Advisor Dr. Gaganendra Nath Dash
Advisor Dr. Rabi Narayan Dash
Concept Dr. Birendra Kumar Nayak
Editor Dr. Supriya K. Ghoshmaulik
Executive Editor Soumya Dev
Editorial Assistance Sampad Mohapatra
Editorial Assistance Minati Singha
Editorial Assistance Sanjeev Das

Tribal Dialects

  • Santali
  • Gondi
  • Bhili / Bhilodi
  • Kurukh / Oraon
  • Mundari
  • Ho
  • Bodo / Boro
  • Garo
  • Khasi
  • Kui
  • Halabi
  • Korku
  • Lushai / Mizo
  • Tripuri
  • Bhilali
  • Barel
  • Savara
  • Munda
  • Kotya
  • Mikir
  • Khond / Kondh
  • Mishing / Miri
  • Kokana / Kokni / Kukna
  • Chodhari
  • Gamti / Gavit
  • Varli
  • Bhatri

Source: Planning for Tribal Development by Dr. B. D. Sharma

Tribal Scene In India

Dr. S. K. Ghoshmaulik

Introduction Why Underdeveloped?
Tribes of Orissa Cultural Identity
Habitat Religious faith
Economy Civilizing the savage/Helping the hapless
Other Features Interest For Tribal Studies In India


The scheduled tribe population of India constitutes 8.1% of total Indian population as per 2001 census. In some areas of India, high concentration of tribal communities is observed. Also a particular tribe is identified with specific areas in India. For example, different groups of Naga, are inhabitant of Nagaland, Mizos are in Mizoram, Santals in Jharkhand and Kondhs in Orissa. Yet many such tribal communities have proliferated to their neighboring areas and also to distant locations and settled for some generations like the Santals are spread over the adjoining areas of Bihar, West Bengal and Orissa and to remote areas like the Dooars and Assam.

So identifying tribes with a particular land area often creates confusion, which are variously misused. Yet the Onge and Jarawa are known to be inhabitants of Andaman Island, Shompen of Nicober, Todas of Niligiri hills of Tamil Nadu, Bhils of Rajasthan etc.

As India is geographically a vast country with population of varying physical features, the tribal communities are no exception to this type of morphological and geographical variations. The tribal communities inhabiting the Northeast region of India and the cis-Himalayan areas, dwell in the mountainous cool region with high rainfall. Feature-wise they are of ‘mongoloid ‘ type i.e. yellowish –fair skin, slanting eyes, narrow low nose with straight hair (but less on face) and stocky structure. They have physical closeness with other mongoloid type of people living in Tibet, Nepal, Myanmar, China, and Korea etc. But the other tribal people living in the major part of Indian plains like Bihar, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu etc. are darker, wavy haired, thin body built, moderate body and facial hair etc. Yet some tribes in Rajasthan, Gujrat, Uttar Pradesh, Uttaranchal (Garhwal) etc., are of sharper features with plenty wavy hair and brown complexion indistinguishable from non-tribal folk. There are occasional exceptions of physical type distribution in geographical context for e.g. the Todas, Andamanese, Nicoberese etc. Such identifiable physical difference is due to their original ancestral stock. The actual origin of such features is still debated and now the genetic evidences are being used to know which group gave rise to which categories in India. So is about their linguistic diversity. The Austric, Dravidian and Indo Aryan speakers have been interspersed in territorial zones and making it very difficult to tally linguistic affiliation, physical features and geographical locations.

The dialects spoken by the tribals amongst themselves are also varied and Indian constitution duly recognized them. All these dialects are grouped under broad categories viz., (i)Austro-Asiatic (ii) Dravidian (iii)Tibeto- Burmese. At present due to increase in contact with other people, speaking Indo-Aryan languages or other major languages, many tribal people have acquired linguistic plurality.

