PTG BIRHOR :::

Birhor Primitive Tribe: A Socio – Cultural and Historical Perspective
Government of India has identified 75 tribes across the country as primitive tribes. Among them, Birhor is one of the primitive tribe groups who trace their origin in Jharkhand and reside for ages in different parts of the state. Birhor in Jharkhand belong to the Proto-Australoid stock; linguistically, they originate from the Austro-Asiatic group. The word "Birhor" is derived by combining two Mundari terms: "Bir" means forest while "hor" means man. Thus Birhor means ‘forest man’ or ‘people living in the forest. It is interesting to note that the Birhor tribe of Jharkhand consider themselves as the descendants of the Sun. It is believed that the Birhors are related to the Kharwar tribe, also said to have descended from the Sun.

In Jharkhand, the Birhor tribe is divided into two major sub-tribes, namely Jaghis Birhor and Uthalu Birhor. These tribes in Jharkhand portray a distinct pattern of socio-economic lifestyle. In fact, the Jaghis Birhor and the Uthalu Birhor tribes in Jharkhand are known for their agro-based economy. The Jaghis Birhors are nomads who keep moving from one jungle to the other. These tribes practice shifting cultivation: when the food supply of a particular forest is exhausted, they head towards another forest.
The Birhor settlement is known as Tanda which consists of at least half a dozen huts. The huts are of a conical shape. They are erected with the help or leaves and branches. The settled Birhor have erected house with the help or mud wall, bamboo and wood thatched with phus or hand made tiles which they have learnt from their neighbour.

The family is the smallest unit of the Birhor society. The family is patrilineal. The authority of family is the head of the household that is father. The Birhor have organizations of families called Band. The head of the band is called Naya. All heads of the family of the Birhor Tanda or Band work under the leadership of the Naya. In the Birhor, kinship relation is established on the basis of blood and marriage. They believe that parentage creates blood relation. The blood relation continues from generation to generation through the marriage and reproduction of children. An individual has paternal kin, maternal kin (related through blood) and affinal kins (related through marriage). Thus, the kinship system of the Birhor is a model of relationship based on parentage and marriage.

The Birhor economy presents a mixture of forest economy, agriculture and labour. For Birhor, forest is the still main means of stay. They do the collection of food materials available in the form of root, shoot, flowers, seeds, etc. in the forest. They also do the trapping of monkey, rabbit, mouse, titir etc. in the forest. They prepare rope from the forest grasses and chop and now a day they use plastic strips from cement bags to make rope. They make rope carpet, Ashani, Machia, Sikka and baskets and sell in the market. They also prepare baskets, brooms and winnowing tray from the forest grasses, leaves, etc.
For Jaghi Birhor, agriculture is the main means of stay; however, they do collect forest produce from the neighboring forest. The forest produce supplements their family income. Each Jaghi Birhor family owns house, house lead land and some plots of agricultural land. Adhered to the house, they have Bari Land in which they grow vegetables and maize.

The Birhor religion presents a mixture of animism, animatism, naturalism, anastral worship and belief in Bhuta-Preta and witchraft. They offer worship to their dieteis on different occasions and celebrate festivals.The singbonga is their supreme deity and Dharati Maa is his consort. These two deities are responsible for good health, harvest and happiness in the Birhor society some Birhor worship mahadeo, kali mai, or Burha and Burahi. Buru Bonga and Banga are the deities of clans.

The Birhor Tanda is a collection of different families of different clans for the purpose of good collection, hunting, rope making etc. Each Birhor Tanda has a head. The head of the Tanda is known as Naya. He is social, political and religions head of the Tanda. He has an assistant called kotwar or Diguar. The main work of the Diguar is to inform the people about the day and time of the occurrence of the Panchayat. The heads of the families of Tanda take part in the Panchayat. The Panchayat looks after the customary laws. Those who do not obey the customary laws are declared as guilty. They are punished as per the decision of the Panchayat. The cases related to rope, adultery, divorces, cruel behavior, etc. are decided in the Tanda Panchayat.

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