Oraon also called Kurukh,
aboriginal people of the Chota Nagpur region in the state of Jharkhand,
India. They call themselves Kurukh and speak a Dravidian language akin to
Gondi and other tribal languages of central India. They once lived
farther to the southwest on the Rohtas Plateau, but they were dislodged
by other populations and migrated to Chota Nagpur, where they settled in
the vicinity of Munda-speaking tribes.
Speakers of Oraon number about 1,900,000, but in urban areas, and
particularly among Christians, many Oraon speak Hindi as their mother
tongue. The tribe is divided into numerous clans associated with animal, plant,
and mineral totems. Every village has a headman and a hereditary priest; a
number of neighbouring villages constitute a confederation, the affairs of which
are conducted by a representative council.
An important feature of the social life of a village is the bachelors' dormitory
(dumkhuria) for unmarried males. The bachelors stay together in the dormitory, which is
usually on the outskirts of the village. There is a separate house for the
females. The dormitory institution serves in the socializing and training of the
The traditional religion of the Oraon comprises the cult of a supreme
god, Dharmes, the worship of ancestors, and the propitiation of
numerous tutelary deities and spirits. Hinduism has influenced the ritual and
certain beliefs. Many Oraon, including the majority of the educated, have
Faith is an ongoing search for a valid response to the Divine. The faith of a community keeps impelling its members to relate with God
in concrete situations. Sarna tribals find many occasions to rely on His
goodness and often express their trust. Their faith colors the whole of their life and activities. It is, however, in the sacrifice that their faith reaches
its highest level of awareness, appears most explicit and is concentrated in its
It was long thought that the Oraons and the other tribals were animists, people who attribute a living soul to plants, inanimate objects
and natural phenomena. This view has been discarded although amateur anthropologists still sort it out in articles, in popular magazines. The Oraons
are not nature worshipers. It would be an attitude completely alien to their religious
system. The Oraons are, among the three main tribes (Munda, Oraon and Kharia) of Chotanagpur. They are the most eclectic people, borrowing freely
from neighbouring cultures elements quite alien to their primitive tradition.
Oraon religious system has been largely influenced by the Munda and the Kharia religious traditions. The Oraon eclectic tendency is again manifest in their borrowing from Hindu beliefs. For instance, in their religious context, the Oraon call the sun as 'Biri Belas' (Sun King), when any superficial observer
notices such thing, s/he might immediately conclude that the sun is one of their
deities. But as a matter of fact, they consider the sun only as symbol of God's glorious power and brightness. No Oraon identifies the sun with
Dharmes. In the same way, a stone, a pool of water, a river, a cluster of trees, a hillock, etc., are never considered as objects of worship, but only as the
dwellings of the spirits to whom they turn to for help in their misfortunes.
If we observe and investigate the Oraon religious practices, we find that Oraon religion has also given place to environmental
features like in some other religions. These features are considered as the residence of spirits and are focal of ritual worship. Such common features in
Oraon religion are the sacred grove, some trees, a mountain, a hill, a river, a tank, a well and a stone. The symbolic light, fire, sacred
position, sound number, time and motion are also involved in Oraon religion .
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