Tribes of Orissa

Orissa is a costal state facing the Bay of Bengal and serves as a corridor land between northern and southern states of India. It enjoys tropical climate favouring forest growth on the mountainous range of the Eastern Ghats extension The costal and other plains, nourished by rivers, are occupied mostly by Non-tribal people, leaving the hilly terrains to the tribal communities. There are nearly two dozens of tribal communities who are numerically (over one lakh population) major. Some tribal communities like Kondh, Juang, Bhuiyan, Bonda, Didayi, Paraja, Gadaba, Saora etc. are confined to Orissa only. Tribes like Gond, Koya, ,Ollaro Gadaba, Halva, Oraon, Munda, Ho, Santala etc. are spread over adjoining areas of neighboring states. There are some very minor tribes, who are numerically very less and found only in limited areas of Orissa (for e.g. Jatapu, Amanatia, Pentia etc). Tribals constitute 22.16% (according to 2001 census) of total population of Orissa. According to 1991 census the tribals constituted 22.21% of the total population of the State.


Some of these tribal groups live in under-developed condition following their traditional way of life in the hill forest region of Orissa. They are mostly concentrated in the southern and northern parts, though found in the western and central areas of Orissa. Very less tribal habitations are found in the costal areas of Orissa, barring some hilly areas in the southern part. General habitat of most of the tribes is forest and hills. As forest provides basic needs like fuel and food, the tribals usually live in the vicinity of natural forest. Under the aggressive civilization, most of the plains, nourished by river, have lost forest coverage, compelling the tribal people to move to the mountainous areas where still some forest is left. These habitats are also now invaded by developed people for quarrying precious metal ores or constructing dams for irrigation and hydroelectricity to boost national economy.


The tribes of Orissa, by and large, earn their livelihood through (i) Farming, (ii) Collecting forest produce and (iii) wage labour. Of Course, many tribal persons, in recent times, have regular jobs. Farming is mostly on non-irrigated undulating terrains using very antique methods of hoeing and ploughing using cattle. This gives very low yield. So hill dwellers resort to slash – and – burn (Swidden) cultivation in their available hill slopes, damaging forest. Hunting is not a supportive subsistence now for animal protein, due to strict forest vigilance. Collection of edible substances from forest still supports their need for food. For these reasons, many of them are now migrating to distant areas to work as laborers, which can at least assure daily cash money. Their traditional skills are now outdated in the light of modern labour market. Tribals who are affected by industrial installation, have found engagement in those areas, and have been observed to imbibe the habits of complex society. In spite of the onslaught of technological civilisation, a large number. of tribal population, have maintained their age-old values and belief, and struggle for existence in their ancestral land.

Other Features

The tribal people who live in their respective habitat are characterized by poor literacy and education, high infant, child and maternal mortality and poor health due to under-nutrition. Each of the above mentioned factors is thoroughly researched by scholars of various disciplines. Appropriate corrective measures are prescribed and implemented by the government and non-government organizations. This aspect has now attracted worldwide attention and tribal development issue has become most important aspect of human development programs.

Why Underdeveloped?

Up to the first-half of the 20th century, general population of India was growing under the natural process of birth and death, supported by insufficient medical intervention, ignorance and colonial government’s indifference. The tribal people were living unsighted in their own areas, under their own system of management. There was no strong need to go outside their territory and compete with other people who were knowledgeable about their rights and facilities to be extracted from the government. So formal education was not alluring. A tribal child was educated by their own seniors to be a good hunter or forest collector and a fit person to provide food and security to own people. Heath, sanitation and disease treatments were maintained through traditional knowledge using local herbs. All these knowledge and ways of life became redundant when they came under the ambit of national policy and their habitat with all bio diversity became national asset. Their ignorance of national legal system, prohibitions and rights etc. made them victim of exploitation by ‘advanced people’. At one point of time, those people were equal to each other in status and technology, but gradually became ‘poor’ and marginal in comparison to other non-tribal people. Self-contained economy could not sustain their families and money-economy eluded them.

Cultural Identity

In general the tribal communities (particularly of Orissa) maintained their socio cultural identities with the surrounding non-tribals but also with other tribal neighbors. Internal social organizations based on ‘clan’ and ‘lineage’ ties are ubiquitous throughout the tribal world with some variations in myth and socio religious rituals. Such tribal community is socially headed by man (as their patriarchal), his office being normally hereditary. He is the supreme appellate in all social disputes, but religious matters are performed under the guidance of the priest.

