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


Nature Talk

Time and again, the educated people and media, toss a question, whether the tribal communities in India, are Hindu or not. This question has divided the intellectuals; some are overzealous in establishing that the tribals are originally Hindus.. The Christianity, which arrived at India at a much later date, tried to expand their religion by converting the economically deprived tribal and similar communities into their fold. History informs us that the religious faiths did spread with active or passive backing of the rulers. Islamic faith received patronage in mediaeval period and Christianity got the similar support in colonial rule. The believers in the concept of Hindu Rashtra, when in power, obviously look forward to the expansion and protection of Hindu religion and make efforts to bring back the Christian tribals to the Hindu fold.

Anthropologically arguing, each tribal community believes in one Supreme Divine authority, termed variously in their own dialects. Legends and myths explain their origin. Besides the ‘Supreme’, they appease various gods and goddesses affiliated to streams, hills, forests, animals, celestial energies etc. In the Hindu religious belief and practices, nature worship is included and for each, a presiding deity is assigned. Lord Shiva is propitiated in the form of ‘linga’ or idol, ‘Laxmi’ as sheaves of corn or treasure pot of cowries and so on. During long long course of interaction between the ‘adivasi’ and the late ‘ incomers’ with Vedic rites, many ritual items have been exchanged. Human societies are not enclosed by impenetrable boundaries. Many sections of ‘adivasi’ amalgamated with the latecomers, and thus Indian subcontinent got her population of biological and cultural diversity. The Hindu religion is a way of life and it incorporates many faiths and rituals. Nobody needs to be converted or initiated to be Hindu. The tribal ryots of Hindu rulers joined Hindu festivals and at the same time performed worship of their own gods. But the Christian tribal people, once for all shun all traditional tribal rituals and follow church rule. This has created dichotomy in religious practices leading to social distinction in the tribal habitat, paving the way of the Hindu campaign.

The present Hindu society is heterogeneous in composition, as it absorbed many elements from the ancient societies existing in India and from those who arrived at later stage albeit prior to the advent of Christianity and Islam. It is wise to leave each community to live with their own traditional values and belief. Interference in their religious philosophy in the name of development or politics will amount to infringement on their liberty.

Photographs :

References :

The Story of Ramaraja of Athara Deula

Dr. Biyotkesh Tripathy

Teller: Misra Sankhuala

[M 45. Tribe: Bathudi. Village: Hati Sahi, Udala, Mayurbhanj. Date: Aug 24, 2000. Interviewer: F. B. Pothal. Cassette No. 232, Side A. O. Tr. Pp. 11,157-181. F.N.: Mbj 4. Transcriber: F. B. Pothal. Status: As told (minor editing; editorial explanations & additions in brackets). Type: Myth-tale.]

Translator: Biyotkesh Tripathy


Ram Raja had seven wives. Rama Chandra was the only son of his father. Although he was the only son, he had seven wives. One he brought from a market, one he brought from the road, wherever from he wished, he brought. This way he had seven wives. Though he had seven wives, he had plenty of wealth and property. As time passed, one day the wives quarreled. When they quarreled, his father cursed him, ‘Rama Chandra, you lack nothing. Yet why should [your wives] quarrel every day? You had one wife, yet you brought seven from here and there. Since there is no lack of anything, why should you start quarrels? Since there is perpetual quarrel, you go away and spend fourteen years in the forest.’

When his father banished him to the forest, his mother said, ‘Hey, Rama Chandra, I had given birth to you as my only child and you will go away to the forest? No, you don’t go.’

The mother’s words may be disobeyed, but the father’s words cannot be. One had to go for fourteen years. When three days had passed like this, he told his wives, ‘Just as you had come with me out of your own wish, you may follow me like that. I shall not force anyone. If you want to come willingly, you may come.’ So, they went to the forest for fourteen years. They ate and drank and started on the third day.

Going on they reached the deep forest and stayed there. Breaking the branches of sala trees, they made a hut out of it on the bank of a river and stayed there.

