Numerically the Mundas are one of the strongest Kolarian tribe (Roy, 1912) inhabitting Chotanagpur. Of all the tribes taken together, they stand next in strength to the Santhals and the Oraons.The main concentration of the Mundas, primarily an agriculturist tribe, is in the district of Ranchi, Singhbhum, Hazaribagh,Palamau, Dhanbad, and Santhal Parganas. Ethnically they are Proto-Austroids and speak the Mundari dialect of the austro-asiatic family (Prasad 1961).
The Akhra or the dancing ground is characteristic of the Mundas. It is veritable open hall, not only for the dance, but also forthe meetings of the village panchayats (the parha). The agriculture makes the base of their economic life and hence all their activities are directed towards it throughout the year.
Mundas are divided intomany sub-tribes such as Kharia-Munda, Mahali-Munda, Oraon-Munda, etc. The sub-tribes are probably the result of inter-tribe marriages with theneighbouring tribes. A Munda may not marry a woman of his own sept.Totems have very great value and restrictions are respected.
The Oraons are a Dravidians tribe (Roy 1915) and form a second major tribe next to Santhals in Bihar. They live in the districts of the Ranchi, Palamau, Singhbhum, Hazaribagh, Santhal Paragans, and also in the neighbouring states. According to the tradition, Konkan is said to be the original home of the Oraon. They migrated from the West coast of India to North India through river valleys, and settled down as agriculturists and landowners in the Shahabad districts of Bihar. When further driven by the successive hordes of newer races, they took shelter on the Rohtas Plateau, which they fortified, but even this fortress they had to leave. It is said that the Cheros probably drove them out.
When they left Rohtas the Oraons got divided into two groups. One branch, known as ‘Male’,proceeded under a chief northwards along the Ganges valley and eventually occupied the Rajmahal hills. The other branch under the chief’s younger brother marched south-east-wards up to the north Koel river and settled down in Palamau and northwest of Ranchi districts, then occupied by the Mundas. The Mundas gradually retreated to the southern and eastern part of the plateau. The most important social institution of the Oraonis the ‘Dhumkuria’, the youth Dormitory.
According to Dalton (1872), the Pahariyas are one of the numerous tribes or perhaps one of the branches of the great tribe who with Turanian features and many corresponding customs, have adopted Hindi as a language to the obliteration of all their primitive forms of speech, and who though affecting Hindu customs, retain practices that in the eyes of Hindus are impure and abhorrent. They are residing in the districts of Palamau, Hazaribagh, Ranchi, and Santhal Parganas. They used to live by hunting and food gathering. They also used to work as cutters of wood and bamboos on contract.
The Santhals are the largest of the Schedule Tribes and mostly found in the district of Santhal Parganas and which has been named after them. They are primarily resided in Singhbhum, Hazaribagh, Dhanbad, Ranchi, and Palamau.
Santhals are numerically the largest tribal group of India, speaking its own tongue-Santhali, which is allied to the Mundari language. Racially and culturally Santhals are closely related to other Mundari or Austric tribe of Chotanagpur. Besides agriculture and hunting, they are famous for their skillful dances and the music. The Santhal women give sufficient proof of the aesthetic sense by drawing simple and artistic designs and patterns on the walls of their huts. According to Bodding (1942), the Santhal, the Munda,the Birhor, the Kurmbis, and other were called by the name of Kharwars.The Santhals have the institution of ‘Bithala’, which is a form of severe punishment including excommunication.
29. Sauria Pahariya:
The Saurias at present are concentrated on the hilltops of the Rajmahal Hills within Government estate-Damini-Koh of Santhal Paraganas.Their distribution in other districts is limited to Singhbhum and Dhanbad. They together with other Pahariyas form an isolated Malto (Dravidian) speaking group. They are said to be the autochthonous inhabitants of the area to which they confined. They practice shifting cultivation (Kurwa) and the forest is the main stay of their existence. They used to grow sabai grass, which is used on a large scale for paper manufacture.
They are a widely distributed ‘Kolarian’ tribe (Roy 1927) and fast disintegrating. Probably, they separated from the main body of the tribe and isolated themselves in the hills of Orissa, Dhalbhum and Barabhum. The Savars, now residing in Dhalbhum, they might have originally come from Orissa tributary states. They still have marriage alliances in those tributary states. Their main sources of livelihood are labour for wages, collecting edible roots, herbs and fruits from the jungle and cultivation. Savars have lost their language and speak the Aryan-Hindior Oriya.