Libmonster ID: UK-1294
Author(s) of the publication: A. V. IVANOV


Educational and Scientific Center of Social Anthropology (UCSA) of RSUH

KeywordsIndiaOrissa tribessocial structuremarriage rulestraditional beliefs

In 2009-2011. I was in India for a Master's degree in Anthropology from the Central University of Hyderabad (the capital of Orissa). The subject of my research was to find a route to the mountainous part of south Orissa. I was able to conduct field research, visit places where the Toda and Bond tribes live. The search for the latter took a long time, but it was not in vain.

I would like to tell you about one of the impressions I received in this search. This is a visit to the city of Karaput and get acquainted with one of the local ethnic groups - Porja.

Although the main transport hub and necessary offices are located 30 kilometers to the west, in Jaipur 1, but it was Koraput that gave the name to the" undivided " district (un-divided Koraput district), which gives shelter to most of the 62 Orissa tribes. I arrived in this city on a regular bus at night.

Koraput is un-Indian quiet. At first I was a little scared by the dark bus station, but a hotel was opened nearby, and in the morning I was greeted by the city - green, clean and, most importantly, quiet. Anyone who has been to India knows that this is really rare. In this country, people do not hide their emotions: they buzz into horns, laugh out loud; every mobile phone plays a song, and everyone sings along.

But Koraput doesn't have the hustle and bustle of a large settlement full of shops and advertising, or the boredom of a village with identical intersections. The houses are painted in incredible Indian colors, and during the rainy season they are covered with a moss patina that accentuates the brightness of the colors. Apart from a few central streets that are similar to an ordinary Indian street (where you can buy everything except what you really need), the rest are sparsely populated. The sidewalks are lined with drainage ditches, and behind them are low fences covered with either moss or traditional Savara2 tribal paintings. On them, triangular people on thin legs go about their village affairs without any order.

Above the city on a hill is the Jaganatha Temple 3, not far from it is a Catholic mission with a church and a Tribal Museum with one of the most emotional sculptural compositions I have ever seen in India-a group of bronze women dancing with their arms around each other, and behind them, on a brick wall, white paint around stencils - raised hands. axes, pikes, and palms are "powerful tools for social reform."

Koraput is the tribal capital, if not the whole of India, then the central part of it. This is one of the few places in this country where the tribes feel themselves masters.

By the end of the day, I met a museum employee. He recommended that I visit the Porja, a peculiar tribe, the only one nearby.

According to the Koraput Tribal Museum, the Porja are a large tribe, with more than 350,000 inhabitants (according to the 1991 census). Almost all Porja live in the Koraput area, and only about 5% live outside of it. Other tribes with more than 100 thousand people are the Gonds, Bhumia, Kondh and Koya. These are the main tribes in the south of Orissa.

Little is known about the Porja tribe. And the term itself is not entirely clear. Perhaps this is a variant of the Sanskrit praja, applied to a group of people in general, transformed into paraja (in the Oriya language) and meaning a landowner or tenant, i.e. a person burdened with the burden of property and responsibility. Sami porja people or human is called lok.

They plant rice, raise livestock, and live on their own land. At the moment, there is a conflict between the Hindu farming caste* and the tribes over land-the tribes are being pressured, they are being forced to leave.

* This is the name of the local agricultural caste.

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they are displaced from the treated areas. They are protesting, and even the military is involved in the settlement. But this happens in the surrounding mountains, for example, in Malkangiri, a district almost completely covered with jungle. The Bonda live there in their villages, and the Noxalite armed groups also operate there.4

In the Koraput area, land relations have already been settled and the Porja are cultivating their land.


The next morning, I met up with a museum employee and we set off on his motorcycle. They followed the road for thirty kilometers past fields, then climbed a hill and soon entered the village of Bodoliguda, in a central square, from which three or four narrow paths diverged past houses painted picturesquely in yellow, red and blue. The tradition of wall painting among the peoples of Orissa is ancient and detailed. The most famous painting of the Savara tribe, Porja has no drawings, but the ornament occupies the entire surface of the wall, like a colored carpet.

