Oraon Tribe: The Indigenous community of Jharkhand

Oraon Tribe is the ancestors of Dravidians. Oraons are the Indigenous community of the Chota Nagpur Plateau. Live in east-central India, in Jharkhand; in Raigarh, Surguja, and Jashpur districts of Chhattisgarh; Jalpaiguri District of West Bengal; Sundargarh District of Odisha, and also in Bihar and Bangladesh. The Oraon is one of the largest tribes in South Asia.

The actual history of the Oraon Tribe can mainly be diagnosed from rock art, folktales, or folk arts. Such linkages would definitely contribute to the empirical nature of reading and writing history. Oraon folk songs still exist amongst the Oraon tribe and narrate the story of their ancestral place and their consequent migration to their current domicile in Chhotanagpur in Jharkhand. 

What behooves more is the urgency of restoring the lost identity of these tribal people who are given Scheduled Tribe status in the Indian constitution. The recovery of their cultural pasts, language, and identity would definitely empower them to assert their political and cultural position in India. Needless to mention, the upsurge of government policies, institutions, and civil sensitization about the ontological significance of these tribes in Indian society has also forced academicians and activists to revisit the unexplored and often neglected pasts of the Indian tribes.

Oraons are the conservors of nature.

Oraon Tribe is a nature-loving people believing that mother nature communicates and cares for its people. Their main life asset is the land they own and the forest that provides them with food, herbs, medicine, wood, water, etc.
The native language of Oraon is ” Kurukh “, and they value communicating in their mother tongue. They prefer living with their community. When migrating from the homeland to a different place for a job or work, they search for their tribe and unite to enjoy togetherness in festivals and occasions.

Dhumkuria is a youth-centric dormitory in Oraon Tribe.

Dhumkuria is a youth-centric dormitory in the Oraon tribe.  The members mostly youths are engaged in singing folklore and dancing, and the elders of Dhumkuria provide training in socio-cultural, politico-economic, and religious grounds to the young members of the group. They encourage unity and sociability. Members of Dhumkuria help in all the events of the community and also take major decisions for the benefit of the village. There is no curriculum as compared to the modern education system we see in schools and colleges. However, all the teachings are based on people’s everyday experiences. The youth learn the values and skills required for their livelihood.

Oraon Tribes still practice the “Dhumkuria” tradition, where people sit for a discussion to plan or solve social matters. This traditional practice also familiarises their children with the importance of unity and being sociable.
Oraons have the quality to adopt new things quickly and believe in themself more than anyone. Both men and women share the household as needed. They are multitasking and are less dependent. They love to do basic maintenance jobs, gardening, cleaning, etc. Before any social occasions, they prepare the venue with a tent (“In the past, they utilized sarees and bedsheets for doing tenting boundary”) and an entrance gate made of bamboo and mango leaves. A bamboo-made construction roofed with mango leaves and branches was commonly used as a stage. And the floor of the stage was cleaned and plastered with cow dung. They cook a meal for huge gatherings like marriages, rituals, and festivals without hiring any professionals. They have a serving culture. They welcome their guests to sit in a row on the carpets made of pine leaves called “Chattiya/Pattiya”, where they serve food on a “Sakhua Pattal” (A plate made by sewing Sakhua leaf with the help of a thin bamboo stick.).

Handiya is a unique drink prepared by the Tribals of Jharkhand.

“Handiya” (Bear made of rice and “Raanu” medicine made of herbs) is the special drink prepared by the Oraon women. Handiya is a low alcoholic liquor, served on almost all occasions and used in performing rituals. Handiya is a proven good medicine for sunstroke and jaundice if consumed in the prescribed quantity. But it’s sad to know that it has a destructive mark on some marginalized societies because of its affordable availability, people getting drinking habits limitlessly. It’s well said, ” Anything of excess is injurious to health”.
Oraons were known for their intellectual abilities, compared to other tribes, whereas “Mundas” were known as warriors and protectors in personality. Oraons came walking along the river bank from South Asia to Chottanagpur Plateau. They settled at Rohtasgarh (now in Bihar, India) until they lost the battle with the British army.

Oraons lifestyle.

They love to shelter or accommodate in an open environment having a garden where they can grow basic crops like chilly, coriander leaf, ginger, and other seasonal vegetables for their daily living. They have a separate house for cattle like cows, bulls, buffalo, sheep, and goats. In most of the houses, you will find hens, cocks, and ducks.

Their house is made of mud, cow dung, bamboo, and tiles made of mud. They use a special layer of mud called “Nagra” which is a kind of clay that can be found in farming fields and 6 feet under the earth.
The design and house are constructed in a manner that is ventilated and spacious enough to move around easily. The houses are constructed in a rectangular way with an opening on one side for entrance and a separate entrance for cattle. In the rectangular designed house they a big open sky opening in the middle where the rectangular construction of the house serves as a boundary. The middle space of the house is used for their daily activities, it also serves as their sitting area for family and guests.

Names in Oraon Tribe.

The Oraon tribes can be identified with their surnames, which are called “Totam” for example ekka, Kujur, Toppo, Beck, Kispotta, Topno, Tirkey, Lakra, etc, each surname is a name taken from living nature such as birds, animal, flora, and fauna. The people having a surname like “ekka” (which means turtle) are the protector of that species so they never kill or harm them for their benefit. So this is one of the practices to balance the resources of the nature around them.

Oraons as on today.

Oraon people are very particular and serious about their growth, say it education, learning and adopting new things, traveling, mixing with new communities and peoples and so on. The reason you will see Oraon people all over the world and into many prestigious and multi-national organizations. Today, Oraon people are in government, public and administrative service as well. In 2022 we can see Oraons in all independent working areas such as Entertainers, Musicians, Singers, Writers, Poets, Scholars, Educators, Speakers, Motivators, IT, Travellers, etc. In the past, till now we have seen them as leaders raising voices for their rights and against corruption.

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