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 Santosh Baral
Editorial Assistance Jogendra Kumar Behera

Tribal Languages Of Orissa


I am not a linguist but a student of anthropology, which is one of the new social sciences concerned chiefly with culture and social structure with a bias towards the study of tribal communities. Anthropologists, like other social scientists, seek to build up systematic knowledge of social processes, which include communication through language. While the linguist deals with grammar, phonemes, morphemes, semantics, Etymology, etc., the social scientist deals with language as part of the totality of the people’s culture. Language, in fact, is man’s oldest culture, coeval with his humanity. Apart from the function of communication, transmission and conservation of culture, language has other functions such as setting the limits to intimate group creation. Linguistic differences constitute effective barriers to social contact among people geographically near as well as remote from each other. If, within a small area, as in Assam or Chotnagpur, we find a large number of languages, the obvious inference is that for centuries the groups speaking these different languages had only minimal contacts and were isolated one from the other.

Language, particularly semantics, analysed from the cultural points of view, gives us insights into the guiding frames of reference within which a people did their thinking. If we do not know much of the history is to examine their language. In the case of pre-literate communities, all that can be known of there past is confined to their oral folk literature. For example, the Juangs, one of the most primitive tribes of Orissa has no word for ‘village’, for the reason that in the past, they did not settle sufficiently long in any of place. The Juangs ‘drink’ rice, not ‘eat’ rice, for, in the past they were accustomed to liquid preparation of cereals.

Tribal languages also contain all the unwished for potentialities for linguistics troubles with which we are now familiar. These are the concern of the politicians, so I shall refer only to the background of the language situation as it concerns the tribal people.

In the past we used to talk of primitive tribes, but now-a-days no anthropologist would talk of tribal culture as primitive or low, as there are no value-free scales for ranking cultures. In a similar manner, and much more justifiable, there can be no talk of any language as primitive. One may argue as to whether a particular tribe engages itself in activities that are worthy of the name of religion or art, but we know of no people who are not possessed of fully developed language. The lowliest South African Bushmen speak in the forms of a rich symbolic system that is in essence perfectly comparable to the speech of the cultivated Frenchmen. The language of the Juang or the Ho is as complex in grammar, syntax, etc., as any other language in the world. The only difference lies in the size of the vocabulary. In unwritten languages, as those of the tribal groups there is no point in loading the language with words for which their can be no possible use.

The tribal languages of Orissa are spoken languages with no script of their own. They fall into two board divisions, Mundari and Dravidian. The Mundari group has a northern branch, which Grierson called Kherwari after the traditional homeland of the Santals, Mundas, Birhors, Ho’s and other tribes. The southern Mundari branch includes Saora, Gadaba (Gutob), Remo, Pareng, Juang, etc. the chief Dravidian tribal languages are Kui, Kuvi, Gondi, Ollari, Kisan and Oraon. On account of the presence of some Mundari-like words in vocabularies of Khmer tribes of South-East Asia, Pater Schmidit, a Viennese scholar tried to trace Mundari origins to South-East Asia but modern linguists are inclined to the view that these languages have little to connect them with South-East Asia. Extra-Indian affiliations of Dravidian are also discounted by modern linguists. As regards the question whether Mundari or Dravidian was the first to appear on the scene of Orissa, opinion seems to be somewhat divided. Grierson thought that Dravidian pushed into the north from the south displacing Mundari. But taking all the evidence, racial and cultural and historical, into consideration, one would be inclined to the opposite view that the Dravidian speakers were the earlier pre-Aryan, pre-Mundari ethnic stock. The Gadabas found in the Koraput district and in the contiguous tracts of Andhra are the most southerly speaker of Mundari tongue. The Gadabas who call themselves Gutob are themselves split into two sections, one speaking the Mundari Gutob tongue and the other speaking Ollari, a Dravidian language closely allied to Parji, Koya, Kolami and Naiki, all the four together forming an important but little-known branch of the Dravidian language family with its 18 languages including Brahui spoken in Baluchistan.

