Tribes of Odisha
Orissa has a large variety of tribal communities dispersed at various locations of the state, At one extreme are the groups which lead a relatively secluded and archaic mode of life, keeping their core culture intact, while at the other extreme there are communities which are indistinguishable from the general agricultural communities. The tribal people express their cultural identity and distinctiveness in their social organization, language, rituals and festivals and also in their dress, ornaments, art and craft.
In India there is an amalgam of 437 tribes, and in Orissa the number is 62. According to 2001 Census, in Orissa the total strength of tribal population is approximately eight million which constitutes 22.13% of the total population of the State.
Linguistically the tribes of India are broadly classified into four categories, namely (1) Indo-Aryan speakers, (2) Dravidian speakers, (3) Tibeto-Burmese speakers, and (4) Austric speakers. ln Orissa the speakers of the Tibeto-Burmese language family are absent, and therefore Orissan tribes belong to other three language families. The Indo-Aryan language family in Orissa includes Dhelki-Oriya, Matia, Haleba, Jharia, Saunti, Laria and Oriya (spoken by Bathudi and the acculturated sections of Bhuyans, Juang, Kondh, Savara, Raj Gond etc.). The Austric language family includes eighteen tribal languages namely, Birija, Parenga, Kisan, Bhumiji, Koda, Mahili Bhumiji, Mirdha-Kharia, Ollar Gadaba, Juang, Bondo, Didayee, Karmali, Kharia, Munda, Ho, Mundari and Savara. And within the Dravidian language family there are nine languages in Orissa, namely, Pengo, Gondi, Kisan, Konda, Koya. Parji, Kui, Kuvi and Kurukh or Oraon.
The tribes of Orissa though belong to three linguistic divisions, yet they have lots of socio-cultural similarities between them. These commonalities signify homogeneity of their cultures and together they characterise the notion or concept of tribalism. Tribal societies share certain common characteristics and by these they are distinguished from complex or advanced societies. In India tribal societies had apparently been outside the main historical current of the development of Indian civilization for centuries. Hence tribal societies manifest such cultural features which signify a primitive level in socio-cultural parameter.
Some of the famous tribal dances of Orissa are mentioned in the description that follows :
The Juang dance which goes by the popular name of “Changu dance” is performed by both men and women. Besides, they perform other types of dances such as deer dance, elephant dance, bow dance, pigeon dance, bear dance, koel dance and peacock dance. They dance and sing when they are in happy mood. The dance also forms an integral part of their social and ritual festivals. The Juang do not have any special dress for dancing. While dancing the girls stand in a straight line in front of the boys. While the dance goes on, the line becomes semicircular. The girls hold each other’s wrist or hand-in-hand and move forward and backward in bending posture. The boys stand in a straight line which becomes a curve during dance. The musical instruments which are used during their dance are Badakatha (Drum), Dhola (Small drum), Madala and Changu (Tambourine).
The Saoras do not dance frequently as the Juangs and the Gadabas do. The Saora dance is very simple and lack all the artistic exuberances. Generally the Saoras dance during ceremonies and festivals, marriages, and when some important person visits their village. In their dance, group of men and women jumble up together and while dancing the drummers and the dancers advance towards each other alternatively with the rhythm of the music. Colourful costumes are worn during the dance. Other decorations include feathers of white fowl and peacock plumes. Besides, old coloured cloths of cotton and silk are tied as turbans by men and wrapped around their chest by women. While dancing they carry swords, sticks, umbrellas and other implements and blow whistles and make peculiar sounds. The musical instruments used at the time of dance consist of drums of various sizes, brass cymbals, brass-gongs and hide-gongs.
Among the Gonds of Koraput, dance is performed throughout the year. Besides this, dances are performed on special communal occasions like marriage. The boys dress themselves with colourful aprons and turbans during the dance. The turbans are adorned with “cowrie” shells and the apron is adorned with small pieces of mirror. The girls are dressed in hand-woven sarees and silver ornaments. A dancing group is ordinarily formed with 20 to 30 persons of both sexes. Only unmarried boys and girls participate in the dance. The musical instruments are played by boys. Two boys lead the dance with wooden drums. The girls dance in circles with simple steps of one and two, very often bending their bodies forward. The steps of the boys are more varied and subtle.
