KHONDS, or Kandhs, an aboriginal tribe of India, inhabiting the tributary states of Orissa and the Ganjam district of Madras. At the census of 1901 they numbered 701,198. Their main divisions are into Kutia or hill Khonds and plain-dwelling Khonds; the landowners are known as Raj Khonds. Their religion is animistic, and their pantheon includes eighty-four gods. They have given their name to the Khondmals, a subdivision of Angul district in Orissa: area, 800 sq. m.; pop. (1901), 64,214. The Khond language, Kui, spoken in 1901 by more than half a million persons, is much more closely related to Telugu than is Gondi. The Khonds are a finer type than the Gonds. They are as tall as the average Hindu and not much darker, while in features they are very Aryan. They are undoubtedly a mixed Dravidian race, with much Aryan blood.
The Khonds became notorious, on the British occupation of their district about 1835, from the prevalence and cruelty of the human sacrifices they practised. These “Meriah” sacrifices, as they were called, were intended to further the fertilization of the earth. It was incumbent on the Khonds to purchase their victims. Unless bought with a price they were not deemed acceptable. They seldom sacrificed Khonds, though in hard times Khonds were obliged to sell their children and they could then be purchased as Meriahs. Persons of any race, age or sex, were acceptable if purchased. Numbers were bought and kept and well treated; and Meriah women were encouraged to become mothers. Ten or twelve days before the sacrifice the victim’s hair was cut off, and the villagers having bathed, went with the priest to the sacred grove to forewarn the goddess. The festival lasted three days, and the wildest orgies were indulged in.
See Major Macpherson, Religious Doctrines of the Khonds; his account of their religion in Jour. R. Asiatic Soc. xiii. 220–221 and his Report upon the Khonds of Ganjam and Cuttack (Calcutta, 1842); also District Gazetteer of Angul (Calcutta, 1908).