Of all the Mundari languages, Santali has the largest population speaking that tongue. In the year 1932, Rev. P. Bodding, the missionary lexicographer of Santali estimated that about three million people spoke that language. That number has probably gone up now. The name Santali is the Hindi version of the name Saotar given to the people by the Bengalies. The people themselves call their language Hor Ror that means the ‘speech of men’. Bodding himself has listed for his great Santali Dictionary more than 25,00 words. The Santals have been inveterate borrowers from other neighboring languages and as a mobile people, have a sharp sense of fine shades of meaning. Thanks partly to the efforts of Christian missionaries and partly to the new linguistic ethnocentrism, Santali is now one of the most cultivated tribal languages. The missionaries have adopted the Roman script for Santali. As the Santals are distributed in three linguistic areas, a script, which will unify the tribes, is exercising the minds of the tribal leadership. As a language, Santali seems to have a future.

The growth of bilingualism, and in some cases trilingual seems to be one of the most interesting developments in the tribal linguistic situation. The Juangs, for example, inhabiting the remote areas of Juangpirh in Keonjhar district are bilingual. I am informed by one of my former students working among the Juangs that Juang children become bilingual by the age of five. This is an indication of the heavy influx of Oriya into Juang. Even to ask such a simple question, "What is your name?" they say, "Ama namo biri" introducing the Oriya word for name. The Kisan of Sundargarh are trilingual, speaking among themselves their Dravidian mother tongue Kisan, speaking Oriya to the local neighbors and Munda to the Mundari-speaking neighbors. They seem to have the gift of tongues. In Phulbani, a predominantly Kond area, most of the Konds are bilingual.

In contrast to the viability of Santali, thousands of speakers of Saora and Kui and Gondi have completely given up their native tongues and adopted Oriya, which is matched on the social side by disclaiming relationship with their brethren still clinging to the original tribal language. In the Garjhat areas less than 20 per cent of the tribal groups speak any of the tribal languages. The slow attrition of the tribal tongues by disuse is a pointer to the fate that awaits these languages. But to understand the developmental history of Oriya itself, if not for purely linguistic research, all that scholars can preserve of these vanishing languages should be granted before they are irretrievably lost. For the linguists, as for the anthropologists, tribal languages offer a rich field for research. Here in Orissa we may perhaps be able to reconstruct proto-Dravidian and Proto-Mundari.

Photograph Source :

References :
Adibasi (Journal of the Tribal Research Bureau, Bhubaneswar), January 1964, 3: 5-6.
"Tribal Culture and Tribal Welfare",selected papers by Dr. A. Alyappan & Edited by Dr. U. C. Mohanty.(Courtesy – All India Radio, Cuttack.}

A Kandha Mixed Bag Narrative of Creation

Dr. Biyotkesh Tripathy

Teller: Lilaram Kota [M 45. Tribe: Kandha (Kondh) (Gauda). Village: Ghatang Padar, Kalahandi. Date: Oct 10, 1999. Interviewer: Biyotkesh Tripathy & team. Cassette No. 139, Side A. O. Tr. Pp.: 13585-315. F.N.: Kal, p. 6. Transcriber: F. B. Puthal. Status: As told (edited; editorial explanations, emendations & additions in square brackets). Type: Myth-Lore.] Translator: Biyotkesh Tripathy.

