The Kondh Tribals’ Bihan Mela

Since 2019, the Kondh tribe in Odisha’s Nayagarh district has held the Bihan Mela, or seed festival, to support the rebirth of indigenous farming.

Mela Bihan

  • Farmers from 40 villages in Dasapalla block participate in this festival, which involves the collection and preservation of indigenous seeds.
  • Women collect indigenous variety seeds after harvesting kharif crops and preserve them in earthen pots.
  • They adorn the pots with red and white designs, set them in a bamboo basket, and carry them on their heads to the village where the fair is held on a specific day in December.
  • Men beat drums and other traditional instruments to accompany them.


  • The seed festival was created to assist farmers in returning to traditional farming methods, such as mixed-cropping, which is more resistant to irregular rainfall and pest infestations.
  • Farmers have abandoned local crops and kinds that are naturally resistant to pests and better suited to the region’s climate in recent years.

This festival’s commercialization: Seed Savings Bank

  • Nirman, a non-profit that works with the tribe on forest rights and agro-ecological farming, established a seed bank in Raisar village in 2019 to improve access to indigenous seeds.
  • The bank harvests and preserves indigenous seeds from Kondh communities before lending them to farmers.
  • The bank presently has 62 paddy types, four millets kinds, five pulse varieties, and eight vegetables.
  • The bank is open to all Kondh farmers and has already benefited 750 families.
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