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  :: The Santhals
  :: The Asurs
  :: The Mundas
  :: The Gonds
  :: The Banjaras
  :: The Mahalis
  :: The Chickbaraiks
  :: The Birjias & The Baigas
  :: The Khonds & The Koras
  :: Ho
  :: Bainga
  :: Maal Pahadiya
  :: Sauriya Pahadiya
  :: Shabar
     
 

Jharkhand : Repository of one of India's Richest Ethnic Cultures
The cultural mosaic of Jharkhand was dreamt about, shaped and polished by generations of communities, which have inhabited this land since time immemorial.

From the legendary Asurs and Santhals, to the Banjara, Bihor, Chero, Gond, Ho, Khond, Lohra, Mai Pahariya, Munda, Oraon, Kol or Kawar-over thirty-two tribal groups (28 % of the total population of the state), have left their impression on the culture of the region. And with them, were the cross-cultural influences of local non-tribal communities and successive waves of Buddhism and Jainism, Mughal rule and the reign of the Hindu emperors of Bengal.

Art historians ascribe the 'oldest cave paintings' in India, the "scroll paintings" to a Jharkhand tribe known as the Shabars, who today live on the edge of extinction. It is an established fact that Stone Age tools discovered in Hazaribagh district and axes and spearheads found in the Chaibasa area, are remnants of a civilization dating back a few thousand years. 10,000 to 30,000 years old rock paintings, paintings in huge caves in the Sati hills and other indicators of ancient, even pre-historic, human settlements are found in profusion.

 
 On the Tribal Trail

The Santhals
Santhals dominate Jharkhand's tribal population. They have a unique heritage of tradition, surprisingly sophisticated customs and tastes and lifestyles, and the most evocative of folk music, song and dance.The Santhali language is elaborate, structured, richly endowed, with its own, recognized 'script', 'Alchiki', perhaps unmatched by any other tribal community, anywhere.
The cultural refinement of the Santhals is reflected in their daily affairs - in the design, construction, colour combinations, and the cleanliness and order of their homes. The drawings and motifs on the walls and the neatness of their courtyards, will shame many a swank, modern urban home.
The innate sophistication of Santhol's are also evident in their family patterns - patriarchal, nuclear with strong husband-wife-and-sibling relationships. Marriage rituals are elaborate and full of community rejoicing. Births, of boy and girl, are treated as joyous occasions. Santhal philosophy puts acceptance of death very high and funeral and mourning rites ore seriously observed. Rejigious beliefs and practice range from animism to following Hindu and Christian faiths. Among their principal deities are i- 'Sing Bonga', 'Morang Buru', and 'Jaher-era'. Ritual sacrifices are often used in worship.
Today many Santhals occupy important positions in Government and Industry. But the rich culture of these peace-loving but lion-hearted people continues to reverberate.
As far as tribes in India are concerned, the Santhal is the most colossal tribe with reference to population. Apart from Jharkhand, the individuals of the Santhal tribe are well-dispersed across a good number of states on the Indian turf including West Bengal, Orissa, Assam and Bihar. A bantam bunch comprising of the Santhals can also be traced back to Bangladesh.

The dialect that has been accepted by the members of the Santhal tribe as their mother-tongue is called Santhali. Like most of the lingos used by the tribes, this language has also been derived from the Austro-Asiatic group of languages and has a lot of features common with the languages like Vietnamese and Khmer. The alphabet utilized by the Santhali language is known as Ol Chiki. A strange feature of this alphabet is that it does not possess any similitude with the Indic or the Devanagiri scripts. Another specialty of the Santhali language is that they possess three extra vowels along with six regular ones.

The scientists have conjectured that the individuals of the Santhal in Jharkhand had the Proto Australoids as their ancestors. These so-called Proto Australoids had embarked upon a journey towards the eastern frontier of India and eventually settled there.

The members of the Santhal across Jharkhand also possess a mellow spot in their hearts for music and dance. The notes that are emitted from the deep interiors of a flute have a magical effect on the minds of the Santhals as it brings alive all the happy moments of their lives. Other significant instruments include Tamak and Tumdak.

The Asurs
One of the most primitive tribal communities, they are known for their centuries-old "iron-smelting" skills. Men and women work together, eat together, take care of offspring together, and struggle to earn bread for their families, together. Division of labour is unique and socio-economic patterns well delipeated. So called modern society has a lot to learn from them.

