Special Memorandum of the Land System of the Munda Country (IV)

By Father J. Hoffman and Mr. E. Lister
Sasandiris or Burial Stones:
Ancestor worship is a common feature among all Kolarians.
As during their lifetime the members of the same clan or kili are united by a common name and by communion in the sacrificial offerings of the kili, so are they united in death by a common burial ground, and by a yearly sacrifice which the living offer in honour of the deceased member of the kili. Hence every kili has its own burial ground.
After a provisional burying or burning of the body, the bones of deceased members are, on the occasion of a particular yearly feast, called Jang-topa, placed under the stone slabs, which are called in Mundari Sasandiris, and on that festival day all such slabs are anointed with oil.
Even if a man dies away from his ancestral village in a place where his kili has no burial place, his relatives ought to, and will, if possible, take his bones, or at least part of them, to the ancestral village, and there place then under the Sasandiri of the kili; and since the Sasandiris with those of another. The placing of the first, as well as of every subsequent, stone in a newly established village is a public function, having both a religious and civil character. Not only the village people, but also prominent men of neighbouring villages of different kilis, are called to help, and to witness that the stone in question covers the remains of so-an-so, and that his direct descendants have placed the stone and have thereby created a permanent proof of their membership in the village family and their rights to share in the common village property. The ceremony winds up with a feast to the outside witnesses. If a man were so far to forget his sacred obligation as to deny his own kili for the sake of acquiring a share in the property of another kili, then the last test of his claim would be an appeal to his Sasandiri. He would have to prove that a particular Sasandiri covers the bones of his father or grandfather, and in order to do so he would be required to produce the witnesses who assisted at the laying of that Sasandiri, or at the placing of his father’s or grandfather’s bones under it. The evidence of such persons would really conclude the question; for a village family would certainly never allow anybody to share their Sasandiri, unless the deceased belonged, either by descent or by formal public adoption, to their kili. To these burial slabs, therefore, the highest evidential value attaches; and hence it is that, when in comparatively recent times written and registered documents came into use as title-deeds to prove proprietary or other interests in land, the Mundaris summed up their views on the matter in the saying “Sasandiriko Horonkokoa Pata” (their burial stones are the title-deeds social system of the Mundaris being of the Munda race).

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