One day, I just started my journey from my home to deep inside the jungle where the most vulnerable tribal group Birhor resides. As I stepped into their community, the first thing i remember is a staggering woman, completely drunk and partially covered with a saree (cloth).
Majority of Birhors spends nomadic life, live in a small community of limited families, in mud huts. They mainly belong to Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisa and West Bengal. Birhors still hold their cultural identity, but they are loosing it very rapidly with the development of the nation.
1 They make stunning wooden basket and ropes
Rather depending on agriculture, Birhors are dependent on different forest products, like bamboo shell, mahua fruits, woods, seeds etc. Thus creating beautiful pots and baskets and selling them in local hats seasonally is the only option left for them to survive. often they get paid very less.
2 The only tribe, who Hunts Monkeys
A mythological story traces the origin of the Birhors when Lanka’s king Ravan send Debanguru to BIRU (first birhor) to bring monkey’s pelt, to make a drum. After offering him pelt, Biru started eating money’s flesh. There stared the custom of monkey hunting.
3 Calling demon before going to hunt
In earlier days, before going to hunt, an unusual ritual used to perform. Three men sit side by side, and some rice were served to them with calling mantras. Suddenly a man started shimmering and he is assumed to be the demon. Offering him some alcohol he is asked the direction of animal hunt. Finally, they lead towards that direction. But now a days hunting has diminished.
4 Drunk all over the day
Alcohol, an essential part of the daily life of tribals. Do not be surprised to see women also drinking regularly. The main ingredients are Mahua fruit and kosna rice, which are yielded to make the potent local colorless alcoholic drink. These drinks gives them the spunk to live in extreme circumstances.
5 Birhor’s Unique Gods
The supreme deity of Birhors is Sing Bonga, the Sun who created and presided the world and with wife Chandu Bonga. Also, they worship their ancestral deities like Budha dev, Dulha dev and Jhagrakhand dev. In the month of Paus-Mangh (January-February) they sacrifice a white cock and a he-goat to the sun and the moon.
Hapram and Chirgun are two ancestral spirit, those are believed as a mediator between supernatural and human. There is a sacred place in every house, called Ashthan, where Hapram seat. They protect and carry it wherever they shift their camp.
The Real Birhor issues
- They have only rice provided by the government causes lack of nutrients, they are mostly malnourished.
- Birhor children have no cloth to wear, they usually live naked or in tattered school uniform provided by the government in free.
- They mostly spend their day taking alcohol, without doing anything productive. Totally dependent on government schemes for food, cloth and houses.
- They are facing not only caste based but tribe to tribe discrimination, with other tribal group like Gond, Agaria, Kawar and caste groups like
Yadav, Thakur, etc. They humiliate and neglect Birhors.
- Urbanization and industrialization also made worse impact on these groups results they are losing their cultural beliefs, oral traditions, languages and religious practices.
- The literacy rate is less than 1 % and they cannot even stand with the others.
On one side we are progressing towards an advance healthy society while on the other side our own indigenous tribal groups are facing extinction. So we must help to preserve their cultural beliefs and let them stand by their self with the other society with their own cultural values.