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An in-development interactive digital storybook about the Niyamgiri Hills of southwest Odisha and the changes they have gone through over the years - seen through the eyes of the Dongria Kondh



Niyamgiri is an incredibly biodiverse range of hills - home to a variety of endangered flora and fauna as well as the at-risk Dongria Kondh who consider the hills sacred.

In 2004, multinational mining corporation, Vendanta, opened a refinery in Niyamgiri which was shut down due to several protests and opposition from both locals and international groups such as Survival. In 2014, Vedanta was officially denied clearance.

However great the win, this was not the end of the struggles of the Dongria Kondh and their hills have changed and suffered immensely since.


via SacredLand


Both the Dongria Kondh and Niyamgiri have faced several issues since Vedanta was denied access. Here are a few:

Cash Crops

The Kondh have been encouraged and pushed to stop cultivating native crops. This has led to the loss of several heirloom seeds


Adults and children are not eating the nutritious diets of native grain that they once were, and have become poor since the lockdown.

Damaged Soil

Cash crops and the cultivation of teak have damaged soil quality. Subsequent use of chemical aids has damaged nearby water bodies.


Several protesting tribals and supporting NGO's have been labeled 'Naxalites' by the State and have been arrested

Neglected Schooling

State-established schools have little to no facility, and parents claim that students are taught to abandon their tribal culture.

Loss of Culture

The Dongria Kondh have lost touch with their recipes, methods of agriculture and many related traditions. Children no longer know their own stories.


Given that the struggles of the Dongria Kondh are common to several smaller tribes around the region, and that mining continues to ruin the biodiversity and tribal heritage of Odisha, my intent was to present the story of Niyamgiri and what has happened since as though a folktale.

I hoped that such an inviting and easily understood form of storytelling would make the issue moving, and allow for some of the magic of Niyamgiri, as the Kondh see it, to be more visible.



via Reinhard Krause/Reuters



Two gifs I made to represent how the storybook might look!

The first:
A click-to-colour Niyamgiri to which you would add different flora based on the variety of forests available on the hills, with descriptions of each.

The second:
Representation of loss of biodiversity, and the hills growing dull


The issue with these concepts, however, is that they do not represent the divinity of the hills.

Their narrative represents a loss of biodiversity but not, at least visually, in a way that represents the true worth of Niyamgiri to the Dongria Kondh or what it represents to them.

Niyamgiri has inspired the patterns of Kapdaganda, the handwoven shawl of the Dongria Kondh, as well as several community events, music and legends. I am currently working on further research to reiterate on this and build a prototype!



Three people I will be working and collaborating with during field research for this project:


Sayantan Bera

Journalist for Live Mint/Hindustan Times

Sayantan has written at length about the crisis at Niyamgiri and has been documenting farmer struggles in India for several years. Sayantan has vast photo and video documentation of the hills and Dongria Kondh themselves


Debjeet Sarangi

Owner of Living Farms, Rayagada

Debjeet has been working with the Dongria Kondh and surrounding villages to bring back crop biodiversity and encourage more indigenous farming.

Living Farms documents several Adivasi stories and often hosts volunteers.


Dr.Debal Deb

Ecologist, Conservationist, Owner of Basudha Farm

Dr.Debal Deb is a world-renown conservationist who owns Basudha Farms in Rayagada and often works with the local Kondh. He has been conserving immense varieties of native seeds.

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