Religious faith

Animistic religion recognizes all natural forces to be powerful, so also the ancestral spirits. The ancestral spirits are believed to reside around their villages and are directly or indirectly involved in mundane life of the villagers. These spirits need to be kept appeased and so also different supernatural forces. Different tribal groups have different gods and goddesses presiding over different aspects of human well being. Diseases and illness are largely attributed to the wrath or displeasure of various spirits or gods, and some might be due to their faulty method of life. Their treatment methods are designed appropriately. Village medicine man treats certain illness by using herbal drugs and the shaman (a magico-religious functionary) treats those, which are due to supernatural wrath. Diagnostic system and treatment process vary from tribe to tribe. Each tribal community remains under the guidance of own priest and shaman regarding physical or community well-being. Those who have embraced Christianity or Buddhism have dropped these practices, yet

when in crises they resort to magico-religious practices. Many tribal people, who live in close proximity with the Hindus, have accepted many Hindu festivals in addition to their own method of nature propitiation.

Each tribal community nurtures a story regarding their origin and the common feature is that they were the first human beings created by their supreme god (differently named). Stories on prohibitions, breakages of rules, punishment doled out by the supernatural beings are very interesting cultural assets of these preliterate people. Anthropologists have gone into details of such anecdotes and tried to interpret their customs commemorating birth and death of each individual. Rituals regarding their mortuary, reveal their belief in rebirth and continuity of their community. Many primitive tribes of Orissa, still follow these belief and maintain connection with the 'other world' (Saora, Gadaba, Kondh etc). Non-tribal people are in fact, migrants into the tribal land from northern or central India :they had migrated in remote past (pre-Christian millennia). In ancient Hindu mythological literatures, tribal people were variously named as "yaksha", "Raksha", "Kirata", "Byadha", "Nishada" or "Kiskindhya" mainly due to ignorance about their way of life.

As both the communities were at loggerheads regarding claim over natural resources, an air of suspicion prevailed. These forest- dependant people were befriended by many non-tribal chieftains. In some cases they were decimated too. These stories with tinges of love, animosity and fear, percolated down to the present days and the tribal people are viewed as separated groups with peculiar social system. Non-tribal oral tradition, myth, dances, music or art have profusely been enriched from tribal sources. Common non-tribal people acknowledge sincerity, truthfulness and simplicity of the tribals. Most often they consider them as 'adivasi' a blanket term without much differentiation of distinct ethnic identities. They are dependable labour force and placed at margin of their own society.

Civilizing the savage/Helping the hapless

The colonial administration showed no intention to uplift the stressful life condition of the aboriginal community. They were left to their own way of life. These people were viewed as 'savage', fit only for working as unskilled laborer in mines, tea estates etc. The Christian missionaries wanted to convert them and 'thereby civilize' them in European way. Schools, hospitals and churches were established in many areas, which indeed changed the tribal culture to an extent. Many superstitious or brutal practices like headhunting or human sacrifice were stopped by the administration but they did not care to spread education, health services, communication and economic opportunities. Post independence period of Indian democratic administration took various development programs, spread education and reserved job and other economic facilities for the tribals and other backward communities. These upliftment programs became constitutional promise. During half a century of such attempts, plan and implementation have been revised several times. The non-government and voluntary agencies are now encouraged to work for the tribal development with funding from various sources. Still there is long way to go in this direction and rescue the hapless ignorant peasants from age-old backwardness. The tribal areas are now approachable. Many industries have come up in the heartland and the serenity of tribal life has been affected.

Interest For Tribal Studies In India

As the isolated tribal communities have their own ways of life guided by self devised social organizations, customs, rituals and belief systems, European officers, travelers and other Indian people, who chanced to be intimate with them, developed curiosity. The administration required to know details of their culture so that these people could be tackled effectively. Following emergence of Anthropology as a scientific discipline in the nineteenth century, many amateur scholars took interest in ethnographic accounts of the tribals in Africa, Americas and Asia. Indian subcontinent also became ethnographers’ paradise throughout twentieth century. Thus we see marvelous studies on the Andaman islanders, Veddas of Sri Lanka, Toda of Tamil Nadu and also on various North- East Indian tribes like Nagas, Khasis, Garos and many central and East Indian tribes.

