Tribes of Jharkhand

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The tribes of Jharkhand consist of 32 tribes inhabiting the Jharkhand state in India. The tribes in Jharkhand were originally classified on the basis of their cultural types by the Indian anthropologist, Lalita Prasad Vidyarthi. His classification was as follows:

Demography[edit]

The Scheduled Tribe (ST) population of Jharkhand State is as per 2001 census 7,087,068 constituting 26.3 per cent of the total population (26,945,829) of the State.Among all Sates and UTs, Jharkhand holds 6th and 10th ranks terms of the ST population and the percentage share of the ST population to the total population of the State respectively. The growth of the ST population has been 17.3 per cent which is lower by 6 per cent if compared with the growth of the State’s total population (23.3 per cent)during 1991-2001. The state has a total of thirty (30) Scheduled Tribes and all of them have been enumerated at 2001 census. The Scheduled Tribes are primarily rural as 91.7per cent of them reside in villages. District wise distribution of ST population shows that Gumla district has the highest proportion of STs (68.4per cent). The STs constitute more than half of the total population in Lohardaga and Pashchimi Singhbhum districts whereas Ranchi and Pakaur districts have 41.8 – 44.6 per cent tribal population. Kodarma district (0.8 percent) preceded by Chatra (3.8 per cent) has the lowest proportion of the STs Population. Jharkhand has 32 tribal groups:

Literacy and educational level[edit]

The overall literacy rate among the STs has increased from 27.5 per cent at 1991 census to 40.7 per cent at 2001census. Despite this improvement, the literacy rate among the tribes is much below in comparison to that of all STs at the national level (47.1per cent). Like the overall literacy rate among the STs, male and female literacy rates (54 per cent and 27.2 per cent) are also considerably lower than those at the national level (59.2 per cent & 34.8 per cent). Among the numerically larger tribes, Oraon and Kharia have more than half of the population in the age of seven (7) years and above are literates while Munda have the literacy rate almost equal to that of all STs at the national level. Remaining five larger tribal groups have shown the overall literacy rates lower than that of the national average. Among the total tribal literates, 33.6 per cent are either without any educational level or have attained education below primary level. The proportions of literates who have attained education up to primary level and middle level are 28.6 percent & 17.7 per cent respectively. Persons educated up to matric / secondary / higher secondary constitute 16.5 percent. This implies that every 6th tribal literate is amatriculate. Graduates and above are 3.5 per cent while non-technical & technical diploma holders constitute a negligible 0.1 per cent only. While Kharia, Oraon and Ho have the highest proportion of matriculates i.e.every 5th literates of these tribes are matriculates closely followed by Munda who have every 6th literate a matriculate. Kharwar have the lowest percentage of matriculates, preceded by Bhumij, Lohra and Santhal. While Oraon and Kharia have the highest percentage of graduates, Bhumij have the lowest proportion of degree holders, preceded by Kharwar, Lohra and Santhal. The data show that the proportion of tribal literates decline sharply in higher level of education as the percentage of students after matriculation drops down to almostone third in higher secondary level. Out of the total 19.8 lakh tribal children in the age group 5 –14 years, only 8.5 lakh children have been attending school constituting 43.1 per cent. Alarmingly, as many as 11.3 lakh (56.9 per cent) children in the corresponding age group have not been going to school. The Statement below shows that among the major STs, Oraon, Kharia and Munda have more than 50 per cent school going children whereas Santhal, Ho, Lohra have 36 – 47 per cent children attending school.[1]

Tribal festivals in Jharkand[edit]

Sarhul[edit]

Sarhul is celebrated during spring season and the Saal trees get new flowers on their branches. It is a worship of the village deity who is considered to be the protector of the tribes. People sing and dance a lot when the new flowers appear. The deities are worshiped with saal flowers. The village priest or Pahan fasts for a couple of days. In the early morning he takes a bath and puts on new a dhoti made of virgin cotton (kachha dhaga). The previous evening, the Pahan takes three new earthen pots and fills them with fresh water; the next morning he observes these earthen pots and water level inside. If the water level decreases he predicts that there would be famine or less rain, and if the water level is normal, that is the signal of a good rain. Before pooja starts, the wife of the Pahan washes his feet and gets blessings from him. At the pooja, Pahan offers three young roosters of different colors to one for the almighty god — the Singbonga or Dharmesh, as the Mundas, Ho and Oraons respectively address Him; another for the village deities; and the third for the ancestors. During this pooja villagers surround the Sarna place.