When he had started out into the forest, his mother had said, ‘Rama Chandra, you are my only child, but now that you are leaving me, tell me where you will go, so that some time or other I may come to see you.’

So Rama Chandra said, ‘Okay mother, for you I shall break the branches of the trees on my path as I go. Where there will be no broken branches, there you call out to me thrice.’

Like this, when twelve years had passed, the old king and the queen started quarreling.

The old woman said, ‘Old man, I cannot serve you any longer. Bloody hell, I had given birth to only one son and you drove him out with his wives. If the daughters-in-law were here, you would be eating in comfort. How long shall I keep serving you? No, this time I shall go away to my son.’

When the old woman decided to go, she started putting together some rice, some pop rice etc. Rama Chandra used to be fond of eating podapitha [a type of baked cake], so she made one and went away with these.

(Q: Okay, what is the name of the old man and the old woman?)

I know, but shall not tell you.

So, like this the old woman went. Now, when Rama Chandra had left home, he had not taken anything. The clothes they wearing were all that they had. They had taken nothing else. They had gone and lived on the bank of that river. That night they had slept on empty stomach. When the morning came, Rama Chandra asked his wife, ‘What shall we eat?’ Then they went into the forest to bring fruits and dig up roots. That forest vegetable, "marsha," that we call "pittalu" [bitter potato], has a thread-like root. When it is pulled away it becomes marsha. Two of them went into the forest and dug up and brought that pittalu.

The others said, ‘Okay, you have brought it, but how shall we eat it?’

Rama Chandra said, ‘Pick out its eyes, then put a little water around it cover it with leaves and put it on fire.’

After two hours, when it was cooked, Rama Chandra would be served first, then the six co-wives would eat. The eldest wife ate last, having looked after the needs of the husband, massaging oil and smearing turmeric paste etc. But instead of oil she used to fetch a little water and instead of turmeric she used to apply brown clay. They lived like this.

The day twelve years were completed, that very day the old woman started the quarrel with the old man. In anger the old woman started out.

She came into the deep forest [as Rama Chandra had instructed her] and called out, ‘Rama Chandra, Rama Chandra,’ thrice. Her call fell in the ears of the eldest wife. At that time they were in the pit and Rama Chandra was digging for pittalu. At this time, the call fell in the ears of his wife.

‘Hey,’ she said, ‘today I seem to hear mother’s voice.’

Rama Chandra said, ‘For twelve years her voice was not heard. How can it be heard today?’

‘Yes, I can hear it. You come out of that pit.’

When he came out of the pit and listened, he could hear his mother’s voice. Then what Rama Chandra did was, he tied three pieces of dry wood he broke off and went forward holding them. And Rajani came behind him. Rajani was the name of his eldest wife. When Rajani saw her, she put down the basket of potatoes and they crawled from there to her. Rama Chandra came and kissed his mothers shoes. When the other six heard her call, they also came and sat down under the tree. Whatever the old woman had taken, she did not give to any one else. She came right up to the tree and first gave it to Rama Chandra and then gave it to all others. The seven daughters-in-law ate their bellies full. After they had eaten, the old woman gave the rice, pop rice etc. that she had brought.

Rajani said, ‘For twelve years now we have not got rice. How shall we eat it?’

‘How you will eat?’ the old woman said. ‘Okay, you finish eating. I’ll show you how.’ And she herself fed them the podapitha.

Then the old woman said, ‘Dig a pit.’ [When this was done] she said, ‘Go dig a shallow line from the river to this pit.’ [When this was done and water flowed into the pit], she told the eldest daughter-in-law, ‘Now, make a drain around the pit with your fingers. [Put firewood in it and light a fire].’ [When this was done], she poured rice into the pit. In two hours the rice started boiling.

At this time the eldest daughter-in-law said, ‘Mother, for twelve years now we have not tasted Mahalakhmi’s water. Today let us have a little "peja" [thick starchy water left after rice was boiled in it].

