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The Oraon or Kurukh tribe (Kurukh: Oṛāōn and Kuṛuḵẖ), also spelled Uraon or Oram, are a Dravidian linguistic group inhabiting states of Jharkhand, Odisha and Chhattisgarh. A large number of Oraon have migrated to tea garden of Assam and West Bengal.[6] Their language is Kurukh, which belong to dravidian languages family. They use Sadri, a lingua-franca of the area to communicate with other tribal and non-tribal people.[7]

Onraw Dancer(s), Indigenous People's Day, 2014, Dhaka, Bangladesh © Biplob Rahman-4.jpg
Kurukh woman dancers in Bangladesh on Indigenous People's Day, 2014
Total population
3,776,688 (2011)
Regions with significant populations
West Bengal643,510
Hindi • Kurukh • Sadri  • Odia • Konkani
Hinduism (57%) • Christianity (30%) • Sarnaism (18%) • Other (5%) [5]
Related ethnic groups

Traditionally, Oraons depended on the forest and farms for their ritual and economic livelihood, but in recent times, a few of them have become mainly settled agriculturalists. Small numbers of Oraons have migrated to the northeastern part of India, where they are mainly employed in tea estates. Population estimates are unreliable, but the total population is estimated to be around 3.5 to 4.5 million people.[8] They are listed as a Scheduled Tribe for the purpose of India's Reservation system.[9]



"Oraon" is an exonym assigned by neighboring Munda peoples, meaning "to roam."[10]


According to the Indian Anthropological Society, Konkan is said to be the original home of the Kurukh tribes from where they migrated to Northern India.[11] A Kurukh substratum is very prominent in the Konkani language.[12]

Geographic DistributionEdit

They reside in state of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Odisha. Their concentration are in Raigarh, Surguja, and Jashpur districts of Chhattisgarh; Gumla district, Ranchi district of Jharkhand; Sundergarh district of Odisha. A sizable number of Oraon have migrated to the northeastern part of India, where they are mainly employed in tea estates of West Bengal, Assam, and Tripura.[13] [14][user-generated source]

Tribal Administration & JusticeEdit

In oraon village, the village level political organization is called parha which consists of post such as Pahan (village religious priest), Panibharwa (assistant of Pahan for carrying water), Pujar (assistant of Pahan), Bhandari and Chowkidar. Each has a particular role in the religious ceremonies, festivals and solving dispute in the village. The traditional informal educational institution youth dormitory is called Dhumkuria. The public and common meeting place is Akhra where people meet for the purpose of discussion and solving disputes.

Twelve to thirty village form a parha council. Each village has a village council, member of village council act as the members of parha council in the headship of parha chief. One of the village in Parhra is called Raja(King) village, another Dewan(prime minister) village, another panrey(clerk of the village), a fourth Kotwar(oderly) village and remaining village are called Praja(subject) village. Raja village has highest social satus because headman of this village presides at the meeting of parha panchayat.

Oraon are divided into several clans. Clans among Oraon is taken from birds, fish, animals, plants etc. Some important clans are Toppo(woodpecker), Lakra(tiger), Tirkey(mice), Minz(a fish), Khalkho(a fish), Khess(paddy) etc. Oraon are patrilocal and patrilineal. Clan name descends father to son. The major lineage is known as bhuinhari khunt. Bhuinhari means owner of the soil. Khunt has two sub groups: the pahan khunt and Mahato khunt. Pahan and Mahato are two main office of Bhuinhari lineage.[15]

Mahatma Gandhi, according to them, came to know about the merits of the Parha organization when he visited Chotanagpur. Imbibing the functioning pattern of this old Parha organization, Mahatma Gandhi discovered a system of 'Panchayat Raj'. Due to PESA Parha system of is still the best and cheapest justice system of Oraon tribe. They resolve their differences, set priority areas and take decisions for the welfare of the community.


Since time immemorial The Oraon people have a rich range of folk songs, dances and tales,[16] as well as traditional musical instruments. Both men and women participate in dances, which are performed at social events and festivals. The Mandar, Nagara and Kartal are the main musical instruments. Some kurukh folk dance are war dance(between two parha), Karma dance, Khaddi or Sarhul dance, Phagu, Jadur, jagra, Matha, Benja Nalna(Wedding dance), Chali(Courtyard dance) and Jhumar dance(Borrowed from neighbouring hindu).[17]

Kurukh dance

Some traditional festivals of oraon are Sarhul, Karma, Dhanbuni, Harihari, Nayakhani, Khariyani etc.[18] During festivals or any occasions of celebration they consume an alcoholic drink called hadiya, a rice wine made from fermented rice, which distributed among all villagers in a Dona, a bowl of leaves.

