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

By Father J. Hoffman and Mr. E. Lister
The Munda:
In the exercise of these civil functions the Pahanr was assisted by the next most prominent and influential member of the community, the Munda.
The Mundaris are naturally very reserved and instinctively antipathetic to aliens, and for generations, back the aliens who claimed the amounts due as quit-rents, Rakumats, etc, showed little sympathy with the aborigines and less tact in their manner of collecting those dues. The patriarch of the village would naturally depute his assistant, the Munda, to deal with the intruding, unsympathetic, and exacting alien when intercourse (interaction) with him becomes unavoidable.
How extremely averse they were to intercourse with aliens in the past in explicitly stated by Colonel Dalton in his Ethnology. But perhaps its most striking illustration is afforded by the fact that even he, with all his sympathy for and interest in the race, was unable to elicit the fact that they possess a common national name, viz., Horo, to distinguish themselves from other races; just as their relatives in Singhbhum call themselves Ho, which is a mere contraction of Horo and has the same meaning. The fact that he regarded the name “Munda” as their racial designation shows how successful were the village delegates, who bore that title, in screening the brotherhood from the officials.
Separation of functions and elevation of the Munda:
With the effective occupation of the country by the British Government, this division into civil and religious of the functions attaching to the headship not only became strongly accentuated, but also evolved rapidly and naturally into a real separation. As already stated, minor disputes and offences were settled and punished in the village, whereas disputes between different villages, and the more public and serious offences, were brought for decision or punishment to the Manki and a Panchayat chosen from the various villages of the Pati. Hence the levying of rents, Rakumats, and occasional extras were almost the only occasions that brought the Raja’s or the Thakur’s emissaries into official contact with the village.
Even then the Manki would to a great extent stand between them and the village. But a regular Government, with its police and its civil, revenue and criminal courts, rightly and necessarily forced the village into more frequent intercourse with its various representatives than the old rule could or cared to do.
The Pahanr or patriarch of the village, the man who stood between the powerful and ever-jealous deities and the community, and who generally had the deciding vote in the Panchayat, would hardly stoop to appear before the servants of a foreign Government that looked too closely into the family affairs of the village and stripped him of many of his privileges; and it was the Munda, i.e., his first assistant and right-hand man in the civil functions of his office, who had to represent the village before Daroga, his Sipahai (constable) and his Digwars (Chaukidar).
As the Practice of granting written receipts for rent extended, it was naturally the name of the Munda which figured in them as the representative of the village, since he paid the various amounts due by the village. When, finally, the filing of road-cess returns become obligatory, the Pahanr used to depute the Munda to perform that irksome task for the community. Then the Soktars (touts), Mission Prachars (catechists), or Muktears (legal practitioners), to whom the ignorant Munda had to apply on these occasions, very naturally represented the deputed Munda as the head of the village he came from. Thus, then, the two functions of the original headship were not only separated into two distinct offices, but their relative importance was reversed. The status of the real head of the village was reduced to that of an obscure village priest with whom the rulers of the land had no concern, whereas his former assistant and delegate became, in the eyes of those rulers, the only legitimate representative and, very soon, the owner of the whole village.

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