Sunder has left an extremely interesting note on the Brijias who are the same as the Birjias. His observation are quoted in extenso. It may be mentioned here that the Birjias are more found in Mahuadanr police-station and are fast declining. They are nomadic in habits and a very small percentage has taken to settled cultivation. The bulk of them live in a group of two or three families on the spur of the high hills. They still do a little cultivation by burning the underwood and by throwing some seeds on the ashes. Usually they move out from their homestead in about a year.
Birjias speak a dialect called Birjia which is a mixture of Mundari and other tribal dialects. Their manners, customs and other ways of life areal in to those of Korwas, Kharias and other tribes.
It has to be mentioned before Sunder's observations are quoted that there has not been any detailed investigation into the present day Birjias and many of the Sunder's observations may have become outdated or may be wrong. Nevertheless, as a pioneer investigator his observations are of great value.
Sunder observes as follows:-
"These people know nothing of their history and only say that they have been in Palamau for many generations with few exceptions, they are found chiefly in jungle tracts in the southern part of the district where the cultivation done by them is entirely on the beonraor juming system. They are well-built, strong and able to bear any amount of hardship. In height, the men seldom exceed 5 feet 3 inches, while the women are about 5 feet. They are dark-skinned and have broad noses with flat faces and small black eyes. In spite of the hardships they have to endure in a part of the district which is extremely unhealthy during most of the year, and where the weather is intensely cold during the winter months, the average age to which they live is 30 years, and I have a few acquaintances among them who have passed the age of 60 years.
"Food.-Brijias eat beef, pork, deer, goat, buffalo, sheep, gaur, dhamin snakes (Ptyas mucosus),goi (a lizard), rats, bull, frogs, tiger, leopard, bear, peacock and all birds, except vultures. They drink milk and buttermilk, and also eat curd. Blood, called tumba, of all animals that are eatable is boiled and drunk. It is not taken raw nor is uncooked meat eaten. Food is cooked in mustard, mahua or jatingi oil, whenever this is obtainable; otherwise it is cooked in water only. Oil is expressed by themselves between two logs of wood. All food eaten by men may be eaten by women also. Marrow is called tumul and is much sought after, owing to there being grease in it. In seasons of scarcity little difficulty is felt, as all edible roots and vegetables procured in the jungle are eaten, and no one knows better than the Brijia where he can easily get them. Salt (bulung) is obtained by exchange and eaten. Sugar and honey are eaten, the fatter being obtained from beehives in the jungles.
Fire is made by rubbing two pieces of bamboo against each other. The lower piece is split and a bit of rag is fixed between. The upper piece is rubbed smartly against the lower one. The friction creates sparks, which soon set the rag ablaze. Steel and flint are not known.
The first meal called lookrna, is taken in the fields between 9 and 10 A.M., and consists of boiled pulse or makai. The next meal called kal-wa-jom-ko is taken at noon (dophar) and consists of mahua and vegetables, or boiled makai or bhat made from jinor or pulse. The food most a appreciated is makai and marua, together with such meat or vegetables that may be available, as also mahua. Rice is eaten when obtained, but is little cared for, the former and cheaper grains being the staple food of these people. Food is cooked by the wife, or if there be an elder daughter in the house, she attends to this, while the mother looks to other matters. Fuel is brought by the father or brother. Water is obtained from the nearest river or from well, if one exists, but river water is preferred. Meals are common to the household. The mother helps the husband first, then the children, and lastly herself. All eat together in the compartment adjoining the one in which the food was cooked. When the children are given rice for the first time, a fowl is killed and offerings are made to deceased relatives. Five plates made of leaves are placed in a freshly cleaned part of the floor of the hut. Rice and fowl's meat are then put on the plates and the father of the child addresses the deceased relatives thus:-
'From today this child is beginning to eat rice. May he (or she) be able to digest it and may he (or she) continue in good health'. After this some rice is taken from each of the five plates and placed in the child's mouth by the mother.
