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Kisan Tribe in Orissa are found in Sundergarh, Mayurbhanj, Sambalpur, Keonjhar, and Deogarh. They are traditional farmers and food gathering people. They speak the Kurukh language along with Kosli, Hindi and English. The Kisan call themselves Nagbansis, Nagesar and Nagesia.
The settlement of the Kisan is mainly on pat and forest portion of the region in which they are found. As they are settled tribes, their houses are made up of comparatively durable materials. Their houses stand on high plinth. Each house has a workshop, a store room, a kitchen, a sleeping room and a veranda. They have separate cattle shed and a pigsty. The Kishan villages can be approached on foot. Each family has own cattle wealth, agricultural weapons, war weapons, household utensils and agricultural land.
The Kisan erect houses with the help of mud, wood, bamboo, leaves, straw, rope and hand made fire baked tiles. The houses are single storey. Veranda is erected with wood poles, bamboos and tiles or leaves and straw. The household utensils consist of earthen pots, aluminium pots, bronze thali, lota, tumbler, iron knife, karahi, chholani, kalchhul. They have varieties of baskets of different sizes for storing and carrying forest produce, grains, loads etc. They prepare these baskets, brooms, mats and winnowing tray with the help of bamboo, local grasses and date leaves. They purchase household utensils from the local Haat. They have few cots, machia and sikia which they prepare from the ropes. They weave rope from the local grasses. They also prepare rope for selling and getting money.
The males wear dhoti, ganji, kurta, gamachha etc. The females use sari, saya, blouse etc. The children wear paint, ganji, shirts etc. They purchase clothes from the local market or Haat. Previously, they used to buy dresses from the chickbaraik tribe. Women are fond of ornaments of silver, steel thread, glass, lac etc. which they purchase from the Haat.
They have plough, kamaba or khanti, kudal, khurapi, sickles, axes, etc. for agricultural purposes. They have Lathi, Ber, Barchha, Bhala, as hunting and war weapons. Radio, watch and bicycles have reached among them. They purchase these items from the market situated at district or block headquarters.
The different social groups characterizing the society of the Kisan are family, lineage, tribe and the village. These social groups live together in the same village. Their affinal kins are found in different neighbouring villages. Different kin groups interact on different social, ceremonial worship and festive occasions. They do not have clan system or they have forgotten it.
The family is the smallest form of the society. Generally family is nuclear in structure. The family is composed of husband, wife and their unmarried children. Married children establish separate family. The Kisan family is patrilineal and the residence is patrilocal.
The husband or the father is the head of the family. But he does not take any decision in authoritarian manner. He seeks the advice of wife and children, if they are reaching towards younghood and are unmarried. Their decision in the family is made by consensus.
The Kisan family is based on cooperation of the family members. In order to run the family properly, the division of labour based on age and sex is found among the family members. It is the duty of the wife to cook breakfast and food for entire family members. It is the duty of the husband to perform work outside the house. The duty of children is to assist parents in household chores. They duty of the aged is to keep watch on kids, house, cattle, chicks and to prepare ropes and made articles. The division of labour does not mean that they do not know the work of other. The husband can cook if the wife is ill or she has gone in the house of relatives for some days. The aged and children also know how to cook food. The women also perform work in the field and forest. The children also accompany them there. Thus, the division of labour is just to facilitate the proper functioning in the family.
The Kisan family is based on belief and co-operation of all family members. This is possible when there is good relation between all family members. The relation between husband and wife is generally cordial. This does not mean that difference of opinion does not exist. But both make compromise and cooperation each other with full belief. The husband wife relation gets sour on laziness and extramarital relations. Such incidence leads to even divorce and remarriage. Both husband and wife are free to divorce each other. The divorce is allowed with the permission of village Panchayat. But in practice it takes place rarely.
The parent-children relation is very sweet. The children are assistants of their parents. They are the progeny of the family. They continue the lineage and family name. They are means of entertainment for the family members. They are loved by their parents. Parents try to fulfill their desires within their economic limits.