‘Okay, you want it? Then dig a line from here to there.’

She dug a line with her fingers. The peja flowed out through that. When the peja started flowing out, the old woman made arrangements for eating it. She asked them to go pluck siali [sal] leaves. They brought the leaves and spread it. Two leaves were given to Rama Chandra; one was given to the six daughters-in-law, one for the eldest daughter-in-law and one for the old woman.

When the old woman was being served, she said, ‘I shall not eat rice. Give me something of the fruits and vegetables you have brought from the forest.’ So, they gave two of those to the old woman. Then what the old woman did was that she ate one of those fruits and tied one in her cloth. When she was tying it, her eldest daughter-in-law saw this.

‘What are you doing, mother?’ she asked.

‘My girl, I lam keeping this to show to your father-in-law.’

‘No, no, I have kept for him.’

Then the old woman ate both the fruits. All the rest of them ate the rice. She again gave Rama Chandra that podapitha [baked cake]. He ate it. Everyone ate. After they had eaten, since they had not eaten these for twelve years, they fell deeply asleep like intoxicated. Rice was still full as it was. They had eaten but little rice each; they couldn’t eat any more. They ate as much as a could.

For twelve years they had had no clothes. They had worn only pieces of the leaves and bark of trees, for twelve years. They had no clothes. [The old woman saw all this]. Then she ate and fell asleep.

But Rajani had not slept. [When time passed and no one got up], she wondered what had happened, why no one was getting up. To find out if they were alive or dead she awakened Rama Chandra and said, ‘Get up, let’s see what has happened.’

‘What? What’s the matter?’

‘Nothing. Go to mother, she’d tell you.’

He went to his mother and said, ‘Mother, see how everyone is sleeping like drugged. No breath or nothing.’

Then his mother said, ‘You go and sleep. Eat and sleep. I’ll tell you the whole story later.’

The old woman said this. [They slept]. Then the night came to an end. When the next day came, the old woman started. When she started, they arranged everything for her. With those things she came back home. When she reached home, the old man asked, ‘Old woman, you had gone to your son’s house, why you couldn’t stay more than a day?’

‘Did I stay in my son’s house or what? The comfort with which my son and daughters-in-law are living, I’ll go away to them.’

‘Are they living in such misery there? We had only lone son, he is in such difficulty? Okay, I’ll go there tomorrow.’ This is what Dasaratha said. Then the old woman arranged everything for him as she had done for herself—the pop rice, rice, cake etc. Thus, the old man started. But he did not know the way. What to do? The old woman told him to follow the trail of broken branches. Where broken branches stop, he should call out to them.

When the old man reached that place, he called out the name of Rama Chandra thrice. Like before, the two had gone out to dig potatoes. Who? Rama Chandra and Rajani. The other six daughters-in-law had been left under a tree. Like before, Rajani heard the call and told Rama Chandra. Just like they had taken the old woman, they took the old man to their hut. When they arrived, they served food and drink for him. After eating, the old man surveyed everything, how they were staying and living.

Then he said to his son, ‘Rama Chandra, you come back home now.’

Rama Chandra said, ‘Fourteen years have not passed. I can’t go until fourteen years have been completed.’

‘No. Your fourteen years are complete. Now you come.’

‘If fourteen years have passed as you say, okay.’

He went back home. The old man returned with his son and seven daughters-in-law. When they arrived, the old man stopped them at the end of the village. He then called the washerman, barber, Brahmin, Baishnaba etc. Having trimmed, shaved and dressed them, made them civilized, he took them home.



