Gonds are an important ethnic tribe in India. They not only constitute the principal rural population of wide areas in Central India, which is named after them as Gondwana, but once formed a ruling race equal in power and maintained material status comparable to many a contemporary Hindu Prince in the neighborhood (Furer-Hajmendorf, 1979). Gonds are known for their geographic, ethnic, cultural and linguistic diversity and extent of dependence on forest. In Andhra Pradesh, the Gonds are a dominant tribal community in Adilabad district. Although, they are confined to the north of Godavari and west of Pranahita rivers in the State, they also reside further down in parts of Warangal and Khammam districts of Godavari valley.
Gonds speak Gondi, Marathi and Telugu as per their location in Andhra Pradesh though they are predominantly a rural community (99%). Notified as Gonds, Naikpods and Raj Gonds under scheduled tribes, their population as per 2001 census in the State is 1,69,477 while it is 5565 for Warangal district (Anonymous, 2001).
Gonds have their own settlements and in the past were believed to practice slash and burn cultivation. Their main occupation is agriculture and they are also professional cattle breeders. Now, most of them are agricultural labourers and supplement their income by collecting non timber forest produce.
The ethnobotany of Gonds was studied for certain districts of Madhya Pradesh and that of Adilabad district in Andhra Pradesh (Ravisankar and Henry, 1992). However, the Gonds elsewhere in the State are not studied for their ethnobotanical knowledge. So, such a study is called for the district of Warangal since the population of Gonds is steadily bought under the cultural influence of other tribes (Lambada, Koya, Yerukala) or non tribes which form the commanding community. Hence, a study was conceived to document the knowledge of the traditional medicine of rural communities especially of Gonds of the district, which is in unwritten form and passed on even today by oral tradition.
Warangal district is located in Northern Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh
(17°19 to 18°36 N latitudes and 78°49 to 80°13
E longitudes). The geographical area of the district is 12,875 km2
with 3,102 km2 (24%) of forest cover (Anonymous, 2003). It is bounded
on the north by Karimnagar district and Chattisgarh State, on the west by Medak
district, on the south by Nalgonda district, on the east and northeast by Khammam
district. The total population of the district is 28, 18,832, of which 1436666
are males and 1382166 females. This population consists of 22, 72, 210 is rural
and 5, 46, 622 is urban. The percentage of rural population in the district
is 80.4 while that of urban population is 19.6. The Sheduled Castes and Scheduled
tribes population are 484654 persons and 385309 persons, respectively. The literacy
rate is 39.30%. The district exhibits variation in rainfall, which varies in
between 760 to 1182 mm with an average rainfall of 970 mm. The district receives
southwest and northeast monsoon rains and summer showers. Eighty percent of
precipitation will be usually between June and September. There is no remarkable
difference in the temperature, as the district on the whole tends to be dry.
The maximum and minimum temperatures have been recorded as 42.9 and 16.2°C,
respectively. The humidity varies from 37 to 90%, with the season (Reddy, 2001).
The predominant forest type is tropical southern dry mixed deciduous forest, followed by tropical southern moist mixed deciduous forest. The number of recorded flowering plant species in the district were 1208 (Reddy, 2001).
MATERIALS AND METHODS
The ethnobotanical survey on Gonds of Warangal district Andhra Pradesh, India was conducted during June-December 2005. The Gonds were found confined to north eastern part of the district. Names of the prevalent diseases and disorders among the tribals were noted. Information was collected through in depth interviews and informal discussion with the people (healers and midwives) having high degree of herbal knowledge. The information was gathered from 20 informants in the villages by the method of ethnobotanical enquiry. The informants were about the age of 60 to 70 years. Data pertaining to therapeutic value of the plants could be acquired with great difficulty because of their reticence in divulging the secrets of identity of plants of great traditional reputation. There is a traditional notion among the tribes that if any secret about the therapeutic value is revealed to anyone outside their won heirs, the efficacy of the plant will vanish.