The sibling relation, i.e., brother-brother, sister-sister and sister-brother, is also very cordial and sweet. Being the children of the same parents, they live together, eat together, play together and sleep together. They have some difference too and quarrel for something. They are also involved in beating of each other. But their conflict is resolved with the help of parents. After marriage, brothers establish separate house and sisters go to live in the house of husband situated in another village. The property of father is shared equally by the brothers. Sisters have to forget their share in father’s property. But this does not change the affection and love. They maintain relation through reciprocal exchange of visits, service, food, gift, presentation, invitation etc.
The relationship of any Kisan family with the families of lineage, tribes and other castes of the village is also generally sweet. Being the member of the same village they exchange opinions, visits, food items and services reciprocally.
Marriage is an important ceremony which comes in the life of every individuals of the Kisan society except persons having sex unknown or undeveloped. The Kisan follow consanguineous, affinal prohibitive and preferred rule at the time of marriage. Parallel and cross-cousins are included in blood relatives and they can not marry with each other. They marry only within their own tribe. Inter-clan marriage is strictly tabooed. The boy and girl to be married must not be relative from father and mother side up to three generations. In their belief system, blood relation continues up to three generation. They do not have clear cut clan system. They follow tribe end endogamy and lineage and village exogamy rule at the time of marriage. Levirate and sororate marriages are preferred in those circumstances.
The Kisan society is divided into Telia and Sinduria sections. The women of Telia section apply oil on the occasion of marriage. They do not put vermillion and wear chuddi (bangles). The Women of Sinduria section applies vermillion at the time of marriage. They are not endogamous. They inter marry but the marriage custom takes place as per the mother of the groom. Generally marriage mate is acquired by bride price. The bride price vary from Rs. 15 to 1001. Besides bride price is cash, they have to pay goat and rice to feed the Barat party and clothes of bride’s parents and siblings. The marriage by service also takes place in case of parents having only girls. In this case, the groom has to stay permanently with the wife in father-in-law’s house. Marriage by elopement, Raji-Khushi and Gloat also takes place.
Marriage is generally arranged by parents. The father or guardian of the boy approaches the father or guardian of the girl for marriage. The bride price is settled when negotiation is finalized, the father of the bridegroom give, sunfried rice and turmeric to the father of the girl. This ritual indicates that the marriage has been finalized. Now a suitable date with the help of Baiga priest is announced on which marriage takes place.
Previously, after payment of bride price, the father of bride allowed the bride to accompany the father of the groom and marriage was performed in the house of bride-groom. But now- days, the father of the bride wants to welcome the Barat Party at his village and house.
On the occasion of marriage, the bride, groom and their parents do not wear black clothes. They wear red, yellow and white dresses. Previously, they use Palaki to carry the bride and groom. But now bicycle or rickshaw is used for this purpose. Previously, the members of the Barat were served meat, rice and handia, but now they are served mahua liquor with meat and rice. Previously they danced on mandar. But now they dance on loudspeaker. Domkach dance and play was organized in the house of the groom by female members on the day of marriage. This ritual is still continuing. The marriage age is between 15 and 25 years for both sexes.
The marriage is considered successful when the couple is blessed with a child. For the happy married life, the blessings of Gods, Goddess and elders are taken. Worships and sacrifices are made in the name of different spirits. Bigamy and divorce are considered as permissible, but they practice monogamy.
