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.
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.
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
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 witchcraft. They offer worship
to their deities 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
And the Journey