TRIBES OF KEONJHAR DISTRICT
| Bathudi | Bhuyan | Gond | Ho | Juang | Kolha | Munda | Santal
The Scheduled Tribes of Keonjhar
district which totalled 4,99,657 in 1981 census increased to 5,95,184 in 1991 census thus
registering a growth of 11.90% in a decade (1981-1991). As per 1991 census there were 46
Scheduled Tribes in the district. Out of these the principal tribes were Bathudi, Bhuyan,
Bhumij, Gond, HO, Juang, Kharwar, Kisan, Kolha, Kora, Munda, Oraon, Santal, Saora, Sabar
and Sounti. These sixteen tribes constituted 96.12 % of the total tribal population of the
The concentration of Scheduled
Tribes is the highest in Keonjhar and lowest in the Anandapur Sub-Division.
KEONJHAR SUB-DIVISION POPULATION
|01. Keonjhar Sadar
|01. Daitary Census Town
ANANDAPUR SUB-DIVISION POPULATION
|01. Anandapur N.A.C.
CHAMPUA SUB-DIVISION POPULATION
|01. Barbil Municipality
|02. Joda Municipality
|03. Champua Census Town
|04. Bolani Census Town
|GRAND TOTAL :-
The majority of the Scheduled
Tribes are in agricultural occupations or in mining, quarrying and other
The literacy among the Scheduled
Tribes was 15.25% in the 1981 census but it has increased to 24.89% in the 1991 census.
This percentage is higher than the State average of 22.31%
The spread of education and
communication facilities and the implementation of various development projects have
helped the Scheduled Tribes a lot to change their manners and customs to some extent.
The concentration of the Bathudis
is more in the northwestern parts of the state of Orissa, particularly in the areas
bordering the districts of Mayurbhanj and Keonjhar. Their settlements lie mostly on the
plains in the rural areas and many of them are at present in such
living standard that to call them a hill tribe is perhaps a misnomer.
They live in houses made of mud
walls and thatched roofs. They love to decorate their walls with multicoloured floral
designs. Their dress is scanty. A coarse cotton dhoti fulfils the requirement of a male
person. The women wear sari and generally prefer orange coloured ones. They use silver
ornaments. Tattooing is popular among the Bathudi women. It is called Khada. According to
their traditions, before marriage, a Bathudi girl tattoos one or two floral designs
on her forehead or arm.
Bathudis' marriage takes place either in the house of the groom or the bride. Both the
systems are prevalent in the district.
Most of the Bathudis speak Oriya
and only a few have taken to HO as their mother tongue. Cultivation is their main
occupation. They worship all Hindu Gods and Goddesses. They worship village deities like
Basuli, Sundura Gouri, and Hatiani etc. in shape of blocks of stone. It is the village
Dehuri who worships the deities.
Due to the impact of modern
civilizations and change in the outlook of the people the dress and other habits of the
Bathudis have changed to certain extent. But in the remote rural areas the old habits
The name Bhuya or Bhuyan is
derived from the Sanskrit word Bhumi meaning land. They consider themselves to be the
children and owner of the land and hence are known as Bhuyan. In the district they
are mostly found in Banspal and Telkoi. They claim themselves to be the autochthons of the
area which is also known as Bhuyanpirh after their name. They speak Oriya as their mother
The Bhuyans are
broadly divided into two categories, viz. the pauri
Bhuyans and plain Bhuyans. The pauri Bhuyans live in the hilly and inaccessible areas of
the Bhuyanpirh. The plain Bhuyans live along with the caste Hindu in the villages of plain
vilalges are divided into bandhu
villages and kutumba villages. In the former, the marrying kinsmen reside.
This division of villages generally regulates their
marriages. Matrimonial relationship can be established between individuals belonging to
Bandhu village only. In no case it is permissible between kutumba villages. Marriage
between persons of the same village is strictly forbidden. Another important feature of
their social organisation is the existence of a village dormitory, locally known as
Mandaghar. It is a spacious house centrally located in the village. The open
space in front of the Mandaghar is known as Darbar which serves as the meeting place for
the traditional village Panchayats and the dancing ground for the villagers. The unmarried
boys of the village are the members of the dormitory. This is also utilised as a rest
house for guests from other villages.
