Chenchus - Children of the Forest

Mohan Sathya
23 minutes

This ethnographic documentary deals with the socio-economic and religious life of the Chenchus.

Chenchus is a Telugu speaking hunting and gathering tribe living in the Nallamalai forests of Andhra Pradesh, India. They are a conservative tribal group and have not made many changes in their lifestyle or tried to adapt to modernity. They live in the enclosed space and geography leading a life of an unbroken continuity.

The Chenchus hunt wild animals like boar and deer, but with the increasing interest in wildlife conservation, they are content to hunt small animals like lizards, rabbits and wild birds. They collect jungle products like roots, fruits, tubers, beedi leaf, mohua flower, honey, gum, tamarind and green leaves and make a meager income of it by selling these to traders and government co-operatives.

The Chenchus do not care much for money or material wealth. They have hardly developed any technique of preserving food. Their care for future is marginal as they are used to living on a day-to-day basis. As a result they have not cultivated much interest in agriculture. Though at times they work as forest laborers, they mostly prefer to fall back on their native skills to hunt and gather food.

But the inroads of modern development have found their ways to the Chenchu homeland. Today, the forest region no longer belongs to the Chenchus. It has been declared as a tiger reserve sanctuary. The government has been motivating the Chenchus to adapt to agriculture, but has failed. The Chenchus refuse to be displaced from the forest and continue to live in harmony with the tigers in the sanctuary.

The Chenchus have been their own masters for many generations and have not needed services of any outsider. They are unmindful of an external society, which is alien and unimportant to them. The life in the wild is one of hardship but the Chenchus live on cheerfully unmindful of their difficulties.

The boundaries of their native perception are defined by the natural boundaries of their geography. The roots are strong and the bonding to an age-old tradition is deep and abiding. The Chenchus continue to live contently in their ancestral homeland as true sons and daughters of the forest to celebrate the joys and gains of life.