Korku History

Khalwa Block of Khandwa district in Madhya Pradesh India is also called East Nimar and is the major habitattion of Korku tribe in the state. They number nearly 1,13,000. The region during pre-Indepemndence was refreered to as Centarl Provionce & Berar. Various political powers that ruled the region since 320 BC are recorded in history. It included Maurya Dynasty, Southern Satvahana Kingdom, Vatakas of Southern India and Hoysala, Khliji and Bahmani sultanates prior to Moghuls. Shahjehan and Aurangzeb the Great Moghul Kings too ruled over and spent substantial time in the region. By 1760 Marathas were in the peak of power till 1803 Berar went under British rule. It is noteworthy that in all the historical and ploitical upheavels in the region there is no rference of Korku being part of it. They preferred to remain peaceful and indifferent to all the happenings around theri habitation. They in fact moved further deep in forests. British took notice of them first. The first Korku census was conducted in 1881 when they numbered 1,10,951 in entire central India. The famines of 1896-1897 sweeped Central provinces and Berar. This ahd most devasttaing effect on Kokru. Though the Provisional famine Code of 1883 extended relief but Korku were reluctant to work in public works in order to earn food rations. This led to framing of new relief guidelines for aboriginal and hill tribes. The famine and epidemeics kept marauding Korku tribe. The 1901 census witnessed a sharp decline in their population from the last decade. The beginning of 20th century brought more mayhems. 1906 had abnormally cold winters claiming many lives and it was followed by cholera epidemics. 1908 saw failure of crops due to premature rains.

A Korku legend

Korku to change over from slash & burn (jhum) forest farming to present day deep tilling cultivation could never have been an easy process. The cultivation style of agriculturist and pastorals community they were compelled to settle with somehow influenced them. It was also a hard shift from barter to cash economy. Their earlier cultivation employed mere wooden levellers but for new farming and crops they needed tillers and ploughs with iron fixations. They had no idea presumably the havoc it can cause to their food security and nutrition. A folk tale narrates this. It is humorous but tells a tale: "Korku farmers toiled in their fields when a rabbit approached them with a piece of iron fixation for plough. It is called Kushla in aboriginal Korku tongue. Korku farmers were fascinated so rabbit made a deal. The Rabbit offered the Kushla in exchange of a Korku bride. Rabbit took the bride behind the bush. It garnered some paddy and commanded the bride to cook a delicious meal. While the bride pounded the paddy; rabbit lied down and slept dreaming a grand dinner. While it did so the bride hit rabbit hard with pestle and it died."