The Bhuyans adopt both the
practices of cremation and burial for disposing of the dead body.
The Bhuyans are mainly
cultivators and agricultural labourers. They practise shifting cultivation called Toila
chasa or podu chasa on hilltops or slopes. They grow paddy, gingili, mustard, ginger,
maize, jalli, ragi and other crops extensively. Among women, weaving of mats
from the wild date palm and preparation of broomsticks are common art. Men generally know
rope making and a very few of them work as Carpenters. Collection of
forest products is the major occupation of the community.
ceremonial sowing of seeds in the agricultural field, Asarhi puja for bumper crop
and good rain, Gahma Punein for the welfare of the domestic cattle, Nuakhai for
first-eating of new rice and Magha Yatra which marks the formation of the agricultural
year. Their ceremonial hunting known as Akhin pardhi is observed in the months of
March-April. They believe in village and forest deities and a number of
spirits who bring disease and trouble to the society. The Dehuri (Village Priest) worships
Gonds are found chiefly in the
rural areas of Keonjhar and Champua Sub-division. They speak Gondi, a dialect belonging to
the Dravidian family. At present the Gonds of the district know and speak Oriya.
The Gonds are immigrants from the
central provinces and wear Brahminical thread. Their caste chiefs are called Mahapatras
and Singhs. The Gonds possess good physique. They are also good at negotiating steep
climbs and often carrying heavy luggage.
They are divided into a number of
clans. Marriage within the same clans is strictly prohibited. Cross-cousin marriage,
marriage by service and marriage arranged by the parents are generally practiced in their
society. Bride price system is prevalent among them. They are mostly settled cultivators.
They collect forest products for their own use.
The Gonds worship a number of
deities of which Budhadeo, Jangadeo and Lingadeo are prominent.
The Hos are found
mostly in the Anandapur Sub-division.
They live with other
Tribes. Their houses are very neat. The walls are made of mud and the roofs are
usually thatched with straw. Some have tiled roofs. They paint the walls in red and yellow
and their numerous artistic designs speak of their aesthetic sense.
Their dress is scanty. Ornaments
worn by women are very limited and simple in design. The Ho women pay
particular attention to their hair. The hair is gathered up in a knot to the right of the
back of the head and is adorned with the scarlet flowers of palasa and simuli or the pale
yellow flowers of the Sal.
The Ho rigidly follow bride price
. In their society marriage is settled by a dutam karji or marriage broker and is
in the residence of the bridegroom . On the day of the marriage the bride and the groom
are led to the altar. There the bridegroom pledges the bride by pouring some liquor (
handia ) from a cup of sal leaf to her. The bride also does the same to the bridegroom.
The groom then applies vermilion to the forehead of the bride and this completes the
marriage. Widow marriage and divorce are allowed among the Hos. Sororate and Levirate are
also allowed in their society. But cross-cousin marriage or marriage with the sister's
daughter is not allowed. Marriage within the same sib is also forbidden.
The Hos generally bury their
dead. The purification ceremony called "Kamani" takes place on the 21st day.
The majority of the
their own language Ho which is their mother tongue. Some of them have adopted Oriya. A few
speak mundari language.
The Hos of Keonjhar are
agriculturists. Many take to agricultural labour due to insufficient or no land of their
Their supreme deity is Sing
Bonga. They also worship all Hindu gods and goddess. Like other tribes they spend their
whole life in fear and dread of evil spirits. They observe Akshaya Trutiya, Salui Puja,
Makarsankranti, Sahrai or Bah Bongu, Gamha punein, Rajasankranti and Karama festival. Of
these Sahrai or Bah Bonga is their most important festival.
Their main hobby in the past was
hunting in the forests with bow and arrow. This has changed with the passage of time.
Dancing in moon-lit night with drums and flutes is a popular recreation for them.