Illustrations:Sarasi Das

Juanga Food

Champak Kumar Sahu

Juang Food
Champak Kumar Sahu



The Juang – one of the primitive tribes, among, 62 tribes of Orissa, exclusively noticed in Orissa, are traditional shifting cultivators. In past, they were known as Pattoas for wearing leaves. In their language, the word 'Juang' means "sons of Man". Linguistically they belong to the Mundari speaking group. According to the 1991 census there are 35665 Juangs living in Orissa of which 13782 are in Keonjhar. The literacy rate is very less among the Juang. According to 1981 census it was only 8 %. The Juangs are presently noticed in Keonjhar, Mayurbhanj and undivided districts of Dhenkanal, Cuttack, Koraput, Sambalpur, Sundargarh, Phulbani, Bolangir, Puri and Balasore of Orissa. Although the Juang are found in number of districts in Orissa, they originally inhabited in the hilly region of Keonjhor district and the neighboring areas of present Angul district and in later stage they have migrated to the other areas in search of food. Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA), Keonjhar, has made a survey in 1996 to know the details about the Juang. According to survey, there are 19362 Juang living in Keonjhar. They are distributed in 5 blocks mainly in Banspal, Telkoi, Harichandanpur, Ghatagaon and Keonjhar Sadar.

Data have been collected by participatory and interview methods.The research village covered under the study include Panasanasa, Gungi and Duarsuni and others. The first two are ethnically homogeneous while Duarsuni is heterogeneous in nature. The first village Panasnasa, located at the top of the hill is more of traditional nature in comparison to other villages. The second village Gungi is at the slope of the hill where as the third village Duarsuni is situated at the base of the hill.


The staple food for the Juang is boiled rice (Tano), which is considered superior to all other type of food. Along with rice some boiled greens (sankna), salt (Builum), chilli (dunkari) are taken. There is nothing like rich man’s food or poor man’s food. All the Juang irrespective of sex and status eat the some kind of food. They eat pulses during harvest season and meat on the festival occasion.

During the lean month (Tilai masa) that is Sraban & Bhadrava (July 15 to Sept 15 - October 15). The Juang take loan from the moneylender. According to S. Bose - "Juang pirh is a land of hungry nation. Though they require their square meals within a day yet they hardly get more than one proper full meal within a day and as such they fill their stomach with foodstuff other than rice and millets. In this land of hunger even the seeds of mango is also dried, then ground into powder and eaten by making pitha from that powder". (Bose 1967:108)

(Runkub) Rice is prepared in three ways; Arua, (nonboil) 1 boil (Usuna) 2 boiled (usuna). Arua rice is prepared only by husking the paddy. The Juang use this rice at the time of ritual. This rice can not be preserve for long time. Insects attack this rice very soon. The Juang were eating this rice regularly 30 years ago. But now a days the (timilai) hungry Juang eat the rice during sowing seeds.


Arua: The rice is prepared only be husking the paddy. Finally winnowing separates rice.

1 boil Usuna: This rice is prepared by boiling the paddy in a pot for sometimes with small quantity of water. After water evaporates completely paddy are taken out and sun dried for 2/3 hours. Then the paddy are husked and winnowing separates rice.

2nd boil Usuna: This rice is prepared by boiling the paddy in a pot for sometimes with full quantity of water. After water evaporates completely paddy are taken out and sun dried for 2/3 hours. Then the paddy are husked and winnowing separates rice.

The Juang keeps the unhusked rice. The Juang stored the paddy until needed for consumption and for sowing in the next season.They store the paddy in a container (Aulia) prepared from straw rope coiled spirally. This bundle is kept on (Bhadi) raised platform in the storage compartment of the house. In the month of Baisakha, Jestha they open the Bundle for sowing seeds.

Paddy is put inside a small pit made on the floor of the house and pounded by pestle to separate the husk as shown in the adjacent picture.The rich Juang however have in their houses Dhanki for husking paddy. The husked paddy give rice (Chaula), which needs boiling for consumption; locally the boiled rice is known as Bhata.


"The juang are ominivorus. In regards to food they are not in the least particular,eating all kind of flesh, including mice, rat, monkey, tiger, bear, snake, frogs, and even offal and for them the jungle abound in spotaneously produceed vegetable. In quest of food they posses all the instinct of the animals discerning at a glance what is nutritive and never mistaking a noxious for an edible fungus or root". ( Dalton 1872:152)

There is no taboo in Juang culture against the consumption of beef. Some Juang profess not to eat beef, at least to outsider. (Mc.Douglas1963:14).

