Tribals of Keonjhar : A to Z complete History & Living Styles!

 Tribals of Keonjhar:

In Keonjhar district there are 59 tribal communities such as; Bagata, Baiga, Banjara, Bathudi, Bhottada, Bhuyan, Bhumia, Bhumij, Bhunjia, Binjhal, Binjhia, Birhar, Bonda-Paraja, Chenchu, Dal, Desua, Didayi, Gandia, Ghara, Gond, Ho, Holva, jatapu, Juang, Kondha, Goudu, Kawar, Kherian, Kharwar, Kond, Kisan, Kol, Kolha-Iohares, Kolha, Koli, Kondadora, Kora, Korua, Kotia, Koya,Kulis,Lodha,Mahali, Mankidi, Mankidia, Matya, Mirdhas, Munda, Mundari, Omanatya, Oraon, Parenga, Parija, Pentia, Rajkar, Santal, Saora, Shabar, Saunti and Tharua. Out of these 59 tribes Juanga were primitive tribal group of Keonjhar.


Table. -01

Population of Keonjhar district by caste As per 1971, 1981, 1991, 2001, 2011 Census

Caste     1971                       1981                 1991                         2001       2011

SC          99,023           1,24,379     1,53,639                 1,81,488         N.A

ST           4,28,091        4,99,567     5,98,184                 6,95,141             N.A

Other    4,28,400        4,90,676     5,88,203                 6,85,361             N.A

Total      9,55,400        11,14,622   13,37,026              15,61,990        18,02,777


The Juang is one of the primitive tribes of Orissa and among those who are little affected by civilization, they are mainly found in Keonjhar and Dhenkanal district. The Juangs are mostly concentrated in Banspal, Telkoi and Harichandanpur Blocks of Keonjhar district. They claim the Juang Pirh of Keonjhar district as their home land11

From where they have migrated to other part of the state. Ethnically the Juang are considered a branch of the munda group. It belongs to proto-astroloid racial stock12. The Juang language belongs to the Munda family of the Austrosatic Languages13. They classify themselves into two sections. Viz; the Thaniya (those who dwell in their original habitation) and the Bhagudiya (those who have moved away to other places).

The Juangs believe that in ancient times their tribe emerged from earth on the hills of Gonasika where the river Baitarani has its source, not far from the village Honda in Keonjhar. In their language the word “Juang” means man. In other words, man emerged from the earth at the same place where the Baitarani emerges. The Juangs also refer to themselves as Patra-Savaras, which means wearers of leaves or” Leaf wearers”. By this they mean that they are that branch of the Savara tribe whose members used to dress themselves in leaves. 

Traditionally the women wore girdles of leaves. While the men wore a small lion cloth. T.E. Ravenshaw, the then superintendent of tributary Mahals, visited Keonjhar after the disturbance of 1868 and presented them cloths and tought them of their use. They have got their own dialect which has been stated by CD. Dalten as Kolarian. Now a days they have acquired many Odia words by coming in contact with the Odia speaking people. Most of them know about cultivation and collection of minor forest products.

In the Juang society, village is the largest corporate group with formally recognized territory, with in this delineated boundaries they posses their land both for settled and shifting cultivation and the village forests for exploitation. They are initially hunter gatherers and cultivate a few crops. They do not till the land, but live on the game they kill or on snakes and insects. 

They shift their village sites frequently as they consider it inauspicious to live at a particular place for a longer period. The economic life of Juanga is mostly based on the forest product, agriculture and their pattern of household economy is confined to the forest only. They collect corest product like Mahul, Fruits of Sala, treewhich they produce oil for household purpose and kitchen, Kendu, Chara, the Raw sweep, Jhuna, Honey different types of medicinal plant sell it in the market even we can see the Juanga women sale the Kendu and Chara in N.H. road side of Kanjipani Hill. 

