Bastar. The very name spells magic, conjuring up images of perhaps the most exotic tribes of India. Bastar is tribal territory. This land is richly endowed with minerals and forest resources. It has the largest strength of tribes anywhere in the world. The Gonds (a tribe) in Bastar remain perhaps the least in contact with the world outside.
On the mountains of Abujmarh, spread over the tehsils of Narainpur, Bijapur, and Dantewada, live the Maria tribes of Bastar. This 3,900 square km area shelters the people in small villages.
Maria is the largest group of tribes in Bastar. Goddess Danteshwari is the reigning deity of the Marias. Marias are steeped in superstition. They have immense faith in magic. The Marias have mongoloid blood in them. They have a coppery complexion with straight black hair, wide mouth, and thick lips. The women are graceful, light in complexion, and pretty. The jewelry the Maria women wear is even more exotic. Most of it is handmade-necklaces made of cane, grass, or beads.
The women enjoy a considerable amount of freedom. Both boys and girls are allowed to spend a night out in the ghotul (kind of rest house), every week. Ghotuls are regarded as a shrine, built by Lingo Pen, a Gond (a tribe) cult hero. Here, the unmarried boys of the village learn songs and dance from their leader. They also sleep in the Ghotuls. Every week, there is a dance carnival as well. Girls also take part in it. Moreover, It is treated like a pilgrimage.