An old Munda man in Dinajpur.
|Regions with significant populations|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Hos • Kols • Santals|
|120 million (estimated)|
|Regions with significant populations|
|Related ethnic groups|
The Munda are a tribal (Adivasi) group of people of the Chota Nagpur Plateau region. They are found across much of Jharkhand state as well as adjacent parts of Assam, Odisha, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Bihar and into parts of Bangladesh. Their language is Mundari, which belongs to the Munda subgroup of the Austroasiatic language family.
There were an estimated 9,000,000 Munda people in the late 20th century.
- 1 Culture
- 2 Cuisine
- 3 Employment and occupation
- 4 Religion and identity of the tribes
- 5 Mundari folk legends
- 6 Mundari ancestral worship
- 7 Ancestral shrines
- 8 Seasonal Festivals
- 9 Notable Mundas
- 10 Literature and studies
- 11 Bibliography
- 12 See also
- 13 References
- 14 Further reading
- 15 External links
Social arrangement is very basic and simple. The Indian caste system is alien to the Mundas.
Buried ancestors are memorialized as 'Guardian" spirit of the khunt or genealogical family symbolized by burial stone sasandiri (not to be confused with sasangdiri, which means turmeric (crushing) stone). These are placed flat on the ground, but do not mark "graves" as such. Rather, bones of the deceased, who are cremated or buried immediately after death, are placed under the sasandiri, where previous ancestors' bones are also present. They are usually put in an earthen pot and kept there from the time of the cremation or burial till the time of the jangtopa ceremony when the actual placing of bones in the sasandiri can take place. Once every year, all members of the family are required to visit burial stones to pay their respects. This practice is formally forbidden by the Church for Christianized Munda tribals, although in reality Christians infrequently are present during the rituals. There are other stones for ancestors as well, e.g., the memorial stones (bhodiri, headstones), which are placed in an erect position, usually closer to the homestead. The landscape of chotanagpur is dotted with clusters of these two types of stones, sasandiri (burial stones) and bhodiri (head-stones).
Since ancient times the Munda people spread through all surrounding areas, including the chotanagpur region. In early times group having same surname or killi (who sought their lineage from a single ancestor), settled in an area-specific fashion. Each killi is identified with a specific region, though now in general the people are free to settle where they wish, and have settled all over Jharkhand
Endogamous marriage is normal with the exception of marriage to members of the Santhal, Ho, Kharia and Oraon (Kurukh) communities. However, the current population is better educated and members sometimes abandon Munda tradition to marry a non tribal. Harsh punishments such as 'Jaat nikala'(Caste Banishment) may be pronounced by community chieftains in such cases. Marriage is forbidden between persons belonging to the same Gotr. A marriage between a bride and bridegroom of the same gotr is considered incest, and such a relation is socially undesirable. Gotr means Blood relation, same surname, same village gotr relation is like relation of brother and sister.
The Santhal, Ho and Kharia communities are considered blood-brother tribals, marriage with them is common. However, marriage with an Oraon is acceptable only due to a special relationship, the "Uncle-Nephew" relation. The reasons for this relationship are surrounded by many myths and remain lost in antiquity.
Not much of cuisines are made but during festivities and ceremonies these foodstuffs are prepared.
- 'Arisa rotis' which is made with the grounded powdered rice and sugar or jaggery.
- 'Chilka roti' is one of the main dish made with the grounded powdered rice.
- 'Bodoy'and 'Hadian' is a local rice beer made up of rice.
Employment and occupation
Since the primitive times Munda people have been wanders & hunters later the became agricultural cultivators and with the help of policy of minority-based reservation policy of Indian Government listing Munda people in Scheduled Tribes (Adivasi) plentiful of them have been now employed in various government sectors especially Indian Railways.