In recent years there are meetings of the Juanga Sradars of various pirhs to review their customary rules and practices. On 25 April 1998, in one of such meetings held at the village Upper Bali, they decided that the Juangs should not take beef. If any body violates this rule, it was decided in this meeing to impose on him a fine of Rs. 1000/-.Such decision, according to some villagers, was taken earlier in 1985 in a meeting at Gonasika but some of the villager did not obey this rules.

This is an example of their effort to raise their acceptability by the neighbouring Hindus.

Jungle Produce:

In Oriya terminology

In Juang terminology







Kanta alu


Matia Alu


Haladia Alu


Tanku Alu


Paila Alu


Nepa Alu


Cultivated Produce








Sweet Patoto


Khamba Alu


Chheli Alu


Basang : The Basang is collected from the jungle.House wives cut them into small round pieces and keep them in the boiled water for long time to wash away the bitter element. Then it is consumed after roasting. Mango carnel is also processed similarly and mixed with rice flour to prepare Cake (pitha).

Ajang : In order to acquire the Ajang tuber,the Juang use the bulug stick to dig a deep pit after locating these roots from the surface vegetation.


The fruits which are important for the Juang subsistance are, Jack fruit, mango. Papaya, Banana, Guana. The most important tree for Juang is Mahula tree. The Mahula flowers are consumed as food during lean period. This flower is also brewed to prepare liquor.The mahula fruit is also used in various ways like preparation of oil.

Karep (Mushroom) : During rainy season this is available in the forest. These are collected to be consumed in rainy season (Lean period).

The Juang consume careals such as Ragi, Jower, Maize, Kadu, Mandia, Guldi, Kangu in addition to the rice. The pulses like, Harada, Black gram, Gram, beans and sutri are consumed by them.

The rich Juang spent 60 to 70 percent of his income for food. The poor Juang spent 80 to 90 percent of his income for food.

Rice beer or handia is the most common alcoholic drink among the Juang. But they prepare handia only in special occasion. The Munda tribe of the nearby villagers prepare handia and sell in the village market. When the Juang goto weekly market they drink handia or mahuli.

To eat meat the Juang rear fowls, goats, sheep, pigs. Some time they hunt wild pig, deer, sambar, pecock during harvest season & summer season. In rainy season they collect masrooms and eat as a curry with rice. In rainy season the Juang catch fish, crab from the near by stream or from the agricultural field. In summer season they catch fish from the nearly pond with net. Red ant is collected from the forest and is eaten with rice. It is also taken with either Handia or mahuli as Chakhana.


Photographs : Author

Illustrations :

References :

  • Bose,S 1967 Carrying capacity of land under shifting cultivation. Culcatta: The Asiatic Society .

  • Elwin,V 1948 Notes on the Juang. Man in India

  • E.T.Dalton 1872 Descriptive Ethnology of Bengal .

  • Mc.Daugal 1963 The social structure of hill Juang. Unpublished Ph. D thesis. University of New Mexico

  • Pattnaik,N. 1988 Shifting Cultivation in Orissa. , Adivasi, vol-xxviii, No –1, Bhubaneswar:S.T.S.C.R.T.I.

  • R.K. Nayak, B.M. Boal & N. Soreng(1993) The Juangs: A Handbook for Development, NISWAS, Bhubaneswar

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Knowing the Tribes

Elsoma Devi


Although the English term "tribe" (derived from Latin "tribus") designates a homogenous kind of social and political organization existing in the society, in the Indian context it refers to the indigenous ‘Janas'. They are commonly designated as ‘Adivasi’ (original settlers), ‘Girijan’ (hill-dwellers), ‘Vanyajati’ (forest community), ‘Adimjati’ (primitive communities), ‘Janjati’ (folk communities), etc. In Orissa the term Adivasi is commonly used for the tribes. All tribes are not mentioned in the Schedule. In common parlance the tribes enlisted as schedule are mentioned as ST.