Birth is considered as important event for the couple, family and society. The birth of the child proves that the couple is fertile not barren. The family name and descent is transmitted from one generation to another. The community feels addition of the member after birth. In the Kisan birth generally takes place in the house. The expert woman called Kusrain, who belongs to Lohara or Ghasi community, helps the pregnant woman suffering from delivery pain. After birth, she cuts the chord. The chord is buried at a lonely place. Pollution period starts. No family member is allowed to visit the room in which delivery takes place because the mother and the baby remain polluted. Evil sprits have their eyes on mother and child. They attempt to put them in trouble. In order to protect the mother and the child some white magic and Totaka are performed. A branch of thorny plant is put at the gate of the room. An iron knife is placed on the cot in which the mother and the child sleep. Fire is burnt nearby the cot always. A lamp is kept burning for the whole night. The pollution period ends on 6th day when the mother and the child perform purificatory bath. A black thread is tied in hand, feet and neck of the mother and child to save them from evil eyed and evil-mouthed persons. The female members of the community are invited to bless the mother and the child. A goat is sacrificed in the name of ancestors for long and happy life of the baby. Community feast is also organized. The name having ceremony takes place after one month. The Baiga or priest suggests a suitable name for the child. Food serving ritual takes place when the first teeth erupt in presence of the maternal uncle who brings new clothes for the child and the mother. Mundan is done when the child becomes of the one year age. This ritual is done with the help of priest, barber and child’s father’s sister. They get prize by the parents of the child. Ear- boring takes place when the child attains an age of 2 to 3 years. When all childhood customs end, the ceremony of marriage takes place.
The kisan are well aware of the reality of death. They have idea whosoever has born, will die definitely. They believe that death is caused by super-human power or evil spirits. Natural death during oldhood takes place for transformation of old body into a new one. The souls of persons meeting death take rebirth according to deeds done in the life before death. But the souls of persons meeting premature death due to natural calamity, attack of evil spirits and suicide become Bhut-preta. They are evil spirits. They cause harm to pregnant and lactating woman and also to the newly delivered child.
The Kisan bury as well as cremate their dead. It depends upon the availability of the fuel wood in their environment. After burial or cremation ritual, the pollution period starts in the families of lineage and clan. This pollution period continues for 9 days. It ends when all male members make purificatory shaving of head and beard. A feast for kins men is organized.
The society of the Kisan is based on kinship. The family, lineage and clan are corporeal kin groups’ based on blood relations, marriage take places out of the blood relatives. But marriage creates a set of new relatives. Thus, the kinship system of the Kisan presents a model of relationship based on the concept of consanguinity and affinity. As there is no clear cut clan system, they do not perform marriage between boy and girl who are related from father and mother side up to three generations. They avoid cousin marriages strictly.
The kisan use classificatory as well as descriptive kinship terminology for naming their blood and marriage relatives. They behave following the rules of kinship usages like avoidance, joking and takenoynmy. In the Kisan family, the inheritance and succession are patrilineal. The customs of primogeniture and ultimogeniture are not found.
At the time of marriage and death all kindred of an individual are invited orally. Reciprocal exchange of good, services, money, gifts, presentations etc. takes place on those occasions.
The economy or Kisan presents a picture of collection of forest produce, agriculture, and domestication of animal, craft making and casual labour. The kisan villages are situated near the forests. Therefore, collection of forest produce is still practiced by them, not only for the purpose of consumption but, also for the purpose of getting money by selling them in market. They also collect root, shoot, leave, flowers, fruits, seeds, mushrooms etc. from the forest in different seasons. They are well aware which type of forest product will be available in which season and in which part of the forest.
Previously, they used to hunt forest animals and birds. But now the practice of hunting has been banned completely. They are now dependent upon turtle, fish, rat and rabbit etc. which are available in ponds or nearby it.
The Kisan domesticate oxen, calves, buffaloes, goat, pigs, ducks, chicks etc. for raising the family income. They do agriculture with the help of cow, ox, and buffalo. They keep calves to get money by selling them in market. They eat meat of goat, pigs, hen, cock etc. They also make sacrifice of goat, cock, hen, duck etc. offer worship and organize community feast.
The Kisan possess some pieces of agricultural land which their forefathers had cleared for shirting cultivation. But now they cultivate those lands regularly. The land is possessed at family level. Nearly all Kisan families possess homestead land, Bari land and cultivable land. But few families have only homestead land and bari land. Their main means of livelihood is their labour which they sell on wages. They quality of land owned by the Kisan is not good. There is no assured means of irrigation. Cultivation depends upon rain fall. If rain fall is good, it brings good harvest. But if it is not good, starvation takes place.