As twentieth century progressed, the universities started teaching Anthropology. Government of India opened a department for research, which later became Anthropological Survey of India. A surge in tribal studies was observed which was not limited in ethnographic accounts only. One also finds studies on various aspects of their society, religion, language, art, music, economy, ecology and self governance system. The biological, demographic, health and nutritional situations of tribal communities also have received attention.

With a long background of independent existence and self-management, each tribal community on being probed in recent years, has revealed itself as a treasure house of indigenous knowledge especially in science of treatment. The impression that the tribals belonged to a backward society is fast fading. Growing awareness is observed among the modern scholars to retrieve the traditional knowledge system of the tribals and utilize it for the benefit of the mankind.


The Indian Map is adapted from the map given in the book Planning for Tribal Development by Dr. B. D. Sharma
Photographs by Dr. Jagannath Dash

Ho: A Glimpse of Tribal Life In Transition

Dr. Basanta Kumar Mohanta

Introduction Religious Faith
Dwelling Life Cycle Rituals
Food & Drink Birth, Name Giving, Puberty
Dress Marriage, Death
Social Administration Festivals


These tribal people identify themselves as Ho in their own language, which means Man. In some areas, the also identify ‘Kohl’, for which other neighboring people call them as ‘Kol’, ‘Kolha’ or ‘Kol-Lahara’. As these people are found to inhabit forest areas of Jharkhand (part of former Bihar) and adjoining part of Orissa, such multiple identities often create confusion among scholarly investigators and census recorders. Following the view of E.T Dalton (1872), D.N Majumdar (1950) opined that the generic name ‘Ho’ has been derived either from the Sanskrit word ‘Kol’ meaning pig, or from the word ‘Horo’ which has different forms viz ‘Koro’, ‘Kola’ and ‘Kol’.

The western part of Singbhum district (Jharkhand) which is the core habitat of these people since long past, is known as ‘Kol-sthan’or land of Kol. It is believed by many scholars that like many tribal communities of Jharkhand and Bihar, the Munda and the Ho (Kol) people, migrated to this area from the north Indian Gangetic plains under pressure of the Indo-Aryan speaking people. The two tribal communities possibly belonged to one ancestral stock and got separated in course of time. The Mundas mixed with the Hindu neighbour more intimately and accepted Hindu culture along with their own, But the Ho people stayed away. Till now, these Ho do not allow any outsider to settle in their habitation. Many Ho migrated to neighbouring areas of Jharkhand and Orissa.

Physically, the Ho belong to Australoid phenotype with short stature, thinly built body, dark brown skin, short and broad nose with dark-brown eyes. Scalp hair is deep brown, deep wavy often looking curly. Facial and body hair is scanty.



The Ho is very intimate with forest, where they feel secured. So most of their villages are inside or at periphery of forest. As forest coverage is now restricted to the hills (extended Eastern Ghats), the villages are generally at the foot hills, with water-sources. The villages are often divided into several hamlets with clusters of houses facing each other on either side of roads. This is mainly due to undulating nature of land. The open spaces in between hamlets are either used for cultivation or left to grow natural vegetation.

The houses are built of mud and other locally available resources, like wood, straw (of paddy or other wild grasses) and ‘Khappra’ (semi-cylindrical burnt clay tiles). They decorated their houses with cow dung –mud plasters and soil /ochre colours and keep very clean size of the houses and number of rooms or area of covered place vary as per family capacity. Majority people make one large room and divide internally into several compartment for specific purposes like cooking, storing grains, sleeping etc. The ancestral spirits are believed to stay in the inner chamber where they are propitiated.

Food and Drink

The Ho depends on rice as staple food and prepares home fermented rice-beer for daily consumption. Occasional hunting or sharing of small game animal or bird, provide protein. Beef and pork are not prohibited, but to be acceptable to the Hindu neighbors, they are now a days avoiding. Like all tribal people, the Ho are also very fond of intoxicating drink. Mahuli (liquor) is prepared from Mahua (Madhuca latifolia) flowers and enjoyed. Tobacco leaves chewed raw or puffed through hand made cigars (Picca or Bidi). There is no gender difference in smoking or drinking liquor. Along with paddy, they csultivate other millet also. Their agricultural tools are very simple. Ploughing is carried out using bullocks, wooden plough with iron shoe/ blade yoke, leveler, sickle etc.