Dance among the Koyas is richly varied and sophisticated. The most important occasion for dancing is the worship of the mother goddess in the month of Chaitra (April-May). Ordinarily both boys and girls participate in dancing but the girls are more conspicuous. However, in the festival only girls participate. During the dance, the girls keep rhythm by beating sticks on the ground which are fitted with small bells. Dance groups are formed by about 30 to 40 persons. The most conspicuous movement about Koya dance is the complicated winding and unwinding of circles formed by girls.
Gadaba dance is performed by women who wear the famous “Keranga” sarees and have their distinctive hair style. The men play the musical instruments. Chaitra and Pausa are the dancing seasons. The Gadaba women dance in semi-circles with steps of three and four which they gradually change to eight. The body is often bent forward. Very skillful moves are made on the heels.
Kondh dance is mostly confined to unmarried boys and girls and free mixing of the sexes is allowed during dancing. The dances are performed especially when the boys or girls of one village visit another village. The dance forms an item in the daily routine of the Kondh, when the boys and girls in their dormitories meet after the day’s toil. No instrument accompanies the dance of the Kondhs of Koraput. The girls dance in lines and the boys dance behind and in front of them. The dance of the Phulbani Kondh is more colourful. The girls wear sarees in two pieces and bangles on their ankles. They dance in rows, facing rows of boys who sing songs and play on hand drums. Songs play a very important part in the dance. Special dances are performed during buffalo sacrifice, called the Kedu festival.
The dance of the Oraons of Sundargarh and Bolangir districts is performed in front of the village dormitories. The boys and girls participate in the dance. The line of dancers go round and round headed by the leading dancers.
The Parajas dance during the Chaitra parba, the dance often lasting from dusk to dawn. The girls wear colourful handwoven sarees; silver and brass jewellery; and hold a bunch of peacock feathers in their hands. The movements are extremely graceful and the music is provided by the drum, flute and the “Dudunga” – a country-made string instrument.
Orissa’s Adivasis are born artisans and craftsmen and produce exquisitely beautiful handicrafts with the most rudimentary of raw materials.
Though there are very few potters among the tribes, the tribal people extend their patronage to the other potters. The elemental quality of earth as a substance has long been used by them in the execution of both ritual and utilitarian objects. A variety of roof tiles, utensils such as pots, bowls, plates and jars, and cooking stoves meet specific requirements of daily life. Simultaneously the potter creates votive offerings in strong forms of bulls, elephants and horses as well as terracotta temples and toys.
CANE, BAMBOO, REEDS, GRASSES AND WOOD :
Bamboo and cane have all the fertile, lively and tactile qualities of nature’s raw materials which crafts persons have successfully harnessed. The structural qualities of bamboo, its high-tensile strength and pliability have led to its widespread use for architectural purposes. Besides which, bamboo splits are woven together to make baskets of diverse shapes and sizes depending on the nature of goods they are required to carry or store. Similarly the elasticity and sturdiness of cane has been utilized in the manufacture of a variety of domestic goods, while countless local fibers and reeds are used by people with household skills to make ropes, strings, brooms and the like. These products are largely geared for local consumption. However, the potential of these materials is so great that new applications can be explored for the new customers.
PLASTER AND PAPER MACHE :
Paper Mache :
This skill has been creatively practiced by crafts persons from all over Orissa. Paper, waste cloth and different kinds of natural fibers are soaked and beaten into a pulp, then mixed with a variety of seeds and gums for strength and as protection from termites. Special clays and bio-wastes are added for body and reinforcement. The entire process results in a malleable that it requires little skill to be molded into countless forms. However, despite its versatility this craft has remained neglected.
The application of plasters to her dwellings is often the rural woman’s medium of creative expression reflecting both in terms of colors and symbols, the close identification of man with nature. From clay come the colors ochre, geru, charcoal grey and white which are either used naturally or mixed with pigments purchased from the markets. The images created by her are timeless yet ephemeral, with the sun and the rain taking their toll. The predominantly geometric forms – a straight line, a square covered in dots, waves, triangles pointing to the sky and downwards – can have the most disparate of meanings but the symbolism of fertility is implicit in all of them. The tools used for applying the plasters whether on hut walls or floors are basic. They use twigs, fingers, whole hands and rags.
