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5 Adivasi Words From Jharkhand You Must Know About

“Boond boond se banta hai sagar, bas usi tarah ek ek shabd se banta hai ek samaj ki awaaz.”

The voice of a community is formed by words, just like the ocean is formed by drops of water.

Words hold a very important place in every community and being so diverse, each community has its own. Similarly, Adivasis have their own word vocabulary and I am listing five very important words from my Adivasi community in Jharkhand which I think everyone needs to know about.


1) Ulgulan


Meaning “revolution,” this word is incomplete without mentioning the context of the legendary Birsa Munda and his unforgettable revolt against the British Empire in 1899-1900. In other words, Ulgulan means Birsa Munda. There is a saying that goes, “Name that person who knows Ulgulan but doesn’t know Birsa Munda?”


The usage of the word is now so widespread among the revolutionists that it feels like a Hindi word, but is actually a word in the Mundari language.

An artist’s impression | During the Revolt of 1899-1900, Birsa emerged as the supreme leader of the Mundas.


2) Diku


This is the most commonly word used in the Adivasi communities of Santhal, Ho and Munda and is used to refer to non-tribals. “Diku” means the one who hurts, gives trouble to the tribals living in peace and disturbing their joyful life. The word has originated from the sound of the nervous heartbeat “dikdik dikdik dikdik.”


Non-tribals in general have left such footprints in the past that whenever they have entered tribal belts, they have always exploited, taken resources and destroyed the environment, thus Dikus are sometimes seen to give rise to discomfort in the Adivasi community.


3) Jaher


When an Adivasi community plans to establish a new village, the first thing the villagers do is build the Jaher, and only after that can a village be established. Each and every village has a Jaher in Jharkhand.


Jaher, also known as Jaherthan and Jahergarh is a sacred grove surrounded by tall Sal trees. It is one of the holiest places for Adivasis where the Adivasi community performs prayers and rituals during festivals.

Villagers doing pooja during Baha festival in Jaher. (Photo provided by author)


Jaher is the place where worship is performed for the protection and peace of the village and the entire world and the balance of nature.


There are some rules for Jaher:

  • Women enter the Jaher only during the Baha festival, not otherwise.

  • It is prohibited to cut even a tiny branch, it is meant to be protected, it cannot be destroyed even if the entire village moves to a new place.

4) Sarna


Adivasis are not Hindus and Hindus are not Adivasis. As everyone is tagged with a Dharam, the Adivasi community of Jharkhand also has a separate one which is known as Sarna. Originally, there was no name for whatever Adivasis believed in or practised. In today’s world, a name is required for everything.


When Adivasis started going to schools, colleges, universities, started applying for jobs, and when they were asked which religion they belonged to, they had no answer. Moreover, while filling out forms, there is always a column of religion, so the Adivasis had to mention or tick one of the given options and without having a name for their own religion, many Adivasis helplessly ticked the Hindu option. However, today Adivasis have a name for their religion but have still not received a religion code.


Sarna is known as the Aadi Dharam which is one of the oldest religions in the world. The Adivasis believe that they have been following the religion from the early times when they lived in the forest. Their continuous connection with nature made them understand all the laws and virtues of nature and hence the Sarna religion teaches to worship and pay respect to the natural wealth, trees, mountains and rivers. Since that time, the worship system and tradition that existed in the tribals is still maintained today.


5) Marangburu


If we translate the word, it will mean “a big mountain” but Marangburu is someone the Santhal and Ho community believes to be the Supreme Deity. The name is sacredly uttered during worship and simply uttering its name without reason is considered offensive in the community.


Long before the RSS entered tribal regions to preach Hindutva, it tried to connect Marangburu with Lord Shiva and many tribals fell into the trap, believing Lord Shiva is the tribal God but this is nothing but a misconception.


Marangburu does not have an image and an image is not required to believe in Marangburu. All that matters is how you connect yourself with nature, the community believes that if one is connected with nature, one is connected with Marangburu.


Did you know about these words? Where have you heard them being used?



Featured image for representative purpose only.


This article was first published in Youth Ki Awaaz

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