"Marital relations.-Two friends, called bisuts, go from the boy's father to the parents of the girl and ask whether a marriage would be agreeable or not. If agreeable, as is always the case, the girl's parents fix a day, which is generally within eight or ten days of the first interview, and ask the bisuts, to return. On the day appointed the bisuts, as well as the young man to be married and a few friends take two earthen vessels or handi or, janr (rice beer) with them and go to the girl's house. The hundi is carried there by the bridegroom. On the same evening the girl's parents relatives and friends assemble in the courtyard (angina) of the girl's house, and here the betrothal takes place by the girl's father, announcing that the marriage has been arranged and that he has promised to give his daughter to the boy. After this handi (liquor) is distributed by the bisuts in a topara (earthen pot) or lota to each of the people present and the night is spent in feasting and drinking. On the following morning the girl's father fixes a day for the marriage, and after this the bisuts and boy return home. The date for the marriage is generally one year after the betrothal. On the la.pse of the period that may be fixed, five earthen vessels of handi and 12 paseries or 72 seers of rice, as also two pigs and Rs. 6 in cash are taken by the bisuts, the bridegroom and his friends, together with two drummers to the bride's house. They are met on the way by the girl's people, and the marriage takes place on the same day. The rice, pigs and Rs. 6 are made over to the girl's father in the presence of the relatives and friends who assemble in the courtyard. A sari, called mai sari is given to the girl's mother, and one is also given to the bride. The bisuts then cause the bride and bridegroom to stand under a marwa (marriage shed covered over with leaves and bamboos) in the courtyard. After this the bisuts pour a little mustard oil over (1) the boy's head and (2) the girl's head, and then dress their hair with a kanki (comb of wood). This is the binding part of the ceremony. One of the bisuts then takes the bridegroom on his shoulder while the other bisuts takes the bride up in his arms and the two then dances together in front of each other, singing all the while. After this dancing, which lasts for a few minutes only, the pair are set on the ground and they then have to go together, the boy ,first and behind him the bride, and salute the guests present, beginning from the right and ending on the left, by bending before them and touching their feet. This completes the marriage ceremony. Congratulations follow and presents of money are given to the girl according to circumstances of their friends. The only head-dress worn by the bridegroom is his mureta (turban) of cloth. He wears a kurta over his body and dhoti as usual. After this there is a feasting and drinking which run into the small hours of the morning he whole of the food eaten at this feast has to be cooked by young men. No women are allowed to do this. The parents of the bridegroom are not present at the marriage. The bisuts represent them and arrange the whole affair. On the food for the feast being ready the girl's father addresses the male guests as follows:-Come brothers and eat the feast that is ready for you and to the women folk he says-
'Come sisters and join in this feast. After this there is feasting and thereafter the bisuts, as also the bride and bridegroom, return home to the latter's house and the marriage is consummated there. The bride's parents do not accompany her. Four days after this the couple takes two earthen vessels of handi called Baharaoti handi to the bride's parents and drinking follow at their house. On the same day presents consisting of money or cattle are given to the bride by her parents. This is called dan dahy. The couple then returns home. Polygamy is permitted. A man has been known to have three wives, but the number depends on his ability to support them. If .there be three wives, food is cooked by the second or third wife, generally the latter, while the elder one attends to other affairs of the house. A man may marry two sisters, provided he marries the elder one first. 1f a man is unable to agree with his wife, he may divorce her by simply sending her away. The separation is effected in the presence of a few headmen at the village. The woman so separated may join another man by mutual arrangement which is called sagaina.
"Reproduction.~ In childbirth a woman is generally attended by her mother-in-law. If she has none, the next near female relative attends her. If she has none, the next year female relative attend her. In case of difficult labour shampooing is resorted to. Beyond this, nothing is done. Oases of difficult labour are said to be rare. Marriage takes place between the age of12 and 16. Puberty is said to begin at 12 years. A woman begins child-bearing at the age of 16 and ends at about 40 to 45 years. The average number of family is 5, of whom two are boys and three are girls. The largest family known was of 9. A mother is known to have given birth to this number, of whom five grew up and four died. A mother suckles her children up to the age of 3 years. Twins sometimes occur and are well regarded. It is said that when twins are born, if one dies, the other never survives. In cases of sickness, no medicine is given to a child. The mother only is dosed and it is believed that the child benefits thereby. The principal disease from which infants suffer is said to be fever, which prevails most in the month of Kartik. A barren woman is called Barijiana. She is not looked down on. Barrenness, however, in Brijia women is said to be uncommon. Births out of wedlock are never heard of. In fact, men respect women in this matter and there is said to be little immorality.
"Customs at death.-The dead are burnt. On removal of the corpse from the house paddy is scattered behind it by the head male member of the family. Wood is collected and the body is placed thereon by the male relatives of the deceased. No outsider may touch the corpse. A piece of new cloth is put over it. After this the nearest male relative walks round the pyre five times and each time applies fire from a bundle of straw first to the mouth of the corpse and then to the pyre. When the whole is burnt and nearly reduced to ashes, water is poured over the unburnt portion and the fire is extinguished. After this nearest male relative takes a bit of bone from the forehead, the right forearm, the chest, the lower end of the spine and both thighs and feet, and after placing them in a new small earthen pot which is tied in a piece of new cloth it is then buried in a suitable prominent site, generally alongside a road. Before filling up the hole in which the pot is placed, a black fowl is killed in the name of the deceased to satisfy his spirit and the blood from the fowl is allowed to drop on the pot containing the bones. After this, the hole is filled up and a la.rge stone called kalbudh is erected over it. The dead fowl is taken home and cooked. On completion of burial of the bones the funeral party returns home and have their heads just above the forehead shaved after which a bath is taken in the river. The eldest male member of the family then takes some oil and turmeric (haldi) and applies it to the beads of the people present. This is said to purify them. On food being ready, five boys are brought and seated in the courtyard (angina) and are fed with rice and pork. This is called the panch kuanri and its performance admits of other people taking food. After this there is feasting and drinking and the funeral ceremonies are completed.
"Inheritance.-Property descends to the son; if there be no son, then to the next male relative and widow, half to each. Daughters get nothing except what may be given to them by their father while he is alive. If there be no male relatives, the property remains with the widow so long as she is alive and after her decease is divided by the daughters in equal shares. Relationship is thus always traced in the male line.
The mode of addressing relatives is as follows:-
Father is called Apun.
Mother is called Engain.
Elder brother is called Dadain.
Younger brother is called Bokonje.
Elder sister is called Daie.
Younger sister is called Bokonje.
Son is called Roponing.
Grandson'is called Nathian.
Father's elder brother is called Gungunje.
Father's younger brother is called Xakain.
Mother's elder brother and younger brother is called Mamunje.
Father's elder sister and younger sister is called Hotomin Kakinge.
Father's wife is called Hilinge.
Sister's husband is called Tenjain.
Brother's son is called Bhutijain.