Orissa occupies a unique position in the ethnographic map of India for having the largest variety of tribal communities. Although they are found in all the districts of the State, yet more than half of their total strength is found in the districts of Koraput, Rayagada, Naurangpur, Malkangiri, Kalahandi, Nauapara, Kandhamal, Baudh, Kconjhar, Sundargarh and Mayurbhanj. In India there are 437 tribes, and in Orissa the number is sixty-two (62). According to 1991 Census, in Orissa, the total strength of tribal population is approximately seven million, which constitutes 22.21% of the total population of the State.

Linguistically the tribes of India are broadly classified into four categories, namely – (1) Indo-Aryan speakers, (2) Dravidian speakers, (3) Tibeto-Burmese speakers, and (4) Austric speakers. In Orissa, the tribal communities belong to Austric (Mundari) and Dravidian family of language. Many sections have adopted Oriya (the State language of Indo-Aryan family) and have become bilingual.


Although each tribal group has its own distinct social and cultural features, other general pattern is discussed. The tribal people express their cultural identity and distinctiveness in their social organisation, language, rituals and festivals and also in their dress, ornament, art and craft. They have retained their own way of managing internal affairs of the village mainly through two institutions namely, the village council and the youth dormitory. The dormitory is the core of tribal culture and it reinforces the age-old traditions. In Orissa this institution occurs among many tribal communities in some form or other. The Juangs call it ‘Majang’ and ‘Darbar’, the Kondhs call it ‘Dindaghar', the Bhuyans call it ‘Dhangarabasa' and among the Bondos it goes by the name 'lngersin'. Of all the tribes the dormitory system is well organized among the Juang. Conspicuous in the village, the Mandaghar is the largest hut. It has wall on three sides and is open in front. The wooden parts and sidewalls are painted with decorative symbols depicting animals. The boys hang their changu, a flat tambourine like drum, which is used at the time of dancing. In front of the Mandaghar is the small open space where dance takes place almost every night after the day's work is over. The dormitory is so to say a school of dancing and expression of the communal art of the people. The elders of the village assemble at the dormitory house every day for every important event in their daily life. Here they discuss matters concerning the welfare of the village, settle the distribution of swidden and fix date and time for celebration of the village festivals, etc. In these respects the dormitory may be considered as the centre of social, economic and religious life of the village.

The amazing conglomeration of traditions, beliefs, sorrows and philosophies that together constitute and vitalize the rituals and festivals of the tribes, has descended from antiquity and has been preserved unimpaired to the present day. Every facet of their life covering round-the-year activities is intimately connected with religious beliefs and ritual practices. It is these aspects of their culture that give meaning and depth to their lives, and solidarity to their social structure.

The tribes believe that their life and work are controlled by supernatural beings whose abode is around them in hills, forests, rivers and houses. It is very difficult to standardize the Gods and spirits as their composition continually changes when old ones are forgotten with the introduction of new ones. Their gods differ from one another in function, character and nature. Some are benevolent; some are neutral and some are malevolent. The malevolent spirits and gods are cared more than their benevolent counter parts as they can bring misery.

Manipulation of environment being the main concern of the tribals, all the ritual acts are directed towards stimulating natural processes. Illness or misfortune is attributed to displeasure and malicious act of the Gods or ancestors. The sacrifice of different kinds of livestock accompanied by all the rites and ceremonials of fetishism is considered appropriate appeasement. Moreover, their extremely superstitious nature prohibits the undertaking of any enterprise unless the Gods are first appeased and the omens, after being carefully considered, are adjudged to be propitious.

