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Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Oraons

The Oraon or Kurukh tribe (Kurukh: O?aon and Ku?u??), also spelled Uraon, Oran, or Oram, inhabits various states across central and eastern India as well as Bangladesh. Traditionally, Oraons depended on the forest for their ritual and economic livelihood, but in recent times they have become mainly settled agriculturalists. Small numbers of Oraons have immigrated to the northeastern part of India, where they are mainly employed in tea estates. A numbers of educated Oraons have settled down in metros like Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai,Chennai and many other cities of India including Patna, Bhopal, Bhubaneswar, Hyderabad, Allahabad, and Lucknow. Some have even settled abroad in the US and Europe.

The Kurukh or Oraons are the people best known in many parts of India as 'Dhangar'. According to traditions the tribe has gradually migrated from Maharashtra and Gujrat and the word Kurukh is derived from Konkan which is considered the cradle of this race. The terms Dhangar and Dhangarin means the youth of the two sexes both in high land and lowland villages. Oraon appears to have been assigned to them as a nickname, possibly with reference to their many migrations and proneness to roam. The Oraons all agree in this, that they were for many generations settled on the Rohatas and adjoining hills and in the Patna District, and that they were driven from that place by Muhammadans.

There is no concrete evidence that Oraon have migrated from Konkan or Maharashtra to Chotanagpur region of present Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Orissa.[citation needed] However, few believe, they might have migrated from Konkan Region of Maharashtra. As per folk stories, songs and unwritten account of history of Oraon, they were for many generations settled down on Rohtasgarh. It is still not clear whether present Rohtas district; near Patna was the place as Oraon referred to in their folk stories. It is still not clear whether the Mohammedans or Muslim invaders drove them out from the Rohtasgarh. Though folk stories indicate that the invaders were Turk. As per the stories, Turk wanted to capture the Rohtasgarh, but, they were not dare to fight with warriors Kurukh (Oraon). Oraon were superior fighters, therefore, Turk employed one woman to know weakness of Kurukh, the woman informed the Turk that on the Day of Karma and Sarhul festival every kurukh drink Hadia and would not be able to fight with Turk. When Turk invaded at the Rohtasgarh or The Fort of Rohtas, it was the day of festival and all the male members of community had taken Hadia or rice bear and not were able to fight with the enemies, therefore the womenfolk, wearing male dress, fought the enemies and drove them out from their fort. The Turk invaded twelve times on the Rohtasgarh on the day of Karma or Sarhul festival and each time they were defeated by the Kurukh womenfolk. To commemorate the victory over Turk by the Kurukh woman, Oraon community still celebrates Jani Shikar, after every twelve year. However, the Turks were lucky to capture the fort at their thirteenth invades and Kurukh were unseated from the Rohtasgarh. Finally, Oraon were settled down in the Chotanagpur region of present Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Orissa states.

The Oraon language, Kurukh, belongs to the Dravidian family, and is most closely related to Brahui and Malto (Paharia). Kurukh language is being taught in Ranchi University in Jharkhand. A Kurukh Literary Society have been formed after the first Kurukh Conference held in Ranchi in October, 2006. Many Kurukh language magazines are being published from various parts of India.

The Oraon people have a rich and vast range of folk songs, dances and tales, as well as traditional musical instruments. Both men and women participate in dance, which are performed at social events and festivals. Mandar, Nagara and kartal are the main musical instruments.

A sizable numbers of Oraon have immigrated to the northeastern part of India, where they are mainly employed in tea estates of West Bengal, Assam, and Tripura. A sizable numbers of Oraon have settled down in North Bihar and in Nepal. Many have settled down in the lower part of Bhutan (Samchi district).

Kartik Oraon, who was a highly educated Oraon, an Indian Congress leader and former state communication minister of India, Albert Ekka, the Paramveer Chakra awardees, and the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Ranchi, Cardinal Telesphore Placidus Toppo and Dilip Tirkey, former Captain of the Indian Hockey Team are all Oraons.

The Oraon people have a rich and vast range of folk songs, dances and tales, as well as traditional musical instruments. Both men and women participate in dance, which are performed at social events and festivals. The majority of Oraon write their gotra along with their name. However, those who follow Tana Bhagat principle or Sarna Dharma write the Bhagat in place of their gotra. Many prefer to write Oraon as a second name in place of a gotra.

About 75 percent of population are Sarna (following Sarna Dharma, in which Dharmesh is the supreme almighty and rest are largely Christians. Sarna perform religious rituals under the shade of a sacred grove. Oraon Christians no longer perform most of the traditional rituals; however, Karma, a festival performed during rainy season, is still performed in church in a modified form. Sarna worship The Sun as Biri and the Moon as Chando. Chando Biri are the words which been used in the Sarna Puja. They called the earth as Dharti Aayo. Oraon worship the nature and believe that the great consciousness or The God is nature itself. The Oraon believe in equality and respect individual rights to worship anything or everything or nothing as per individual own perceptions. They also call the spirits of ancestors at their home for living with them, as they believe that they possess kind heart and divine power and do well for their family. They do not believe in hording wealth and believe in simple life to live on. The Pahans and Pujaris who perform Puja and other rituals in the community or village get a piece of land for livelihoods until they shoulder the responsibilities. Once they shed the responsibilities, they forfeit the right to cultivate on the Pahnai Khet. The Oraon like the freedom and liberty in social activities. They never consider any community superior to them or inferior to them. They believe in equality and believe all the community, race or castes or religion are equal and no community or group or caste or religion is superior or inferior to them.

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