Chapter - 1
Jerrela, a tribal village, picturesque in its natural grandeur, is situated on the slopes of the rolling hills of wild nature in Chintapalle Taluk, an Agency tract of Visakhapatnam District of Andhra Pradesh State. The higher slopes and a great part of plateau are covered by thick, impenetrable tropical forests. Figure 1 gives a panoramic view of the village which lies nestled in the forest clad slopes of hills. The survey of this village has been taken up for a study in particular of Bagatas, a Scheduled Tribe, who inhabit this village in good number. The village Jerrela is however inhabited not only by Bagatas but also by Valmikis (another Scheduled Tribe) even in a larger number and Sathani Vaishnava (a priestly caste). Hence apart from presenting a picture depicting the socio-economic conditions of Bagatas an attempt has been made to present the life and customs of Valmikis and Sathani Vaishnavas also. Thus the monograph covers the entire village population including Bagatas. The tribaals of this remote village are slowly coming under the influence of the plains people and yet they retain their own indigenous ways of life and their economic isolation. The survey of the village was taken up first in May 1961. Again it was visited for a more comprehensive resurvey early in January 1963.
Lying at an altitude of 2,000 feet on a hill slope (80025’ eastern longitude and 17014’ northern latitude) this village is about 10 miles away on the north-western side of Chintapalle, the Agency taluk headquarters.
The village is bounded by Baddipadasakonda (about one mile away), Nittamamidipalem (about 2 furlongs away) Chintalapudi village (nearly a mile away) on the east, Jakarametta and Vontadapalle villages (each one mile away) in the south, Gorrelametta and Gabbampallikonda hills, Kottur and Rasakota villages on the west and Pulikonda hill on the north and Munigadda village in the north-east.
A difficult meandering foot path through the hilly regions connects the village to Chintapalle which itself is at a distance of 30 miles from Narsapatnam town, the Revenue Divisional headquarter. The town Narsapatnam is considered as the gateway to the Agency area. Private-owned buses ply not only between Chintapalle and Narasapatnam town but also between the latter and the Narsapatnam Road Station, the nearest railway station at a distance of 18 miles from the Narsapatnam town and which is on the broad gauge section of Southern Railway connecting Madras with Howrah. An inhabitant of this village has thus to cover a total distance of 60 miles to reach the nearest railway station.
Chintapalle, the taluk headquarters as also the headquarters of Panchayat Samithi of this name provides several facilities to the tribals of the area besides being the centre of several institutions under the Agency Development Schemes. The Taluk Office, a Police Station, a Post & Telegraph Office, a Middle School with a tribal hostel attached, Government hospital, Veterinary Hospital and the Agricultural Demonstrator’s Office are all situated at Chintapalle. A sericulture farm run by the Industries Department of the State Government and a dairy farm are also located there. A sales depot at Chintapalle, supplying all the demostic requirements of the tribals, is run by the Andhra Scheduled Tribes Co-operative Finance and Development Corporation.
Though this village with a population of 272 has no commercial importance as such yet it plays its own part in the supply of loose jacket oranges (kamala fruits) as there are a few kamala fruit gardens in the village. The businessmen from Narsapatnam visit the village during the season and enter into an agreement with Valmikis who are traditional businessmen and who first of all purchase the whole lot of the fruit from the local farmers and export them to Chintapalle from where the dealers get them transported to Narsapatnam. The Valmikis make a small margin of profit. There are no industries in this village. There are no cultural organizations except one Bhajana Mandali.
Flora and fauna
The village, situated as it is, in the midst of thick forests, is rich in flora and fauna. Teak, nallamaddi (Terminalia tomentosa), tellamaddi (Terminalia arjuna) and etc., are some amongst the various species of trees found here. Wild boars, cheetahs, peacocks and other wild animals and birds abound in the forests surrounding the village.
Climate and rainfall
In the summer months of March and April the tribals burn the dried-up forest which them presents a desolated appearance. The first rains with thunder storms arrive by about the end of April. The forest becomes green by the end of May. There will be heavy rainfall from the middle of May till the end of September. By the end of October thick foliage develops and the forest is all green and the valleys present a very pleasant landscape. The winter is severe from October to February. Both the mornings and evenings of December and January are uncomfortably chill and the nights are bitterly cold. The nights in general are cool and pleasant through the rest of the year. The average annual rainfall in this hilly area is 56”. The rainfall is caused both by the south-west monsoon (June to September) and the north-east monsoon (October to December). The temperature generally ranges between 400F and 1020F during the year.
Pre-requisites for selection of the village site
The tribals generally select an open site at the foot of a hill in a valley or sometimes on the top of the hill also. A perennial water source at a convenient distance is another factor that determines the selections of a site for their settlement since their women generally takes bath and washes clothes at such water sources. The dwellings are, however, never built very close to the water source for fear of wild animals that frequent the spot. The tribes of this village have a permanent village site. It is reported that they would abandon the permanent site and rebuild their houses in a distance place, should an epidemic break out and many deaths occur. But no such incident has occurred in this village during the last three to four generations.
Size and number of households
The village is not covered by the cadastral survey and hence no area of the village is computed. According to 1961 Census in March there were 74 households in this village. At the time of an initial village survey conducted by the Census Organization during May 1961 there were 73 households while during the period of resurvey there were 60 households, made up of 18 households of Bagatas, 41 of Valmikis and only one household of Sathani Vaishnava. Thus, for the purpose of the present report the number of households inhabiting the village is taken as 60 comprising a population of 272 (126 males and 146 females) as recorded at the resurvey in 1963. It is interesting to note that females are in preponderance over males both according to the 1961 Census figures as also the present survey. The average size of the household in this village is 4.53. Table1 shows that of the 60 households 30 are having four to six members while there are only 17 households with two or three members. Nine households fall in the category of seven to nine members whereas single and ten members households are only 3 and 1 respectively.