Religion and identity of the tribes
Munda people follow the Sarna religion, believing in a God called Singbonga. Singbonga (सिंगबोंगा), the God of Mundas is neither the sun nor does he dwell in the sun, though he is in heaven. In the primordial times the creator was called Haram (हड़म) and the same Haram (हड़म) is known as Singbonga (सिंगबोंगा), who is the God of the Mundas. He is eternal, omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent. In sacrifices he is commonly praised as the one who separated land and sea, set the course of sun and moon, and created man. Haram (हड़म) is referred to as God, who provides all good while Singbonga (सिंगबोंगा) is often related to worship.
The surname of a Munda defines their identity. Many surnames are common among other tribes with minute variations. Surnames are based on natural elements, trees, animals birds or any nature related object which are often found in Chotanagpur region.
Common surnames among the Munda are:
- Aind (species rare river eel),
- Barla (Potter, species of fig tree),
- Bhuinya (earth).
- Burh /Bur,
- chouria (mouse),
- Demta (species of tree ant),
- Honhaga (younger brother),
- Horo (tortoise),
- Jojo (Tarmarind),
- Kandir (lion),
- Kerketta (species of rare bird),
- Kongari (species of rare bird),
- Surin (species of white colored swan like bird),
- Tiru (bird),
- Topno (species of tree ant)
- Champia or Champi(sound of a bird)
- Soy Murum
There are many more surnames in Munda community/clan not mentioned here. Many Munda choose to write "Munda" in place of their surname. There are also group of Munda families who are called Sing Munda.
Mundari folk legends
Mundari folk cosmology
Creation of the earth
At the beginning of Time, the face of the Earth was covered over with water. Sing-Bonga, brooded over the waters and the first beings that were born were a kachua or tortoise, a karakom or crab, and a lenda or leech.
Sing-Bonga commanded these first-born of all animals to bring Him a lump of clay (hasa) from out of the depths of the primeval Ocean. The tortoise and the crab by turns tried their skill, but in vain.
The persistent leech, however, met with better success. It succeeded in fishing out a bit of clay from underneath the deep. And with clay, sing-Bonga made this Ote-Disum, this beautiful earth of ours. And, at His bidding, the Earth brought forth trees and plants, herbs and creepers, of manifold varieties. Sing-Bonga next filled the earth with birds and beasts of all sorts and sizes.
And now happened the most memorable incident of all. The bird Hur* or Swan laid an egg. And out of this egg came forth a boy and a girl the first human beings. These were the progenitors of the Horo Honko---the sons of men, as Mundas still style themselves.***[Hur bird is said to lay its egg secretly in a Jir or Jovi (marshy ground). and the common belief among the Mundas is that a Hur will not lay more than one egg in its lifetime. The most solemn oath of the Mundas of old was, it is said, by Hur Jarom (the egg of Hur or Swan).]
The first human pair, however, were innocent of the relation of the sexes. So, Sing-Bonga pointed out to them certain vegetable roots and taught them the secret of making ili or rice-beer therewith. And the first pair, since remembered as Tota Haram and Tota Buri brewed ili as directed, and drank their fill. And the ili tasted very sweet and it inflamed their passions.And in due course they were blessed with offspring. Three sons were born to them, one after another. And these were named respectively Munda, Nanka and Rora.
All this happened at a place named Ajam-garh*. On their parent's death, the sons wandered about over the face of the earth--- over hills and dales, through forests untrodden by the feet of man and over fields unworn by the plough.***[Some Mundas explain the name of this place as "Adamgarh (आदमगढ़) or Adambakri (आदम-बकड़ि) ", the garden of Adam.]
Mundari surname lineage
Origin of Munda Kilis (Surnames)
Once few persons of the Horo kili caught a tortoise by means of a bow like net known as Balmuchu. Later they ate up the tortoise. From that day they became the members of the Balemucu kili and refrained from eating fish or tortoise that were caught by a muchu-net.
long ago there lived an old Munda couple in a village named Andiki in Tamar. Once they were invited to attend a feast. The old man was a gourmet and ate so greedily that he smeared his whole mouth, face and hand with the food. The people thus made him into a new clan Bodra and his descendant came to be known as Bodra from that day.
