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

By Father J. Hoffman and Mr. E. Lister
Sacerdotal headship of family:
The social system of the Mundaris being essentially of the patriarchal type, the head of each household or family is at the same time the priest of the family.

Hence, in case of sickness, it is the duty of the father or head of the family to offer such sacrifices as are deemed necessary to propriate domestic or any other Bongas (spirits). Besides these casual sacrifices called visitations in the particular family, the head of the each house has also the duty of offering once a year at the Ba-parab (flower-feast) a sacrifice in honour of the deceased members of his own particular family. The sacerdotal character is, therefore, not conferred by any special initiation or consecration, and every Mundari possesses it; but the duty of exercising its functions arises only when he becomes the head of a family.
The Pahanr:
Since all the Khuntkatti families of a village are descended from common ancestors, the community looks on itself as a family, and as such requiring a head or common representative, called Pahanr (now Pahan), to exercise over the whole village, functions exercised in his household by the individual head of the family. These are both religious and civil. It need hardly be stated that in the Mundaris estimation, the religious functions of this village headman are much more important than the civil ones. They consist in certain public sacrifices, offered at fixed festivals, in the name of the village community, to preserve the village against the ravages of wild animals (the tiger and the snake), to obtain satisfactory harvest, and to ensure successful hunts. The spirits (Bongako), to whom these sacrifices are offered, are in very strict sense purely local deities; for their jurisdiction is rigidly confined to the village wherein they are supposed to have their abode, and the Desauli Bonga, the Ikir Bonga, the Chandi Bonga, etc., are deemed to be powerless for good or ill beyond the village boundary. It follows that the efficacy of the Pahanr as sacrifice is restricted to the propitiation of the spirits of his own village, outside which his virtues are inoperative. In as much as the sacrifice exercises these important religious functions which are incumbent on him in his quality as elder or head of the village family, he is called Pahanr. He is Pahanr because he is the real social elder, or head, or patriarch, of the village family. This hardship comes to him either by virtue of his being the original founder of a new community or the oldest representative of the original founder.
The civil functions attached to the headship of the village family consist in –
(i)     presiding over Panchayats for the settlement of various kinds of disputes arising among the community;
(ii)    inflicting punishments (generally fines, sometimes expulsion) for offences against established custom;
(iii)    collecting and transmitting to the proper authority the various amounts owning as quit-rent and other dues, a duty which has always partaken more of the nature of a burden than of a privilege of the office; for the remembrance of the manner in which these dues were levied before the influence of the British Courts reached remote villages, is still alive here and there, and it is interesting to hear what very old men still living have to say on the subject.

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