The Kui People of Odisha, India

The Kui people are a self-sufficient tribe residing mostly in the hills of central Odisha, India. They have a history of human sacrifice and facial tattooing, yet are scarcely documented no matter where one looks. Although their practice of human sacrifice has ceased, animal sacrifice is still common among the villagers.

I came across the Kui people as I was searching the Internet for various tattoo-faced peoples of Asia. The world commonly knows them as the Kutia Kondh (an Oriya rendition of their tribe’s name, which derives from their houses being constructed slightly below the road level in their villages) but their stories are not well documented. A basic outline of their culture of human sacrifice and farming practice is documented by the government of Odisha but not much else, so I was excited to head out and meet them.

Although the majority of the ladies with facial tattoos are now well into the later stages of their lives, with a little searching, younger ladies may be found who clearly remember the tattooing of their faces and the situation surrounding it.

Many of their traditions, including animistic beliefs and handicrafts are still in practice today. However, they are a scheduled tribe and thus fall at the bottom of Indian society, receiving very little developmental assistance from the government.

Kui (Kutia Kondh) Woman with Facial Tattoo, Odisha, India
Kui (Kutia Kondh) Woman with Facial Tattoo, Odisha, India
Kui (Kutia Kondh) Sacrificial Post, Odisha, India
Kui (Kutia Kondh) Woman with Facial Tattoo, Odisha, India
Paintings depicting the lives of local tribes, including the Kui, Odisha, India