Traditional male dress is a short striped cloth piece- ‘Botoi’. Covering the abdominal part and thigh, one end tucked up on backside. The traditional woman’s dress is short Sari (lagna or lagia), covering the torso and abdominal portion hanging just below the knees. Women don’t use any blouse or undergarment. But now men have started using pant, shirt, dhoti and lungi and women use longer sari, due to contact with advanced people. The younger school going children wear dresses prescribed by the school.

Social Administration

The Ho traditional dialect belongs to Munda branch of Austro Asiatic family of languages, allied to Santali and Mundari speakers of eastern and central India. Like the Turkish language, the Ho dialect is also known as agglunitive language, where the inflections have lost their meaning as separate entities by he process of ‘Phonetic decay’. The vocabulary of Ho is also very peculiar, where a number of words are used to indicate individual things and ideas but there are no such words used for general and abstract terms (Prasad, S. 1961).

At present, the Ho dialect is confined only when they speak among themselves. They speak a mixture of Ho and Hindi and use Hindi script in the Jharkhand area, speak a mixture of Ho, Hindi and Oriya and use Oriya script in Mayurbhanj (Orissa) and in Bengal, they use Bengali script and Ho, Hindi, Bengali mixed dialect when communicating with others. Vast majorities of To-day’s Ho people are multilingual. Language influence of other communities are so deep, that these people are now keeping the name of their children in Indo-Aryan names for formal identity and names in Ho for personal address. Thus Ramachandra, Ghanasyam, Durga, Janaki also have home names like Jaklo, Rode, Jhingi, Dumdi etc. The schoolteachers are also responsible for giving formal Sanskritc names. Besides this, Ho parents are sometimes impressed by some Oriya surnames viz. Mohanty, Rout etc and use these as first name along with Ho surname viz. Mohanty Deogam, Rout Deogam. Also some Indo-Aryan names like Lily or August (month name) etc are found. Often such unacquainted names are phonetically distorted when Laxman become Lokan, Geeta becomes Gite, Sita becomes Seete etc. In the nomenclature of villages also such admixture of Ho and other languages happened. For example, a village ‘Badhantnabeda’ is a combination of three words: ‘Bad’ (Oriya word meaning Big), ‘Hatna’ (in Kolhan ‘Hatna’ meaning ‘Arjun Tree’ or ‘Terminalia arjuna’) and Beda (in Kolhan means large cultivable land). Because the village was established by filling large number of ‘Arjun trees’ and was surrounded by low cultivable land, the name ‘Hatnabeda’ was given. Later on to avoid confusion with another synonym small village Oriya prefix ‘Bada’ was added. It is interesting to note how neighboring Hindus introduced change in Ho culture. The Ho erect on memorial stone pillar on the burial of a person after death which is known as ‘Sasandhiri. On this stone, the identity and achievement of the deceased is engraved. As there is no expert engraver among them and the Ho does not have any script of their own, they hire an engraver from Hindu neighbour. The engraver used his own script (Hindi or Oriya) to engrave the matter, but often engraved ‘Om Ganesaya Namoh’ as per Hindu practices. The Ho do not show resentment towards such accretion to their identification marker.

Religious Faith

The census (1981) reveled that some Ho are Hindu or Christian or Muslim, Sikh etc. but 81.65% in Jharkhand, 81.49% in Orissa and 97.69% in West Bengal, follow their own religion. The nature worshipping Ho believe in ‘Sarna’ religion. The ‘Sarna’ is derived from ‘Sar’ meaning ‘Arrow’. As like other tribes of the area, the Ho area of worship is ‘Sarnasthal’ or ‘Jahera’, a small grove outside he village. It is believed that the sacred grove is remnant of old forestland, their ancestors cleared for settlement.

The Ho gods have a blanket name ‘Bonga’ who are both power and spirits, some are benevolent and some malevolent. There are various types of ‘Bonga’ and ancestral spirit or ‘Bura Buri’. A look into the following chart may clarify.

