A visit to Koraput is incomplete without a visit to Onkadelli Haat.
Haats or weekly markets are Koraput’s invaluable treasures. In the absence of malls and business districts, the tribal markets are solely a local affair. Tribes, men and women descend from their villages, sometimes walking miles and miles in the forested hill paths to sell and buy (earlier barter) forest produces and grocery items, foodstuffs, objects of daily needs, jewellery and clothes, alcohol brewed from sago palms, sheep and goats, dry fish, chicken and even cattle.
The weekly markets are held every day at different places in Koraput District. Onkadelli Haat is one such haat which is most popular among travellers, because of the Bonda and Gadaba women who gather here in large numbers. Permission is required for travellers, especially foreigners to visit Bonda Ghati.
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Held on every Thursday at Onkadelli Village on Odisha – Andhra border near Machkund Hydroelectric project, the Bonda women leave their home at the break of dawn in the dense forest, climbed down the hills for a few hours and crossed several mountain streams, barefoot.
Selling and gulping down the fermented salap drink in a pipe made out of dried gourds is a common sight at Onkadelli Haat.
Onkadelli is located near Machkund on the border of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh. The haat is held on every Thursday. Surrounded by hills and forest, the area is a traveller’s paradise. The nearest towns are Jeypur (60 km) and Similguda (80 km). Both have decent staying options. However, we recommend Desia Koraput, an award-winning ethnic resort (http://www.desiakoraput.com) located near Lamtaput, about 15 km from Onkadelli. It is designed in traditional architecture. The nearest airport is Visakhapatnam (180 km). Bhubaneswar, the state capital is 570 Km.
The Bonda women are one among the earliest inhabitants in India who speak in an Austro-Asiatic language. They call themselves Remo, the brave men. Besides the glass beads, women are seen wearing heavy metallic rings, hefty brass earrings on their upper ears and a crown of beads on their shaven heads.
Apart from Bonda, the haat is frequented by Didayai, Gadaba, Porajas and Mali tribes, both men and women. You discover here best of organically grown local vegetables, small onions, raw cashew nuts, locally grown mushrooms, roots and tubers, dry sweetmeats, tobacco leaves, varieties of dry fish, rice, millet, and small and large bamboo baskets.
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The forest produces that are sold in Onkadelli Haat are tamarind, mahua flower, mohua seeds, sal seeds, hill brooms, honey, jhuna and siali leaves of fibre.
Onkadelli Haat is full of life on every Thursday. As a large percentage of the population of the area assemble here, it becomes the principal source of accessing local news. Tribal people discuss weeklong news of their villages and families and invite their friends and relatives for various family and village events. It also serves as a centre of matrimonial negotiations.
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It is difficult to say when Onkadell Haat had its origin in the absence of written records. However, according to anthropological views, the evolution of weekly markets evolved with the progress of early human civilisations or late Stone Age. Our Stone Age ancestors no doubt were self-sufficient but eventually were engaged on some exchange activities, which could be either exchange of gifts or exchange of surpluses. Archaeological records have revealed that the intensity of craft specialisation often fostered trade in Late Stone Age society. While a particular village had specialised in making stone artefacts or copper tools, yet another village specialised in pottery making. The surplus had to be exchanged for various needs and hence was the need for a centralized market place.
The region around Onkadelli had remained mostly isolation for a very long time, perhaps as late as the British Period. It probably has a long history, but cannot be established its date of origin without proper evidence. However, it is guaranteed for an immersive experience when you travel to this offbeat destination.
Author – Jitu Mishra
He can be contacted at email@example.com