STONE AND THEATRE CRAFTS :
Artisans practicing the craft of stone carving in Orissa have remained largely tradition-bound while producing objects of ritualistic, decorative and practical use. Turned utensils for both cooking and serving and artifacts of tourist interest are made in Khiching located on the borders of Mayurbhanj and Keonjhar districts, from a semihard, grey stone which takes on a deep, dark polish, while beads and figurines are carved out of soft stones available in many shades of orange in Phulbani district.
Theatre crafts :
The Desiya Nata of tribal Orissa derives its distinctive style in some part from Prahlada Natakams and Jatras of the Hindus. Its colorful costumes – embroidered head-dresses and painted masks which adorn the key actors, and the use of imaginative props are a craft in themselves. Masks carved out of paper mache and sholapith, the weightless bark of a water plant, represent various gods, goddesses, demons and animals.
SEEDS, HERBS AND MEDICAMENTS :
In Koraput district alone, at least 200 different varieties of rice are produced or grow wild. Some are for consumption during festivals and marriages, others for their taste, colour or smell, and yet others are grown for their pesticidal or soil- fertilization characteristics. The traditional dependence of many indigenous communities on biological resources is also evidenced in the use of several plants which have medicinal values. For instance, the stem of the ‘Hadbhanga’ plant is applied to fractured bones for quicker mending and the fruit of the ‘Utkapali’ is used to cure migraine. However, the rapid destruction of forest cover, pollution of water-bodies along with pesticide poisoning and a host of such destructive activities have taken their toll.
NATURAL DYES :
The knowledge and use of vegetable and mineral dyes goes back to pre-historic times in India where, according to data collected so far, there are nearly 300 dye-yielding plants available. However, after chemical colours flooded the markets, only a small number of dyers continued with natural dyes such as indigo. Cotton yarn dyed in madder is still used by the weavers of Kotpad in Koraput district. In an age where the tide is turning against the use of synthetic dyes in the rest of the world, one needs to promote the use of eco- and wearer-friendly natural dyes in this country.
LEAF STRAW AND DRIED FLOWERS :
Tribal women have been the traditional gatherers of leaves whose delicate hues and unique qualities have been used in a multitude of ways for the manufacture of useful products. Farm labourers and cattle grazers wear hats made of dried leaves which provide protection from the sun and are water-proof. In temples and at village feasts, food is still served in leaf plates and bowls. Given the rising demand for biodegradable goods in a world which is becoming more ecologically aware, one has to find if it is possible to evolve a range of highly durable, hygienic leaf-product tableware which can meet the most stringent international quality standards!
Lacquer is the refuse of an insect gathered by the tribals in the forests. The Hindu women of Baleshwar and Nabarangpur districts mix it with colours and apply it on small cane boxes made by tribals, and terracotta figures which they make themselves. After sealing the core with several coats of lacquer, the surface is decorated with motifs borrowed from nature, geometric patterns and religious symbols. Although the visual power of colour and design combine to give ornamental effect, the artisans have not explored the area of material, form and technique.
Rich in minerals, tribal Orissa offers many variations in the types of metal used, the techniques and form of production, combining both the functional and the aesthetic, from the rivetting of the flexible brass fishes, snakes and crocodiles of Phulbani district, to the tiny bronze-cast beads shaped like grains. The rice and oil measures of Sambalpur and Bolangir made from bell metal, and Dhokra-ware both richly decorated with tribal motifs, as well as the bronze figures crafted for the Kondh tribes, are just a few examples.
SANTHAL AND SAORA PAINTINGS :
Tribal paintings are like prayers that become part of the offerings made to gods, ancestors and spirits. Members of the Saora tribe draw ritualistic pictographs on the inner walls of their mud dwellings called ‘Ittlans’. The icons are painted to preserve the abundance of the crops, avert disease, honor the dead, promote fertility, honour the tutelaries and so on. The spirit is then invoked and invited to occupy the one dimensional painting which actually represents a house made for it. Once captured therein, it is propitiated with appropriate chanting. The icons are a curious amalgamation of an early memory and contemporary impressions. Since they are basically the expressions of an agricultural community there is an emphasis on nature, the great outdoors and also on the cycle of plough, sowing and harvesting. But as the outside world increasingly impinges on their lives, cars, chairs, tables and planes have begun to appear innocently in the paintings, and are offered as vehicles for their gods in hierarchical order.
