Munda people

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Munda people
Old Munda Men, Dinajpur, 2010 by Biplob Rahman.jpg
Total population
2,233,661 (2011)
Regions with significant populations
 India  Bangladesh    Nepal
West Bengal366,386
Madhya Pradesh5,041
Mundari[3]Ho • Hindi • Nagpuri • Odia • Bengali
[4][5]: 327 [6]
Related ethnic groups
Munda peoples

The Munda people are an Austroasiatic speaking ethnic group of India. They predominantly speak the Mundari language as their native language, which belongs to the Munda subgroup of Austroasiatic languages. The Munda are found mainly concentrated in the Chhotanagpur Plateau region, which covers most of Jharkhand,[7] as well as in neighboring regions of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and West Bengal.[1][8] The Munda also reside in adjacent areas of Madhya Pradesh as well as in portions of Bangladesh and the state of Tripura.[1][2] They are one of India's largest scheduled tribes. Munda people in Tripura are also known as Mura, and in Madhya Pradesh they are often called Mudas.[9]


Robert Parkin notes that the term "Munda" did not belong to the Austroasiatic lexis and is of Sanskrit origin.[10] According to R. R. Prasad, the name "Munda" is a Sanskrit word means "headman". It is an honorific name given by Hindus and hence became a tribal name.[11]


According to linguist Paul Sidwell, Munda languages arrived on the coast of Odisha from Southeast Asia about 4000–3500 years ago.[12] The Munda people initially spread from Southeast Asia, but mixed extensively with local Indian populations.[13]

According to historian R. S. Sharma, tribals who spoke the Munda language occupied the eastern region of ancient India. Many Munda terms occur in Vedic texts that were written between 1500 BCE and 500 BCE. Their presence in texts compiled in the upper Gangetic basin late in that period suggests that Munda speakers were there at the time.[14] According to Barbara A. West, the Mundas claim origin in Uttar Pradesh, and a steady flow eastward in history as other groups moved into their original homeland. They inhabited a much larger territory in ancient India.[15]

In the late 1800s, during the British Raj, the Mundas were forced to pay rents and work as bonded labourers to the zamindars. Munda freedom fighter Birsa Munda began the first protest marches calling for non-payment of rents and remission of forest dues. He led guerrilla warfare to uproot British Raj and establish Munda Raj.[citation needed] He is still revered in Jharkhand.[16][better source needed]


Munda are divided into number of exogamous clans. Clans among Mundas are known as Killi which is similar to Sanskrit word Kula. Munda are patrilineal and clan name descends father to son. According to tradition, people of same clan are descendant of same forefather. Clan among Mundas are of totemic origin. Some clans are:

  • Baa (a fish)
  • Baba (rice)
  • Bodra
  • Balamchu (fish net)
  • Barla
  • Bhengra
  • Bulung (salt)
  • Dang, Dungdung (a fish)
  • Gudia, Hans (swan)
  • Hemrom/Hembram (a tree)
  • Herenz (a Specific Bird)
  • Horo (turtle)
  • Hundar (hyena)
  • Jojo (tamarind)
  • Kauwa (crow)
  • Kerketta (a bird)
  • Kula (tiger)
  • Nil (bull)
  • Mus (mouse)
  • Nag (cobra)
  • Oreya (Bammboo Basket)
  • Pandu (cobra)
  • Sandil (a bird)
  • Purty
  • Runda (wild cat)
  • Sanga (a type of root)
  • Surin/Soren/Soreng (a bird)
  • Tiru (a bird)
  • Tuti (a type of grain)[17]
  • Kongari (a rare specie of bird: white crow)[18]

Culture and tradition[edit]

Nomadic hunters in the India tribal belt, they became farmers who were employed in basketwork and weaving. With the listing of the Munda people as Scheduled Tribes, many are employed in various governmental organisations (particularly Indian Railways).[19]

Eight books on a shelf
Part of John-Baptist Hoffmann's 15-volume Encyclopaedia Mundarica

Involved in agriculture, the Munda people celebrate the seasonal festivals of Mage Parab, Phagu, Karam (festival), Baha parab, Sarhul and Sohrai. Some seasonal festivals have coincided with religious festivals, but their original meaning remains.[20]