It must be said that the village is not entirely owned by Porja. Bodoligud is home to people from ("untouchable") harijan castes 5. Mahatma Gandhi suggested calling all untouchables harijan - "children of the sun", and in the middle of the last century, many of today's Dalits* demanded such a name for themselves.

In the Koraput district, Harijan's position is unshakable - there is even a village of the same name on the map, and they seem to have won their "battle". In Bodoligood, they live with Porja, are well aware of each other's traditions and customs, and can even marry - but only for mutual love.

...In the central square of the village, we were met only by a few elderly women, but in a minute everyone who was in the village came running, mostly young mothers and children of all ages. A few men also came, mostly elderly people. I introduced myself, and questions began, or rather, I asked, my companion translated, and the people gathered around me answered. It turned out to be something like an "unstructured interview with a random sample of respondents" - this is usually the case.

Most of my questions related to the social structure of the tribe, to the terms of kinship and the rules of relationships, to what is prescribed by tradition. Over time, and we spent almost two full days in the village, we managed to find out about the religion of the tribe, and about the cult of the dead, and about festivals and holidays.


According to one ethnographic website6, all Porja are divided into seven large subgroups based on differences in customs and culture, and 12 tribes based on their habitat. According to the material I've collected, porjas are only divided into two parts: one eats beef, and the other does not. The first is called sana porja, and is divided into two more parts, of which celia is the most backward: the ancestors of these people lived under the same roof with goats. Bodoliguda village of Koraput district is home to Bada porja, a total of about 75 families, and they do not eat beef.

Any Porja village is divided into 7 kinship groups: the boraba, or minimal lineage 8, which includes all male relatives, and the Bongso, clan 9, which consists of many borabas. The clans are in a marriage exchange, but restricted by local regulations. In India, the universal rule is that the bride and groom should not be from the same village. More or less common is also the rule of patrilocal settlement, when a girl comes to the house of her husband's family.

Porja is no exception in both cases. They immediately try to separate the young family, reasonably believing that the newlyweds should live separately. If there is land, why not separate? Extended families, when three generations live under the same roof, are avoided, although this happens. But belonging to the boraba is not characterized by common residence, and brothers can live in different houses, but belong to the same lineage.

The norm of marriage exchange is trade between relatives. Young people are literally forced to marry: the father calls his son and informs him that it is time to get married. Whether there is someone in mind or not, and moreover, whether the young person has a desire to babysit children or has something else in his plans, for example, education, is not taken into account at all or almost. He may say, of course, that he would like to marry someone in particular, but usually they choose from a number of options suggested by their parents. All further actions are taken by them, going to the parents of the specified girl (unless, of course, there are obvious obstacles to marriage, such as belonging to the same Bongso), and asking them for their consent to the marriage. This type of marriage organization is typical not only for traditional India, but also for any society built on the principle of kinship priority.

* A general term for low castes.

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A bride price is paid. I didn't have the opportunity to delve into the mass of rules of such trading - but the fact itself is important. According to the rule that came from Northern India, the groom's side is always "higher" than the bride's side, and at a certain stage this even took on the character of extortion, when the groom demands expensive gifts and a royal reception for himself. Porge doesn't have this strange custom. Here, the girl's parents are entitled to compensation for the loss of their hands.

A surefire way to avoid unnecessary spending and humiliating trading is a cross-cousin marriage. Porge considers it a good idea to marry his son when the time comes, either to the daughter of his mother's brother or to the daughter of his father's sister. Such possible brides are called menaboni, as opposed to boni, the sister, and also all the daughters of the father's brother and the mother's sister, also terminologically sisters. You can't marry someone you call your sister, and this rule is universal all over the world, so when it comes time to choose a bride, they look first for a worthy menaboni, or cross-cousin.

All cross-cousin marriage options are preferred over marrying a relative stranger. There is also a rule of marriage with an exchange of sisters. When it is possible to marry a daughter to the brother of the wife of the eldest son, they try to take advantage of this, which not only saves them from spending and trading, but also equalizes status positions, since there is one bride on each side.