The Tribal Religion of the Orissan tribes is an admixture of animism, animalism, nature-worship, fetishism, shamanism, anthropomorphism and ancestor worship. Religious beliefs and practices aim at ensuring personal security and happiness as well as community well-being and group solidarity. Their religious performances include life-crisis rites, cyclic community rites, ancestor and totemic rites and observance of taboos. Besides these, the tribes also resort to various types of occult practices. In order to tide over either a personal or a group crisis the tribes begin with occult practices, and if it does not yield any result the next recourse is supplication of the supernatural force.
Rites & Rituals :
As most of the tribes of Orissa, practice agriculture in some form or the other, and as rest others have a vital stake in agriculture, sowing, planting, first-fruit eating and harvest rites are common amongst them. Their common cyclic rites revolve round the pragmatic problems of ensuring a stable economic condition, recuperation of the declining fertility of soil, protection of crops from damage, human and live-stock welfare, safety against predatory animals and venomous reptiles and to insure a good yield of annual and perennial crops.
The annual cycle of rituals commence right from the initiation of agricultural operation, for instance, among the Juang, Bhuyan, Kondh, Saora, Gadaba, Jharia, Didayee, Koya and Bondo, who practise shifting cultivation. The annual cycle begins with the first clearing of hill slopes during the Hindu month of Chaitra (March-April) and among others it starts with the first-fruit eating ceremony of mango in the month of Baisakh (April-May). All the rituals centering agricultural operation, first-fruit eating, human, live-stock and crop welfare are observed by the members of a village on a common date which is fixed by the village head-man in consultation with the village priest.
Thus the ideological system of all the tribes surrounds supernaturalism. The pantheon in most cases consists of the Sun God, the Mother Earth and a lower hierarchy of Gods. Besides there are village tutelaries, nature spirits, presiding deities and ancestor-spirits, who are also propitiated and offered sacrifices. Gods and spirits are classified into benevolent and malevolent categories. A peculiarity of the tribal mode of worship is the offering of blood of an animal or a bird, because such propitiations and observance of rites are explicitly directed towards happiness and security in this world, abundance of crops, live-stock, plants and progenies. Sickness is not natural to a tribal; it is considered as an out-come of the machination of some evil spirits or indignation of ancestor spirits or gods. Sometimes, sickness is also considered as the consequence of certain lapses on the part of an individual or group. Therefore, riddance must be sought through propitiation and observance of rituals.
Among all the tribes conformity to customs and norms and social integration continue to be achieved through their traditional political organizations. The tributary institutions of social control, such as family, kinship and public opinion continue to fulfill central social control functions. The relevance of tribal political organization in the context of economic development and social change continues to be there undiminished. Modern elites in tribal societies elicit scant respect and have very little followings. And as the traditional leaders continue to wield influence over their fellow tribesmen, it is worth-while to take them into confidence in the context of economic development and social change.
Orissa is a thickly tribal inhabited state, consisting of sixty two tribes living in different parts of the state – in the highlands, forests, valleys and in the foot hills. They make their own traditional ethnic cottage and live in it. In order to proclaim the self identity intra group wise, socially and culturally different tribes live in different places. Each tribal community has separate mode of living and they differ significantly in their dress, ornaments, skill in building houses, and moreover in their way of life. This difference in their life is clearly discernible from their material culture, art objects from the paintings and drawings and also from the size and shapes of different objects that they use. To the tribes, dress is a cultural need and it is also a part of their tradition.
Among the tribes the use of dress is very significant and worthwhile. The tribes do not use dress just merely to hide their nakedness rather it reflects the racial feeling and their cultural identity. The tribals use separate costumes at the time of festivals and ceremonies. In a specific tribe the dresses from birth to old age has immense variety. The costumes of the male members of the tribe and the females are also different. It is a fact that the female community pays more attention in covering their body. In some tribal communities the women folk want their male partners to be dressed elegantly and impressively. A tribal woman also wears a variety of dresses from her birth to death corresponding to different stages of her life. For instance, a Dhangedi (a maiden) adorns with fine clothes to attract the attention of others while the Gurumai, the priestess wears formal clothes to worship the goddess for the betterment of her community. Dress also helps them in many adversities and also helps to propitiate gods and goddesses who safeguard them against the malevolent atrocities of the ghosts, spirits, etc.