What was happening, sir, so to say, in ancient times, Basuki having trembled [the universe having collapsed because of the shaking of Basuki, the snake that held the earth up], there was no heaven above and Patala, down below, the earth that is, was all muddy. When it turned into mud, you see, gods and goddesses as well as rakhyasas [demons], all became dirty. When this happened, gods and goddesses as well as humans all were destroyed. When they were destroyed, there was no one left, in whichever direction one looked. So, what to do? Everything was destroyed except two, a brother and a sister. They alone were alive. How they lived was, in the sea there was a boat. They had hidden themselves in that boat. When they stayed, thus hidden, Adi Mata [Primal Mother], the goddess—Sarada on earth, Sarala in heaven, Basuki in Patala [the underworld]—somehow came to know of this. Having come to know of this, she thought, ‘No one, now, worships me or makes any offering, how shall I create human beings?’
At this time, there was a banyan tree, in which there was a bird lying dead. With the whispering of gods and goddesses around it, it came back to life. When it came alive, it cried and its cry fell in the ears of god who said, ‘Aha, there you are. Your cry fell in my ears. Now, can you do something for me?’
‘What can I do, lord?’
‘Without you I can’t have my eminence. There’s nothing on earth. If there were, I could have done something. But there is no earth. Can you find any humans for me?’
‘I can’t find them. But at midnight I hear the sound of a flute. I alone hear that sound.’
‘Okay, can you bring that flute to me?’
‘Yes, I can bring that.’
‘You are a bird. You are afraid neither of water nor of air. You can fly out and bring it to me, can you not?’
‘Yes, I shall.’
‘Then go, my bird, and bring it.’
So, the bird went and brought the flute and gave it to Adi Mata [Primal Mother], goddess Sarala. The Mother blew into it.
The one whose flute it was, was surprised. This was not their tune. When your friend played a tune, you would recognize it, would you not? But this was different. Somebody else’s tune. He looked around and did not find his flute. When the flute played in the night, they used to wake up. Since the flute was not there, what was to be done? Who was playing on their flute? This flute was their daily companion. The two people inside the boat came out, and they saw goddess Adi Mata right before them. [They were scared].
They said, ‘Lord, whether you are a ghost or ghoul, witch or demoness, tell us, do you want to eat us? If you want to save us, save us. We are almost dead. We two alone have survived being burnt to ashes. Do what you will.’
‘No, no, I have not come to eat you or drink you. I have come to take care of you, to bring you up. Thinking this to be the right thing to do, I have sought you out.’ This is what goddess Ganga Debi said.
‘If you say so.’
[Seeing that they were afraid of her, she said:] ‘Don’t be afraid. I may be a goddess or such, but I am a Naranarayan [human god].’
When she said this, their fear was assuaged. Otherwise, they were afraid.
Then she said to the girl, ‘What would you like to make me, your grandma or your mama, or sister?’ Like this, as they lived together, their fear was gone. Why be afraid any more? And the goddess took care of them.
As she continued to take care of them and they started growing up, she taught them this and that and the difference between a boy and girl.
One day she said, ‘Since you have grown up as my boy and girl, you girl, you go this way, and I’ll send the boy in the opposite direction [as you should not now stay together since you are brother and sister.’ So she sent them off in opposite directions. Many years passed this way with the boy and the girl wandering all over the world. Finally, they met again in Bhabani Patana. But they had grown up and become man and woman and could not recognize each other as brother and sister, such is the difficult mystery of the goddess. Even the one they had called grandma they could not recognize her. They now mated.
When the goddess saw this, she said, ‘No, no. This is not right. The one you were calling mother one day, how can you call her mother-in-law? You were like my own children! But all right, you want to set up a family, so be it.’
Then the two cursed themselves realizing they had done wrong. They turned in to stone and still exist as stone. Others may say this is nonsense, but they exist. It is true. They have turned into stone. They are at Rainima toward Koraput. There is a mountain called Rainima and there is a village on top of it called Janjuti. There is a mountain pass there. Below that pass they are there. I don’t see very well now, but there is a small river [are two small rivers] there. The water of this river never flows into that and the water of that river does not flow into this. It is [They are] called Sasu-Buari [Mother-in-law-Daughter-on-law] river. It is below Karanja village. Karanja village of Sinpur.
Then, slowly, that one mother’s children multiplied. When their numbers grew, the earth started trembling. Things grew scarce. What could be done without things being made available? Even the gods and goddesses were perturbed. There was not anything on earth. What to do?
No, no. There was a tree. In their language they call it Chhenamara tree [Cheese making tree] and in our language we call it Sina tree. That Sina tree was there. And there were porcupines. It lives in hills. It has nails sticking out. It sawed through that tree and taking the trunk (and there is a thing called Mathel; that’s the story of the old creation), it carried it on its shoulder for 7 days and 7 nights; it became 14 days. As it carried it for 14 days, all the gods and goddesses that are there—Bhairab, Durga, Sarala, Chandi, 64 Joginis, 33 crore [330 million] gods and goddesses—everyone ran to Adi Mata [since the sun did not come out]. When will Agni [fire] be created [the sun will come out]? If Agni [fire] is not created [the sun does not shine] nothing can be done. How to create fire [make the sun shine]? But fire could not be made [the sun did not shine]. But, slowly, they started sowing all these things, these various kinds of seeds--Kandula, Harada, Chana, Mukuli etc.—they sowed one by one. Like this they sowed and from the tree they [the seeds] were falling. At this time Agni was created [the sun came out].
Before Agni was created [the sun came out], every one lived naked. They did not have clothes, nor was there any leaves. Even goddess Durga. But there was a long leaf. It is called Laj Patara [Shame Leaf]. It grows in the forest. It’s like a person can wear it. At that time there were no clothes. Clothes have come now. At that time, they wore only those leaves.
As they went on living, all the gods came out. So, all the things that were lacking in this our earth started coming out. The Kandhas did not at that time have these three stones keeping which they do their puja and worship, buffalo sacrifice and festivals. Those were not there. So, what they were doing was, when these stones were not there, before the gods and goddesses, there was a thing called Lakatman. With that they made axes, knives and made their living in ancient times. [So the gods and goddesses said,] ‘No, no, these humans have become too many. They don’t understand me. So what to do?’ So they decided on another thing.