Their languages are "Asuri" and "Bhalay". They also speak nagpuri and hindi. In present day they lived in Ranchi, Lohardaga, Gumla, Singhbhum, Dhanbad and Simdega. Their main gotras are Beng, Indwar, Barwan, Badhna etc. Their festivals are Sohrai, Sarhul and Navakhani. Religious works have done by Bainga and Pahan. Singbonga, Marang Bonga etc. are their main gods.

Asur is an important tribe in the state of Jharkhand in the eastern part of the subcontinent of India. Asur in Jharkhand is one of the thirty major tribes of people who have made the state of Jharkhand their home. The people who belong to this tribe form quite a big part of the total population of the state of Jharkhand.

It ranks 21st among all the 30 tribal groups of the state, in terms of population, that is, there are as many as 9 tribal groups in the state that have a smaller population than the Asur of Jharkhand. Asur is one of the most ancient ethnic groups in the state of Jharkhand.

The people belonging to Asur at Jharkhand stay within houses made of clay. They live in villages that are grouped into different tolas for the convenience of the people. The houses in which the people belonging to Asur tribe live do not have any window. The people love to make their houses look even more beautiful by painting them on their external walls. They thrive mostly on the flesh of animals and birds and rice.

The total population of the tribal group of Asur is 7783. The rate of literacy among the people of the state of Jharkhand is not very satisfying. The rate is only 10.62%.Though their total number is not ignorable, the percentage of the total population of the state that they cover is not a massive one. The people who belong to the Asur tribe cover only 0.13 % of the total population of the state.


The Mundas
Another Austro-Asiatic race ranked in the third position by way a population in Jharkhnad. History suggests that they migrated here from morht-western parts. Munda woman are very fond of ornaments.

Their Language is mundari. Their basic residential place is Aajamgadh. But according to some scholars they are basic people of here. In present day maximum numbers of mundas lived  in Ranchi, Gumla, Simdega and Singhbhum. Head of munda society is called as "Pahan" which is main head of the "Padha Society". In each religious place worship has done by Pahan. Their main God is "Singbonga". There are many gotra in munda society - Aaied, Kongadi, Gadi, Kerketta, Terom, Toppo, Dhanbar, Nag, Kachchhap etc. Marriage between same gotras is not accepted.

The abode of the members of the extremely cherished Munda tribe is not confined to the borders of the state of Jharkhand. The Munda people have also penetrated into other beleaguering states of Orissa, Chattisgarh, Bihar and West Bengal. As a matter of fact, a handful of the Munda tribals have also been noted to have established their permanent domicile in Bangladesh as well.

The sphere where the Munda in Jharkhand bears a remarkable similitude with its contemporary tribes is mainly concerned with a conspicuous dialect and a unique life-style. This could be vividly illustrated from the fact that the lingo restricted to them is known as 'Mundari'. The legend that exists behind this extremely coveted and revered language elucidates that Mundari actually belonged to the Austro-Asiatic family of languages.

According to the last census, the estimated number of members of the Munda across Jharkhand totals up to twenty lacs or two millions. As a matter of fact, the language of the Mundas had been inspired from the designation of the tribe itself and bears uncanny resemblance with the other vernaculars fluently used in India like Sanskrit and Dravidian. The Mundari language is considered to be included in the group of interrelated languages like Ho, Santali and Mundari.

The religion that is followed by a quarter of the population of Munda of Jharkhand is Christianity. However, they also have evolved their own religion known as Sarna. They consider the celestial bodies like the moon, sun and the planets to be holy and 'Sing Bonga' or the 'Sun God' is their principle deity.

 

 


The Gonds
On an all India basis the Gonds are the most popular tribal community (with a major part concentrated in Madhya Pradesh). Gond belongs to Palamu, Singhbhum and Ranchi districts. The Gond of Jharkhand, linguistically, belongs to the Dravidian race; but, racially, the Gond at Jharkhand hail from Proto- Australoid stock. They are usually forest fringe dwellers. with strong family kinship based on love and  affection. Marriage, birth are happy occasions. Women are the custodians of culture, norms and values in Gond society.

Their language is mundari but they have forgot their language. They migrated here from area of Gondwana. In Gond society all expenses of marraige paid by bridegroom party. Marriages between same gotra and inter caste marriage are not accepted in their society. Mundas are also fond of music and dance. There is special importance of "Akhra". Their living standard is similar with "Udav". "Handia" is main drink of mundas.

According to the common belief, the Gond tribe belongs to a martial group, who trace their descent from the Kshatriyas. They are said to have migrated in the Central province in the 14th century, legends opine that the Gonds hailed from the South through Bustar and Chanda.

 Moreover, in Jharkhand, the Gonds dwell in the areas adjoining the forests: therefore, the Gond tribe is found to be scattered throughout the length and breadth of Jharkhand.