The Ho Bongas: Nature of Worship and Hindu Equivalence

Name of the Bonga Its nature and Place of Existence Time of worship Reason of Worship Offerings and Sacrifices Corresponding Name in Hindu Pantheon
Singh- Bonga Supreme deity, Creator Prior to every worship, but specially during maghe parab Expression of devotedness white sim (chicken) Sun God
Marang Bonga* Clan deity Irregular interval To protect respective clan/clans from disease, drought etc. Sunned rice, sindoor (vermilion) and Areca Nut and sometimes a Boda (unsterilised He-Goat) Mahadeva
Buru Bonga** (Buru means Hill) The deity of hill responsible for different types of danger in forest/hills Akhari Parab To protect them from evil spirits, accidents and other sorts of danger in forest/hills    
Bura Buri Ancestor spirits Sarhul Parab      
Goram Village Deity Every month To protect the village and its inhabitants Sindoor, Rice, Flower and red sim  
Dessauli Bonga (Des means country/Place) Village deity, Protector against diseases Maghe Parab, Baha Parab, Haro Parab and Jomnawa Parab To protect the villagers from small pox, cholera and other epidemics Sarjom blossoms, red sim, merom, etc.  
Bagia Bonga** The deity of tiger and other wild animals Akhari Parab To drive away hazards from forest/Hills    
Nage Bonga River Goddess (Supposed to be the wife of Sing Bonga)   To protect from the diseases of ear and hydrocele Pig, egg, haldi (turmeric powder)  
Gara Satamia**         Nai Bhagabati
Suni kar**         Shani (Saturn) Kala
Rahu Kar**         Rahu Kala
Chandi**         Chandi/ Kali
Juguni Bonga**         Juguni

*According to some scholars the Marang Bonga and Buru Bonga are two different names of the same deity but as per the field information both are different from each other
**Malevolent Bongas

Majumdar (D.N) suggested that all the malevolent Bongas of Ho are not their own, but entered from the equivalent forces of neighbouring Hindu communities. For example ‘Gara satami’ of Ho has originated from Hindu Oriya deity ‘Nai Bhagwati’, presiding over ponds / tanks. ‘Satami’ is distorted form of ‘Sat-ma’ or stepmother who often becomes angry, but original mother ‘Nage – bonga’ or river goddess is kind. Simillarly from Hindu malevolent planetary powers like ‘Sani’ or ‘Rahu’, the Ho accepted ‘Suni-Kar’, ‘Rahu-Kar’ etc. Following Hindu ‘Chandi’ (strong woman power), Ho appease ‘Bisai – Chandi’ (Poison), ‘Ranga-Chandi’ (Red for Blood thirsty) , ‘Jugini’ and ‘Dakini’ etc. ,all from Hindu ‘Tantra’ cult. As they are essentially forest dweller, they have fear from snakes whose presiding deity ‘Manasa’ is worshiped following Hindu neighbours.

All the tribal communities have very strong believe in witchcraft, the Ho is no exception. The witch or ‘Dian’ (usually very old woman of the society) accrue evil power and do harm persons in many ways. The secret activities of witch ladies invocation of evil ‘Bonga’ at village cremation ground in dark new moon night (Amabasya). ‘Deonwa’ or witch doctor counters the witchcraft activities. These ‘Deonwas’ are from low –caste Hindu neighbours. It is to be noted that ailments or supernatural problems call for inter community cooperation.

Life Cycle Rituals

Due to continuous interaction with neighboring Hindus (Jharkhand & Orissa) many Ho rituals have undergone changes.


A child is due to blessings of Singbonga. During gestation, the expectant mother is kept under various prohibitions in food, work and even using objects. A malevolent spirit ‘Churningbonga’ is appeased. Midwives now assist birth. The mother is kept under pollution restriction to take rest and prevent infection.

Name Giving

The Ho observe purification after 8 days, when the father and the baby are tonsured and ancestor spirits and clan members propitiated. Many Ho perform this on 21st day, following Oriya speaking neighbours. Shaving is performed by a Ho of another clan (Khili). A feast is arranged. They have a ritualistic process of determining suitability of a name.