This is the story of the beginning of creation. They brought a tree. Ganga Debi [Primal Mother,] she had made a tangle of a hair from her head and had given it to them, saying that where they would plant it, [a special kind of] trees would grow. She gave more of such tangled hair. Trees grew. [Then she said,] ‘Take this tree and burn it. See what happens.’ When they set fire to the tree [they had cut,] fire sprang up [bright and strong.]
Now, the people thought, [having obtained fire,] ‘How shall we have incense and resins for the ritual offering?’ There was tree called Swargi tree. (They call it Arjuna tree in Oriya) [Sal tree]. That tree grew there. That tree, you might have seen, sir, resin oozes out of that tree. Of you take that ooze and burn it you can do more and more work, and the gods and goddesses are also pleased. Many of them came down; even Sarada came. And she gave them a “sarp” [blessing/curse] that they would obey whatever you say. Like this, as things started happening, they also gathered three “jal pathar” [stones.] Having brought them, they placed them here and there [in a particular manner]. Having placed them, they decided to have their ritual worship there as in a temple. Now there are many people. But in ancient times, pregnant women used to make their bodies touch the stone so that they had safe deliveries.
[But for the rituals and festivals there was no musical instrument, no drum. But what to cover the drum with, so that good sound would be made? For that purpose, the goddess] decided to create the monitor [whose skin was tough.] So the monitor was created. At that time there were no equipment like axe, knife, sword or hatchet. [They killed somehow. But its skin did not do.] One day they stretched it on stone, but it did not smooth out properly [for the drum]. Then they tried cloth on it. It did not do. They wondered what to do. At one place there was god Bhima. There, the people had made a drum of clay and they had arranged a calf [to use its skin.] [When asked, they said,] ‘How to do it sir? We tried it in many ways but it does not work. ‘No, no,’ [god said,] ‘There is a calf in such-and-such place. Kill it and bring its skin.’ So they brought that skin, stretched it lie a fan and then fitted it to the opening of the drum they had made. After fitting it, they stretched and tightened it. When, now, they struck it, it roared like a tiger. Even a tiger’s roar was less loud than its sound.
[So, now they thought about the gods they had installed.] They said, ‘Look here, these gold and silver stones we have installed are getting eroded. It’s getting reduced. It’s a little too much for us. This is also too much for the gods and goddesses. What should we do?’ [They thought about it and decided to do one thing.] They brought coal and melted the gold with it. The gold turned black.
‘Why did you do like this?’
‘No, no, [don’t be annoyed.] Gold and silver are not always useful. But with this iron you can make an axe, a spade, or a knife, which will be useful for you to make your living. So keeping more of this gold is of no use to you.’
‘Okay, then. But I cultivated the earth, I kept the stones, and showed where to worship, why did you do this with me?’
‘No, no, this had to be done with you.’
This is the story of the creation of the world that I have told you.
So, as the creation continued, [and people grew in number], no one cared for anyone or recognized anyone. Gods and goddesses also increased in number just like human beings. Going on like this nations and countries were created. [Then god thought,] ‘What else to do now? Nothing stayed in the mouth of the Patala [underworld]. When we killed Surasur and threw the skin, mountains were created: Bijuli Mountain, Himalaya Mountains and other mountains. Hills were also created.’ This is what they thought.
[Then they thought about other problems.] They said, ‘Our people are no longer known in terms of who is what. We also don’t now how to make puja and offerings.’ So, they called god. God said, ‘We must have a Kalpa Bata [worship tree/banyan] and do the rituals under it. Otherwise, things will not be right.’ [So they did that and] they decided on twelve rituals for the twelve months. And they decided to identify brothers, sisters, mothers [and fathers] so that their functions in these rituals will be specified. So they started doing these twelve ritual festivals. They also thought that the people must know how the world was created, what they must do and when to get right results [in cultivation etc.,] how they could obey the gods and how the gods could obey them. Thinking of this, they created a story. But first, they thought, they should have a system of distinguishing who is whose son or daughter, who is older and who is younger, [a system of family identity.] Lord Shiva and Parbati agreed with this. They thought about this and consulted Adi Mata. Parbati, of course, is Adi Mata, the same as old Ganga Debi and Basuki Mata. The young and the old should be distinguished; generations must be distinguished. They kept these people as the inhabitants of the eastern regions. Then she said, ‘you make groups according to their function. Make these Brahmins [keepers of ancient knowledge], these Karans [administrators], these Routs [cultivators], these Sundhis [wine merchants], these Malis [orchard keepers], these Dhobas [washer men], and these Keutas [fishermen.’] This is what she told them at a meeting. She arranged a feast. Shiva came for this but he could not provide food. People cursed Shiva and went away, saying, ‘We work hard, suffer much and eat rice and dal. What’s this he is giving!’ Parbati, seeing this, called them and gave them proper food so that everyone was fed. Then she asked them to wait and said, ‘There is another thing which will make things complete and right.’ Before this time, liquor was not there. Parbati created this. When she made this, she brought Shiva and made him tend to it as it was brewing. When Shiva was tending the fire, the pot boiled over and fell on the ground. Then Parbati said to Shiva, ‘You, Iswar [god Shiva], you go into the spill. Then you will become a tree, and what tree will you be? You will be a Mahula tree and, hiding inside it like a thief, you will come out as its berry-like fruit. When you are so born, people would take you, make you bloat and cook you. To your cooking pot they will attach a pipe. Then they will boil it until it reaches the pipe. When the liquid comes out through the pipe and the sound of falling liquid is heard, then you will become liquor.
The people made it themselves and so learnt how to make it.
‘Shall we deliver it to heaven?’ they asked.
‘No, there’s no benefit in that. Let it stay on earth, so that drinking it, people will make a ruckus. On drinking this, unfairness and atrocities can be committed. Or, thus drunk, people can come together in goodwill as friends and relatives. And, on drinking this, they can also come together sexually.’
With these intensions she created this liquor.
Gradually, firm ground formed on the earth and it became complete, so that heaven was no longer visible nor was the underworld visible. Even god could see things below. At that time there were many Rakhyasas and Asuras [demons]. They used to eat and drink with the gods.
Now, this way the earth’s system was formed and many rituals and festivals came into existence.