Mundari dance

They have many folk songs, dances, tales and traditional musical instruments. Both sexes participate in dances at social events and festivals. The naqareh is a principal musical instrument.[citation needed] Munda refer to their dance and song as durang and susun respectively. Some folk dances of the Munda are Jadur, Karam Susun and Mage Susun.[21]

The Munda people have elaborate rituals to celebrate birth, death, engagement and marriage. The birth of a boy is celebrated as an earner for the family, and the birth of a girl is celebrated as a family caretaker. Cham utarna is the ceremony for children's welfare & life longevity performed by Pahan for twins pair of brother and sister. Lota-pani is the engagement ceremony. Dali Takka, a monetary gift to paternal guardians, is generally paid before the marriage. Marriage, considered one of the main rituals of life, is a week-long festivity.[citation needed]

An ointment of scented oil and turmeric is applied to the face and body after death. Widow marriage is common. The Munda people are patrilineal, patrilocal and patriarchal.[citation needed]

Munda people of Jharkhand also follow the old age tradition of Patthalgari i.e. stone erection in which the tribal community residing in the village buries a large inverted U-shaped dressed headstone on the head side of grave or entrance of village in which is inscribed the family tree of the dead persons.[22] There are some other types of patthalgari also:-

  • Horadiri - It is the stone in which family tree is written.
  • Chalpadiri or Saasandiri - It is the stone in remarking boundary of any village and its limits.
  • Magodiri - This is the headstone of a social criminal who committed polygamy or unsocial marriage.
  • Ziddiri - This is the stone placed over burial of placenta and dried naval part of a newborn.[23][24]
Munda House at "State Tribal Fair- 2020", Bhubaneswar
Munda Lady

Economic condition[edit]

In Sunderbans, West Bengal[edit]

In a 2016 research paper on subsistence strategies of Mundas in a village of Sunderbans in West Bengal, it was found that many people migrate out of their residences because of poor economic conditions and landlessness. This rural to urban migration has followed a greater trend within India. Men and women engage in forest product collection, cultivation, small business and agricultural as well as non-agricultural jobs. A person or a family may be engaged in multiple occupations, often undertaking risky visits to the forests and rivers. It was also found that younger generation preferred to engage as migrant workers outside the village and often outside the district and the state.[25]

Literature and studies[edit]

Jesuit priest John-Baptist Hoffmann (1857–1928) studied the language, customs, religion and life of the Munda people, publishing the first Mundari language grammar in 1903. With the help of Menas Orea, Hoffmann published the 15-volume Encyclopaedia Mundarica. The first edition was published posthumously in 1937, and a third edition was published in 1976. The Mundas and Their Country, by S. C. Roy, was published in 1912. Adidharam (Hindi:आदि धर्म) by Ram Dayal Munda and Ratan Singh Manki, in Mundari with a Hindi translation, describes Munda rituals and customs.[26]

