Oraons: Political & Social Institutions (Part-I)

It is established historical fact that during the ancient and medieval era, Jharkhand was notionally part of the ‘unknown frontier’ that remained unconquered and unexplored by the mainland rulers.
Living in isolation, unconquered over many centuries, our Adivasis’ ancestor developed our territory into independent, self-governing and the first nations of India. Our traditional legal system governed our country and the society.
In an Oraon village, a village headman (Mukhiya) and the village-priest (Pahan) served as a secular head and religious head of the village respectively. The Pahan conducted all types of religious and social ceremonies in the villages; whereas Mukhiya used to look after the day-to-day administrative needs of the village. Villagers in concurrence used to elect both of them for a fixed tenure of few years, to enable them to perform their duties smoothly with the help of other members of village council.
Each of the Oraon villages in a region were loosely formed a part of a greater confederation, so that they could help each other and jointly protect themselves, called Parha organization. The Parha is a confederacy of a number of neighbouring villages with a central organization called Parha Panch. It was kind of a democratic institution consisting of village headman of each of the member villages. Then the village councils of member villages of a Parha Panch used to elects its own Parha Raja. The Parha Raja was not a dictator, the members of the Parha Panchayats used to assist Parha Raja in performing his duties. On every Jatra the meetings of the Parha Panch was held and sometimes it used to meet when some kind of emergency case had to be decided.
In each of Oraon Parha Panch, the residents used to choose few villages to perform their assigned duties. The selected villages are given names’ denoting their duties, one of the villages was called the Raja village, second one was called the Dewan village, third one was called Panrey village, fourth one was called Kotwar village, and so on; the remaining villages were called Praja village.
Every village of the Parha had its own distinctive flag and other badges; any other villages could not use them unless ceremonially presented by the village that had the exclusive right over them.  The Village council acted as the lowest level Panchayat and the Parha Council acted as a highest body for the resolving the disputes and dispensing justice. Only Parha Panch could sentence a guilty person to be outcaste and a reformed person to readmit back to the community fold. Each village used to co-operate in pursuit of the common objects of the federation. The primary functions of Parha Panch were to uphold the traditional law and order in the allied villages and to protect the member villages.
In a Parha council, the member villages used to participate jointly in their battles, hunting, and numerous social functions including the community feasts, social music and dance events.
We also used to have Inter-Parha groupings. Almost every Parha used to have ‘Dudh-bhaya’ villages, these villages though belonging to different Parha, entered into ceremonial alliances with another Parha. Each of these Dudh-bhaya villages had their share of recognized duties and privileges with respect to other Parha of which it is Dudh-bhaya, whether it was peacetime or the wartime.

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