Photograph Source :


References :

Nature Talk

The ‘Tribal Tribune: Beyond Feathers and Arrows’ consider it a proud privilege to dedicate this February 2005 number to the memory of Professor A. Aiyappan, who was born in this month in 1905. As this net-magazine is devoted to the cause of tribal people, it will be most appropriate to pay homage to the late scholar Prof. A. Aiyappan, who opted for research in anthropology, after obtaining Master Degree in Zoology. While carrying out doctoral research in Britain, his interest in tribal studies was inspired by legendary scholars like Bronislaw Malinowski and Raymond Firth, both of them came to anthropological discipline from different back grounds. This amalgamation of knowledge from various disciplines, could allow wide-angled view to study human world. Aiyappan,s academic compatriots included E. Evanspritchard who introduced the African tribal communities through classic ethnographic syudy, L.S.B. Leakey, who discovered the famous fossil hominids and established African claim for human evolution, Cora Dubris, H.D. Saukhalia, and many others.

Aiyappan spent major part of his work life in the State Museum in Chennai (Madras).so most of his research works are related to the south Indian tribal communities. When he moved to Utkal University in Bhubaneswar to take up responsibilities of a nascent post graduate teaching department of anthropology, his field studies were expanded to the tribal areas of Orissa. He retried from the University services in 1996 and again moved to Thiruvanthapuram (Trivandram) to assume the duties of Vice Chancellor. Elevation to coveted posts may be lucrative, but do not secure a place in the enviable academic school of con tributors to knowldge. The readers of present generation would prefer to be aquinted with academic contribution of Professor Aiyappan.