"Clothing.-Men wear a barki gendra, which is a sheet or cloak for covering the body. It is in two long pieces stitched together and costs Re. 1-8-0; or they wear a gendra, which is a single piece of cloth worn round the loins. It is supported on the waist by a cord called danda-dor. The dhoti costs 8 annas. One barki gendra and two dhoties are worn during each year.
Women wear an evergendra. or sari. It. is worn round the lower part of the body. They do not wear a danda-dor. Two evergendras are worn each year and cost Re. 1-8-0. No kurtas .are worn. The body from waist upward is covered by a part of the evergendra.
Children remain naked up to the age of four or five years. No ceremony is performed when they were clothing for the first time.
"Diseases and medicine.-The sick are looked after by their wives or other relatives. On recovery from sickness puja is generally performed by offering a fowl or pig through the Ojhas to the deities Khat and Dhandi. The sick are laid on a piece of mat called patia, which is made from leaves of the date-palm. The diseases from which Brijias suffer and the remedies employed are mentioned below:-
Rheumatism is tutaintana, cholera is markhitana and cramps are nyertana. There is no remedy for these diseases. The Ojha is consulted and performs puja to propitiate the deity.
"Ornaments.-Among Brijias, men wear bera (bracelet) of silver on the right hand. The value of it is from Rs. 4 to Rs. 6. They wear a hisir (necklace) of beads costing two Gorakhpuri pice string on their neck. A brass hairpin called salukha is worn on the head to support the hair. It costs two pice. Kanousis of brass (ear-rings) are worn on both ears. They cost two pice. Sometimes a string containing a silver coin is worn on the neck. This is called chandwa.
The ornaments worn by women are mentioned below :-
Birhors. The number of Birhors in Palamau or as a matter of fact in any district will always vary from time to time. The Birhors and particularly one class of them are absolutely nomadic in habit and will move away from their habitation at the slightest pretext. They live in vary small leaf-huts with an opening through which one could crawl in with difficulty. Birhors are still met with in the jungles of the southern thanas of Chandwa and Balumath and in Netarbat. They are fast declining. A settlement of Birhors has been recently done at Bishunpur to stop this decline.
Dalton observed about the Birhors in about 1864:-"With much trouble some Birhors were caught and brought to me. They were wretched-looking objects, but had more the appearance of the most abject of one of those degraded castes of the Hindus, the Domes or Pariahs, to whom most flesh is food, than of hill people. Assuring me that they had themselves given up the practice, the admitted that their fathers were in the habit of disposing of the dead in the manner indicate, viz., by feasting on the bodies; but they declared they never shortened life to provide such feasts, and shrank with horror at the idea of any bodies but those of their own blood-relations being served up to them. The Raja of Jashpur said he had heard that when a Birhor thought his end was approaching, he himself invited his kindred to come and eat him. The Birhors brought to me did not acknowledge this."
Paddingto's Memorandum on an Unknown Forest Race inhabiting the thanas South of Palamau was published in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal in 1855. Quotation from Paddington's Memorandum will be found in the same book. Paddington mentions that they might well have been mistaken for a large Orang-Utang. He further mentions that such that with great difficulty and by the aid of signs one of the Dhangars could make them understand the questions put to them.
The next more detailed report about the Birhors was given in the Report of L. R. Forbes, I.C.S., on the Raiyatwaree Settlement of the Government farms in Palamau. S. C. Roy has given a lengthy quotation from Forbes Report in his book on the Birhors. This Report may be looked into for fuller details about the Birhors. Dalton's Ethnology was published in the same year as Forbes Report but contains a few lines about the Birhors. Dalton observes- “
The Birhors call themselves Hindus, live in the jungles, and subsist on wild animals,
honey and what they can obtain by the exchange of jungle produce with people of the plains. They are great adepts at snaring monkeys and other small animals, and sell them alive or eat them, they have no cultivation whatever, but they are apparently Kolarian, as among themselves they converse in Kol. They sell chob, a strong fibre of which ropes and strings for various purposes are made, honey, wax, and sikas, the sticks like bows for carrying loads bonghy fashion and banghy ropes; and with the proceeds and the spontaneous edible productions of the forest they manage to exist and clothe themselves. 'There are people called Birhors in Chutia Nagpur proper and Jashpur, who live in the equally wild state, but communicate with each other in a dialect of Hindi. They are a small, dirty, miserable-looking race, who have the credit of devouring their parents, and when I taxed them with it, they did not deny that such a custom had once obtained among them."
Dalton attaches a short account of Birhors supplied to him by one of his subordinates who had visited some Birhor settlements. That account runs as follows :-
"The Birhors were found living in the jungles on the sides of bills in huts constructed
only of branches of trees and leaves, but so made as to be quite water-tight; their huts are as small as those of the jungles, previously described. The entra.nce door faces the east, and is about two feet from the ground. A man and his wife and young children sleep together in this small hut six feet square, but grown-up children are provided with separate huts; they lie on date-tree leaf-mats spread on the ground. They have hardly any cultivation, and never touch a plough. A man and his family who not long ago left their community and took to cultivating in the plains are now considered outcaste. The men spend their time in snaring hares and monkeys, collecting edible roots and jungle fruits and the chob (Bduhinia scandens) bark, of which they make strings for various purposes. They are seldom seen in the villages, but the women frequent the markets to sell their ropes and jungle produce.
"The Birhors affirm that they and the Kharwars are of the same race descended from the sun.
