is sold in larger quantities like two or three hundred kg in this Mela every year. Tribes generally sell the honey when they need money to perform marriages. Last year almost 2500 kg of forest honey were exchanged / sold via barter method and it was collection of 12 different tribes from the diversified forest region of Abujmarh. Honey lovers around the India use to come in this yearly tribal market to taste and purchase almost 25+ varieties of forest honey, harvested from dense forest area spread in around 3000 sq km.
Based on Nectar of flower, the honey comes in multiple colors such Red, Dark Black, Golden Light, Brown etc from very low viscosity to very high viscosity. The most famous honey of this barter market is Hotia Madhu (Mahuwa flora honey) which is very bitter in taste. Tribesman generally collects the honey 2-3 times in a year from the forest honey bees hives built on trees and cliffs and store it in wooden barrel and large clay pot. They generally use to preserve it for 2-3 years before selling in the market. This preservation period gives the sweet fragmented unique flavor to the honey.
After 3 days, Jhotiakhim Khulma is going back with commitment that he will come back next year again and devoted a beautiful song of his tribes to this yearly Mela.
Joriya Jopra Kheuma Na Tummmmm
Joriya Jopra Kheuma Na Tummmmm
Khemu Khemu Dikalnaal Chlena Dikalnaal
Joriya Jopra Kheuma Na Tummmmm
Supnem Maghe Maghe Namush Hai Maanush
Konchim Konchim Jimkhe Na Chikahe
Jubnu Na Mangtu Ne Jopra Na Mangtu
Joriya Jopra Kheuma Na Tummmmm -2
About Barter System:
The barter system has played a significant role in the selling of honey by Indian tribes, including those residing in remote areas with limited access to modern marketplaces. These tribes have historically relied on bartering as a means of trade and exchange, utilizing their natural resources, including honey, to obtain goods and services they need.
In the barter system, the tribes would gather honey from the forests using their traditional techniques and skills. Honey, being a valuable and highly prized commodity, held great importance in their culture and served as a means of sustenance and income generation. The tribes would then take their surplus honey to nearby villages or marketplaces, where they would engage in bartering activities.
During the bartering process, the honey would be exchanged directly for other goods or services, without the involvement of a standardized currency. For example, the tribespeople would offer jars or containers filled with honey in exchange for grains, vegetables, fruits, handmade crafts, tools, or any other necessities they required. The exchange was based on mutual agreement and the perceived value of the items being traded.
Bartering not only provided the tribes with essential goods but also fostered social connections and community cooperation. It served as a platform for cultural exchange, strengthening bonds between different tribes and communities. The barter system allowed the tribes to share their unique honey products while experiencing the diverse offerings of other groups.
In some cases, honey would be bartered directly with neighboring tribes or communities known for producing specific goods or possessing particular skills. For instance, a tribe specializing in pottery might exchange their honey for beautifully crafted pottery items, while another tribe known for their weaving skills might barter their honey for intricately woven textiles. This inter-tribal exchange promoted diversity and trade relationships among different communities.
The barter system also had its challenges. It relied heavily on the availability and demand for specific goods within a particular region. Unequal trade or differences in the perceived value of items could sometimes lead to negotiations and discussions to ensure a fair exchange. Additionally, the absence of a standardized currency meant that bartering could be time-consuming, requiring individuals to find suitable trading partners and negotiate favorable terms.
With the advent of modernization and the introduction of a monetary economy, the barter system has gradually given way to cash transactions in many tribal communities. However, in certain remote regions where tribal traditions are still preserved, bartering continues to play a role in the sale of honey and other traditional products. These communities often engage in both barter and cash transactions, depending on the circumstances and the preferences of the individuals involved.
In recent years, efforts have been made to support and promote sustainable trade practices for tribal communities, including the selling of honey. Organizations and government initiatives aim to provide these communities with fair market access, training in modern business practices, and opportunities to showcase their unique products to a wider audience. These efforts help in preserving traditional practices while empowering tribes to benefit economically from their natural resources, including honey.
In conclusion, the barter system has historically been an integral part of how Indian tribes sell honey and other goods. It has facilitated trade and exchange among communities, promoting cultural diversity and cooperation. While the barter system has evolved with changing times, it continues to hold significance in certain tribal regions, where traditional practices and cultural heritage are valued. By recognizing the importance of the barter system and supporting fair trade initiatives, we can contribute to the preservation of tribal traditions and empower these communities to thrive economically.