Everyone agreed with a nod of their heads and a general murmur of approval. When asked if such a marriage had a special name and ceremony, a middle-aged man, one of those standing next to me, held up two index fingers and moved them characteristically, indicating both the equivalence of the parties and the symmetry of the action - it was quite clear to him that cross-cousins were getting married. Why use a different name? This ideal model of exchange is rarely achievable in practice, but it is generally typical of South India, where the cross-cousin marriage rule applies, and it is always arranged by older relatives with an element of forced marriage.

Although there are, of course, exceptions. So, love marriages are only welcome (so people say 10). There are also ancient traditions, for example, porja arrange a marriage by "stealing" the bride, and this leaves relatives the opportunity to participate in the process.

The whole village is invited to the wedding. And the village of both the bride and groom - the rule of cross-cousin marriage does not exclude the rule of "another village" - and menaboni's mother always belongs to another Bongso and lives with her husband in his village. From there, a lot of cheerful guests come, and after the necessary Hindu wedding ceremonies, animal sacrifices in honor of the spirits of the ancestors take place, and then a general holiday.


The village council or panchayat, although elected, is hereditary, as is the village priest, nasha or mukhia. I was able to talk to him, his name was Sadhu Moduli, and accordingly he belongs to Bongso Moduli. The sadhu explained a little about the religion of the tribe, which makes it possible to get an idea of some of the elements of the cult.

In March, the harvest is celebrated. The ceremony is called choitra; it is divided into two significant stages-the general hunt, called bent, and the festival, called dempsah. The gods, the founders of the tradition, hunted for 5 days, people are limited to two days. All the stuffed animals are taken down to a clearing in the forest, and in the course of worshipping the god Mapru, the heads of the animals are separated from the bodies, and the god is rewarded God - that is, the heads, and the people get everything else, which is also quite a lot, and then they have a lot of fun - the men roast meat, the women dance. It is unclear how long such a holiday takes. So, at first the deadline was called three days, but the naik, a young man, in general, made it clear-15 days.

For the tribes that inhabited the hills and forests of Orissa from time immemorial, 11 their deities and traditions remained important and relevant. The Porja chose the god Mapra (literally god in their language), and in the village of Bodoliguda, his shelter is a tree 12. However, one more detail.

In Koraput, not far from the Jaganath Temple and the Tribal Museum, the Nisani Munda, an object of worship, is located behind a fence painted in the style of "dancing men" with figures of people engaged in their village affairs. Instead of a gate at the entrance - protruding forward wings of the fence, painted red, green and yellow horizontal stripes, bright and decorative, and behind them on the vacant lot - a huge mango tree. It grows on a hillock, a path-ladder leads to it, and at the end of which there is another fence with a new series of pictures, with a covered wrought-iron gate.

In Bodoligud, sacred sites are located outside the village: the sacred tree is located at the entrance, and the hill where the dead are buried is located across the river. A sacred tree stands by the roadside. This is a tree

page 56

Neem (Azadirachta indica). Here there were no stones at the roots, but a rusted grating forged from narrow strips of iron. At the top of each vertical strip is the head of a horned goat with drooping ears, and the goats seem to be looking out from behind a fence. The Porja probably hope that if their God, or Mapru, takes the goats under his protection, then the job is done, and they can handle the rest. Without goats, what's life like?..

The village cemetery is located just outside the village. A small river flows between two hills, with a bridge over it, and on the far hill there are mosani - sacred stones-graves. The Porja first cremate the dead, then bury the ashes in the ground, and the ceremony is called purana, perhaps emphasizing the antiquity of the tradition. A line of stones is laid out on top of the grave. There are many such graves on the hill, and several places for bonfires. The dead are not worth talking about at all, much less the bad ones, and my guide warned me about this in advance. He didn't want any trouble with the spirits.

And finally, about the Sunday fair in Koraput. Every week, all the tribes living within the same bus route, and possibly even further away, come here to bargain.

In the morning, mats are laid out along all the central streets, along fences and grooves, picturesque ladies with intricate piercings sit on them and lay out small piles of goods for sale, mainly vegetables: potatoes, onions, eggplants and ginger. Colorful awnings are stretched on poles (it was during the monsoon season), under them they sell various dried products, such as peas, and spices that are afraid of rain.

