Tribes of Jharkhand (Part-I)

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Few centuries ago, the Jharkhand was extensively covered with the dense sal trees. Jharkhand terrain had always been inaccessible.
But with the discovery of its hidden mineral wealth has led to Jharkhand marching towards becoming one of the leading industrialized regions of India. On the one hand, the mine-fields, railways and roadways have gone ahead rapidly, educational and technical institutions have multiplied and the principal towns have become cosmopolitan; while on the other hand, the tribal people of the region have been deprived of their land and the process of indiscriminate exploitation has set in, creating racial, nutritional, cultural and socio-economic problems.
From the first regular Indian census of 1872, tribal denominations of the population have been regularly recorded in some form or the other. The Schedules tribes have been last notified under the Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs Notification issued under Article 341 (i) and 342 (ii) of the constitution in 1956.
During the first census of 1872 following 18 tribal communities were listed as the Aboriginal Tribes: (1) Asur, (2) Binjhia, (3) Gond, (4) Ho,(5) Kharia, (6) Kharwar, (7) Khond, (8) Kisan, (9) Korwa,(10) Mal Paharia, (11) Munda, (12) Oraon, (13) Santhal,(14) Sauria Paharia, (15) Savar, (16) Bhumij, (17) Birhor-Chero
Later 4 Tribes were classified as semi-Hinduized aboriginals, viz., (1) Banjara,(2) Bathundi, (3) Chik Baraik and (4) Mahli. As of now the following 30 communities of Jharkhand are listed as the Scheduled Tribes as per details in the state government’s website.  
  1. Primitives Tribes: Asur, Birhor, Birajia, Korba, Mal Paharia, Sauriya Paharia, Sabar, Hill Kharia and Parahiya.
  1. Other Tribes: Biga, Banjara, Bathudi, Bedia, Bhumij, Binjhia, Chero, Chik Baraik, Gond, Gorait, Ho, Karmali, Khadia, Kharwar, Khond, Kisan, Kora, Lohra, Mahali, Munda, Oraon and Santhal.
A brief introduction of each tribe has been attempted in the following paragraphs.
1. Asur:
The Asur tribe consists of 3 sub-tribal divisions, namely the Bir, Birjia and Agaria Asurs. The Asur are considered to be remnant of the earlier settlers who were driven out by the Mundas (Risley, 1891). The Asur locality is famously known as the Netarhat group of Plateaus. These hill ranges run from south to north and their top is locally called ‘Pat’.The Asur inhabits pat regions of Ranchi and Palamau districts.Their traditional art of iron smelting is dying out because of the neglect and apathy. Their Bachelor’s dormitory is an important institution,also known as ‘Giti-Ora’. They speak the Asuri dialect, which is one of the 14 Mundari dialects as recorded in the Linguistic Survey ofIndia.
2. Baiga:
The Baiga means a sorcerer or medicine man, a title of the priests among the Kharwar tribe of Chotannagpur. They are primitive Dravidian tribe (Russell and Hira Lal, 1916) whose home on the eastern Satpura Hills. They are distributed in Palamau, Ranchi, and Hazaribagh. They now speak a corrupt form of Chattisgarhi dialect.
3. Banjara:
The Banjara, Wanjari, Labhana, Mukeri are the known as the carriers and drivers of pack bullocks (Russell and Hira Lal, 1916). They are nomadic magicians and herb dealers. Their nomadic groups are found all over the country. The Banjaras were included in the list of Scheduled tribes in the year 1956 on the recommendation of the Backward Classes Commission of the Government of India. They are very small in numbers and are distributed in the district of Santhal Pargans, Hazaribagh, and Singhbhum, but their location in these districts is still uncertain as they are a wandering tribe.
4. Bathudi:
The Bathudi is a minor schedule tribe numerically. They prefer to call themselves as Bahutuli, i.e., people of arms, the Kshatriyas and not Bathudi. They are agriculturists and prefer to live around the hill-ranges and on the banks of the river Swarnrekha in the Dhalbhum Subdivision of Singhbhum Orissa (Risley 1891). They speak a corrupt form of Oriya-Bengali mixture with good many Hindi words.
5. Bedia:
Hunter (1877) mentioned that they are akin to the Mundas without really putting forward any serious or any concrete evidences. The Bedias call themselves ‘Vedbanis’ and are settled cultivators in permanent villages. They generally reside in the district of Hazaribagh, Ranchi, Dhanbad, Singhbhum, Santhal Parganas, and Palamau.

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