They came, seven brothers, to this country from Khairagarh (in the Kaimur hills); four went to the east, and three brothers remained in the Ramgarh district. One day when the three brothers were going out to fight against the chiefs of the country, the head-dress of one of them got entangled in a tree. He deemed it bad women, and remained behind in the jungle. His two brothers went without him and gained a victory over the chiefs, and returning found their brother employed in cutting the bark of the chob. They derided him, calling him the Birhor, (Birhor is
Munda for a woodman or forester) or chob cutter; he, replied that he would rather remain a Birhor and reign in the jungles than associate with such naughty brothers. Thus originated the Birhors, lords of the jungles. The other two brothers became Rajahs of the country called Ramgarh.
"The number of the Birhors is limited, estimated at not more than 700 for the whole
Hazaribagh district. They are quite a nomadic race, wandering about from jungle to jungle, as the sources of their subsistence become exhausted. There are about ten families in the jungles near the village of Ramgarh, forty in the vicinity of Gola, ten in the jungles of Jagesar, and forty families about Chatra and Datar. Major Thompson, in his report on Palamau, speaks of them as the aborigines of that district. They-are found in Chutia Nagpur proper, in Jashpur, and in Manbhum.
"The women dress decently; they have marks of tattooing on their chest, arms, and ankles; they have no such marks on the face.
“After child birth a woman remains in her hut for six days and has no food, except medicinal
herbs. Then the infant 18 taken out, not by the ordinary door, but by an opening made in the opposite wall; this, it is believed, protects it from being devoured by a tiger or bitten by a snake.
"Parents arrange the marriage of their children. The father of the bridegroom pays three
rupees to the father of the bride. They have no priests, and the only ceremony is drawing blood from the little fingers of the bridegroom and bride, and with this the tilak is given to each by marks made above the clavicle. This, as I have elsewhere noted, I believe to be' the origin of the practice now so universal of marking with red-lead. The convivialities of feasting and dancing conclude the day.
"The ceremony takes place in the bride's house and next morning she is taken to her
husband's; but after remaining there two days she returns to her father's to complete her education and growth at home.
"Their ceremonial in regard to the dead is quite Hindu. They burn the body and convey the
remainder of the bones after wards to the Ganges, they say; but probably any stream answers. They do not shave for ten days as sign of mourning; at the end of that time as have and they have a feast.
"The Birhors worship female deities and devils. They have assigned to Devi the chief place
among the former and the others are supposed to be her daughters and grand-daughters; she is worshipped as the creator and destroyer. The devils are Biru Bhut, who is worshipped in the form of a raised semi-globe of earth- Biru is also the Kharria god and Darha, represented by a piece of split bamboo three feet high, placed in the ground in an inclined position, called also the 'Sipahi', sentinel. This is the immediate guardian of the site, as a god or devil of similar name is with the Mundas and Oraons. A small round piece of wood, nearly a foot in length, the top painted red, is called 'Banhi', goddess of the jungles. Another similar is Lugu, the protectress of the earth. Lugu is the largest hill in Ramgarh, so this is their Marang Buru.
"An oblong piece of wood, painted red, stands for ‘Maha Maya' Devi's daughter. A small
piece of white stone daubed with red for her grand-daughter, Buria, Mai; an arrowhead stands for Dudha Mai, Buria's daughter. They have also a trident painted ted for Hanuman, who executes all Devi's orders.
"Sets of these symbols are placed one on the east and one the west of their huts, to protect
them from evil spirits, snakes, tigers and all kinds of misfortune.
"It is not easy to place the Birhors from what is above disclosed, but the fact that, though a
wandering and exclusive people, they commune in the Munda language, is, I think, sufficient to establish that they belong to the Kol race: and then they have the Mundari-Oraon deity Darha and adore the Biru of' the Kharrias.
"The people with whom they exchange commodities are all Hindus or Hinduised, so it is not
surprising that they should take up Hindu notions."
S. C. Roy also refers to the article of Mr. W. H. P. Driver, an Emigration Agent published in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal in 1888. This is followed by details on the Birhors as a result of personal study by S. C. Roy. His monumental volume is still the standard book on the Birhors. It is a pity that this fast declining small tribe is not being investigated again by some scholars. In these three decades and half that have rolled by since S. C. Roy published his book, the Birhors have undergone great changes. One section of them has taken to settled life. But the other portion is fast declining, and have almost refused to absorb any of the changes in which they live. An attempt has been made by the State Government of Bihar to make the Birhors take to settled life and as indicated before the success is confined to one section only.
D. H. E. Sunder in his Final Report on the Surney and Settlement Operations of the Palamau Government Estate published in 1898, as mentioned elsewhere, I as discussed a number of tribals, but he has not discussed the Mundas. This is rather peculiar because the Mundas, although minority among the Adibasis of Palamau form quite an important tribal element.
The name Munda appears to be of Sanskrit origin and means the headman of the village. By common parlance the designation Kol is used for both Mundas and Oraons. The Mundas are more akin to the has of Singhbhum and the Santhals of Santhal Parganas than the Oraons.
Mundas are found mostly in Balumath thana. A certain number of Munda families are also found in different villages of Chhechkari valley who are designated as Bhuinhers, probably indicating that they were the original settlers. A.s a matter of fact, the areas of Barwa, Chhechhari and Surguja were opened up by the Mundo pioneers and they occupied the lands which were reclaimed. The word 'Bhuinher' also means the holder of the land.