Even yesterday, sparsely populated streets come to life, today they are painted in red, yellow and green, and rainy weather can not prevent this. The city is filled with traders: somewhere they sell pots, somewhere-firewood, in one place - dried and dried fish, and it is better not to go close, the spirit is heavy there. In a separate row, men sell chickens, which is probably considered a male occupation. Shoppers wander on foot or ride bicycles, and only occasionally a fat and important Indian man with a moustache will rattle by on a motorcycle.

In one of the squares, unremarkable except for a large tree in the center, in the heart of the bazaar, they sell red chili peppers, without which no traditional Indian dish is complete. It lies in huge piles under the awnings, and customers spend a long time digging in them, choosing the best pods.

It makes no sense to list all the richness of the Indian bazaar, and there are not enough words, many plants are unknown to me. One thing is worth noting - for a woman, this is not so much a market as a holiday. They sit around looking cheerful and disposed, more likely to chat than sell and make money. But for men, this is a real bazaar, they make noise and bargain, this day is a working day for them. I also haggled for order, hoping to find souvenirs, but I didn't find anything.

* * *

I left Koraput in the evening. I was accompanied to the station by several new friends, and when I got on the bus, I promised them to come back. But since then, all my ways have led me past this wonderful town, the tribal capital of Orissa. I hope that someday I will be able to return there...

1 Not to be confused with Jaipur - here it is Jaypur; the difference is small, but it is there.

2 The Savara tribe is widely distributed in the states of Orissa, Bihar and Andhra Pradesh. Their number exceeds 100 thousand people (according to the 1991 census). Savara speak one of the southern dialects of the Munda language, an Austro-Asian language family. The name savara probably came from the name of one of the Godwari tributaries - the Savari River (Sedlovskaya A. N. Adivasi of Central India / / Small Peoples of South Asia. Moscow, 1978, Nauka Publ., p. 39). Savar's painting is called edising, or lingor, and is applied to walls or objects by professional artists under the guidance of a sorcerer according to a clear scheme and rules in order to appease or frighten the spirits to whom sacrifices are made. Savar's paintings are similar to those of the Australian Aborigines and are of great interest to tourists.

3 Jaganatha - "Lord of the universe", Skt. - one of the incarnations of Vishnu, usually depicted with his brother Baladeva and sister Subhadra in the form of wooden idols.

4 A common name for armed Marxist groups operating in some regions of India (West Bengal, Jharkhand, etc.).

5 For Porj, such a symbiosis with low castes is universal - according to the local Tribal Museum, Porj living in the same village with low castes ranapaikamaladomb and Kandha is typical for the entire district. They serve each other in ceremonies, accompanying each other on drums.


7 Even if there is only one related group in a village, it is separate from the others. It is related by definition.

8 Lipidge-from English Lineage - the most common form of organization of kinship associations in non-state (as well as archaic state) societies, "a blood-related group that calculates kinship along the line of one of the parents, all members of which trace their common kinship from one person" (

9 Clan - from the English Clan-a unilinear exogamous kinship group descended from a common ancestor and exists in many traditional societies (

10 Perhaps anthropology is the science of listening to what people say, watching what they do, and understanding what they think. The synthesis of these three elements should lead to an understanding of both the conscious and unconscious (traditional) laws of society.

11 Sharma S. P and Sharma J. B. date the settlement of the Munda peoples in this area to the eighth and sixth centuries BCE, and the Dravidian and Orsha-speaking tribes to the second century BCE. Tribal movements were caused by the arrival of Aryan peoples in the Rig Veda period not as peaceful settlers, but as conquerors (Sharma S. P.Sharma J. B. Culture of Indian Tribes. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. 1998).

12 There is nothing special about a tree as an object of worship: everywhere in the world people tend to deify nature, including trees. The number of sacred groves in India exceeds 5 thousand, and everywhere you can find a branching tree behind a symbolic fence, in a hollow tree there is often a picture and a flower or something like that. I know such a tree even in the business center of Mumbai.


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