The tribals also use dress according to the position of individual in the society like the clan’s head, the priest, and the revenue collector etc. The dresses that they use at the time of marriage, birth, death, worship etc. are also different. They use dresses keeping in view the occasion, age, sex and other factors. For example, the priest does not use the normal dress at the time of worship. And again at the time of dancing they dress in a very attractive manner. And the dancing costume has also special significance. They also wear dresses in different styles. While dressing they also keep in their mind the surroundings. They also think of their convenience and inconvenience while dressing themselves for an occasion. Especially they do not like to dress very pompously at the time of any work. But when they go for Shopping.php to the near by market place or to visit any fair or festival they dress themselves quite exuberantly and exquisitely.
Different tribal communities use different kind of dresses, differing in their color and size. Their dresses are designed keeping in view their necessity and their surrounding. The socio-cultural and the religious views of the tribals slightly contribute for the variety in their dresses. There are several tribes like the Bondo and Gadaba who weave their own clothes. While the other tribes purchase their dress from another community or the neighboring Damas or Panas. The tribal dress and ornaments mostly belong to the non-tribal group and there are very few tribal artisans. The non-tribal artisans like the weavers they live adjacent to the tribal villages. These people manufacture the costumes of a specific tribe and sell them in the weekly village market. Sometimes these weavers are being paid in cash or in kind in the form of agricultural products. The tribal costumes are very simple and it provides immense comfort to the wearer. Generally, in the Kandha community the Dongria Kandha, the Kutia Kandha and the Desia Kandha, Lanjia Saora and the Santhals depend on other communities (non-tribal artisans) for their clothes. Lanjia Saora and some other tribal community make threads by themselves and give it to the Damas to weave for them. And again they purchase that cloth from the Damas by cash or kind. While the Bondo and the Didayi, the Gadabas weave their own clothes though the Dangrias purchase the cloth from the neighbouring Damas. They knit fine needle work on it and use it.
There is a little similarity among the tribals in their dress those who live in a specific area. The Koyas, the Halabs and the Gandias are inhabitants of the same districts. Though it seems that they have some kind of similarity in their costume but in reality they differ from each other. The Kandhas live in a specific area, like the Kutia Kandha and the Dongria Kandha both the communities live in two different sides of the same hill. But as far as dress is concerned they differ significantly. Similarly, the Mundas and the Santhals though they live as neighbours they differ in their dress and culture. The Juangs and the Bhuyan high lander live in close proximity but they differ in their dress. The Kisans and the Gonds though live in the same belt they have also difference in their dress. At times there are similarity of the dress in colour, design and pattern but they differ in their cultural and social life as well as in their ritual and rites.
The artistic nature of the tribals is very innate in their heart and mind. To them the artistic and aesthetic essence is to make life more enjoyable and to fulfill the cultural, social and religious needs. Even there are some tribes they envisage a better future with the help of art and craft, for the tribals art objects and the skill of the artist is a fit medium to propitiate their deities, gods and goddesses. The tribal art is not the contemporary one. It has the heraldry of a hoary past. It was the art which once widely acclaimed in the midst of the forest, the mountains, and in the springs. Art is the base and basis of the tribal life. It is the economic, social and cultural reflection of the tribal life. Hence art is the yardstick by which they measure their success.
The material culture is also part of their artistic life. Even their costume and dress materials have the touch of artistic workmanship. It is also reflection of the art which had been passed onto them from generation to generation. That art has the accumulated knowledge of ages, which has assimilated in their social tradition. It is a medium to express their inner quest. Dress has multi-farious significance in their social life. At the surface level one can observe that they use dress only to avoid the nakedness, or to protect from cold, rain and sunshine. But in fact, the tribal costumes exhibit the uniqueness of the specific community, their self-identity. The possession of the right kind of dress is a matter of pride and a great source of enthusiasm. The “Ringa” of the Bondos and the embroidered shawl of the Dangarias have a special social and cultural significance. The Dangria shawl has a direct link with the marital relationship and the success of their conjugal life depends upon it. The dance costume of the Lanjia Saoras as well as their general dress is a fine testimony of their rich cultural heritage. At the time of dancing from the dress of the clan’s head “Gamango” they get the trace of the regal pride and heroism.