Like the Oraons the Mundas of Palamau district have lost their language. Very few Mundas in Palamau district now speak Mundari. They speak a kind of Hindi but their manners and customs are quite akin to those of the Mundas in Ranchi and other districts.
Mundas are divided into many sub-tribes such as Kheria Munda, Maheli Mundo and Oraon Munda. The sub-tribes are probably the result of inter-caste marriages with neighbouring tribes. A Munda may not marry a woman of his own sept. Maheli Munda has the pig for his totem and for this tribe consumption of pork is a taboo. Totems have still a very great value and restrictions are respected.
Like the Oraons here also the women have an assured possession. Bride-price .has to be paid whatever be the sum. Sindur dan or the smearing of the vermilion on the bride's forehead by the bridegroom bas become almost the essential binding portion of a marriage ceremony and there is no doubt that this has a clear influence of the neighboring. Hindu families. Usually marriages are arranged but there have been occasions where a love-lorn girl enters the house of her beloved youth and would not leave even when beaten. After some molestation she is accepted even if the man has another wife. Widows marry again by ritual function as sagai in which sindui dan is performed by the left bane. Divorce is allowed at the instance of either party and the divorced women are permitted to marry again. In case of adultery the seducer has to pay the husband the full amount of bride-price, stands a feast and has to marry the girl. Seduction is not favoured but tolerated within restrictions.
The highest deity for the Mundas is Singhbonga, the sun god. He is the head of the Mundas deities but he himself does not inflict any suffering on the Mundas. There is a regular graded hierarchy of other deities, some good and some bad, and they have all to be propitiated.
The bad ones have a terrific evil power and unless they are propitiated, illness, cattle epidemic, crop failures, etc., will follow. If there are epidemics or crop failures, something must be missing and that something is the wrath of a particular deity. The priest is to find out, which particular deity has been displeased and give offering to propitiate. It is peculiar that different deities should have prescribed separate offerings. For example, the Singbongo, is given goats and white cocks. Other deities will be given other types of offerings. Next to Singbonga is Burubonga or Marangburu (a mountain god).Marangburu. is a kind god and is very popular with the Mundas and buffalo has to be offered to him. He is the deity that presides over rainfall and naturally has to be propitiated more fondly. Ekidbuonga rules over tanks, rivers, etc., and if he is angry he might pull the father inside and kill him. Nearer home every village has a Deswah or Karah Saranga which is a sort of Gramya devta or village deity. Usually a few old trees are treated as the Sarna or the sacred grove and the Deswali deity with his wife known as Tahid Burhi are supposed to live in that Sarna. The Sarna is held sacred by both Adibasis and non-Adibasis, in the village. The villagers as a whole offer puja at the Sarna in every sowing season as the pair of village deities have to be propitiated for good crops. Unless they have been offered sacrifices, transplantation of paddy should not be done nor are the fresh grains of paddy be taken home. The Mundas have a very good explanation for the stars. They consider the moon to be the wife of Singbonga who is sun and their union has resulted in the innumerable stars that shine overhead.
The Mundas have the same set of festivals like Oraons. The most important is Surhul adventing the new harvest and a festival of great joy and merry-making. The other festivals are Kadleta, or Bathuli (Asarh festival), Nana or Jamnana festival for the advent of the new rice etc.
Their social organisation is also similar to that of the Oraons. The Pahan is the spiritual head while the Mahto and Gorait are for the worldly affairs. They have other smaller dignitaries as well like the Goalas, Goraits and Lohar. The Gorait keeps watch on the village. The village flag is an object of pride to the Mundas. On occasion of festivity and Yatras the village flag is lifted and zealously greeted by the Munda youths. The incidence of literacy and education is extremely poor.1
Festivals. D. H. E. Sunder in his Final Report on the Survey and SettlementOperations in Palamau District published in 1898 has made certain observations on the festivals2. As this appears to be the result of one of one earliest enquiries based on personal knowledge a verbatim quotation is given below :-
Festivals- Nawa-the harvest festival- When paddy is ready for the sickle, five mutas or arpas (sheaves) are cut by the head of the family and taken home. This is called taking ala. The paddy is husked and parched in a new earthen handy, and then pounded in the akhar. The pounded paddy is chura. After this the head of the family, having had a bath, takes some sal leaves, the number being according to the number of deceased relatives of the family, and puts a little chura on each of them. These leaves are placed in a circle on a part of the floor of the hut, which had been previously cleaned and plastered over with cowdung. A vessel containing fire is kept within the circle formed by the leaves. Some ghi is burnt on the fire. This is called doing ham. Water is then sprinkled over each of the leaves containing Chura. After this the chura is collected and distributed among all the members of the house, and is eaten there by them. This completes the ceremony. New rice is then cooked and friends are invited and fed. This being done, reaping operations begin. This ceremony is compulsory and is performed with respect to all crops, even to cucumbers and vegetables that are grown on bari lands.
"Soharai.-On the evening of 17th Kartik small lights are lit in the house and about the courtyard. On the following morning cattle are brought in from the field and hut up in the gohar (cow-shed). Rice-bear, called hanria, is made and given to each animal in a leaf cup (dona), one dona to each animals. After this, oil of mahua seed is rubbed on their horns, and the cattle are then released and sent to a field, in which a pig with its hind-legs tied is held by a long rope by the giars or cowherds. The cattle being driven towards the pig attack and gore it to death. The giars take the dead pig and eat it. This ceremony is performed to satisfy the deity.
