The Gonds are one of the most famous and important tribes in India, known for their unique customs and traditions. They are mainly a nomadic tribe and call themselves as Koytoria. The term 'Gond' is derived from the Telugu word 'Konda' which means hill. Gond Tribes are primarily located in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, eastern Maharashtra, northern Andhra Pradesh and western Orissa. With a population of over 4 millions, Gonds also form the largest tribal group in central India. In Chhattisgarh, Gonds are the largest tribal group in terms of population and are mainly concentrated in the southern part of the state. More than 20 % of Gonds in Chhattisgarh live in Bastar region only. There are 3 major sub-castes of Gonds in Bastar - Maria, Muria and Dorla.
The Gonds are predominantly Hindus and like to live to live in groups in small villages. The main language of the Gonds is Gondi but about half of Gond populations also speak Indo-Aryan dialects including Hindi. The Gonds are traditionally agriculturalists and some practice shifting cultivation even today. Other major activities of Gonds include collecting forest produce, fishing, hunting, forging metal goods in cottage industries and other primary sector activities. Gonds also have a special skill that has been passed down every generation and that is the secrets of the medicine plants. As there are no proper health facilities in several areas, they still follow the traditional system of medicines and use plants and herbs for curing various ailments. Gonds are also known for practicing social hierarchy system like Hindus and the Gond society is regarded as highly stratified and not conforming to the usual image of egalitarianism among tribals.
But, the Gonds have gained enormous popularity for their unique and distinct social customs and traditions and have become the subject of great interest among sociologists and researchers all over the world. They prefer marriages within the blood relations mostly according to Hindu rites and customs. Sometimes mock elopements are also arranged. Divorces, remarriages, widow marriages, marriages with the wives of the brothers and between brothers and sisters are common. One of the unique characteristics of the Gonds marriages is that the groom has to pay bridal price to the father of the girl and in this way the system gives respect and power to women in the society. Other most popular practice among Gonds of Bastar is the 'Ghotul' system. In this system, the unmarried young boys and girls live together in separately made huts and allowed to intermingle and practice everything they desire. During this period they interact and enjoy themselves by participating in dancing, music, local story telling and much more in a drunken mood. If everything is fine and both of them are happy, they can get out of the Ghotul and marry. The Ghotul system is mainly practiced among the Muria Gonds and the origin of this system is related with their goddess 'Lingopan'.