Gadaba – The Fashionable Tribe of Godavari

While most of the tribes in India can trace their ancestry, unfortunately there is no precise theory for the Gadabas that can prove their origin. Going by a few studies, the tribe is considered to be one of the early settlers at our country, and can trace their origin to the time of Ramayan.


There are two stories about Gadabas being settled in Nandapur and adjacent areas. It is believed that their ancestors emigrated from the banks of river Godavari and settled in Nandapur –the former capital of the king of Jaypore of present Koraput district in Orissa. It is also said that the Gadabas migrated from the Godavari valley to settle eventually in Gadabapada, a village in Lamataput Block of Koraput, wherefrom they again migrated to different places of the district in search of land.

Another migration theory is also currently suggesting that the Gadabas, who once belonged to the Munda group of tribals, were originally inhabitants of the Bindhya hills. The name “Gadaba” seems to have been derived from the word “Gada”, name of a brook in the region. Later, on dislocation of tribal population, the Gadabas might have migrated to Visakhapatnam region, and then to Koraput. Now, Gadabas are predominately found in tribal areas of Srikakulam, Vizianagaram and Vishakhapatnam districts.Gadaba of Srikakulam like to call themselves as Gutomi. They are even called Gitadim in the areas around Vishakapatnam.

Society & Culture: 

The theme: ‘Own’ and ‘Other’

The opposition of bai (agnates) and bondu (affines) is the very foundation of Gadaba and Desia social order. When Gadaba refer to their society as a whole they speak of ‘barobaiterogadi’, literally meaning ‘twelve brothers, thirteen seats’. This unity is always evoked when the social order or tradition (niam) is at stake. In this representation an agnatic whole is complemented by an affinal category, the thirteenth seat. On this most inclusive level of ideology it is thus stated that agnates just cannot exist without their ‘other’, their complementary part. A story narrates how the barobaiterogadi came into existence when sacrificial food was sufficient only for twelverGadaba brothers, who thus became the Twelve Brothers. The ones excluded from sacrificial commensality became ‘others’. Today the Twelve Brothers are represented by twelve agnatically related villages, which however, only on rare ocassions become relevant as a unit of social, particularly ritual and commensal. The eternal unit of twelve brother, those included in sacrificial communion, represent the superior value, while the affinal category is a necessary complements of lesser value.

Ritual of Go’ter

Go’ter is the name of the ultimate death ritual. It is performed by a local group about once a generation and aims at transforming the liminal spirits of the deceased (duma) into the permanent ancestors (anibai). The trick is done by transferring each duma into the body of a living buffalo and by giving all buffaloes away to the killed and eaten by ‘others’. The buffalo-takers in turn provide the go’ter hosts with rock plates representing the bygone generation.

Mythology & Gods:

Wedding ritual biba or gotra is performed during special occasions.The Gadaba’s most significant ritual meal is known as tsoru or go’yang and is a matter of principle, prepared in the context of a sacrifice (puja, biru, gelgel). In many cases, the head (mundo, bob) of the sacrificial animal, together with the blood and a liver (koloj, gire) is cooked as tsoru, in which case the cooking should be done in a new clay pot and – like eating as well — at the site of the sacrifice. A complementary and subordinate (sano) dish is prepared from the animals’s rump (gondi) is called lakka.

Two forms of tsoru consumption can be distinguished: the sharing of tsoru and the exchange of tsoru.  In Gadabas, women and girls are considered cooks inside the house, while men and boys act as cook outside the home..

Festivals, dance and music:

Gadabas are fond of dance and music. In spite of their grave poverty they try to retain their rich and unique heritage of dance and music which form an integral part of day to day life.

These performances give expression to their inner feelings, joys, affection, passion and their appreciation of beauty in nature. They are known for their Dhemsa dance – which is performed by

women wearing their famous Kerang Sarees. The main folk play musical instruments while women dance. Their musical instruments consist of big drums, Tal Mudibaja, Madal, Flutes, Tamak and Mahuri. They compose their own songs for

different occasions and sing these songs while dancing. Sometimes they form a ring by joining hands all round and with a long hop spring towards the centre and then hop back to the full

extent of their arms, while they at the same time keep circling round and round. At other times, the women dance singly or in pairs joining their hands.


Gutob language (Bodo or Boi Gadaba) is the language of Gadaba. It’a an Austro-Asiatic language.