Their concentration is, however, high in the districts of Jagdalpur, Dantwara, Ranker, Dhamtari, Rajnandgaon, Dury, Mahasamundra and Raipur (Chhattisgarh), Koraput, Bhawanipatna, Balangir (Orissa), Bhandara, Chandrapur (Maharashtra), and Karimnagar and Warangal (Andhra Pradesh)
Gonds speak Gondi an unwritten language of Dravidian family. Some Gonds have lost their own language and speak Hindi, Marathi or Telgu, depending on which is dominant in their area.
The Chhattisgarh state the main area of Gonds is characterized by two major landforms, i.e., (i) the Chhattisgarh plains, and (ii) the undulating rimland. The elevation of the plain (upper reaches of Mahanadi) ranges from 250 metres on the eastern margin to 330 metres in the west. The river Mahanadi flows close to the south-eastern edge of the Chhattisgarh plain. This plain or the upper Mahanadi plain is bordered by a series of plateaus and hills in the north of Bilaspur and Raigarh districts.
The Maikal Range runs along the Western border of Durg and Bilaspur districts and rises sharply about 450 metres. Thus, the Chhattisgarh region is formed by the hills, plateaus and plains. Flowing over the undulating topography, the Mahanadi and its tributaries make numerous waterfalls and gorges.
The climate of Gonds territory is tropical-rainy type which has been classified by Koppen as Aw-type. The mean monthly temperature in January and July reads around 35°C and 20°C respectively.
The annual range of temperature remains around 15°C. The mean annual rainfall varies between 120 cms and 180 cms. The area of Maikal range records the highest rainfall (180 cms), while the Seonath valley (a tributary of Mahanadi) has the lowest rainfall, being around 120 cms.
A considerable area of the Gonds territory is covered with timber (teak and sal). The soils of the region are red and yellow. Alluvial soils, if any, are confined to the flood plains of Mahanadi and its tributaries. These soils, however, are deficient in calcium and magnesium. The main crops grown in these soils are rice, maize, millets, legumes and fodder.
The Gonds territory is rich in limestone, dolomite, bauxite, coal, fire-clay, iron ore, manganese, galena, lead, graphite, quartz, slate, calcite and various building materials.
The Gonds in the plain areas are cultivators, growing cereals for their sustenance, and gather food forests. Occasionally, they hunt small game and trap birds.
The Gonds eat all kinds of meat, including snakes, and ants. They are fond of excessive drinks. With the growing population and depleting natural resources, the Gonds are undernourished and suffering from malnutrition.
They construct their houses from the earthen bricks baked in sun, and the house material obtained locally and from the forests. Gonds cover their bodies with cotton clothes and the female adorn themselves with colorful dresses and silver jewellery.
There is no cultural uniformity among the Gonds. The most developed are the Raj-Gonds, who once had an elaborate feudal order. Local Rajas, linked by ties of blood of marriage to a royal house, exercised authority over groups of villages
Aside from the fortified seats of the Rajas,” settlements were formerly of little permanence. Cultivation, even though practiced with plough and oxen, involved frequent shifting of fields and clearing of new tracts of forest land.
The Raj-Gonds continue to stand outside the Hindu caste system, neither acknowledging the superiority of Brahmans nor feeling bound by Hindu rules such as the ban on killing cattle.
The highlands of Baster in Chhattisgarh are the home of three important Gond tribes: (i) the Muria, (ii) the Bisonhorn Maria, and (iii) the Hill Maria.
The last, which inhabit the rugged Abujhmar Hills, are the most primitive. Their traditional type of agriculture is ‘slash and burn’ (jhum) cultivation on hill slopes. Hoes and digging sticks are still used more than ploughs. The villagers are periodically moved, and the common owned land of each clan contains several village sites occupied in rotation over the years.
Bisonhorn Maria, so called after their dance headdresses, live in less hilly country and have more permanent fields that they cultivate with ploughs and bullocks.
The Murias are known for their youth dormitories, or Ghotul, in the framework of which the unmarried of both sexes lead a highly organized social life. They receive training in civic duties and in sexual practices.
The religion of the Gond tribe centers in the cult of clan and village deities, together with ancestor worship. The Gonds have shrines in their houses to the spirits of dead ancestors, to the cobra-god, and the sun as well as to the numerous guardian spirits.
The tribal gods are worshipped at “the threshing-floor of the gods,” an open space near each village. Up to the end of the 19th century Gonds practiced human sacrifice.
Although the Gonds eat all kinds of meat, they are not being considered as impure and untouchable in the Hindu caste system as are many other aboriginal tribes.
The Gonds dominated area is underdeveloped. The natural resources have not been judiciously utilized. The depletion of forest resource is a cause of concern.
The cement, chemical, and iron and steel industries established in the region are draining out the resources. The standard of living and nutritional standard of the people is fairly low. A new strategy needs to be designed to make an overall development of the economy and society of the Gonds.