The Juangs are mostly
concentrated in Banspal, Telkoi and Harichandanpur Blocks. They claim themselves to be the
autochthons of the area from where they have migrated to other parts of the state . They
classify themselves into two sections ,viz. the Thaniya (those who dwell in their original
habitation) and the Bhagudiya(those who have moved away to other places).
The Juangs believe that in
ancient times their tribe emerged from earth on the hills of Gonasika where the river
Baitarani has its source, not far from the village Honda in Keonjhar. In their language
the word "Juang" means man. In other words, man emerged from the earth at the
same place where the river Baitarani emerged. The Juang also refer to themselves as
patra-savaras(patra means leaf). By this they mean that they are that branch of the Savara
tribe whose members used to dress themselves in leaves.
They have got their own dialect
which has been described by Col. Dalten as Kolarian. They have acquired many Oriya
by coming in contact with the Oriya speaking people. Most of them know and speak Oriya.
In the Juang society, the village
is the largest corporate group with formally recognized territory. Within the delineated
land boundaries they possess their land both for settled and shifting cultivation and the
village forests for exploitation . They shift their village sites frequently as they
consider it inauspicious to live at a particular place for a longer period.
Each Juang village is marked by
the presence of a dormitory known as Majang where their traditional dance takes place and the
village panchayat sits. It also serves as a guest-house for the visitors to the village.
The Pradhan who is the secular headman and the Nagam or Boita or Dehuri, the village
priest constitute the traditional village panchayat of the tribe. A group of neighbouring
villages constitute a pirh which is headed by a Sardar who decides inter-village disputes.
The Juangs are patrilineal and
their society is marked by the existence of totemistic clans which are divided into two
distinct groups known as "Bandhu clans" and "Kutumba clans". The totem
is never destroyed or injured by its members. The clans are exogamous and marriage within
the same clan is considered incestuous.
Monogamy is commonly prevalent
while polygamy is not ruled out . Levirate and sororate type of marriage is prevalent on
the Juang society.
A Juang husband generally
worships the "Sajana"(drum stick)tree if his wife turns out barren and
a paste made of "Sajana" flowers and seeds to eat or he ties a sevenfold cotton
string with seven knots round his wife's neck, believing this to be a kind of talisman
which will cause conception. The Juangs do not allow their pregnant women to go to
"Devisthan". She must not tie up any thing ,must not weave mat or plaster a
house with mud.
The Juang cremate their dead. The
corpse is laid on the pyre with the head to the south . The ashes may be left on the spot
of cremation, or alternatively they may be thrown into stream.
For their livelihood they depend
mainly on primitive shifting cultivation and collection of minor forest produce.
The Juang life is marked by the
celebration of a number of religious festivals in honour of their gods and goddesses. For
them Dharam Devta and Basumata are the supreme deities. The former is identified with Sun
God and the latter with Earth Goddess. Gramashree is the presiding deity of the village.
There are also a number of hill, forest and river deities in the Juang pantheon. They
believe in the existence of spirits and ghosts.
They observe Pusha Purnima as a
mark of the beginning of the agricultural cycle, Amba Nuakhia as the first eating of mango
fruits, Akhaya Trutiya as the ceremonial sowing of paddy, Asarhi, marking the beginning of
transplanting and weeding, Pirha Puja for the protection of crops, Gahma for the welfare
of domestic cattle and other auspicious days for the ceremonial eating of new rice
harvested from different types of lands . All these occasions are marked by dancing and
singing. They use a kind of drum known as changu at the time of dancing.
For the socio-economic
development of the Juangs a micro-project has been established in the Juangpirh at
Gonasika. The project has assumed the responsibility for various development activities of
the Juang. Gradually the Juangs have started settled cultivation with modern technology.
The podu ravaged areas are being covered with trees of different species. They have also
started subsidiary occupation like tasar cultivation, tasar reeling, weaving, tailoring
developments like communication, village electrification, social forestry, and drinking
water supply are being implemented for their benefit. Under social activities, education,
health care and preservation of the human values existing in them are being
taken care of.
