Kurukh in traditional clothes performing dance
|Regions with significant populations|
|Kurukh • Hindi • Sadri • Odia •Bengali|
|Hinduism (57%) • Christianity (30%) • Sarnaism (18%) • Other (5%) |
|Related ethnic groups|
The Kurukh or Oraon (Kurukh: Kuṛuḵẖ and Oṛāōn), also spelt Uraon or Oraon, are an ethnic group inhabiting in Indian states of Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha and Chhattisgarh. They predominantly speak Kurukh as their native language, which belongs to the Dravidian language family. In Maharashtra, Oraon people are also known as Dhangad.
Traditionally, Oraons depended on the forest and farms for their ritual and economic livelihood, but in recent times, a few of them have become mainly settled agriculturalists. Many Oraon migrated to tea gardens of Assam, West Bengal and Bangladesh during British rule. They are listed as a Scheduled Tribe for the purpose of India's Reservation system.
"Oraon" is an exonym assigned by neighboring Munda peoples, meaning "to roam."
According to the Indian Anthropological Society, Konkan is said to be the original home of the Kurukh tribes from where they migrated to the Chota Nagpur Plateau. According to the 1961 census, a Kurukh substratum is very prominent in Konkani. The group is said to have settled in the Chota Nagpur plateau by 100 CE.
In a Kurukh village, the village level political organization is called Parha which consists of post such as Pahan (village priest), Panibharwa (water-bearer of Pahan), Pujar (assistant of Pahan), Bhandari and Chowkidar (watchman). Each has a particular role in religious ceremonies, festivals and solving disputes in the village. The traditional informal educational institution youth dormitory is called Dhumkuria. The public and common meeting place is Akhra where people meet for the purpose of discussion and solving disputes.
Twelve to thirty villages form a Parha council. Each village has a village council, member of village council act as the members of Parha council in the headship of Parha chief. One of the village in Parha is called Raja (King) village, another Dewan (prime minister) village, another panrey (clerk of the village), a fourth Kotwar (oderly) village and remaining village are called Praja (subject) village. Raja village has highest social status because headman of this village presides at the meeting of a Parha Panchayat.
Kurukhs are divided into many clans. Clans names among the Kurukh are taken from birds, fish, animals, and plants. Some important clans are:
- Aind (a fish)
- Bakula (Heron)
- Bara (banyan)
- Barwa (wild dog)
- Beck (Salt)
- Chidra (squirrel)
- Dhan (Paddy)
- Edgo (mouse)
- Ekka (turtle)
- Gede (duck)
- Halman (langur)
- Khoya (wild dog)
- Kiro (a fruit)
- Kachhap (tortoise)
- Kerketta (Hedge- sparrow)
- Khakha (crow)
- Khalkho (pigeon)
- Khess (paddy)
- Kujur (Medicinal plant)
- Lakra (tiger)
- Minz (a fish)
- Nag (Cobra)
- Panna (Iron)
- Tido (a fish)
- Tirkey (mice)
The Kurukh are patrilocal and patrilineal. Clan name descends from father to son. The major lineage is known as Bhuinhari Khunt. Bhuinhari means owner of the soil. Khunt has two sub groups: the Pahan Khunt and Mahato Khunt. Pahan and Mahato are two main office of Bhuinhari lineage.
Kurukh are traditional speaker of Kurukh language, which belongs to the northern branch of the Dravidian family. They speak Sadri, Hindi and Odia as lingua-franca and many also speak these languages as their native language.
Music and dance
Since time immemorial The Oraon people have a rich range of folk songs, dances and tales, as well as traditional musical instruments. Both men and women participate in dances, which are performed at social events and festivals. The Mandar, Nagara and Kartal are the main musical instruments. Some Kurukh folk dances are war dances (between two Parhas), Karma dance, Khaddi or Sarhul dance, Phagu, Jadur, jagra, Matha, Benja Nalna (Wedding dance) and Chali (Courtyard dance).
Women traditionally a wear thick cotton sari with detailed stitched borders of purple or red thread. Traditional tattoos include elaborate symmetrical patterns around their forearms, ankles, and chest. Men wear a thick cloth with similar detailed borders as a dhoti or lungi.
Originally, the Oraons relied on the forest and its goods for an economic livelihood. However, recently many have become settled agriculturists, while others became migrant workers.
The Oraon follow their traditional religion (Sarnaism), which is based on nature worship. Some of the groups started following Sarnaism in a Hindu style, as the sects of the Bishnu Bhagats, Bacchinda Bhagats, Karmu Bhagats and Tana Bhagats. The Oraons have established several Sarna sects. Oraons worship Sun as biri (a name given for Dharmesh). Kurukhar also believe in Animism.
Most of population is Sarna, which is a religion that is indigenous to Adivasis in the Chota Nagpur Plateau. Sarna perform religious rituals under the shade of a sacred grove. They worship the sun as Biri and the moon as Chando, and call the earth Dharti Aayo (Earth as mother). Chando Biri are the words which are used in Sarna pujas. Dharmesh is their supreme almighty god.
The Tana Bhagat was formed by Oraon saints Jatra Bhagat and Turia Bhagat. Tana Bhagats opposed the taxes imposed on them by the British and staged a Satyagraha movement even before Mahatma Gandhi. All Tana Bhagats were followers of Gandhi during the Independence movement. Tana Bhagats still wear a khadi kurta, dhoti and Gandhi topi (cap) with tricoloured flag in their topi. All Tana Bhagats perform puja to the Mahadeo and the tricolour with a chakra symbol on it, which is fixed at their courtyard.
Among Christian Oraons, there are Roman Catholics and Protestants, the latter of which having several denominations.
In popular culture
- Budhu Bhagat, freedom fighter
- Jatra Bhagat, freedom fighter and social reformist
- Sudarshan Bhagat, Member of Parliament
- Albert Ekka, recipient of India's highest wartime gallantry award Param Vir Chakra.
- Deep Grace Ekka, Indian hockey player
- Renee Kujur, model
- Santiuse Kujur, MP of Assam
- Birendra Lakra, Indian hockey player
- Provat Lakra, Football player of West Bengal
- Sunita Lakra, Indian hockey player
- Madhu Mansuri, singer and activist
- Lilima Minz, Indian hockey player
- Jual Oram, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, India
- Dinesh Oraon, is an Indian politician currently serving as speaker of Jharkhand legislative assembly and a leader of Bharatiya Janata Party from Jharkhand
- Kartik Oraon, Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha
- Rameshwar Oraon, former IPS officer and politician
- Simon Oraon, environmentalist & Padma Shri awardee
- Simon Tigga, politician
- Dilip Tirkey, MP of Rajya Sabha for Odisha
- Ignace Tirkey, hockey player
- Lazrus Barla, Hockey player
- Biju Toppo, documentary filmmaker
- Namita Toppo, Indian hockey player
- Telesphore Toppo, Cardinal
- Sonajharia Minz, vice-chancellor to the Sido Kanhu Murmu University
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