Traditional drum — Dhol, Nagara and Turhi — players keep drumming and playing along with Pahan chanting prayers to deities. When pooja is finished, boys carry Pahan on their shoulders and girls dancing ahead take him to his house where his wife welcomes him by washing his feet. Then Pahan offers Saal flowers to her wife and villagers. These flowers represent the brotherhood and friendship among villagers and Pahan the priest, distributes saal flowers to every villager. He also puts saals flowers on every house's roof which is called "phool khonsi". At the same time Prasad, a rice made beer called Handia, is distributed among the villagers. And the whole village celebrates with singing and dancing this festival of Sarhul. It goes on for weeks in this region of Chhotanagpur. In Kolhan region it is called "Baa Porob" meaning Flower Festival. it is the festival of the grest happiness.

Karam[edit]

The Karam festival is a worship of Karam devta, the god of power, youth and youthfulness. Karam is held on the 11 of moon in Bhadra month. Groups of young villagers go to the jungle and collect wood, fruits and flowers. These are required during the Puja of Karam God. During this period people sing and dance in groups. The entire valley seems to be dancing with the drumbeatth day of the phases. This is one of the rare examples of such a vital and vibrant youth festival in Jharkhand’s tribal area.

Jawa[edit]

At the same time, the unmarried tribal girls celebrate the Jawa festival, which has its own kind of songs and dance. This is held mainly for the expectation of good fertility and better household. The unmarried girls decorate a small basket with germinating seeds. It is believed that the worship for good germination of the grains would increase the fertility. The girls offer green melons to the Karam deity as a symbol of ‘son’ which reveals the primitive expectation of human being (i.e., grains and children). The entire tribal area of Jharkhand becomes tipsy during this time.

Tusu Parav or Makar[edit]

This festival is mostly seen in the area between Bundu, Tamar and Raidih area of Jaharkhand. This belt has a great history during India’s independence movement. TUSU is a harvest festival held during the winter in the last day of Poush month. It is also for the unmarried girls. Girls decorate a wooden/ bamboo frame with coloured paper and then gift it to the nearby hilly river. Although there is no documented history available on this festival but it has huge collection of scintillating songs full of life and taste. These songs reflect the simplicity and innocence of tribal people.

Hal Punhya[edit]

Hal punhya is a festival which begins with the fall of winter. The first day of Magh month, known as “Akhain Jatra” or “Hal Punhya”, considered as the beginning of ploughing. The farmers, to symbolize this auspicious morning plough two and half circles of their agricultural land this day is also considered as the symbol of good fortune.

Bhagta Parab[edit]

This festival comes to between the period of spring and summer. Among the tribal people of Jharkhand, Bhagta Parab is best known as the worship of Budha Baba. People fast during the day and carry the bathing Pahan the priest, to the tribal mandir called Sarana Mandir. The Pahan sometimes called Laya, gets out of the pond, the devotees make a chain, locking their thighs with each other and come forward to offer their bare chest to Laya for walk over. After worship in the evening, devotees take part in dynamic and vigorous Chhau dance with lots of gymnastic actions and masks. The next day is full of primitive sports of bravery. The devotees pierce hooks on skin and get tied at one end of a long horizontal wooden pole, which is hanging on the top of a vertical Shal wood pole. The height goes up to 40 feet. The other end of the pole which is connected with a rope, pulled around the pole by the people and the tied devotee display the breath-taking dance in the sky. This festivals is more popular in the Tamar region of Jharkhand.