Each tribe has its own religious functionaries who cater to their spiritual needs. For example, the hierarchy of priests among the Saoras may be divided into three categories. The Buyya is a priest who presides at agricultural festivals and offers sacrifices that especially characterize these occasions. The Kudan is a shaman who combines the functions of priest, prophet and medicine man. The sacerdotal head among the Juang is called Nagam or Buita, Pujari or Sisa among the Bondos and Jani among the Kondhs. The post of these officials are mostly ascribed but not achieved.

The ceremonies and festivals of the tribes can be classified into two groups, that is, those that relate to the individual families and those that relate to the village as a whole. The ceremonies and rites relating to birth of a child, marriage, death are observed family-wise whereas those relating to various agricultural cycle, eating of new fruits, hunting, etc. are observed by the village community.

Some of the important festivals observed by the tribal communities of Orissa include ‘Guar’ ceremony of the Saora, ‘Gotar 'of the Gadaba, ‘Push Punei’ of the Juang, ‘Kedu' of the Kondh, 'Karam' festival of the Oraon, ‘Chait Parab’ of the Bondo and ‘Magha Parab’ of the Santal.

With the passage of time, traces of borrowing from Hindu pantheon and religious ceremonies are noticed among the tribes of Orissa. They have started worshipping Siva, Parbati and Lord Jagannath along with their own deities. Hindu festivals like ‘Raja’, ‘Laxmipuja’, ‘Dasahara', and ‘Gamha’ are also becoming popular among them.

The artistic sense of the tribal people is manifested in their dance, music, dress and ornaments, wall paintings and woodcarvings. The beautiful wall paintings and floral designs of the Santals and the icons of the Saoras that depict geometric designs and stylistic figures of plants and animals are the best example of tribal art. The multicolored designs and relief figures of animals and human beings, which decorate the walls of Mandaghar in Juang society, are indeed works of very high order.

Some of the tribal communities like the Bondo and the Gadaba have their own looms by which they weave clothes for their own use. These hand-spun textiles of coloured yarn made of local plants are examples of artistic skill of these people. So also among the Dongaria Kondhs the ladies are very much skilled in making beautiful embroidery work in their scarf. The tribal women, in general the Bondo, the Gadaba and the Dongaria Kondh women, in particular are very fond of using ornaments. The Bondo women, who are considered most primitive, look majestic when they wear headbands made of brass, necklaces of coloured beads and girdles made of brass on their bodies. All these are expressions of their artistic quality and aesthetic sense. The Kondh women decorate their face and body with tattoos. As the tribal people became exposed to modern way of life, they started using utensils; clothes, ornaments etc. supplied by the traders.

The tribes of Orissa, despite their poverty and their pre-occupation with the continual battle for survival, have retained the rich and varied heritage of colourful dance and music forming integral part of their festivals and rituals. Although the pattern of dance and music prevalent among them vary from tribe to tribe yet there are certain features common to all. Though there is no modernity and fineness, their ideas being natural, the compositions are good, inspiring and melodious. The joy of free life finds expression in tribal art and craft. It is through this endeavor their cultural self-image and aesthetic sensibility are visualized. The artistic skill of the tribal people is not only manifested in their dance and music but also in their dress and ornaments, wall paintings, woodcarvings and decorations, etc. The tribal crafts are now on way to disintegration, due to availability of commercially made articles. The loom is almost lost. Only appreciable art is surviving till today is mural paintings.

The tribes of Orissa though have distinct identities, yet they have lots of socio-cultural similarities between them. Tribal societies share certain common characteristics and by these they are distinguished from complex or advanced societies. In India tribal societies had apparently been outside the main current of the development of Indian civilization for centuries. Hence tribal societies manifest such cultural features, which signify a primitive level in socio-cultural parameter. This does not mean that these ancient societies have not changed over times.


At present most of the tribes of Orissa are concentrated in the hilly or forest areas remote from the urban centers. It is believed that once they lived in the plains, but subsequently absorbed in the late settlers in historical period and those who did not compromise with their liberty took refuge in the inaccessible areas.