The Kisan cultivate marua, kurathi, and coarse variety of paddy in their field. They have some Don lands in which good variety of paddy is cultivated. Rabi crops are not cultivated because they do not have assured means of irrigation. Garma crops are also not cultivated. In the Bari land, vegetables are cultivated during rainy seasons.
After harvesting and thrashing, the new grains are cooked and offered to Gods, Goddesses, ancestors and the community members. From agriculture, they are able to feed themselves only for 2 or 3 months. Rest months, they are dependent upon the collection of forest produce and wage earning as casual labour.
Nowadays, the major means of livelihood for the Kisan is working as casual labour and getting wages. They approach the land owners, mahajan, contractors, etc. to get work of Reja-Coolie. As Reja-Coolie they sell their labour on payment of wages. They consider themselves lucky when they get work regularly because in absence of work, they have to remain unemployed. They have also to migrate temporarily for getting work and wages.
The Kisan also prepare baskets, brooms, mates, ropes, etc. from the forest chops and grasses for household use, store and carrying as head load.
The Kisan religion reveals their beliefs in soul, super human power, mana, Bonga, natural objects, different Gods, Goddesses and spirits. They believe that the soul of living beings take abode on hill, mountain, well, tank, stream, mud hell, dry trees etc. They also believe that all living and nonliving things possess super human power. They have faith that man after death becomes ancestor. They believe that every event in their society is brought by the super human power. In and around the settlement of the Kisan village, one finds several spots dedicated to in the names of different spirits of man, natural things, snake, tiger, etc. The ancestors of the Kisan live in saranga grove. Gram Devata, Brahma Devata, singbonga, Dharati Mata, Kali Mai, Durga Mai etc. are their different Gods and Goddesses. Sokha and Mati also belong to their Gods and Goddesses. The sacred specialist of Kisan is called Baiga. He performs the sacrificial worships. At the time of worship, they use milk, flower, sunfried rice, turmeric, Dub grass, Dhup, Agarbati, fire, curd, loaf sugar etc. They make sacrifice of goat, pig, chick, duck, and pigeon etc.
The Kisan celebrate festivals like Phagun, Karma, Jitia, Diwali, Sohrai, Sarhul, Maghi etc. On festive occasions, they organise religious dances in the Akhara of the village in which men, women and children take part. While performing dance, they play mandar and sing varieties of songs.
The Kisan are not followers of Christianity. They have been influenced by Hinduism. They have started worship of Hindu Gods and Goddesses. They also participate in religious worship of the Hindus and religious processions of Hindus. The concept of individual and common property is found among them.
In order to solve the community level dispute, the Kisan have their traditional village Panchayat. Through this village Panchayat, the Kisan maintain their customs and tradition. The matters related to husband-wife conflict, divorce, property distribution, theft, adultery, extra-marital relations, violation of marriage rule, witchcraft, village level worship etc. are decided in traditional village Panchayat. The office bearers of the village Panchayat are Mahato and Sardar. These posts are hereditary. All heads of the household are the members of the village Panchayat. The cases between two villages are decided by the Panchayat officials of both villages. The decision is welcomed by both parties.
Nowadays, there is modern Gram Panchayat, whose head is Mukhja. Through this modern Panchayat development works are being carried out. Now there is also a Sarpanch, Who looks after the criminal cases. Besides, there are Thana, Police, Court, Lawyer etc. Few Kisan have gone in the shelter of the court for justice. But they have to spend more money.
After independence, the Kisan have become voters during they participate in democratic process by casting their votes during the election of State Assembly and Parliament. Their voting behaviour is decided in the village by the headman who is been respected across. A decades before they casted their votes to those candidates who paid money for goat, liquor and Handia (rice beer)but in the 20th century they are more active and vigilant to the political system.
The Kisan tribe analyse the competency of the leader and caste their vote which has been a significant change in the political system. Political leader Mangal Kisan was MP, Rajyasabha as well as MLA of the Rajgangpur constituency in Sundargarh district of Odisha.