"Phagua.-Is observed by Oraons, Kherwars and all aboriginal tribes. On 1st Phalgun a pig is
killed and cooked. Some meat taken from the head of the animal is put on five leaf plates in the names of the deceased members of the family. A roti (flour cake) is also put on them, and water is then sprinkled over the whole, the names of the deceased being mentioned all the while. After this the rice and meat are gathered from the plates and given to the members of the family and eaten by them. On the completion of this ceremony friends are invited and fed, and there is eating and drinking all night.
"Arwa.-This festival is observed by Brijias, and is held in Pous. Some urid dal and arua rice are put one over the other in five places on the bare ground in the name of the deceased members of the family. A black kid is then brought and held before the five offerings and wade to eat some of the dal and rice. As soon as this is done the animal’s head is chopped off on the spot. The head is kept on the floor with the rice and dal round it, and water is sprinkled over it. The eldest male member of the house then salutes it by bowing before it. All this takes place in the compartment of the hut adjoining the one where meals are prepared. After this the kid's head is cut up and cooked. As soon as ready, the meat is brought on five donas (cups made with leaves) with five other donas containing khetchari (rice and dal boiled together). Five leaf plates are then made and placed on the floor on the spot where the kid had been killed, and a portion of the meat and khetchari is put on each of the plates as an offering to the deceased members of the family whose names are repeated all the while. After this the meat and khetchari are collected from the plates and distributed among members of the family who are seated there, and is eat by them. When this is done friends are invited and informed that dal has been eaten forth first time in the season, and there is then feasting an drinking for the remainder of the day.
"Karma.-In this festival, which is observed by all aboriginal tribes of the district except
Bhuinhars, a branch of the Karam trees is planted in the angina (courtyard) of ever homestead, and offerings of roti and cucumber are made to it by women of the house. In the evening and all through the night there is dancing and singing among the girls and boys, and much feasting and drinking goes on. In the morning the Karam branch is sprinkled with dahi and thrown into the nearest river.
"Srawan puja.-A pot of milk is taken on top of a hill in village Barwadih in tappa Durjag, and an offering is made to the deity Duar Pahar. A stone on the hill is worshipped. Sindur (vermilion) is rubbed on it. After this the milk is poured over the stone by the baiga. If the milk flows on to any length, it is believed that there will be good rain. If not, and the ground absorbs the milk it is understood that rainfall will be short. Parhaiyas alone observe this puja. In Jitia women bring roots of berni grass, together with a branch of Doomur tree, and plant them in the court. The aloha1'is placed along-side, and offerings of dahi, etc., are made to it. All, however, do not perform this puja., as the Brahman has to be consulted, and his sanction obtained. He charges one rupee and a dhoti for this. After the branch is planted there is feasting and dancing all night. This is purely a Parhaiya puja." Kharias.
Kharias form a smaller section of the Adivasis in this district.*
Regarding the Kharias of Palamau, traditions mention that they camo and settled in Palamau after the Oraons. Kharias are essentially cultivators and their houses are situated on the side or tops of the hills. Usually two or three houses of Kharias are at one place and then there will be a big gap where there will be another cluster of houses. The Kharias are extremely dirty and they hardly wash themselves. They are also totemistic but the influence of totem is said to be rather weak. It is understood that the sept of Kharias with a sheep for their totem would not hesitate now to eat mutton or to use woollen rug which a few decades back their predecessors would not have done. D. H, E. Sunder in his final report or survey and, Settlement Operations of the Palamau Government Estate published in 1898 mentions about Kharwars as follows :-
"There are 1,919 Kharwar raiyats in the Government villages to which this report relates, and the area of land held by them is 11,1205.09 acres. They are a Dravidian tribe, and their legend is that they came to Palamau originally from Khari-Jhar, whence the name Kharwar. Some however, allege that they came from Ramghar, but none are able to give even an approximate date as to their emigration, and nothing is known by them as to their past history. In Palamau, they are found chiefly in the southern tappas. They are a. dark-skinned, hardy people, but extremely lazy. Athough their pursuits are purely agricultural, they are fonder of remaining at home and of an idle life, than of working in the fields and improving their lands.
"Kharwars of Palamau are divided into six clans or sub-castes, viz., (1) Surujbansi, (2)
Dualbandi, (3) Patbandhi, (4) Kheri, (5) Bhogti or Gounju, and (6) Manjhia. All count themselves as among the eighteen thousand or atare hajar Kherwars. Some Kherwars wear jineo or the sacred thread. These are under vow not to (1) marry by sagai: form, (2) not to eat pig, (3) not to eat fowl, amd (4) not to drink. A man may not eat or marry save in his own sept.
"Food.-Kharwars eat goat's meat, pig, fowls, eggs, hare, peacock, doves, partridge, fish and
all edible roots. They do not eat beef or sheep. Their principal food in Palamau is Makai, mahua, and marua. Given these are three articles, they want nothing more, and do not depend on rice.
