Oraons: Political & Social Institutions (Part-IV)

Our love of forest is inborn, so much so that every Oraon village in Jharkhand has a small patch of forests called ‘jahera’, our place of worship.

We worship forest, because we believed that the forest is our natural guardian, benefactor and provider. We have always thanked our generous nature gods profusely for looking after so many generations of Adivasi without ever denying us; our rights and we never took more than what we needed. We lived a life of austerity for so many generations of which they were not even conscious; greed never ruled our personal life.
It would be erroneous exercise to disassociate Adivasi symbolic relations with the forest, i.e., it is their unimbilical cord. We have developed unique and interesting code of behaviour to deal with wild life, some of our septs (killis/gotra) are named after wild animals and killing such species is a taboo for all the Adivasi. These inherent bonds between the natural forest surroundings and the indigenous life and culture have only grown stronger with passage of time. Adivasi and Forests are inseparable twins, no force in the world can separate them; it has remained so for thousands of years and it shall continue for many more years, unless the forests disappear because of the greedy dikku.

Our Adivasi communities have been deliberately or perhaps wrongly blamed for dwindling wild-life population by the vested interest groups using all kinds of propaganda, as if we are responsible for the tragedy. The fact is that our hunting festivities have been more ceremonial and more like a community carnival.  In the past, when hunting was not considered illegal, our annual hunting festival (sendra) was held with great pomp and show. It used to test the Adivasis’ skills with bows and arrows; the good marksmanship was appreciated and rewarded with their shikar. A drink party known as ‘Mukhiya Hanria’ used to round off our annual hunt.

We did not favour any time of unwanted hunting and killing of all the wild species, instead only selected few made to the list of the approved species whose meat (jilu) they relished and were found in abundance. Otherwise, in thousand years we would have wiped clean the forest, but we hold wild species in high regards. This fact is further proved by the domination of wild animals and other species in our septs (gotras/killis), these species are considered to be part of ancestry.

Women did not take part in hunting. While the men went away on hunt, women used to have a good time. They used to dress themselves in the male attire and roam about freely. They danced at the akhara in the male dress. If they find any male members in the village, they used to harass and taunt them. During this hunting episode, they used to visit all the places in the village that are at other time barred to them as for example the Dhumkuria. It was unrestricted fun for them.

The Women’s hunt known as Jani Shikar was to be held once every 12 years. It too was a recreation event than anything else. On the day of Jani Shikar, the women put on masculine dress and carry with them bows, arrows, baluas, spears, etc. Then they leave the village in a group in search of animals. They go to another village and take whatever they find. Fowls, goats, sheep and pigs are their favourite animals. People of the other village generally do not mind this expedition.  When the party enters the other village, its women folk receive them and wash their feet. The wife of the Parha Raja becomes the leader of the hunt in that locality. The woman of the second village then repeat the performance in a third village and thus the mock hunt proceeds in relay till many villages have taken part and the village from which the hunt started is reached. The gifts collected during this hunt are considered to be the property of the women-folk; it was a ritual and festivity meant for the women-folks only.

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