Baiga - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The Baiga raise pigs (which are held in particularly high esteem), poultry, goats, and cattle (cows, bullocks, and buffalo). Dogs and cats are kept. The Baiga also grow several kinds of tobacco for Personal use and import an alcoholic beverage manufactured from the corolla of the mahua tree ( Bassia latifolia ). Ganja is used frequently but opium use is rare. Rice, various kinds of grain ( kodon, kutki, and siker ), sweet potatoes, cucumbers, dal (lentils), maize, roots, leaves, herbs, and young bamboo shoots are among the items grown or gathered for consumption. Pej (the broth in which rice or grain has been boiled) is a staple. The following fruit trees are among those grown by the Baiga: mountain black plum, mango, forest mango, white teak, coromandel ebony, wild fig, banyan, Indian quince, and sebasten plum. Leaves of the butter tree, which are ground to produce chutney, are also gathered. Fish is consumed, and all meats are considered to be acceptable for consumption. The following animals are hunted: sambar deer, blackbuck, barking deer, hares, mongooses, peacock, and various wildfowl. The Baiga also hunt rats (seventeen varieties of which have been noted) and gather eggs. Bewar is practiced. An area of forest is selected, its trees cut (leaving stumps about a foot high) and allowed to dry, then burned. Seed is sowed after the first rain. Land cultivated in this manner is worked for an average of three years. In addition to hunting, fishing, animal domestication, and agriculture, the Baiga derive income from the manufacture of bamboo products, from the cultivation and sale of honey, and by hiring themselves out as laborers.

Industrial Arts. The Baiga do not spin fibers or weave cloth. Clothing is purchased in local markets. Few implements are manufactured by Baiga artisans. Iron implements such as the axe ( tangia ), sickle ( hassia ), arrowheads, digging tools ( kudari and sabar ), wood plane ( basula ), drilling tool ( bindhna ), and a grass-clearing tool ( raphi ) are purchased from the Agaria, the Lohar, or other neighboring peoples. Many kinds of bamboo and leaf baskets are manufactured by the Baiga for personal use. Wooden beds are also produced locally.

Trade. The Baiga rely on trade to secure iron implements, salt, blankets, alcoholic beverages, and articles of clothing from neighboring peoples. Trade activity seems limited to these items. Otherwise, the Baiga are in large part self-reliant.

Division of Labor. There exists no clear division of labor based on gender. Women may engage in almost all of the activities undertaken by men. Men and women share the responsibility for cooking (the husband assuming full responsibility when the wife is menstruating), gathering water, fishing, and woodcutting. Only men are allowed to hunt, and women are not permitted to make khumris (wicker hoods lined with mohlain leaves, used when it rains) or thatch roofing for houses. Women may participate in cultivation by clearing and lighting the field debris. Women may not, However, touch plows. Women are also prohibited from killing pigs, goats, and chickens.

Land Tenure. The garden lands immediately surrounding the village and the fields used for bewar appear to be considered as the property of the individual members of particular households.

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