Tribal economy is characterized as subsistence oriented. The subsistence economy is based mainly on collecting, hunting and fishing (e.g., the Birhor, Hill Kharia), or a combination of hunting and collecting with shifting cultivation (e.g., the Juang, Hill Bhuyan, Lanjia Saora, Kondh etc.). Even the so-called plough using agricultural tribes do often, wherever scope is available, supplement their economy with hunting and gleaning. Simple technology, simple division of labour, small-scale units of production and no investment of capital characterize subsistence economy. The social unit of production, distribution and consumption is limited to the family and lineage. Subsistence economy is imposed by circumstances, which are beyond the control of human beings, poverty of the physical environment, ignorance of efficient technique of exploiting natural resources and lack of capital for investment. It also implies existence of barter and lack of trade.

Considering the general features of their (i) eco-system, (ii) traditional economy, (iii) supernatural beliefs and practices, and (iv) recent "impacts of modernization", the tribes of' Orissa can he classified into six types, such as: (1) Hunting and gathering type, (2) Cattle-herder type, (3) Simple artisan type, (4) Shifting cultivation type, (5) Settled agriculture type and (6) Industrial or urban worker type. Each type has a distinct style of life which could be best understood in the paradigm of nature, man and spirit complex, that is, on the basis of relationship with nature, fellow men and the supernatural.


Marriage is the most important institution of all human societies, and the tribal communities are no exception. All the marriage practices mentioned in the ancient Hindu texts are present in the tribal societies. Negotiated or arranged marriage is though mostly executed, they also go for other nuptial forms namely, elopement, capture, intrusion and services. A tribal bride is to receive some amount of wealth from the groom, which now is being reverted in Hindu style, among the tribal people in industrial areas. The Souras, Koyas, Kondhs, Gadabas and Bondas of Koraput district marry at adulthood. The groom is generally older than the bride in the tribal area. There is enough opportunity for the satisfaction of sex impulses outside marriage. Pre-marital sexual chastity is not very rigidly insisted upon in a large number of tribes. However, sex activity is not the only objective of marriage. Economic co-operation as found in the division of labour between husband and wife seems to be another important consideration for marital union among tribals. Tribal women perform pivotal role in economy. Separation is possible with permission of village council and so also remarriage.

Now the tribal people have scattered all over the State and outside areas. The traditional culture is observed only in the village habitat. The changes in the cultural practices of the migrated people are yet to be seen.


Orissa has high variety of tribal communities. Tribal settings are changing which have an impact on the life rhythm of the people. The dignity of the tribes men has to be understood and as a community, the tribals need to be emotionally integrated to the society. Among all the tribes conformity to customs and norms and social integration continue to be achieved through their traditional social organizations. The tribes of Orissa have their distinct ethnic identity, which is overtly marked when one examines the entire range of folklore of a tribe, finds that the culture of tribal people is no less rich, which paved a way to joy of free life. Much attention is being paid to material culture, especially in post-Independence India, on ‘tribal' development: their transformation from primitive to modern, from forest to city, from bow-and-arrow to machine-gun, without giving them a chance to cross the culture-producing threshold in their own way. 'Loka Parampara' a field-based project has an empirical foundation; it shows that the simple small societies called 'tribe' are the oldest and most highly developed people with complex ideas, despite low technology.

Tribal population comprises the majority population of Orissa and the Government of India has recognized 12 primitive tribes in Orissa. Orissa is fully identified with its tribal culture and one of the fascinating ethnographic states of the country and homeland of 62 different tribal communities, embodied by the amalgamation of myriad communities and distinctive cultural and ethnic traits in its diversified social milieu.

The tribes of Orissa despite their poverty and pre-occupation with the continual battle for survival have retained their rich and varied heritage and through this endeavor their cultural self-image and aesthetic sensibility are visualized.

Photographs : Changu by S. K. Ghoshmaulik, Crop Cultivation by Hrudaya Satpathy, Rest by Soumya Dev

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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