Notable Mundas[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "A-11 Individual Scheduled Tribe Primary Census Abstract Data and its Appendix". Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India. Archived from the original on 25 December 2021. Retrieved 18 November 2017.
  2. ^ a b "Mundari Language". Ethnologue. SIL International. Retrieved 20 October 2017.
  3. ^ Osada, Toshiki (19 March 2008). "3. Mundari". In Anderson, Gregory (ed.). The Munda languages. New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-32890-6. ...the designation Munda is used for the language family. Mundari, on the other hand, refers to an individual language, namely the language of Munda people.
  4. ^ "ST-14 Scheduled Tribe Population By Religious Community". Census of India. Ministry of Home Affairs, India. Retrieved 15 October 2017.
  5. ^ Srivastava, Malini (2007). "The Sacred Complex of Munda Tribe" (PDF). Anthropologist. 9 (4): 327–330. doi:10.1080/09720073.2007.11891020. S2CID 73737689. Retrieved 22 October 2017.
  6. ^ "Tribals who convert to other religions will continue to get quota benefits: Jual Oram | India News". The Times of India. Retrieved 10 July 2021.
  7. ^ Gupta, Satya Prakash (1974). Tribes of Chotanagpur Plateau: An Ethno-nutritional & Pharmacological Cross-section. Government of Bihar, Welfare Department. p. 12.
  8. ^ "Adivasi Volume 52, Number 1&2" (PDF). Web Archive. December 2012. Archived (PDF) from the original on 8 November 2016.
  9. ^ "Homepage".
  10. ^ Parkin, Robert (1993). "Second Reply to Pfeffer" (PDF). University of Oxford. p. 161. Retrieved 18 December 2020. The term 'Munda' is of Sanskritic origin and therefore not original in any sense to Austroasiatic speakers, although it has come to be used by one tribe as an alternative to their own term 'Horo' (Le. Roy's group; cf. Pfeffer above, p. 154; also Parkin 1990: 17, 23).
  11. ^ Prasad, R. R. (1996). Encyclopaedic Profile of Indian Tribes. Vol. 1. p. 186. ISBN 978-81-7141-298-3.
  12. ^ Sidwell, Paul. 2018. Austroasiatic Studies: state of the art in 2018. Presentation at the Graduate Institute of Linguistics, National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan, 22 May 2018.
  13. ^ Schliesinger, Joachim (2016). Origin of the Tai People 3: Genetic and Archaeological Approaches. Booksmango. p. 71. ISBN 9781633239623. Retrieved 20 September 2019.
  14. ^ Sharma, R. S. (2005). India's Ancient Past. Oxford University Press. pp. 2, 118–119. ISBN 978-0-19-566714-1.
  15. ^ West, Barbara A. (2010). Encyclopedia of the Peoples of Asia and Oceania. Infobase Publishing. p. 564. ISBN 9781438119137. Retrieved 20 September 2019.
  16. ^ Pandey, Prashant (18 September 2017). "Jharkhand: Amit Shah launches scheme for villages of freedom fighters". The Indian Express. Retrieved 21 October 2017.
  17. ^ "आदिवासी गोत्र". vikaspedia. Retrieved 18 September 2019.
  18. ^ Roy, Sarat Chandra (1912). The Mundas and their Country. Asia Publishing House.
  19. ^ "List of Schedule Castes". Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India. 2011. Archived from the original on 23 September 2014.
  20. ^ "Mundas, Munda Tribe in Jharkhand India, Occupation of Mundas". Retrieved 26 March 2016.
  21. ^ Prasad, R. R. (1996). Encyclopaedic Profile of Indian Tribes. Vol. 1. pp. 188–191. ISBN 978-81-7141-298-3.
  22. ^ Poyil, Manjula (2006). "Death Customs In The Tribal Context: Concluding Observations" (PDF). Death funeral and the ancestors Cult of the dead and the malabar tribes (PhD). University of Calicut. hdl:10603/20515. Retrieved 21 February 2022.
  23. ^ "Menhirs and cultural diffusion: megalithic practices in Central-eastern India | Antiquity Journal". Retrieved 22 December 2019.
  24. ^ "The Constitution set in stone: Adivasis in Jharkhand are using an old tradition as a novel protest".
  25. ^ Bandyopadhyay, Ayan (November 2016). "Subsistence strategies of the Mundas in a village of Sundarban, West Bengal". Journal of the Indian Anthropological Society. 51 (3): 128–144. Retrieved 30 March 2020.
  26. ^ "Mundari: The Language of Munda Tribe".
  27. ^ "Amrit Lugun has been appointed as the next Ambassador of India to Greece". 3 October 2019. Retrieved 11 March 2022.
  28. ^ "SAARC Secretariat". Archived from the original on 3 April 2015. Retrieved 23 January 2015.
  29. ^ Ganguly, M. +date=11 Aug 2011. "Hindi stalwarts praise tribal poet". Archived from the original on 12 November 2014. Retrieved 26 March 2016.

Further reading[edit]

  • Parkin, R. (1992). The Munda of central India: an account of their social organisation. Delhi: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-563029-7
  • Omkar, P.(2018). "Santhal tribes present in India" like Jharkhand, Odisha, and West Bengal... Belavadi.
  • Omkar, patil.(2018). "Kola tribes"...

External links[edit]