Attainment of the puberty girls (Kui) is marked by a social ritual. This is an initiation to womanhood. The village priest (Dehuri) conducts the propitiation of Singbonga (other rituals by society women) if the menarche starts on inauspicious days.


The Ho call it ‘Andi’, which is settled between clans. Monogamy is generally practiced, but polygamy is not ruled out. Sorroral polygamy (marrying wife’s sister) is also accepted. The following are the types:

  • Diku Andi: Negotiation marriage.
  • Opertipi Andi: When the groom captures the bride for marriage.
  • Rajikhusi Andi: When both plan and elope.
  • Anader Andi: When bride enters groom’s house by own will.
  • Gardijaumai Andi: The groom lives in the bride’s house after marriage.
  • Badal Andi: The two families exchange their daughters

In tribal world the bride’s family enjoys upper hand and they receive wealth (cash / kind) from groom’s family. In negotiation marriage, very elaborate process is followed both for finalizing and actual marriage. In other cases a consensus is reached afterwards. In every auspicious occasion the Dehuri or priest is called for propitiating Singbonga. Many Hindu processes have now mixed with original Ho practices.


The Ho traditional belief is that Singbonga assigns certain duties to all persons to be performed within a specific time. If it is not completed he/ she will reborn to complete that work. A person’s deed in previous life is counted in present life. Now the belief is changing.

All the community members gather as soon they get the death news. They follow elaborate process of rituals at the courtyard and burial ground. Before burial in a wooden box the corps is bathed, given new clothes, anointed with sandal paste and vermilion lime and water with basil leaves sprinkled. For every thing there is detailed methods. Different types of mortuary rites are performed for different types of death. A monument stone / pillar (Sasandhari) is erected on the burial, depicting detail identity of the deceased.


Ho observe different festivals centered around agricultural activities throughout the year:

  • Maghi Parab: January- February
  • Baha Parab: February – March
  • Raja Parab: May- June
  • Hero Parab: June- July
  • Bahatanli Parab: July-August
  • Jamnawa Parab: September – October
  • Kakamontanri / Kalam Parab: December- January.

Photographs by the author

Santali: Language and Script

Purabi Tripathy

Introduction Script
Literature Alchiki

Santali, to be specific, belongs to Munda family of language which is a part of Austric (Austo-Asiatic) language family. The classification of Munda family is displayed as follows.

Santali represents the largest group in India speaking a tribal language. People speaking Santali are called Santals and are spread over four states – Bihar, West Bengal, Orissa and Tripura. In Orissa, Santals from one of the largest schedule tribe communities out of 62 tribal groups inhabiting Orissa. They are mainly spread over the districts of Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar, Balasore and Sundergarh. They are also found, through in small in the districts of Cuttack, Dhenkanal, Puri, and Koraput.


Santali literature is classified into two main type:

(i) the earlier primitive literature based on oral tradition and

(ii) the modern literature which is being created by educated Santals on the model of the literature in the Aryan languages, particularly Bengali, Oriya and to some extent Hindi. The second type of literature does not have any special Santali character about it. There are two great works in Santal containing collections of old traditions and legends. The first is Hor-ko-ren mare Harprarn-ko-reak Katha or ‘ The Traditions of the Ancestors of the Hor or Santal people'. The traditions contained in this work were given out by a Santal guru or preacher named Kolean (Kalyan). This oral narration was published by a Scandinavian Missionary Rev. A. S. Skrefrsud in year 1887. It was in roman script. It is a great compilation of Santali stories and legends in their earliest forms. The second work is Kherwal-Vamsa Dharam-Puthi or ‘The sacred Book of the Kherwal Race’ (Kherwal is an old name for the Santals and other allied Kol people. It is a compilation as well as composition by Ramdas Majhi Tudu of Ghatrida (Bihar) who was very well informed about the traditions of his people and its religious and social culture. This book was published in 1902. It was in Bengali script.

Next to these myths and religious traditions and usages there is a long series of Santal folk tales dealing mostly with Santal belief in the Bongas or Gods and Godlings, and giving a very fine picture of the primitive life of the Santal people in their jungle villages. The best collections of the such stories were made by Scandinavian Missionaries, particularly by P. O Budding who was considered one of the great authorities on Santal folklore and tradition. It was in Roman script.