Champia or Champi Ancestor of this kili or surname was traveling in search of their place to reside. While traveling they reached in a forest and it was towards the sunset.They decided to spend the night in the forest.They prepared food for the evening. Before having food they heard a bird making a noise which goes likewise:"Looem Jomem champia". From that very moment they took their surname as Champia.Today some write their surname as Champi also.Both surnames are originated from the same sound of a bird.
Once, a man of Mundu kili went to a tree in search of honey. Upon finding honey in the hollow of the tree he entered into it but his hair was badly besmeared with honey. The villagers came forward to rescue him and took him home. They spent almost seven vessels of oil to soften his hair. Thenceforward he became Dodrai kili.
The ancestor of the Kili, while on a journey had to cross a swollen river. His 'hagas' or kinsmen crossed the river safely. But he himself did not venture to do so unaided, and exclaimed, "Whoever will take me safely across the river, will be my kith and kin forever." In those days all animal and vegetable creation could understand human speech and could themselves be understood by man.
A tortoise who heard the Munda's appeal for help, came up and offered to carry him across the river. The tortoise succeeded in carrying on his back not the Munda alone but all his family and luggage safe to the other side of the river.
True to his promise, The Munda henceforth assumed the name of Horo or Kachua, and his descendants came to form the Horo or Kachua Kili. No Munda of the kili will kill a tortoise or eat its flesh.
Hunipurti (हुनि पूर्ति)
Once a Munda had planted cotton in his field. When the capsules began bursting his wife went to gather wool in the field. In the field she kept her baby and engaged in collecting wool. During this time the field rats came by and upon seeing a lively child they took it to their hole. The wife of the Munda soon came in search of her find only to find him missing. Anxious and concerned she began weeping loudly and informed the villagers about the incident. The villagers made a vigorous search and found the baby in the rat hole. They saw the baby lying comfortably on a bed of cotton wool and playing. Considering the fact that the rats had given the child much comfort and treated it kindly they thought of regarding them as their brethren. Thus, they addressed the rats as their brethren and decided that in future they would inflict no harm on the rats. From then they came to be known as Hunipurti clan.
A certain Munda family had several brothers and a sister who was quite hefty and bulky. The circumference of her waist was such that it required about 9 feet of cloth to cover it up. She was relegated the job of cooking food for her brothers but never carried out in a responsible way. The brothers thus, thought of marrying her off as she did not care for them. All of them took half a maund of flattered rice with them and set out in search of a bridegroom. After a few days they returned and marriage their sister off and sent her to Arnapota to her husband`s house. As the brothers went out with half a maund of flattered rice, they from that day began to be known as Kandir clan.
Lang-Bodra (लंग बोदरा)
One day the people of Tebo Bodra kili set out together for a hunt. They wandered in different directions the whole day and met in the evening. Upon inquiring about their hunt none replied but a man who had killed a Lang, the fly-catcher bird. They all tried to fathom the reason as to why they had only killed only a bird. An old man said that as it was the first day of their hunt hence that they had hunted only a Lang. Thenceforward they must be known as Lang Bodra and should refrain form killing the Lang bird. All the people from then adopted their kili as Lang Bodra.
They also known as Pahan Munda. They were believe in worship in Sarna God called Singbonga. Generally they want to stay in group and found in Rania Jharkhand area (Manoharpur, Bano, Baghiya Etc.). Marki Munda are counted as minority. Their main occupation is hunter and cultivation. In Munda communities, Marki counted as number one position.
While coming to Sonepur side from the Eastern Parganas (whither they had first migrated from the central plateau), the head of the migrating family was carrying a lighted twist of straw (bor) at night.
While he was nearing the end of his journey, the strawlight burnt down to its lower end (lo mundu jana). From this circumstance this Munda and his kinsmen constituted the Mundu Kili.