Rohini[edit]

Rohini is perhaps the first festival of Jharkhand. It is a festival of sowing seeds in the field. Farmers starts sowing seeds from this day but there is no dance or song like other tribal festivals but just a few rituals. There are some other festivals like Rajsawala Ambavati and Chitgomha are also celebrated with Rohini.

Bandna[edit]

Bandana is one of the most famous festivals celebrated during the black moon of month of Kartik (Kartik Aamavashya). This festival is mainly for the animals. Tribals are very close with animals and pets. In this festival, people wash, clean, paint, decorate feed well and put ornaments to their cows and bulls. The song dedicated for this festival is called Ohira which is an acknowledgement for animal’s contribution in their day-to-day life. The belief behind this festival is animals are integral part of life and have souls as human being do. The most exciting day of the bandanna week is the last day. Closured bulls and buffaloes are chained to a strong pole and they are attacked with a dry animal hyde. The angry animals hit the dry skin with their horns and the crowd enjoys. Generally the colour used for decorating animals are natural colours and the is artwork is of folk type.

Jani-Shikaar[edit]

This is held once every 12 years. The womenfolk wear menswear and go for hunting in forest. Jani-Shikaar is performed in remember of driving away the mohameddens by the kurukh womenfolk in Roh-tas-garh, who wanted to capture the fort on the Sharhul festival new year day for tribal community, when men used to be in drunken condition. They had tried to capture 12 times in 12 years and every time they were driven by the kurukh women, who wore the men's clothes while in the field of war.

Tribal artwork[edit]

  • Chhou mask - Chhou is a type of dance done with colourful masks. The masks are made of paper mache in Singhbhum district of Jharkhand. Paper mache of Saraikela and Charinda are famous for Chhou dance. Some times it appears similar to the masks used in kerla in Kathakali.
  • Tribal woodwork - Jharkand is full of good quality saal forest and hence wooden artwork in the "should" of tribals. The wood is used for cooking, housing, farming, fishing etc. The tribal artists of some villages have explored their creativity in art, like beautifully decorative door panels, toys, boxes, and other household articles.
  • Tribal Bamboo Artwork - The bamboo found in this area are different from bamboo of Southeast Asia. There is tourist place, Netarhat, which means a Bazaar of Bamboo. These bamboos are thin, and strong and flexible. The tribal people use bamboo for making baskets, hunting & fishing equipments. Specially the bamboo made fishing cage is very attractive.
  • Tribal Pottery - Tribal pottery is a part of tribals but still no specific working style observed.
  • Tribal jewellery - The tribal people particularly like jewellery. They use metallic ornaments made of gold, silver, brass, copper for their earrings, nose ring, bracelets, bangles etc.
  • Godna - Tribals use ornaments a lots but the spiritual concept of ornament is very different. They believe that all ornaments are human made and are mortal. Therefore they invented tattoos as permanent ornament. Majority of tribal woman have tattoos called Godna, on their bodies. However, tribal man also use Godna.They believe that Godna are the only ornament which goes with them after death also.
  • Tribal weapons - Bow and arrow is the symbolic weapon of the tribals of this area. Apart from this they use iron made Axes and Doulies and Ghana (Big hammer).

Tribal religion: Sarna[edit]

See also: Sarnaism

Although, Hinduism is the predominant religion of the State (68.6 per cent), the Hindu tribes constitute 39.8 per cent only. As many as 45.1 per cent of the tribal population follow ‘other religions and persuations’. Christian tribes are 14.5 per cent and less than half per cent (0.4 per cent) are Muslims. Among the major tribes, Santhal have more than half of the total population (56.6 per cent) professes Hinduism. Oraon and Munda have more than 50 per cent of population follow ‘other religions and persuasions’ followed by Christianity. Ho tribe has the highest proportion (91per cent) of persons professing ‘other religions and persuations’.*[2]