Prof. Aiyappan was a complete anth5ropologist in true sense of the term. His activites were not limited in only the sub field of social anthropology or ethnography. He greatly pioneered the mesum movement and wrote a book on museology and museum preservation methods, the most compitent in mid-twentieth century. Unlike other social antthropologists, Aiyappan studied genetic and morphometric variation in Wyand area and prehistoric cultures of Suth India. His close association with renound archeologists like V. D. Krishnaswamy, Subba Rao, Sankhia and even Mortimor Wheeler, indicate his deep interest in prehistoric and proto-historic cultures. In many articles he has tried to find the evolutionary continum of people in India, tracling the problem from linguistic, ritualistic, social practices and biological traits. This was uncommon in his time of mid-twentieth century. The prosterity will wonder from the vastness of the areas where professor Aiyappan has expressed his inquisitiveness on human life. He composed his articles with such élan and simplicity of language, that these could be understood by any layman.

Aiyappan did show little interest in theorizing his observations like his contemporary renowned scholars, but tried to extricate the inner details from which generalization can be arrived easily. Once he was asked by his American friends (in early sixties of last century) about the secret of family piece in India in spite of poverty, and for which his curt reply was, general Hindu couple gave immense value to the rituals of marriage, the promise before sacred fire ("homa"). A couple will prefer quarrel but not think of divorce. Marriage matches are believed to be predetermined. Such fundamental observation and deep introspection, characterized Professor Aiyappan.

His class room teaching was never piece-meal incidents of people’s life and developing these into anthropological interpretation. Probably for these reasons, I was attracted to anthropological science in a holistic manner, combining all the approaches. Writings of Prof. Aiyappan was very lucid and wrinkle-free, so that the meaning is conveyed easily to the reader who is not conversant with jargons.

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References :

Dr. A. Aiyappan - Pioneer of Post Independence Museum Movement in Orissa

Dr. Rabi Narayan Dash

Dr. A. Aiyappan joined the Utkal University in 1958 as the Professor of Anthropology, then a newly created postgraduate department, after his retirement from the service as head of the Madras Museum. His stepping into this department was not restricted to teaching alone. He introduced the Museology as a practical paper in the Anthropology curriculum. His long expertise in Madras museum enabled him to organize this course in no time. Not only he stressed on the study of ethnological materials, which were to be preserved in a scientific way, his experiences in the Madras Museum were imparted to the students in a very simple way. These objects were at first stored and then displayed in a hall where the students got the facility of handling them, repair the broken pieces and applied insecticides or/and chemicals to prevent the object from being destroyed. Thus the lessons of the collection through field exploration, preservation in the store and conservation of the broken objects were imparted to the students, the essential items of the Museology study.

Prof A. Aiyappan got involved in the planning of the tribal welfare and activated the Tribal Research Bureau, which at present is re-christened as Tribal and Harijan Research and Training Institute (THRTI). He caused a museum to be built in that institution which now houses many more objects of the Orissan tribes. Prof. A. Aiyappan’s students with Museology training in its rudimentary form collected, proliferated and preserved the objects of the most primitive tribes of Orissa like Banda, Gadaba, Juang, Dongria, Kond, and Paudi Bhuinyas. Such objects, with additions every year, have enriched the THRTI museum. Prof. Aiyappan remained the advisor of this institution and helped in the publication of the journal ‘Adivasi’ in which the research findings were published. In this each employed student was given topics and helped by Prof. Aiyappan to make the journal reader and research oriented while giving ideas to the government which line to be followed for the upliftment of the individual tribal group and planning of a common program for the purpose. Probably the tribal development co-operatives guided by his student employees helped in economic enhancement of different tribal groups who could market their commodities direct to the government instead of middlemen. Probably Prof. Aiyappan’s earlier work among the Ezavas helped him to reflect upon the Orissan Tribal problems.

Another important contribution of Prof. Aiyappan was the reorganisation of the Orissa State Museum as a multipurpose museum with the addition of natural history, mining and geology and anthropology galleries. This plan linked earlier history and archeology subjects with the earlier pre and proto-historic cultural phases. Aspects relating to man and archeology were linked in the planning of Anthropology galleries, which were again linked with the zoological evolutions on the basis of Darwin’s theory to link up human evolution with human culture in this part of India. The preparation of the dioramas for display purposes was the mental child of Prof. Aiyappan and was undertaken in consultation with Prof. Cora-du-boys, the American professor of Anthropology. His knowledge in Madras Museum at Chennai, where Robert Bruce Foote, the father of Indian prehistoric archeology, once laid his hands on, proved quite useful in this venture. The contribution of Prof. Aiyappan to the organizational set up of Orissa State Museum was to link Natural History with history and culture via Anthropology, - consisting of pre, proto and early history on the one hand and the ethnographic links through the living people and their cultural traits encased in dioramas on the other. It will not be the out of place to mention how the dioramas were planned with the existing museum building in three halls of projecting corners. One hall was exclusively marked for the display of tribes with their costumes and ornaments wrapped in life-size models. Orissa was a maritime power with a sizable and dominant fishing community spreading from the coast of Bengal border to that of Andhra. The catamaran and fishing nets on the sandy beach with the blue sea breaking waves at the background was depicted in an open diorama, which is certainly a novel way of conveying the cultural message to others as to how the past is linked with the present. Such linkage is also displayed by the costumes on wire models and the raw keranga birk on the one hand and the finished clothe woven by the Bondos and Panos for the Godabas, on the other. Even the display of ornaments used by the tribes and folk in succession from birk, lead and metal ornaments were instructed by him.

