Saturday, May 1, 2010

Rituals And Festivals Of The Ho Tribe

by Basanta Kumar Mohanta
Some of the eastern Indian states like, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal possess a large number of tribal population. These three states being contiguous have many tribal communities such as Santal, Munda and Ho, spread over these three states. This paper deals with the rituals and festivals of the Ho tribe spread in two contiguous locations of Saraikella-Kharsuan (erstwhile West Singhbhum) district of Jharkhand and Mayurbhanj district of Orissa. Of the two core villages from where the data are mainly collected, Rabankocha, is an uni-ethnic Ho village situated in Jharkhand and the Badhatnabeda, a multi-ethnic village, located in Orissa . While the Orissa village is exposed to urban and mining environment, the Jharkhand village is comparatively interior and less exposed to the urban influences. The Hoes of these two villages have much commonality in terms of cultural and religious beliefs and practices.
The People
The Ho is one of the major tribes of Jharkhand and Orissa. The Calhan area of Jharkhand is the original place of their inhabitant. In due course of time they spread towards its neighboring areas of Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal and even a few to Assam. These Hoes belong to the Proto-Astrologic group. They are of short stature, dark complex with broad and flat nose. In the Ho language the word 'Ho' means a man and accordingly any human being can be designated as a Ho. From the field situation it is clear that the term 'Ho' is only used by this community to identify them, whereas the other neighboring communities address them by the term 'Kola'. The Ho belong to the Munda branch of Austro-Asiatic languages and allied to Sandal and Mandarin dialects in certain respect. In Jharkhand (as it belonged to erstwhile Hindi state of Bihar till recently) the Hindi language based on Denair script is used for inter-community communication where as among themselves they speak Ho dialect. The Ho of Orissa use both Hindi and Oriya languages and Oriya script. They have a strong belief in religion, spirit and super natural powers. They worship different Gods and Goddesses residing in nearby jungles and hills. The Singhbonga or the Sun God is the supreme deity worshipped by them, who is mainly responsible for the rain, crop, life, and other necessities related to life. Besides Singhbonga, the Ho also worship a number of other deities like Marangburu, Goodie era, Japer era etc. The worship of both benevolent and malevolent spirits is also practiced among the Ho. They celebrate both traditional and adopted festivals. Their traditional festivals are mostly associated to their agricultural activities. The Ho traditionally being a part of an elaborate political system, have a strong traditional base with corresponding political offices to maintain social control. Thus, the Ho of Jharkhand at the lowest level were places under Piers, which were under a Mankind (a divisional headman). Each Ho village has their own headman called Munda. Birth is considered as an important landmark in Ho life cycle. Though a father plays the main role in procreation of a child, it is believed that a child is a gift of Singhbonga. The Hoes practice tribe endogamy and clan exogamy. Marriage within the clan is strictly prohibited and the offenders are treated outcaste from their society. Traditionally, the Ho believe that person dies not because of its old age or disease but because of the evil spirit and black magic. The Ho both bury and cremate their dead. Each clan has their separate burial place, located close to their house.
The Studied Villages
The first studied village Rabankocha is a traditional village situated under the jurisdiction of Gobindpur (Ranger) block of Saraikella-Kharsuan . This studied village lies in between 22035’ to 220 37’ NL and 86002’ to 86003’ EL The total village area is surrounded with different hills and hillocks. This village itself is located on the foothill of Hatboro. Across the Hatboro the village Gadded is situated at the northern side of the village. The Denature and Baridunuri hills stand on the eastern part of the village. Badkadal, Chard and Human are three multi-ethnic villages situated at the other side of the Jonesboro. The Hatboro covers the entire southwestern part of the village. Another hilly village named Kalajharana is situated on the north-western part of the Hatboro. The hills located at southern side serves as a state boundary of Jharkhand and Orissa states.
The second studied village Badhatnabeda is situated near the mining town of Badampahar in the Bamanghati subdivision of Mayurbhanj district of Orissa. It is a multi-ethnic village lies in between 22003’ to 22006’ NL and 86000’ to 860 02’ EL. The village falls under the jurisdiction of Kashmir (Badampahar) block and Badampahar police station. It comes within the area of Rairangpur tahasildar and Kathabharia branch post office. The village is well connected by an all season metal road with the Rairangpur-Jashipur branch of state highway near to the Jhaldunguri chaw from where the villagers go to their local town Badampahar through a connecting road.
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