The origin, history and development of tribal textile commensurate with the general history of man’s progress from primitive barbarism to civilization. The state of nakedness was disgusting, to avoid that the tribals used leaves as their dress. This was used in a crude form. Then they used bark of the tree as their dress. This gave them much discomfort, so they used some son bark to avoid this inconvenience. It was not also so soothing; hence they started extracting fibers from the barks and subsequently converted it into thread. Gradually they came to know more about fiber thread etc. and then began the weaving of clothes. Later on, they also dyed the fibres to make it beautiful. They also use turmeric to colour the threads. These are also several trees in the forest that excrete colour in their bark and the tribals use the bark of these trees to dye the thread. Firstly, they boiled the bark and soak fibres in it. By that way they got various coloured threads and wove according to their requirement. Sometimes instead of making the coloured threads themselves, they purchase them from the market and then weave. Some tribes like to wear clothes of a single color, while some others like to use multi-color clothes and at times they knit fine embroidery work on it and make it fit for their use. Through the dress they reflected their traditional culture, artistic skillfulness and thoughts, for which their cultural life flourish on the base of dress. It gave a special luster to their community life and differentiated one tribe from the other.
To weave clothes they use their own indigenous technology. They use bamboo and other trees to get the fiber usually; they install the wooden loom in front of their house or in the backyard and some of them also install it in the narrow path of the village. They weave during their leisure time. Both men and women weave. In some communities only women weave. The women weave various clothes for them as well as for the male members of their family.
A major portion of the tribal habitat is hilly and forested. Tribal villages are generally found in areas away from the alluvial plains close to rivers. Most villages are uni ethnic in composition, and smaller in size.
Tribal economy is characterized as subsistence oriented. The subsistence economy is based mainly on collecting, hunting and fishing (e.g., the Birhor, Hill Kharia), or a combination of hunting and collecting with shifting cultivation (e.g., the Juang,, Hill Bhuyan, Lanjia Saora, Kondh etc.) Even the so-called plough using agricultural tribes do often, wherever scope is available, supplement their economy with hunting and collecting. Subsistence economy is characterised by simple technology, simple division of labour, small-scale units of production and no investment of capital. The social unit of production, distribution and consumption is limited to the family and lineage. Subsistence economy is imposed by circumstances which are beyond the control of human beings, poverty of the physical environment, ignorance of efficient technique of exploiting natural resources and lack of capital for investment. It also implies existence of barter and lack of trade.
Considering the general features of their (i) eco-system, (ii) traditional economy, (iii) supernatural beliefs and practices, and (iv) recent “impacts of modernization”, the tribes of Orissa can be classified into six types, such as:
(1) Hunting, collecting and gathering type,
(2) Cattle-herder type,
(3) Simple artisan type,
(4) Hill and shifting cultivation type,
(5) Settled agriculture type and
(6) Industrial urban worker type.
Each type has a distinct style of life which could be best understood in the paradigm of nature, man and spirit complex, that is, on the basis of relationship with nature, fellow men and the supernatural.
(1) Tribes of the first type, namely Kharia, Mankidi, Mankidia and Birhor, live in the forests of Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar and Sundargarh districts, exclusively depend on forest resources for their livelihood by practising hunting, gathering and collecting. They live in tiny temporary huts made out of the materials found in the forest. Under constraints of their economic pursuit they live in isolated small bands or groups. With their primitive technology, limited skill and unflinching traditional and ritual practices, their entire style of life revolves round forest. Their world view is fully in consonance with the forest eco-system. The population of such tribes in Orissa though is small, yet their impact on the ever-depleting forest resources is very significant. Socio-politically they have remained inarticulate and therefore have remained in a relatively more primitive stage.
(2) The Koya which belongs to the Dravidian linguistic group, is the lone pastoral and cattle-breeder tribal community in Orissa. This tribe which inhabits the Malkangiri District has been facing crisis for lack of pasture.
