For the Kondh tribal people, Niyamgiri mountain is the seat of their god, the supreme deity, Niyam Raja, and every year hundreds of small ceremonies are held to give thanks.
This year villages from across the region joined together for a mass worship to draw attention to the threat to their land, culture and beliefs by Vedanta Resources plc. This British mining company plans to start open-cast mining on the mountain that is their home.
Over a period of 2 days, thousands arrived at the sacred site to sing, dance and pray to their god to protect their future.
The Kondh are one of world’s most vulnerable indigenous tribal groups and they fear that their existence is now under serious threat. For generations they have lived a self-sufficient life in the forests of Niyamgiri relying on the hills for their food, culture and medicines.
The sacred site of Niyamgiri cannot be moved or replaced, is integral to the Kondh religion – a point they are desperate for the world to recognise.
Balabhadra Hial*, a Desia Tribal Elder explains how Niyamgiri means everything to his people: “We have been having fruits, oranges, bananas and medicine, everything from Niyamgiri. My father, my grandfather, his father, his grandfather - for generations Niyamgiri has been a god to us.
“And even if we have been taking these things from Niyamgiri, it’s still there, it has been providing, it hasn’t lost anything.”
ActionAid has been campaigning alongside the tribal people to prevent mining on this sacred Indian site. It condemns the proposed destruction of one of India’s last pristine forests which the agency argues could undermine the Kondh’s collective identity and change their way of life for ever.
Meredith Alexander, Head of Trade and Corporates, ActionAid said: “Corporate profit should never come before freedom of religion and the preservation of a people’s way of life. The Kondh want this mine to be stopped. Their wishes should be paramount.”
Oh lord, Niyam Raja, for generations you have nurtured us and protected us and under your generosity we are flourishing in this place. We request that you please protect our future generations for all time to come. We thank you for everything that you have done for us.’
Traditional Kondh Prayer to Niyamgiri
*Names have been changed to protect the identities of people quoted