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The Bhunjia are a scheduled tribe found in the state of Odisha in India. Their homeland is the Sunabeda plateau, which is roughly between 21° 25′ north and 21° 30′ north latitude and 82° 35′ east longitude. It was a part of Khariar Zamindari, which formed the eastern and the southeastern region of Raipur district of Chhattisgarh division in Central Province till 1 April 1936, when it was transferred to Odisha on its creation. It is now in Komna block of Nuapada district in Orissa.
Nearly 62 tribal groups are living in Odisha, out of which 10 tribal groups may be identified in Nuapada. The Bhunjias, a primitive tribe of Odisha, are found in Nuapada. Nuapada is considered as the homeland of the Bhunjias. 75 percent of the total population of this tribe lives here. They are living in the uphill range of Sunabeda plateau in Nuapada.
According to the 1981 Census, the population of Bhunjia was 7000 and now it must be around 10000. Accordingly, 75 percent of the population, i.e. about 7500 Bhunjias, are living in Nuapada. According to the tribe, the term "Bhunjia" means "growing out of land" or "origin from the earth".
History and origin
The Bhunjia have racial and cultural affinity with the Gonds of Orissa. There are so many myths among the Bhunjia and the Gond, which speak of strong relationship among the Gonds and the Bhunjias. On setting in the Sunabeda plateau, the Bhunjias did not have marital relations with any tribal group, but in course of time, when the Gonds came into their area, marital relation was established with them. From this the population was divided into two inter-marrying groups, namely Markam and Netarn. Due to this close proximity with the Gonds, Bhunjias have adopted many of the Gods and Goddesses of the Gonds as their own. The two groups worship God and Goddesses common to the locality such as Budharaja and Sunadei.
Bhunjias are divided into two main sections i.e. Chinda Bhunjia and Chaukhutia Bhunjia. The Chaukhutia Bhunjia are confined exclusively to the hills of the Sunabeda plateau in ecologically secluded areas for which they maintain distance from the outsiders. But the Chinda Bhunjia generally lives in the plains and have close contact with the tribal and non-tribal communities. The religious life of Bhunjia is very simple. They believe in many Gods and Goddesses who are worshipped in different months on different ritual occasions.
They speak Halbi language, a mixture of Odia, Marathi and Chhattisgarhi. However, K.C. Dubey, analyzing the myth and oral tradition of Chhattisgarh, considers the Bhunjia as a branch of Halbas of Baster, who fled from Baster due to their quarrel with Dhakars.