Kurukh Brahmins and Kshatriya follow Lord Shiva and Goddess Durga. But, they are not related to Kurukh Tribes.


Sarna-Dharam (Sarnaism)Edit

The Oraon follow the Sarna Dharam (Sarnaism), which is based on nature worship. Some of the groups started following Sarnaism in a Hindu style, as the sects of the Bishnu Bhagats, Bacchinda Bhagats, Karmu Bhagats and Tana Bhagats. The Oraons have established several Sarna sects. Oraons worship Sun biri (a name given for Dharmesh). Kurukhar also believe in Animism.

Most of population is Sarna, which is a religion that is indigenous to Adivasis in Central India. Sarna perform religious rituals under the shade of a sacred grove. They worship the sun as Biri and the moon as Chando, and call the earth Dharti Aayo (Earth as mother). Chando Biri are the words which are used in Sarna pujas. Dharmesh is their supreme almighty god.[19]


Kamru Bhagats (Oaron or Munda devotees) originated when Oarons acquired special powers after making a pilgrimage to Kamakhya in Assam to pay respect to Durga.[20]

The Kurukh Brahmin and Kshatriya are a caste of Hinduism. They believed in Lord Shiva and Goddess Durga.

The Tana Bhagat was formed by Oaron saints Jatra Bhagat and Turia Bhagat. Tana Bhagats opposed the taxes imposed on them by the British and staged a Satyagraha movement even before Mahatma Gandhi. All Tana Bhagats were followers of Gandhi during the Independence movement. Tana Bhagats still wear a khadi kurta, dhoti and Gandhi topi (cap) with tricoloured flag in their topi. All Tana Bhagats perform puja to the Mahadeo and the tricolour with a chakra symbol on it, which is fixed at their courtyard.


Among Christian Oraons, there are Roman Catholics and Protestants, the latter of which having several denominations.

In popular cultureEdit

In 1957, film-maker Ritwik Ghatak shot a preparatory test film named Oraon on the life of the Adivasis of the Ranchi region in Jharkhand and on the Oraons of Rani Khatanga Village in Jharkhand.[21]

Notable peopleEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "A-11 Individual Scheduled Tribe Primary Census Abstract Data and its Appendix". Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India. Retrieved 3 November 2017.
  2. ^ "Statement 1: Abstract of speakers' strength of languages and mother tongues - 2011". Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India. Retrieved 7 July 2018.
  3. ^ "Kurux". Ethnologue. Retrieved 11 July 2018.
  4. ^ "Kurux, Nepali". Ethnologue. Retrieved 11 July 2018.
  5. ^ "Census of India Website : Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India". Retrieved 2 November 2017.
  6. ^ Project, Joshua. "Oraon, Kurux in Bhutan". Retrieved 1 December 2017.
  7. ^ "Encyclopaedic Profile of Indian Tribes, Volume 1".
  8. ^ "Oraons - Dictionary definition of Oraons". Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  9. ^ "List of notified Scheduled Tribes" (PDF). Census India. Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 November 2013. Retrieved 9 February 2019.
  10. ^ Dalton E T, The Oraons, Descriptive Ethnology of Bengal, 1872. Section 1, page 215.
  11. ^ Indian Anthropological Society (1986). Journal of the Indian Anthropological Society, Volumes 21-22. Indian Anthropological Society. pp. See page 75.
  12. ^ India. Office of the Registrar General (1961). Census of India, 1961, Volume 1, Issue 1 Census of India, 1961, India. Office of the Registrar General. 67: Manager of Publications. pp. see page.
  13. ^ "Encyclopaedic Profile of Indian Tribes, Volume 1".
  14. ^ "Kurukh".
  15. ^ "Encyclopaedic Profile of Indian Tribes, Volume 1".
  16. ^ Ferdinand Hahn (1906). Blicke in die Geisteswelt der heidnischen Kols: Sammlung von Sagen, Märchen und Liedern der Oraon in Chota Nagpur. C. Bertelsmann. Retrieved 25 August 2012.
  17. ^ "Encyclopaedic Profile of Indian Tribes, Volume 1".
  18. ^ "Marriage Customs among The Oraons".
  19. ^ Ghosh, Abhik (2003). History and Culture of the Oraon Tribe : Some Aspects of Their Social Life. Mohit. p. 237. ISBN 81-7445-196-X.
  20. ^ Jha, P. 41 India and Nepal
  21. ^ Cinema & I pg.116 Archived 25 November 2015 at the Wayback Machine

External linksEdit

This article includes material from the 1995 public domain Library of Congress Country Study on India.