The village can conveniently be divided into two parts viz, Valmikipeta and Padalaveedi or Bagtaveedi facing each other and located on the opposite slopes of hills in a very narrow valley. Peddagadda, a hill stream that flows in east-west direction divides the village into the two distinct parts mentioned above. Another hill stream, a smaller one, after flowing for some distance close to Valmikipeta in a north-westerly direction joins the former. The presence of these two hill streams and the adjacent paddy fields make it difficult to move about from one locality to the other during the rainy season. The only household of Sathani Vaishnava is situated to the extreme north of Bagataveedi. The village is not laid out in any systematic manner and the houses have been built haphazardly depending upon the availability of a suitable plot of land. It is however obvious from the layout of the habitations that the three communities Bagatas, Valmikis and Sathani Vaishnava inhabiting the village live in distinct localities separated from one another. Since the Valmikis are considered to be lower in social status, the Bagatas do not allow them to reside in the vicinity of their habitat. The Valmikis are thus forced to have a separate settlement.
Sources of water
The Peddagadda which is a perennial hill stream is the source of drinking water for the entire village and is locally called gadda. The clothes and utensils are also washed by the womenfolk in this hill steam. It is not only a source of drinking water but also the main source for wet cultivation.
While the approach to the village is beautiful and picturesque, the presence by the side of the village streets of rubbish heaps in plenty and open cattle pens with a few forked stakes to which the animals are tethered at night has made the sanitary conditions of the village rather poor. The front yard of every house is, however, kept clean since it is swept and sprinkled with water mixed with cow dung in the early hours of each day by the womenfolk. Though there is no drainage system as such there are a few naturally formed katcha open cut drains through which the surface water flows, the village being located on the slope of the hill.
Places of worship
The two temples in the village viz, Rama temple and Siva temple are located in Valmikipeta. Both are thatched huts whose side walls are of muc. Elderly women and men of Valmiki tribe alone worship these deities daily and the Bagatas do not participate. On festive occasions both men and women of Valmiki tribe congregate in front of Rama temple and perform bhajans. The Jakaramma, one of the village deities, is located on the southern side of the village under a vegesa tree (plerocorpus marsupium). A circular wall of three feet height is constructed with stones and a narrow passage is left on the eastern side. There are other places of worship like Gangadevatha near Bagataveedi and Katamaiah near Valmikipeta.
Valmikis and Bagatas have separate cremation grounds which are situated side by side to the south-west of Peddagadda, the hill steam. There are no historical monuments in the village.
Welfare and administrative institutions
Panchayat is the only welfare and administrative institution in the village. As it is of recent origin, it has not yet started functioning. The general administration of the village is being looked after by the village Munsiff the Pettandar who are responsible for the maintenance of law and order and who keep the authorities informed of the day to day affairs in the village. There is an elementary school in this village. The detailed working of these institutions will be discussed later.
Chintapalle is the only marketing centre for the tribals of this area where a shandy is held on every Monday. Tribals of this village seldom miss to visit the shandy. The agricultural produce and other minor forest produce are sold there by the triabals and in return their daily requirements are purchased. The sales depot of the Andhra Scheduled Tribes Co-operative Finance and Development Corporation makes arrangements for the purchase of produce from the tribals on shandy days. A few Valmikis go to Narsapatnam also for marketing the kamala fruits (loose jacket oranges).
Table 59 gives the settlement history of the households belonging to the different sections of the village. Out of 18 Bagata households, 2 are reported to be living here for over 5 generations, 12 between 5 and 4 generations and one between 3 and 2 generations. If all the 60 households are taken into consideration, more than half the number, i.e., 37 have the duration of residence ranging from 4 to 5 generations. Only 5 households one among Bagata and 4 Valmikis are reported to have migrated to this village during the present generation. Of these 5, 4 households have come to the village 4-10 years back while the remaining are 11-20 years back. No special privileges are enjoyed by either tribe or the caste by virtue of their long stay.
Origin of the village
None could throw any light about the origin of the village and also as to how the village derived its name. But some elderly people have stated that some eighty years back both Bagatas and the Valmikis used to live on the site where now lies the present habitation of Valmikis which was then known as Jakarametta but, of course, the habitation area of Bagatas was an elevated one while that of Valmikis was a little below to Bagata habitation. The Bagatas shifted to the present habitation due to the outbreak of smallpox and cholera. Since then, these two tribes started living in separate habitations. The Bagatas were reported to be the earliest settlers in the village. Though there is one household of Sathani Vaishnava living for the past three generations in the village, he could not throw any light as to how and why his forefather settled in this village.
In respect of 12 households (1 Bagata and 11 Valmikis) out of the total 60 households, the area from which they have emigrated to this village could be specified. Among them two Valmiki households have come from the rural parts of another taluk of the same district while the remaining 9 Valmiki households and the one Bagata household originally hailed from the rural parts of the same taluk itself. Out of these 12 households only 10 households could give their occupations before immigration whereas 11 households could give the reasons for immigration therefore. Out of the 10 households who could thus give their pre-migration occupations, the occupation of the 9 households before migration was mostly cultivation either of kondapodu (shifting hill slope cultivation) or settled we cultivation. Four Valmiki households have migrated to this place to eke out their livelihood while in the case of 2 households (Valmikis) some compelling domestic circumstance such as the loss of father, etc., have motivated the migration; the practice of illarikam, one of the types of marriages under which the son-in-law agrees to live with the father-in-law permanently has much to do with migration. In this village there are 5 such cases among Valmikis.