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The Kondhs (also locally known as Kandha or Khonds), are the largest tribal group in Odisha (As per 1970 estimates, numbering more than 7, 00, 000 persons). The Kandhamal district in Odisha (erstwhile a part of Phulbani district), has 55% Kandha population and was named after the tribe. The Kondh is a tribe of people living mainly in the forested mountainous regions of the state of Orissa in India. They are known for their cultural heritage and values which center on respecting nature. They speak Kuvi language. Their religion is interwoven with traditional tribal beliefs and Hinduism. Their religion is animistic, and their pantheon includes eighty-three Gods. Their practices make them mainly dependent on forest resources for survival. The Khonds are subdivided into the plains Khond, who are highly assimilated with the neighboring Oriya and engage in plow farming (they are also divided into castes), and the hill Khond, who have preserved considerable vestiges of the tribal system. The chief occupations of the latter are slash-and-burn farming, hunting, and gathering. They celebrate festivals like Dussehra, Diwali, Sohraj, Sarhul, Jitia, Phagu Karma, Nawakhani and Ramnavami with great joy, honor, and enthusiasm which includes music and dance with the beating of Dhol, Kartal, Thali, Nagara and Flute. The rituals of this tribe are so pious that it can be easily seen in their practices.
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