(3) In Orissa Mahali and Kol-Lohara practise crafts like basketry and black-smithy respectively. The Loharas with their traditional skill and primitive tools manufacture iron and wooden tools for other neighbouring tribes and thereby eke out their existence. Similarly the Mahalis earn their living by making baskets for other communities. Both the tribes are now confronted with the problem of scarcity of raw materials. And further they are not able to compete with others, especially in the tribal markets where goods of other communities come for sale, because of their primitive technology.
(4) The tribes that practise hill and shifting cultivation are many. In northern Orissa the Juang and Bhuyan, and in southern Orissa the Kondh, Saora, Koya, Parenga, Didayi, Dharua and Bondo practise shifting cultivation. They supplement their economy by foodgathering and hunting as production in shifting cultivation is low. Shifting cultivation is essentially a regulated sequence of procedure designed to open up and bring under cultivation patches of forest lands, usually on hill slopes.
In shifting cultivation the practitioners follow a pattern of cycle of activities which are as follows:
(i) Selection of a patch of hill slope or forest land and distribution or allotment of the same to intended practitioners
(ii) Worshipping of concerned deities and making of sacrifices,
(iii) Cutting of trees, bushes, ferns etc., existing on the land before summer months,
(iv) Pilling up of logs, bushes and ferns on the land,
(v) Burning of the withered logs, ferns and shrubs etc. to ashes on a suitable day,
(vi) Cleaning of the patch of land before the on-set of monsoon and spreading of the ashes evenly on the land after a shower or two,
(vii) Hoeing and showing of seeds with regular commencement of monsoon rains,
(viii) Crude bunding and weeding activities follow after sprouting of seeds
(ix) Watching and protecting the crops,
(x) Harvesting and collecting crops,
(xi) Threshing and storing of corns, grains etc. and
(xii) Merry-making. In these operations all the members of the family are involved in some way or the other. Work is distributed among the family members according to the ability of individual members. However, the head of the family assumes all the responsibilities in the practice and operation of shifting cultivation. The adult males, between 18 and 60 years of age under-take the strenuous work of cutting tree, ploughing and hoeing, and watching of the crops at night where as cutting the bushes and shrubs, cleaning of seeds for sowing and weeding are done by women.
Shifting cultivation is not only an economic pursuit of some tribal communities, but it accounts for their total way of life. Their social structure, economy, political organization and religion are all accountable to the practice of shifting cultivation.
In certain hilly areas terraces are constructed along the slopes. It is believed to be a step towards settled agriculture. Terrace cultivation is practised by the Saora, Kondh and Gadaba. The terraces are built on the slopes of hill with water streams.
Tribal communities practicing settled agriculture also suffer from further problems, viz (i) want of record of right for land under occupation, (ii) land alienation (iii) problems of indebtedness, (iv) lack of power for irrigation (v) absence of adequate roads and transport, (vi) seasonal migration to other places for wage-earning and (vii) lack of education and adequate scope for modernization.
The overall kinship system of the tribes may be label led as tempered classificatory. In terminology the emphasis lies on the unilinear principle, generation and age. Descent and inheritance are patrilineal and authority is patripotestal among all the tribal communities of Orissa.
Among the tribes there is very little specialization of social roles, with the exception of role differentiation in terms of kinship and sex and some specialization in crafts, the only other role specializations are Head-man, Priest, Shaman and the Haruspex.
There is very little rigid stratification in society. The tendency towards stratification is gaining momentum among several settled agricultural tribes under the impact of modernization. The tribes of Orissa are at different levels of socio-economic development.
The position of priest, village headman and the inter-village head-man are hereditary. The village headman is invariably from original settlers’ clan of the village, which is obviously dominant. Punishments or corrective measures are proportional to the gravity of the breach of set norms or crime, and the punishments range from simple oral admonition to other measures, such as corporal punishments, imposition of fines, payment of compensation, observance of prophylactic rites and excommunication from the community. Truth of an incident is determined by oath, ordeals and occult mechanism.
As regards the acquisition of brides for marriage, the most widely prevalent practice among the tribes of Orissa is through “capture”, although other practices, such as, elopement, purchase, service and negotiation are also there. With the passage of time negotiated type of marriage, which is considered prestigious, is being preferred more and more. Payment of bride-price is an inseparable part of tribal marriage, but this has changed to the system of dowry among the educated sections.