Pandu Bing/Nag (पांडु बिंग/नाग)
The story of the origin of the well-known 'Nag kili' (the same as the 'Pandu Bing kili') is as follows: A Munda snake-charmer had tamed a white Nag snake ('Pandu Bing') which he used to take with him in his itineraries
At length, while returning home from a distant village, the snakecharmer died on the way. The Nag-serpent now coiled itself round the corpse and carried it home to the bereaved sons.
Out of gratitude to the faithful 'Pandu Bing', the deceased snakecharmer's sons kept the snake in their house, and gave it plenty to eat and drink every day. And the snake, too, would do them no manner of harm.
Henceforth the descendants of the deceased snake-charmer came to be called the men of the 'Nag Kili'. No member of the Kili would injure a Nag serpent.
Ramra-Bodra (रमड़ा बोदरा) one day the people of Iti belonging to the Bodra clan ate Ramra i.e. a pulse before it was prepared. It was actually to be eaten with the cooked rice. From that very day they were called Ramra Bodra.
Sarukad Purti (सरूकद पूर्ति)
Once a group of Mundas were migrating to some other place when a river they had to cross became flooded. One of them ventured to cross it by swimming but was swept away by the strong current.
However, he succeeded in saving himself by catching hold of a Taro plant through which he reached the shores on other end of the river. He then advised others to cross the river taking help of the Taro plant. One by one all of them crossed the river.
Upon being safely transported to the other side the group thought of offering a sacrifice of fowl in case they thought, the spirits might become displeased.
To roast the fowl they rolled it in the leaves of the same Taro plant. Since the Taro helped them cross the river and bake the fowl by rolling over the leaves of Taro plant they were called the Sarukad Purti kili.
A Munda had grown 'kapas' cotton (kasom) on his field close by a river named 'Chilua Ikir'. A large Soy/Soe or Soel fish made a subterranean passage from the river up to this cotton field, and every night the fish would stealthily come to the field through this passage and damage the cotton.
Unable at first to trace the thief, the owner of the field ultimately remained watching the field one night, and at length discovered the Soy fish eating his cotton. Forthwith, with an arrow, he killed the fish. But the fish was so large and heavy that he had to call in the aid of alll his 'hagas' or bhayads to carry the huge fish to the village.
The fish was then chopped into pieces, and the meat distributed amongst all the 'hagas'. The Munda who had killed the fish with his arrow came to be called 'Tuing Soy' and his descendants formed the 'Tuing Soy kili'.
The Munda who divided the meat into different shares came to be called 'Til Soy' and his descendants formed the 'Til Soy kili'. The Munda who distributed the shares came to be called 'Or Soy', and his descendants became the 'Or Soy kili'. The Munda who had brought the leaves on which the different shares of the meat were placed came to styled 'Patra Soy' and his family the Patra Soy kili'.
One of the bhaiyads had taken his own share of the meat in a piece of cloth dyed with gamcha earth (a kind of ochre-coloured earth called gerua mati) and came to be called the 'Gamcha Soy', and his descendants cam eto constitute 'Gamcha Soy kili'. The men of the 'Gamcha Soy' kili would not use cloth dyed with 'Gamcha' earth, and no Munda of the different branches of the 'Soy kili' will not eat the Soy fish.
The other sub-divisions of the Soy kili are the 'Mandi Soy', the 'Chiki Soy', the Tula soy, the Adoa soy, the Rura Mandi Soy and the Banda Soy' Kilis, each of which kilis is somehow or other connected with the legend given above.