Marriage.-Infant marriages are not practised. The bridegroom must be of the age of 12 or 14
years and able to plough, and the girl should be of the same age. The marriage proceedings are as follows:-
The boy's father sends two friends (aguas) to the parents of the girl to ascertain, whether
they would be willing to give their daughter or not. The reply is not given until the lapse of a night. If during the night that the aguas are at the house, the barking of a deer or the cry of a pkekar or phiaou (jackal) is heard the omen is bad and the marriage cannot take place. If the roar of a tiger be heard, the omen is considered very good, and the lagun bandan is completed by the girl's father giving his consent. Thereafter he is invited to the boy's house. He goes there accompanied by a few friends within ten days, and the bar or bridegroom is shown to him. If he is satisfied, he gives expression to this by presenting the bar with some money, the amount of which depends on his means. This is called the moohdekhai ceremony. After this a goat and food consisting of rice are brought and presented to the bride's father, and he is feasted, and then returns, home. withhin ten days the gatbandhi or paobandhi or betrothal ceremony takes place. The bridegroom's father and a few friends go to the bride's house. The napit and Brahman are present there. The friends and relatives assemble in the courtyard, which had been previously well plastered with cowdung, and the bride is brought out, and made to sit here on a plate called pathal made of sal leaves sewn together. The bridegroom's father puts Rs. 7 in her hands as dali in taken of his approval of her. The bride's father and the bridegroom's father sit facing each other on separate pathals. . Then the Brahman takes paddy, and after touching the bride with it places it in the hands of her father. In the same way he puts paddy into the hands of the bridegroom's father. The two then cross hands, and thus swearing to be friends for ever, rise and johar (embrace) each other. This is the gatbandhi ceremony, and binds both the bride and her father. After this the Brahman fixes a day for the lagan. On the date so fixed a barat (party) consisting of the bridegroom and his relatives and friends go to the girl's house. The bridegroom is carried there on a jahajh, or if one is not available, in a palky. A jahaj is a platform on which there is a chair or stool on which the bridegroom is seated under a canopy over which a yak's tail is tied. A bit of mango leaf called Kakna is tied to the boy's right hand with a piece of cord. On the approach of the bridegroom's barat the girl's people go out with music and meet them. This is the merghe1at on arrival at the bride's house, the bridegroom has to do the doar puja ceremony. He is seated at the entrance to the house, and the Brahman performs the puja. A brass cup containing pan leaf, kuss grass, betelnut (kaselz), a.ruarice, sindur, gur, til and jao is placed in front of the Bridegroom. The Brahman repeats mantras, and does homby pouring ghi and dhuan (gum of sal trees) over some fire. After this the bridegroom distributes the pan among the guests.
He then proceeds to the jhala (shed) prepared for him. On the following morning he is called by the, napit to the marriage ceremony, which takes place in the angina (courtyard) of the house under a marar (canopy) built of posts with bamboo twigs and leaves. In the centre of this shed an altar of two kalsis (earthen vessels) alongside a plough, is erected. The bridegroom is seated in a, pathal leaf plate) in front of the altar. The bride's father sits to the right of the bridegroom on another pathal. The bride is seated on her father's right thigh with a bit of mahua leaf tied to her left wrist by the napit. A dona (cup) made from sal leaves and containing some leuss grass and mango leaf, together with ground rice, called (arpan achat) is placed by the Brahman in the right hand of the bridegroom, who then puts it in the bride's hand. She makes it over to her father, who then touches her kealsa with it and delivers it to the bridegroom's kealsa. This is done five times in token of the giving over of the bride to the bridegroom. The bride is then seated on a pathal to the right of the bridegroom. The napit now distributes achat (arua rice) from the dona among the relatives un both sides and then, while the Brahman is repeating mantras, scatters some of the achat over the young couple. After this some lava (parched rice) which is given by both parties is placed in a clean cloth, which is held by the bride's father. The bride then stands with the bridegroom behind her and his hands resting on her shoulders. The bride holds a supli (bamboo tray) in her right hand while the bridegroom holds her wrist from behind. Her brother puts lava on the supli and the couple jointly scatters it on the ground, while they walk five times round the altar. This is doing bhanwar. After this both are re-seated on their pathals. A Sindho1a (brass pot) containing sindltr as also some san fibre and a rupee are then placed in the bride's left hand and the fathers and elder male relatives on both sides hold a sheet round one after the other and apply it to the forehead of the bride. This is the sindur bandban. After this the napit makes a slight cut with his razor on the left hand little finger of the bride and on the right hand little finger of the bridegroom and the blood is drawn. This blood is wiped with a leaf of mauhawar cotton dyed with lac) which is then applied to the right sides of their necks by the bride to the bridegroom's neck and by him to her. This is called the senai jora ceremony and binds the two. If senai jom is not done, the bridegroom may afterwards claim 'to abandon the woman. After this the gaona ceremony is performed. The blide and bridegroom change pathals and the bridegroom's father brings a silver hasuli, some achat (arua rice), gur, a sari called pitamari and a bit of silk thread, together with a piece of silver tied to them called Dholna, and after touching the bridegroom's kalsa, places them before the bride. The bridegroom's elder brother then takes each of these presents and put them one by one, in the bride's hands which remain open to receive them. He then takes achat and scatters it over the couple. The bride's elder brother's wife (Bhotlji) then applies sindur on her from the bridge of her nose across her forehead and up to centre of her head. Two baskets are then brought and the bride and bridegroom step on one and then on the other and so enter a hut, the walls of which are painted with circles, called kohbar. These are made to indicate that it is the hut of the young couple. While in the hut they eat some dahi out of a plate, the bridegroom first and then the bride. This is called jhuta khabar ceremony. The pair then walk out together and salute the guests and the bride is presented by them with gifts of money. This completes the gar lagni ceremony. Feasting follows and the young couple then proceed to the bridegroom's house. On arrival there the bridegroom's mother welcomes them by singing and throwing cowdung over and behind them. This is parchan or bringing the girl within the household. After this they step on baskets to their own kohbar but at the entrance they are stopped by the bridegroom's sister, to whom a present of money or any other article has to be made, after which she allows them to pass in. The marriage is consummated on the same day. Puberty begins at 12 years.
