Oraons: Political & Social Institutions (Part-V)

In our Adivasi society, including Oraon Society the sense of equality is the keystone. Even in the administrative structure of Parha Panchayat or in the case of religious arrangement of Pahan, the foundation of equality was never abandoned. Their positions were given due respect, but only when they sincerely made positive contributions to our society and perform their assigned with great responsibility. These positions too were never treated as hereditary ones; generally the right persons were elected or selected by the society.

In total contrast, in the non-Adivasi society, the leadership positions like that of politicians, big businesspersons, top officials, or even the priests, are often given exalted position and treated with utmost respect, almost all the time. Irrespective of their personal conduct and performance at their respective jobs, they are always treated with extreme reverence.

Interestingly, our Oraon society like other Adivasi societies was always non-materialistic unlike the non-Adivasi-societies surrounding them. Our farmers only cultivated the farm produce that they needed or even our hunters collected what they needed; they never ever pandered to their greed. We never aspired to acquire wealth; their society was a non-acquisitive one. This non-acquisitiveness is the very essence of their civilization and it shows itself on their attitude towards nature and even the fellow human beings. They liked to share their good fortune, whether it was bumper crop for a farmer or extra meat being shared by the hunter. Sharing formed the basic philosophy of our society; in fact the idea of not sharing their good-fortune with fellow human beings seemed as an alien concept and they could never really understand this type of behavior.

It explains Adivasi economy being self-sustaining one but it was never dictated by overtly display of material possessions. Maybe the non-Adivasi societies can take few relevant pages out of Adivasis’ way of life to make their society more compassionate and perhaps based on more humane approach. It need not be driven by the so called free-market economy and dictated by the underlying principle of greed, naked display of wealth and acquisitions.

Adivasi continued to depend on forest and its extended natural surroundings, though the majority of the Adivasi were practicing agriculture and it was practised on the principle of mutual co-operation and the belief of reciprocity. The help was given on a reciprocal basis and cash was rarely paid. Neighbours, if they were free, also often lent a helping hand, and at the end of day’s labour, they were served rice beer.

We know that our society was based on holding all kinds of life forms on a very high reverence, be it animals, trees, water, earth, etc. This kind of symbiotic relationship between humans and its natural surroundings has few parallel in the modern societies. Thus the human values like mutual respect and equality forms integral part of our society. We believed in sharing, including our knowledge with the others. Our ancestors were not self-fish, the knowledge was generally considered to a common property. Most of the time we shared our knowledge of magical herbs, the unknown birds or animals, techniques of iron smelting, etc., for free; often leading us into the disastrous consequences. These kinds of attitude have led to our exploitations by the dikkus (exploiters).

In the 21st century, we can not romanticising our Adivasis’ culture instead we should change and adapt it according in line with the modern society or else our exploitation may never end by the dikkus.

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