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Concerning Declining Numbers of Birhor Tribe in Jharkhand

While attempts have been made by government officials to preserve the existence of the Birhor community after the formation of Jharkhand, the desired success has not yet been achieved.

Sanjay Kumar Pandey

To protect oneself from natural disasters, a person needs some clothes and a roof to shelter under. The Birhor Adivasis still maintain the habit of living like the stone-age humans. They live in the jungles, resembling forest dwellers, and obtain their food and essentials from the forests. The people of the Birhor tribe have a nomadic nature; they cannot stay in one place permanently. Over the past decade, instead of development, the dense forests of Jharkhand have witnessed destruction due to indiscriminate cutting of trees. The natural habitat of the Birhor, who are by nature hunters, has been dwindling, leading to a shortage of wild animals, birds, wild roots, and fruits for their sustenance. Their main livelihood involves hunting deer, rabbits, and monkeys in the jungle, weaving grass ropes, and collecting honey.

The customs and traditions of the Birhor Adivasis are unique. Their marriage rituals are quite peculiar, involving a trial for the groom. A Birhor youth, desiring marriage, must climb a tall tree. During the ascent, the girl’s parents beat him with bamboo sticks. If he successfully reaches the top within the specified time without retaliating, he is granted permission to marry the girl of his choice. Due to government efforts to modernize the jungles, the population of Birhor Adivasis has decreased throughout the state.

While attempts have been made by government officials to preserve the existence of the Birhor community after the formation of Jharkhand, the desired success has not yet been achieved. The Birhor Adivasis do not prefer to live in the houses built by the government. They fear that their houses might collapse while they sleep. Due to their affinity for dense jungles and caves, they stay in these government-built houses for only a few days before returning to the forests. There, they enjoy living in houses made of leaves and tree bark.

Mahua seeds, wild herbs, rodents, or other game are the preferred food of the Birhor. They have their own set of laws, and any violation is addressed in a community meeting where the person is given a penalty. They treat illnesses through traditional methods, often resulting in untimely deaths. Observing the declining population of the Birhor, the state government needs to take more effective steps. Despite the efforts made so far in settling and developing the Birhor Adivasis permanently after the formation of Jharkhand, they remain insufficient.

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