Along with these they collected Kendu leaf which is collected by the authority of the forest department used as Bidi and also they collected the Sal leaf from the forest which is used as make dona and Khali. They also collected the branches of Sal trees which is used as Danta kathi (tooth brush), they also collected mango, mushroom etc from the forest. They are forced out of their traditional ways after the British declared their forests as reserves.   

The Juang traditional huts measured about 6ft. by 8ft. with very low door ways. The interior is divided into two compartments. In the first of these the father and all the females of family live together, the second is used as a store-room. 

Each Juang village is marked by the presence of a dormitory known as Majang where there traditional dance takes place and the village Panchayat sits. It also serves as a guest house for the visitors to the village. The Pradhan who is the secular headman and the Nagam or Boita or Dehuri, the village priest constitute the traditional village Panchayat of the tribe. A group of neighboring villages constitute a Pirh and the Juang Pirh in Keonjhar is divided into six sub-pirhs which are the maximal traditional units for judiciary functions.

 Each sub-Pirh has a Sardar as its headman with a number of Pradhan Under him for decides inter-Village disputes. Juangs weapons are the bow and arrow and a sling made entirely of cord.

The Juangs are patrilineal and their society is marked by the existence of totemistic clans which are divided into two distinct groups known as “Bandhu Clans” and “Kutumba Clans”, The totem is never destroyed or injured by its members. The clans are exogamous and marriage with in the same clan is considered incestuous.

  Monogamy is commonly prevalent while polygamy is rare. Levirate and sororate type of marriage is prevalent in the Juang society.

A Juang husband generally worships the “Sajana” (drum stick) tree if his wife turns out barren and gives her a paste made of Sajana flowers and seed to eat or he ties a sevenfold cotton string with seven knots round his wife’s neck, believing this to be a kind of talisman which will cause conception. The Juangs do not allow their pregnant women to go to “Devisthan”. She must not tie up any thing, must not weave mat or plaster a house with mud.

The Juang burn their dead. The corpse is laid on the pyre with the head to the south. The ashes may be left on the spot of cremation, or alternatively they may be thrown into any running stream.

The Juang life is marked by the celebration of a number of religious festivals in honour of their gods and goddesses. For them Dharma Devata or Sun God and Basumata or Earth Goddess are the two supreme deities. They offer sacrifices of fowls to the sun when in trouble and to the earth for a bountiful harvest. Gramadevi is the presiding deity of the village. Their traditional religion include a belief in forest sprits. They believe in the existence of spirits and ghosts. There have also a number of hill, forest and river deities in the Juang Pantheon.

They observe Pusha Purnima as a mark of the beginning of the agricultural cycle, Amba Nuakhia as the first eating of Mango fruits, Akhaya Trutiya as the ceremonial sowing of paddy, Asharhi, marking the beginning of transplanting and weeding; Pirha Puja for the protection of crops, Gahma for the selfare of domestic cattle and other anspicious days for the ceremonial eating of new rice harvested from different types of lands. All these occasions are marked by dancing and singing. They use a kind of drum known as Changu at the time of dancing.

For the socio-ecooomic development of the Juangs various development programmes have been implemented now-a-days through the integrated Tribal Development Agency and Micro-Projects14. The Project has assumed the responsibility for various development activities of the Juang. Gradually the Juangs have started settled cultivation with modern technology. The Podu Ravaged areas are being covered with trees of different species. They have also started subsidiary occupation like tasar cultivation; tasar reeling, weaving, tailoring etc.15


Different infrastructural developments like communication,       village electrification, social forestry and drinking water supply are being implemented for their benefit. The spread of education and communication facilities and the implementation of various development projects have helped the Juangs a lot to change their manners and customs to some extent.

Juangs are no longer an isolated group. They live among the Hindu caste in Dhenkanal district but in Keonjhar some Gouda, Teli and scheduled caste families live in Juang villages16. But the Juang of these villages are the dominant groups and are less affected by Hindu ways of life than their brethren in Dhenkanal

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