Considerable improvement has
taken place among the Juangs after the functioning of the Juang Development Agency.
Numerically the most important
tribe of Keonjhar is the Kolha. Most of them live in the Bhuyan hills and in the adjoining
areas like Nayagarh and Chamakpur.
They have a separate language of
their own but most of them use Oriya, Hindi and English as a subsidiary language. They
appear to have migrated to Keonjhar from the North east during the last century.
They eat all kinds of flesh and
are fond of Handia (fermented liquor) like the other tribes . The Kolhas take pleasure in
shooting animals and birds with the help of bow and arrow, but are generally timid.
It is evident that majority of
the Kolhas follow Hindu Customs and rites. But they hold the "Sajana" tree,
Paddy, mustard oil and the dog in special veneration. The breaking of straw is considered
as the final adjustment of a compact. Mostly these people serve the well-to-do
agriculturists as mulias or field labourers and are generally paid in advance by their
sahas or masters.
They are very backward in respect
of education and lag behind many other tribes in the district.
Mundas are found in Barbil,
Telkoi, Keonjhar and Champua. They generally live in a separate sector in a village
inhabited by other castes and tribes.
The Mundas wear a
loin cloth with
coloured borders called "botoi". On special occasion they use a kind of silk
belt called "Kardhani". They cover the upper part of their body by a wrapper
called "barkhi" which is about six yards long. A short variety about three yards
long, called "pichouri" is also used by them. The women wear a long piece of
cloth like a sari round the waist called "Puria" which they pass across the
shoulder to cover their breast.
The women are fond of jwellery
which is generally made of brass, silver or gold. They use bracelets, armlets, necklets,
anklets, ear-rings, rings for fingers and ties. The women are fond of decorating their
hair with flowers. They tattoo their face, chin, arm, head and feet. This practice is
called "Sanga" in their language.
The mundas erect usually big
memorial stones in the burial ground. After a memorial stone is erected, a sheep or goat
is slaughtered near it and a feast held in which kinsmen partake of the meat
Their society is divided into a
number of exogamous clans know as "Killi" which take their name from some
animals, plants or material objects. From this it appears that they are totemistic in
nature. Marriage within the same "Killi" is strictly forbidden. Each
"Killi" is sub-divided into several sub-clans. Nuclear family is commonly found
among them. All the members of the family participate in the common economic and social
activities. Their traditional headman is known as Munda who along with the village elders
looks into the social and religious matters of the tribe.
The mundas worship their own
tribal deities. "Sin Bonga" is their supreme deity who is responsible for their
creations. They also believe in the existence of a number of spirits who are responsible
for diseases and death.
Mundas are primarily
agriculturists but some of them earn their livelihood as daily labourers. Collection of
forest products is one of their subsidiary occupations. They sometimes migrate to distant
places to work as labourers in mines, quarries etc.
Santals are generally found in
Harichandanpur Block area. Santals live alongwith other tribes.
The Santals have got their own
dialect known as Santali which is said to be one of the oldest languages of India. This
belongs to the Munda group within the Austro- Asiatic sub-family of the Austric family of
languages. At present most of them speak and understand Oriya language.
The Santal society is well known
for its division into twelve patrilineal exogamous clans, the names of which are
occasionally used as surnames by the respective members of the group.
They live in spacious houses with
a front and back verandah. The houses are clean and the walls are generally decorated with
various artistic paintings in different colours.
Use of alcoholic drink is very
common among them. Rice-beer is their traditional drink which is extensively used on the
occasion of festivals and socio-religious ceremonies. They prepare this drink at home and
purchase Mahua liquor from the local vendors.
They observe Karama festival and
Makar Sankranti elaborately. Celebration of socio-religious ceremonies like birth,
marriage and death are marked by dancing, singing and drinking.
The Santals work as cultivators
and agricultural labourers. After the agricultural season is over they generally migrate
for a temporary period to work as daily wagers.
The Santals are also very
backward in education.