Sarna religion/Sarna Dharam is religion of tribals of India. They have their own worship place called "SARNA ASTHAL/JAHER". They have also religious flag called "SARNA JHANDA". Which can be seen more in Ranchi District. In Ranchi the capital of jharkhand, there are "SARNA ASTHAL". In SARHUL festival every Oraon gather in Ranchi with a great Rally. In this time "SARNA JHANDA" can be seen every where in Ranchi. Some tribe followed Sarna Dharam, where Sarna means sacred grove. Their religion is based on the oral traditions passed from generation-to-generation. The religion is deeply ingrained in their culture and traditions, respecting the superiority of our natural world and its power. It strongly believes in one God, the Supreme Being, the Great Spirit, the Great One, the Creator, the Mighty Spirit, the one who rules over the entire universe, known as Dharmesh. They strongly believe in Lord Dharmesh’s appearance in Sal trees.

According to their philosophy, the lord Dharmesh is the most powerful and most important deity. He is responsible for the creation of our universe including our ancestors besides acting as our protector. In fact, the whole world (Universe) is regulated by a superpower that is Dharmesh in Kurukh which simply means the almighty, he is also called Mahaedeo. The great one Dharmesh’s purity demands that he be offered sacrifices only of things that are white. Hence he is given sacrifices of white goats, white fowls, white gulainchi flowers, white cloth, sugar, milk, etc. White is the sacred colour of Oraon tribe, in fact it is true for most adivasi.

Among the many important deities, the Chala-pacho Devi (Sarna Devi) is among the most important and most respected deity. The Gram Devi Chala-Pachho is a caring Old age lady with beautifully flowing white hair. It is believed that the Sal tree is the holy abode of the Sarna Devi, the mother goddess that protects and nurtures the Oraon tribe and others. On the occasion of Sarhul festival, the Pahan conducts special puja of the Devi. According to Sarna Dharam, the Devi lives in the wooden soop of Pahan kept at Chala-Kutti place, the auspicious place at Pahan’s home. At Kutti place, one stick made up of Saal wood or Bamboo Wood is fixed on the ground, on this respected wooden soop called Sarna-Soop, the Sarna-Devi resides.

Tribals perform rituals under the Sal trees at a place called ‘Sarna Sthal’, it is also known as ‘Jaher’ (sacred grove); it resembles a small forest patch. In Oraons’ villages, one can easily find the sacred religious place the ‘Sarna Sthal’ that has holy Sal trees and other trees planted at the site. Sometimes the Jaher are located inside the nearby forest area and not in the village.

This Sarna Sthal (Jaher) is a common religious place for the whole village and almost all the important socio-religious ceremonies of the village take place at this place only. These ceremonies are performed by the whole village community at a public gathering with the active participation of village priests known as ‘Pahan’. The chief assistant of village priest is called ‘Pujaar’ or ‘Panbhara’.


The tribals have their own way of conscience, faith and belief. Basically, they believe in the super natural spirit called the Singbonga. According to the belief of the Santhal community, the world is inhabited by spiritual beings of different kinds; and the Santhals consider themselves as living and doing everything in close association with these supernatural beings. They perform rituals under the Sal trees at a place called "Jaher" (sacred grove). Often the Jaher can be found in the forests. They believe in Bonga’s appearance in Sal trees and have named their religion "Sarna."

The genesis of the Sarna religion is interesting. According to the mythology of the Santhal community, the Santhal tribals had gone to the forest for hunting and they started the discussion about their ‘Creator and Savior’ while they were resting under a tree. They questioned themselves that who is their God? Whether the Sun, the Wind or the Cloud? Finally, they came to a conclusion that they would leave an arrow in the sky and wherever the arrow would target that will be the God’s house. They left an arrow in the sky; it fell down under a Sal tree. They started worshiping the tree and named their religion as "Sarna" because it is derived from a Sal tree. Thus, Sarna religion came into existence. There are priests and an assistant priests called "Naikey" and "Kudam Naike" in every Santhal village.

Tribal metalwork[edit]

Most of the metal works are done for agricultural purpose, hunting and weapons. There are specific communities like Lohar, Malhar and Thentri have expertise in metal work.

References[edit]

External links[edit]

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