Like the other tribes of Jharkhand, the Gond tribe also projects a patriarchal form of the society, where the father is the head of the family and the laws of inheritance largely support the men folk of the society. It is interesting to note that the Gonds follow division of labor: work is equally divided among the men and women of the society. Man and women work in complete collaboration with each other; yet, cooking and other household chores seems to be duty of the women and is not divided with the male members of the society.

Talking about the economy of the Gond at Jharkhand, it can be said that the Gonds follow labor and agricultural economy. In fact, each family of the Gond society owns a piece of agricultural land, which is used by them to grow maize, marua, bajra and many other vegetables. Besides, each of the families possesses buffaloes and agricultural implements. Furthermore, the Gonds have a subsistence type of economy that does not possess the concept of saving.


The Banjaras
This is another group that stands threatened by rapidly dwindling numbers. Their villages are located near hills and forests. They are skilled weavers and make mats, baskets, trays, brooms etc. from grass growing wild in the forest. They move residence often and in a group. They also go around villages to sing prayers on the birth of a child. They constitute the 'smallest' tribal population in Jharkhand. They use local language.

Though smallest in number, the Banjara tribe in Jharkhand is a recognized part of the tribal community. Unlike the Banjara tribe of Rajasthan, the Banjaras of Jharkhand lead a settled life. They generally live in thatched huts with kuchcha walls. Though they remain unperturbed by the modernization around, recent years has seen far reaching changes in the relationship between the Banjaras and the large society. The literacy rate of the Banjaras is about 12.38%.

 The colorful lives of the Banjaras now has become the source of entertainment to the entire state. Tribal festivals like Sarhul, Tusu and Sohrai are celebrated throughout the state. Banjara music and dances like Chaw, Natua, Ghatwari and Matha now-a-days has become sources of recreation even to the tourists to Jharkhand. They now seem to plan their visit to Jharkhand in the festive seasons of the tribes in Jharkhand.

Banjaras of Jharkhand has become famous particularly for their embroidery works. Influenced by their themes and culture and exploiting the availability of raw materials, the Banjaras embellish their works with ivory beads, shells and colorful threads. The needle crafts of the Banjaras create skirts, jackets, belts, bags, blouses and also different types of room decors.

 


The Mahalis
Composed of sub-seats, the Bansphor Mahali are expert basket-makers, Patar Mahali are associated with basket-making and cultivation, the Sulunkhi Mahali survive on cultivation and labour, the Tanti Mahali are traditional 'palanquin' bearers, and the Munda Mahalis are cultivators. Mahalis usually maintain excellent relationships with lineage, clan and tribe.

Mainly they lived in Ranchi, Gumla, Simdega and Lohardaga. Their language is Sadani. Their five subcasts are Bansfodh, Patar, Sulanki, Tanti and Mahali Munda. Mainly they follow hindu religion. They are members of handicraft society.

 

The Chickbaraiks
Spinners and weavers as a community, Chickbaraiks live in villages along with other tribes and castes. The women like to adorn themselves with jewellery. Family units are strong and division of labour is done according to age and sex.  Their residential place is in Ranchi, Gumla and lohardaga districts. They use sadani language. Their main profession is weaving cloths. Marriage between same gotras are avoided. their main god is Singbonga and goddess is Sarwochch.

The Chick Baraik of Jharkhand is found in Ranchi, Lohardaga and Gumla districts. The Chick Baraiks in Jharkhand belong to the Proto-Australoid and speak Mundari, Hindi and Sadani languages.

The Chick Baraik tribe presents a picture of communal harmony. In Jharkhand, the Chick Baraiks do not dwell in a separate village but live with the other tribes and castes within the same village. In fact, it can be said that they celebrate fraternity and brotherhood.

Furthermore, the Chick Baraiks present an amalgamation of the Hindu and the tribal beliefs. On one hand, Sing Bonga is said to the titular deity of the Chick Baraiks, when on the other hand, they also worship Devi Mai, the Supreme Goddess of the Hindus.

The Chick Baraik society is marked with the presence of the Panchayat system, which is given due respect in the society. The decision adopted by the community panchayat is treated by the Chick Baraiks as the last word: no one, among the Chick Baraiks is authorized to go against the decision of the panchayat.

 


The Birjias & The Baigas
These are minor scheduled tribes, still dependent upon forest resources. They live in deep forest and inaccessible agricultural areas. In recent times they have discarded shifting cultivation. The Baigas were first discovered in 1867 and described as 'wild' and living in inaccessible hills and remote forest areas. Baigas previously did not till the land because they thought "it would hurt Mother Earth".

