The Bhuiya tribe is one of the most prevalent tribes of the country. They are mostly found in the state of West Bengal, particularly in the Jalpaiguri district. The name of the tribe is derived from the Sanskrit term bhumi, meaning "land". It is believed[who?] that these tribal people have forgotten their original name and later on adopted this designation conferred to them by the immigrant Indo-Europeans. Though they are tribal, they are regarded as scheduled caste in West Bengal. Thus, the term Bhuiya is also employed by other groups as a title for landholders. Their mythological belief regarding their origin is that they were born out of the womb of Mother Earth. Numerous other myths are popular suggesting the origin of Bhuiya tribes. According to one of the legends, the deity chose the primitive Bhuiya tribe to be the owners of land. As per another mythological story, the Bhuiya tribes belong to a royal family. They enjoyed the same status of a king. However, with time a few of them lost the sanctity of their royal blood and were degenerated to a lower status. That they have undergone social mobilisation is quite explicit from this fact.
The Bhuiyas are divided into twelve septs, namely:
- Thakur, clan of royal blood;
- Saont, from samanta, viceroy;
- Kalo, a wizard or priest;
- Amata, counsellor;
- Padhan, a village headman;
- Naik, a military leader;
- Behra, manager of the household;
- Dehri, also a priest;
- Chatria, one who carried the royal umbrella;
- Sahu, a moneylender;
- Dandsena, a police official.
Bhuiya tribes are classified into a southern division, with Orissa as its centre, and a northern division, with Bihar as its centre. The southern division of Bhuiya tribe is comparatively backward than that of the northern division. These two main divisions of Bhuiya tribe consist of a number of sub-groups such as Hake, Dake, Katti, Dandsena, and Naksiya. Further, Rajwar, Rikhiasan, Musahar and Pawanhans are categorised on the basis of changing mythical origins.
In Bhuiya communities, marriages are usually adult. Parents arrange the prospective match for their children. Further, widow remarriage and divorce are also permitted. A widow is expected to marry the younger brother of her late husband; however, it is not an obligation. They either or burn the dead but in Tea Garden areas of Dooars dead bodies are . Culture of Bhuiya tribe represents various stages ranging from primitive Hilly culture to Hindu-influenced culture. It is unknown, the actual origin of these tribe. It is believed that these people have roots in Jharkhand. They moved to different parts of the country. Some of them are settled in the Tea Gardens of Jalpaiguri District of West Bengal.
As of 2010[update], the Bhuiya are mainly settled agriculturists, but historically they have been hunter gatherers. Many still collect roots and tubers from the forest. The Bhuiya are now Hindu, but still have many folk beliefs. Their tribal deity is Dihwar. These people work in Tea Gardens as labours.
- West, Barbara A. Encyclopedia of the Peoples of Asia and Oceania. pp. 106–107.
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