"A custom prevails among Kherwars of Palamau of marrying the blind with the blind, or the
deaf with the dumb, I have seen husbands .and wives who had been born blind. In the case of a dumb woman whom I saw in a village near Tarhassi in tappa Pundag and whose husband had been deaf the issue, being two boys, were shown to me. Both were born helpless cripples.
"A widow may re-marry by the sagai form. About two maunds of rice, as also a goat and a sari have to be given for her. If a man and wife fail to agree, they may leave each other by mutual consent. There is no other form of divorce. If a woman is childless, her younger sister may marry her husband. This is called rijbia. A. man may marry as many wives as he is able to support.
"Births.-At childbirth a woman is attended by a Gharnain, and the proceedings and
ceremonies are the same as those of other Hindu castes. The woman is unclean and unable to attend to cooking of meals for twenty days. The child, if a boy, is named by the father, if a girl, by the mother. A woman is said to generally have her first child at the age of 20 years.
"Funerals.-Infants of one to three years are buried. Adults are burnt; the proceedings are the
same as at a Hindu funerals. After the burning five bones of the deceased are collected and placed in an earthen pot which is buried under a pipul tree. The person who had put fire to the mouth of the deceased is called agdeoa. For ten days he places some rice, milk, and a little water in an earthen cup (dona) together with a lighted chiragon the spot where the bones are buried. On the lapse of ten days the kataha or Maha Brahman goes to the bank of the nearest river, and after placing some milk, jao, tit, gur and arua rice in ten leaf plates performs puja for satisfying the spirit of the deceased. After this relatives and mends are feasted.
"Memorial structures.-If the deceased be a mahto (headman) of the village a kalbud is put up
in his honour alongside the principal road of the village. The kalbud may be of stone or wood. A face is cut on it and the name of the deceased, as also the date and year of his death.
"Inheritance.-Property descends to the sons. If there be two wives, their sons get the property
in equal wares. If there be only daughters, the widow retains the property so long as she continues in the house. Should she re-marry the property goes to the nearest male relative, but a portion is given to the daughters.
"Religion.-The deities of the Kherwars are (1) Muchukrani or as she is a1so called Durjagin
or Pachiari. She is relieved to be wife of the Raksel that reigned in Palamau before the Cheros came to the district. Raksel is said to have resided on a hill in mauza .Barwadih, tappa Durjag, where the ruins of his palace still exist. A she-goat (Panti) is killed as an offering to this deity; (2) Duarpar who is supposed to govern the village. He is appeased with the killing of a pig; (3) Dharti, to whom a pig has also to be offered. No cultivation can be done until he is appeased. He is believed to be ruler of the earth; and (4) Debi, Ghandi, Darhaand Dahkin, all of whom have to be propitiated with offerings of fowls, goats or pigs.
Customs as to salutation are curious among Kherwars. Friends and relations meeting after
long absence salute each other in three separate motions, viz., (1) arkwar, which is joining hands before each other, (2) joha1, which is embracing each other, and (3) kusal mangal, which is asking good wishes or blessings of each other. When a Kherwar meets an acquaintance he simply bows and touches his right leg. There is no greeting in the morning between members of a family nor does the husband greet his wife on return from a journey. At meals the husband eats before his wife; wives are treated kindly and many husbands consult their wives in times of danger or difficulty. The aged are tenderly treated and always have their meals before other members of the family. Guests are served before all others."
These observations could be supplemented as to the present picture of the Kharwars. Some are found amongst the laboring classes, while some have attained position as big landowners. Some Kharwars declare their original sest to have been the fort of Rohtas. They also claim descent from Rohitasava, the son of Harischandra. They wear Janeu or sacred thread.
Colonel Dalton notices the traditional connection between the Cheros and Kharwars, who are said to have invaded Palamau from Rohtas and driven the Rajput chief of the country to retire and found a new kingdom in Sirguja.
It is said that the Palamau population originally consisted of Kharwars, Gonds, Mars, Rorwas, Pahariyas and Kisans. Of these, Kharwars were rather important. The Cheros conciliated them and allowed them to remain in peaceful possession of the bill tracts bordering on Sirguja. Those Kharwars who have no lands and work as labourers have certainly lower position in society. But Kharwars owning large fields are very refined and high-browed in appearance. Some of them by inter-marriages are as good as Rajputs and are very sensitive as to their status. In 1958 there was an agitation among the Kharwars., which has been referred to elsewhere.
Bhogtas.-Bhogtas are one of the divisions of Kharwars. They are found in the hills of Palamau skirting Sirguja and in Tori. The head of the clan was a free brother, says Dalton but was granted a Jagir on his surrendering and promising to keep peace. His two sons Pitambar and Nilambar Bhogtas rose against the British Government 'in 1857-58 and fought valiantly the move for independence. They were captured. One was hanged and the other transported for life and the Jagir was confiscated. Pitambar and Nilambar were patriots of first water who staked their life, property and everything at the altar of the service of mother-country. Bhogtas do not inter-marry with ordinary Kharwars, though they live side by side with them. They are certainly a branch of Kharwars and have formed themselves into an independent group. Among Bhogtas a bride price is regularly paid but Deswer Kharwars do not take money for their daughters. Kharwars follow Hindu usages and have Brahman priests spirits. They also propitiate spirits.