The Birjia at Jharkhand live in triangular or rectangular huts made up of bamboo, wood or mud. The huts of the Birjia tribe, usually, are devoid of windows: the huts have a small gate which is closed with a tati or a mat.

The Birjia tribe possesses a patriarchal society: a Birjia family is usually a nuclear family with father as the head of the family. Moreover, the Birjia society is known as a monogamous society, yet the prevalence of bigamy cannot be overruled.

It goes without mention that they have a rural society where agriculture and forests play a vital role in the socio-economic life. Hence, Birjia economy is based on agricultural yields, as well as on hunting, fishing and labor.

The people who belong to the tribe of Baiga constitute a Kolerian ethnic community. The name of this tribe of Jharkhand has quite a few meanings. One of them is 'ojha' or a person who makes medicines. Many of the people who belong to the Baiga tribe make medicines by profession, though their chief traditional occupation has been shifting cultivation.

The people who belong to the tribe of Baiga at Jharkhand dwell in the remotest regions of the state and it becomes very difficult for the people of the urban world to reach out to them. Most of them are found to reside in the forested regions and hilly areas of Jharkhand.

 


The Khonds and Koras
These are minor tribal groups, but with distinctive cultural features. They are of Dravidian descent. Present residential place of Khonds are in Palam, Gadhwa and Dhanbad. Basically theybelong to Orissa. In marriage there is custom of Swayamvar. They use zonal language. 

The present resident of Kora tribal of Proto-Ostroloid race is in santhal Pargana, Hazaribagh, Dhanbad districts etc. They are called as " Dhangar". Their are many subcasts. Their language is sadani but they also speak mundari, hindi etc languages. Their main profession is soil digging. They originate from Nagvansh. Their religious work is clearly effected by hinduism .

Ho
Their basic residential place is in Nagpur. In Jharkhand they originate from Mundas. Their race is "Ostroloid". In present day their residents are in Singhbhum. Their language is ho. Head of village is called as "Manki". A Padha is made up of twelve villages. Base of regiment is Gram-Panchayat. There are also many gotras - Barla, Balubhavu, Suin Jojo, Hesa etc. They are economically based on agriculture.

In Jharkhand, Ho tribe dwells near the rivers, river terraces or by the side of the springs. It is noteworthy in this context that the Ho community of Jharkhand largely depends on agriculture. Agriculture is the main stay of the people of the Ho tribe in Jharkhand.

Besides, the Ho at Jharkhand practice wage earning for their sustenance. In fact, the majority of the Hos earn their living through daily labor in the different industries and mines in the territory. It is to be noted that the conditions of the people engaged as daily labors are better than the people who depend on agriculture.

Furthermore, the Ho at Jharkhand is known to possess a panchayat based administration where the Manki, the head of the panchayat, takes decisions on behalf of the entire society. It is noteworthy that each and every family among the Ho tribe participates in panchayat and a unanimous decision is adopted at the panchayat with the assent of each of the members of the Ho society.

 


Bainga
In present day baongas are lived in Ranchi, Palamu, Hazaribagh and Singhbhum. Their basic resident is in Madhya Pradesh. Their language is hindi. Their profession is Farming and labouring. They lived in joint family. Marriage between same gotra is avoided. They follow tribal religion. Their famous festival is "Bira". They believed in Shakun.

Mal Pahadiya
Basically they were lived in area of Narmada valley. In present day they lived in Sahebganj, Godda, Devghar and other places of Santhal Pargana. Their are no arrangement of Gotra. Their descendants are of sakra races. Their own language is "Malti" but they also speak Bangla. Their main profession is agriculture. There are many subcasts - Manjhi, Birhi, Pajhore etc. The center point of their religion is worship of their elders and Dharti, Gorasi Gosai are the main Gods.
 

Sauriya-Pahadiya
They are race of Proto-Ostroloid. Their main residential place was in the area of Karnatak. In present day Mainly they lived in mountains of Rajmahal and Santhal Pargana. Their own language is "Malto". Mainly due to residence on mountain they are called as "Pahadiya".  They don't think on same gotra during marriage. Their religious culture is similar with hindu religion. They are vegetarian. They are economically based on farming.

Shabar
Shabar is race of Proto-Ostroloid. Their language is sadani. Their basic residence  is Shahabad (Bihar) district. Their is no gotra. They are devotees of Kali and Mansa and they belived in hindu religion. Their main residense is in Ranchi, Hazaribagh and Singhbhum.

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