The data were verified among the interviewers showing the same plant sample and even with the same informants on different occasions. The information was considered notable only if the authors observed actual application or similar application was reported by a least two informants. An attempt was also made to note whether the herbalist prepare pastes, pills, powders, aqueous extracts, infusions or decoctions form medicinal plant parts for the treatment of various diseases and disorders. The approximate dose given was worked out in terms of tablespoons in the case of internal use of a drug.
Practices of plant collection by local Gond communities seems to be sustainable and it may not lead to over exploitation in study area. But the recurrent forest fires, excessive grazing pressure, illegal cutting of trees and invasion of exotic species may affect the regeneration of plant populations and their population structure. There is an urgent need for long term planning and conservation of plant resources.
The scientific names of plants used by Gonds in phytotherapy were determined with authentic identification of plant specimens. The plant specimens were collected and identified with the help of the Floras (Gamble and Fischer, 1915-1935; Reddy, 2001) and finally confirmed with the herbarium of Botanical Survey of India (BSI), Coimbatore. Voucher specimens of the plant species used were deposited in Kakatiya University Herbarium (KUH), Warangal.
The survey resulted in collection of 49 species of medicinal plants used for different ailments along with the ethno-medico data from informants.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
The findings of the ethnobotanical survey of Gonds of Warangal district are presented here alphabetically. The binomial, family name, vernacular Gond name and phytotherapy (recipe (s), dosage and duration of treatment) are given in tabular form (Table 1).
Diversity in habitats will lead to development of different vegetation types. Variations in the floristic composition compel the ethnic group to go for local herbs to alleviate their diseases. Conversely, the same ethnic tribe occupying different vegetational habitats is to be studied ethnobotanically (Ravisankar and Henry, 1992). The present study confirms this fact since the phytotherapy of Gonds of Warangal district are found to be different.
The present study enlists 49 angiospermous species (Magnoliophyta), which are employed medicinally by Gonds of Warangal district. Not even a single species of these found to be used by the Gonds of Adilabad district (Ravisankar and Henry, 1992). Such differences in ethnomedicinal knowledge call for further ethnobotanical studies on individual tribes residing elsewhere (Reddy et al., 1998).
The Gonds have phytoremedies for 20 common health problems from anorexia to wounds besides those, which are employed as preventive (7), restorative (1), antidotes (2) and of magico-religious beliefs (1). More than one drug is available for asthma (2), boils and blisters (2), bone fracture (4), chest pain (2), evil spirits (4), fever (2), ophthalmic diseases (2), piles (2), scorpion sting (3) and snake bite (3). The constituent plant parts used in the order of preponderance are the stem bark (31%), root (24%), leaf (13.8%), stem (6.9%), whole plant (5.3%), root bark (3.5%), tubers (3.5%), gum (1.7%) and seed (1.7%). Only two of the 49 phytodrugs are of Liliopsida (Monocots). The adjuvant is curds, cow or goat milk, ginger, gum, jaggery, pepper, pulses, rice, salt, sesame oil, sugar and turmeric.
The ethnophytomedicines for different pathologies are often in the form of aqueous extracts. But, water is the vehicle for almost all the oral preparations. The drug is also administered as pills, powder or applied as cream, band or taste. The ratio of internal to external application of drugs is 1:2. Of the ethnomedicinal plants reported, tree species constitutes the bulk (49%), followed by climbers (20.5%), herbs (16.3%), shrubs (10.2%), epiphytes (2%) and parasites (2%).
The Gonds obviously use the native herbal medicine to deal with majority of their health problems and at times employ incantations as means of spiritual healing or a combination of both. Still they practice the traditional healthcare system as they have the access to modern medicine nor they can afford it. The use of natural forests tree species (ca. 50%) their bark and other parts (51%) and indigenous taxa in phytotherapy of Gonds of Warangal district is very significant. It discloses the fact that they still have sustainable supply of their herbal drugs while the level of resource erosion is tolerable. However, it is to be noted that the Gonds often complain that they are no longer proximate to certain potential plants and have to cover good distances to procure them.
The authors thank the members of Vana Samrakshna Samithies, Mangapet, Warangal district for their help in the field.