The display of prehistory objects in the Orissa State Museum was due to his association with Paramananda Acharya, the earliest prehistoric researcher of Orissa after V.Ball. With the association of Aiyappan, Acharya arranged transfer of prehistoric objects kept in the Baripada Museum to the Orissa State Museum. These objects were recovered from the Calcutta University Museum in the department of Anthropology and were kept in the Baripada Museum. With his instructions we have planned the display of stone weapons and artifacts, metal objects and pottery objects in wall and table show cases. From the tips given by Acharya we could collect photographs of different types of pottery belonging to the Neolithic phase.

Prof. Aiyappan’s activities were not confined to the Utkal University, Tribal Research Bureau and Orissa State Museum only. He was instrumental in opening Anthropology Departments in the B.J.B. College and Khallikote College where he laid stress on opening of museums. These museums procured objects from the local and regional environments with occasional acquisition of state based objects. The State Museum was intended to acquire specimens from state jurisdiction and also from the national context to facilitate comparative studies with the state and East Indian regional extent.

Prof. Aiyappan was keen to see the subject of Anthropology flourishing in educational centers of Orissa. He made it a mission to open Anthropology in different colleges like B.J.B. Khallikote etc. His students also took lead in forwarding his mission. Mention may be made about the colleges at Rairangpur, Talcher and such other destinations having a thick tribal population around them. He knew the rich cultural heritage of Orissa visible in her monuments and was aware of her rich and glorious history based on fierce military strength. So he wanted to infuse among the underdeveloped tribals awareness about the continued cultural traits since Stone Age. He also wanted them to be aware of the autochthonous indigenous colorful and unique culture complexes reflected in their ways of life. Since these tribals were losing their cultural traits etc, at a very fast rate, the traits in the form of material objects, the manner of their faithful preservation in the garb of social and religious tenets should be available in the museums and higher educational institutions for their easy and at hand references in the absence of which their significance would remain unknown. So museums in historical and anthropological subjects became a priority in Prof. Aiyappan’s agenda.

Prof. Aiyapan had a great liking for his students. He tried to see his students well placed in stations of life. It would not be out of place to mention a few lines relating my experiences with him. He was very kind to me when he admitted me into the Dept. of Anthropology. He was also kind to me when he gave his opinion on my character certificate after I got through the M.A. examination. In the same he wrote that "His behavior is always faultless, with some encouragement he will do well." Thus he had faith on me and on my character. But I could not say how far I have projected myself to his expectations. After I passed M.A. I went home and joined as a teacher in a high school near my village. During this period neither did I visit the University nor I met Prof. Aiyappan. But he sent a letter through one of my friends to meet him immediately. I rushed to meet him on the very next Sunday at his quarters. He asked me, "Why have you read Anthropology?". I could not answer since he looked at me critically. Then he asked me if I wanted a better job and that too a stationary one in a research oriented situation. He informed me that there was a post in the Orissa state Museum and asked me to apply for the same. He typed the application by himself and handed over the same to me to put my signature in his presence. Then I met Haish Chandra Das, the Curator of Anthropology of the State Museum and mentioned him the intention of Prof. Aiyappan. I joined the State Museum and spent my entire service period in this institution. For me, my career in the museum has been quite satisfying as I could engage myself in learning and writing on issues demanding deeper insight and analysis It is still continuing despite many constraints due to retirement. Yet I am not sure if I have risen to the expectations of my revered god like teacher whose memory I shall cherish till the end of my life.

Photographs : Author

Illustrations :

References :

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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