Besides these folk tales in prose, there is a rich mass of Santal lyrics generally in couplets and sometimes in more than four to six line. In these lyrics, thumbnail sketches of Santali life is found.


Santali language to start with, never had any script of its own. Besides being written in Roman script, in West Bengal- Bengali script, in Orissa - Oriya script and in Bihar- Nagari script were used to write Santali language.

Pandit Raghunath Murmu has developed a script for Sanatli language which is known as ‘Alchiki’. It is claimed to have been developed as early as 1935–36. Alchiki alphabet has six vowels and twenty four consonants such that every vowel is followed by four consonants with the restriction that a consonant follows one and only one vowel. Besides there are five symbols of signification used after the letters to give different sounds. It may be observed that though the shapes of the letters appear to be a bit complicated, yet they are drawn similar to certain real life situations.


Letter Description Letter Description Letter Description Letter Description
This letter stands for the vowel, O & is modified from a picture of 'LO' (burning) (Oi) consonant following This letter is equivalent of ' l ' (Uc) consonant following This letter is equivalent of 'c' (Op') consonant following This letter gives b in combination with a vowel or check valve


This letter stands for vowel, A & is modified from a picture of 'LA' (digging) (Ak) consonant following This letter is equivalent of 'k' (Ut) consonant following This letter gives d in combination with a vowel or check valve (Own) consonant following nearest pronunciations are 'on'
This letter stands for vowel, I & is modified from a picture of 'LI'(bending) (Ac') consonant following This letter gives c' in combination with a vowel or check valve (Ur) consonant following This letter is equivalent of ~r (Oh) consonant following This letter is equivalent of 'h'
This letter stands for vowel, U & is modified from a picture of 'LU' (to take water by dipping a ladle) (Am) consonant following This letter is equivalent of 'm' (Uy) consonant following This letter is equivalent of 'y' (Ohot') It is a signification of force (check valve).
This letter stands for vowel, E & is modified from a picture of 'LE' (swelling) (Aw) consonant following (Ep) consonant following This letter is equivalent of 'p' (Gahla) It is a signification of low pitch
This letter stands for vowel, O & is modified from a picture of mouth pronouncing O (low pitch on O) (Is) consonant following This letter is equivalent of 's' (Ed) consonant following This letter is equivalent of 'd' (Mu Tudak') It is a signification to nasalise the vowel
(Ot) consonant following This letter is equivalent of 't'


(Ih) consonant following This letter is equivalent of 'h' (En) consonant following This letter is equivalent of 'n' (Rela) It is used for prolongations of vowels
(Ok) consonant following
This letter gives G in combination with a vowel or check valve
(In') consonant following nearest pronunciations are n' (Er) consonant following This letter is equivalent of 'r' (Pharka) It is used as a separation between a checked consonant and other consonants
(On) consonant following This letter is equivalent of 'n' (Ir) consonant following This letter is equivalent of 'r' (Ot) consonant following This letter is equivalent of 't'    


ISSN: 2249 3433


The word tribe is variously used in literature to denote a community on the basis of homogeneity. Originally many autochthonous communities who were identified by similar culture, social organisation and governance, living away from the main stream life of a country, were mentioned as tribe by their colonial rulers and Western scholars. Many such communities have moved towards the mainstream lifestyle so that they may no longer be identified as secluded, underdeveloped people with queer customs. This has happened to all areas of the world where tribal communities live. Still, many tribal communities lead their lives in very primitive ways devoid of the techno-economic glamour of contemporary civilization. These communities are labeled as "Primitive Tribal Groups". Indian Government has identified such tribal groups to give special attention to their development, whereas in the Indian Constitution all the tribal groups are recognized as "scheduled tribes".


Editorial Board

Professor S.K.Ghoshmaulik
Retd Professor of Anthropology, Utkal University is the Editor of this e-zine

Managing Editor
Professor Birendra Kumar Nayak
Retd. Professor of Mathematics, Utkal University

Associate Managing Editor
Dr. Pramod Kumar Parida
Retd. Reader in Odia language and literature

Technical Editor
Soumya Dev
Masters in Computer Applications

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