The ancestors of the sept lived in a village Chutia near Ranchi, whither they had migrated from suitiame-Korambe. While migrating further to the east, from Chutia they had to cross a swollen river, in the depth of winter. One batch of the emigrants first crossed the river, but began to shiver terribly with cold when they reached the other bank. They therefore shouted out to their relatives on the other bank to send them some burning charcoal which the latter had with them. The men on the other bank, finding no other means of helping their kinsmen, put some burning charcoal into a fork made of a twig of the 'tuti' plant which abounded in the vicinity, and sent the twig with the charcoal to the other bank with the help of a bow and arrow. The Mundas on the other bank thus relieved from the biting cold, vowed not to eat the 'tuti' plant any more and thenceforth formed a separate kili called the 'Tuti Kili'.
Mundari ancestral worship
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Munda people are involved in agriculture. For this reason Munda people continue to show respect to the seasonal festivals of Mage, Phagu, Karam, Sarhul, and Sohrai etc. Over time some seasonal festivals have come to coincide with religious festivals but the original meaning of the festivals has not been lost. 
- Birsa Munda, led a late 19th-century independence movement during British colonial rule in India. He was said to be very powerful and he could turn bullets to powder. He led the Munda rebellion. He wanted to bring back the golden age of Mundas. He wanted to free his people from the oppression of the traders, moneylenders, zamindars and the British.
- Jaipal Singh, formed the Adivasi Mahasabha political party in 1938, with himself as its president. After independence the name of the party was changed to the Jharkhand Party, to accommodate non-tribals seeking to achieve long term goals. He was the first to demand a separate Jharkhand state for tribals. He captained the Indian field hockey team to clinch the gold in the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam. He is well known for his sportsmanship and political skills.
- Nirmal Munda, in 1934, spearheaded the movement in an organised form with some demands like i) New land settlement ii) Non Payment of Tax iii) Abolition of forced labour iv) People's right over forest v) Spread of education. Government started collecting taxes by force and warrant was issued to arrest Nirmal Munda. Nirmal Munda took it as challenge, gave a simultaneous call to the people to gather at Simko (a village near Raiboga Police station, Orissa) on 25 April 1934. Captain Boscoe, a political agent, arrived with armed forces and asked people to identify Nirmal Munda. Having failing to get any response, the agent gave firing order which resulted in loss of some 300 people lives. Nirmal Munda was arrested.'Simko Firing'was an historic movement in India's freedom of struggle in general and of sundargarh district in particular
Literature and studies
- Jesuit Father John-Baptist Hoffmann (1857–1928) spent his life studying the language, customs, religion and life of the Mundas. He published the first Munda grammar in 1903. Later (with the help of Menas Orea, a Munda wise man and scholar to whom he paid rich tribute) Hoffmann brought out a Encyclopaedia mundarica, 15 volumes, gathering all that was then known of the Munda people. The first edition was published posthumously in 1937. A third edition came to press in 1976.
- "The Mundas & Their Country" by S C Roy, published in 1912
- "Adidharam" by Ram Dayal Munda and Ratan Singh Manki. The book includes all the rituals and customs practised by the Munda people. The book is in Mundari with Hindi translation. The book also an appeal to all the tribes, to unite their religion as one- 'Adidharam' on the basis of their common root.
- HOFFMANN, John-Baptist: Mundari Grammar, Calcutta, 1903.
- HOFFMANN, John-Baptist: A Mundari Grammar with exercises, 2 vol., Calcutta, 1905–09.
- HOFFMANN, John-Baptist: Encyclopaedia mundarica, 15 vol., Patna, 1930–37.
- PONETTE, P. (ed): The Munda World. Hoffmann commemoration volume, Ranchi, 1978.
- Munda http://global.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/397427/Munda
- Indian Census. Censusindia.gov.in (14 May 2012).
- "List of Schedule Castes". Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India. 2011.
- Parkin, R. (1992). The Munda of central India: an account of their social organization. Delhi: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-563029-7
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Munda people.|
- Sarna – A case study in religion On the religion of the Munda tribals
- Sinlung – Indian tribes
- "Mundās". Encyclopædia Britannica 18 (11th ed.). 1911. This article is a discussion of the related family of languages.