Asur people

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For other uses, see Ashur (disambiguation).
Asur
Regions with significant populations
              Jharkhand 7,783
Languages
Asuri
Religion
Traditional beliefs
Related ethnic groups
Santal, Munda

Asur people are a tribal/Adivasi people living primarily in the Indian state of Jharkhand, mostly in the Gumla, Lohardaga, Palamu and Latehar districts.

Demographics[edit]

The total population of Asurs is 10,712 with a decennial growth rate of 37.63 from the 1981 population as per the 1991 census.[1] They are not a significant group in the census highlights for scheduled tribes in Jharkhand.[2] Similarly, they are an insignificant group in West Bengal,[3] but Asurs were amongst the Proto-Australoid groups inhabiting the western regions of West Bengal in pre-historic times.[4] In the 1981 census their literacy rate was 10.66 percent.[5]

Occupations[edit]

Asurs are traditionally iron-smelters. They were once hunter gatherers, having also involved in shifting agriculture. However, majority of them shifted into agriculture with 91.19 percent enlisted as cultivators as per the 2010 edition of the Encyclopaedia Of Scheduled Tribes In Jharkhand.[5]

Their indigenous technology of iron smelting gives them a distinct identity; as they claim to have descended from the ancient asuras who were associated with the art of metal craft.[1] When smelting, the Asur women sing a song relating the furnace to an expectant mother encouraging the furnace to give a healthy baby, i.e., good quality and quantity of iron from the ore; and were thence, according to Bera, associated with the fertility cult (Bera 1997:32).[1]

Society[edit]

The Asur society is divided into 12 clans. These Asur clans are named after different animals, birds and food grains. Family is second prominent institution after the clan. Except in emergency cases, they use traditional herbal medicines.[5] They have their own community council (jati panch) where disputes are settled.[5] They accept food from Rajputs, Oraon, Kharwar, Thakur, Ghasi, and few others; and maintain putative kinship ties with Kharwar, Munda and other neighbouring tribes. Except the burial site, they share all other public spaces with their neighbours.[5] They live in pats (a clearing area) surrounded by the forest, and their houses are made of mud walls supported by wooden poles with a roof covered with paddy straw and self-baked khapras (tiles).[1] Their houses consist of spaces for cattle and birds and a separate area for worship of ancestors.[1] Utensils for cooking and storing water drawn from wells, are made of iron, aluminium and eartern ware.[1] Traditional male clothing is dhoti while the females wear tattoo marks (depicting totemic objects) upon their bodies as ornaments. The females also wear other metal and non-metal ornaments as well as glass bangles.[1] They use common agricultural implements for cultivation; and occasionally hunt game in the forest using bows and arrows.[1]

Divisions[edit]

The modern Asur tribe is divided into three sub-tribal divisions, namely Bir (Kol) Asur, Birjia Asur and Agaria Asur. The Birjia are recognized as a separate schedule tribe.[6]

Religion[edit]

The Asur religion is a mixture of animism, animatism, naturalism and ancestral worships. They also believe in black magic like bhut-pret (spirits) and witchcraft. Their chief deity is Singbonga. Amongst the other deities are Dharati Mata, Duari, Patdaraha and Turi Husid. They celebrate festivals like Sarhul, Karma, Dhanbuni, Kadelta, Rajj karma, Dasahara Karam.[6]

Marriage

Marriage is very important ritual and come essentially in the life of every individual. Only physically disabled are not able to get married. The Asur follow the rule of monogamy, but in case of barrenness, widower and widow hood, they follow the rule of bigamy or even Polygamy. Window re-marriages are permissible. At the time of marriage, they follow the rule of tribe endogamy. Those who do not obey these rules are thrown out from the community but are allowed after paying seven times feast to the community members.

Asur tribal girl

Challenges[edit]

Presently, the Asurs of Jharkhand are having many difficulties. They don't have access to proper basic amenities like health services, education, transportation, drinking water, etc.They are on the verge to become destitute because of the elimination of their traditional occupation iron-smelting. Their agricultural based economy is also in danger due to bauxite mining in the area. As a result migration and displacement have become their major problems. There have been cases of human trafficking of the minor girls, poverty is a big reason behind it. These days a young Asur woman called Sushma Asur is striving hard to preserve art, culture and the existence of her community.[7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Sarit Kumar Chaudhuri; Sucheta Sen Chaudhuri (2005). Primitive Tribes in Contemporary India: Concept, Ethnography and Demography, Volume 1. Mittal Publications. ISBN 8183240267. Retrieved 2013-06-13. 
  2. ^ "Jharkhand: Data Highlights the Scheduled Tribes". Census of India 2001. Census Commission of India. Retrieved 2009-10-01. 
  3. ^ "West Bengal: Data Highlights the Scheduled Tribes". Census of India 2001. Census Commission of India. Retrieved 2009-10-01. 
  4. ^ Ray, Nihar Ranjan, Bangalir Itihas Adi Parba, (in Bengali), 1980 edition, p. 57, Paschim Banga Niraksharata Durikaran Samiti
  5. ^ a b c d e Diwakar Minz and Delo Mai Hansda (2010) Encyclopaedia Of Scheduled Tribes In Jharkhand, pp.10-15. Gyan Publishing House. ISBN 8178351218 [1]
  6. ^ a b "Asur Adivasi". Jharkhandi.com. Retrieved 2009-10-01. 
  7. ^ "Prabhat Khabar". 16 March 2013. Retrieved 2013-08-30.