The Malpaharias of Westbengal -A.K. Das B.Roychowdhury M.K. Raha

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Linguistically the Malpaharias belong to the Dravidian speech family, though most of them in this State speak either in corrupt form of Bengali or in Sadri dialect which is a mixed form of Bengali and other languages. In connection with their language Risley says, “Malpaharia, a Dravidian tribe inhabiting the Ramgarh
Hills in the Santal Parganas …. speak a very impure dialect of the Bengalees”, 31 Sarkar contradicting the views expressed in the Census of India 1931 regarding the mother tongue of the Malpaharias, remarks, “In the Census of 1931 the Malpaharias are mentioned as speaking a western dialect of Bengali and the view
has been expressed that the Maler and the Malpaharias belong to two different ethnic stocks. It is true, of course, that a large number of the Malpaharias have already entered the Hindu fold and some speak the dialect of Malto which is not akin to their present tongue, but this is not universal with all the Malpaharias” 32 Adair 88 admits that though the Kumarbhag, Sauria and the Malpaharias have social distinction between themselves, still all of them speak a common dialect, Malto. But Sahay points
out, “The Malpaharias speak a language which is distorted form of Bengali, and Khorta mixed with a few words of Magdhi, whereas,the Saoria Paharia speak Malto language which comes under Intermediate Dravidian Group of languages. …” In connection with the dialect of the Malpaharias, Vidyarthis mentions a mixed language of Magahi and Bengali as their mother tongue. Again Ray chowdhury and Prosad write, “The Malpaharias of Amirjola and Harindula appear to have adopted the language of the local Hindu neighbours and speak a corrupt form of Bengali. They have borrowed a good number of words from Hindi as well,such as, Pani for water, Khat for bed, Ghar for house, Jata for grind-stone”.The Malpaharias of Murshidabad district, as our investigation reveals, speak among themselves in a corrupt form of Bengali,but when they speak with other local people of the area they speak in pure Bengali. Some of these people of the area can speak in Malto language also, which is mainly due to their constant contact with their immediate neighbours, the Kumarbhag Paharia, whose traditional language is Malto. Besides this,a negligible percentage of the people can also speak in Hindi.But the Malpaharias of the tea plantation areas of this State speak in Sadri or Sadani, a mixed language of Bengali and Hindi and also sometimes in Nepali. They also speak in Hindi with other Hindi speaking people of the tea gardens.

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