The Oraons of Sunderban- Amal Kumar Das & Manis Kumar Raha

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The “ORAONS OF SUNDERBAN” is an ethnographic study and is the third monograph of the special series of the Bulletins of the Cultural Research Institute, of the Government of West Bengal.The Southern portion of the district of 24 Parganas in West Bengal, popularly known as the Sunderban remained practically devoid of human settlements for centuries permitting the growth and development of dense forests infested with dangerous wild and aquatic animals on land and in the rivers.As the pressure of population in Bengal increased, the greedy eyes of human beings fell on this rich tract of virgin forest and attempts were made to reclaim this virgin soil of estuarine Bengal, make the land cultivable and convert it into flourishing
settlements. As suitable labour force for this reclamation work was not procurable from nearby regions, workers had
to be obtained irom other regions, mostly from the tribal areas of the Chotā-Nagpur Plateau. The most important among
them were the Orāons, the Mundās and the Bhumijas. These migrated labourers gradually started settling in this newly
reclaimed region as agriculturists.
The Orāons, who formed a considerable portion of these migrant labourers constitute numerically a large section of the tribal population of India. Due to hard economic pressures in their original homeland, they migrated to different adjacent States (such as West-Bengal, Orissa, Assam, Madhya Pradesh
etc.) as tea-garden labourers, colliery labourers, indigo-plantation labourers and ordinary labourers. It is this hard economic pressure that forced some of them to migrate as labourers, a
few generations ago, to the Sunderban area for reclamation work. After reclamation work, they gradually settled here forming different villages in the southern and the south-eastern portions of 24-Parganas. The descendants of these original settlers gradually lost all socio-religious communion etc. with
their kith and kin of Bihar and built up a distinct social group in this area, the patterning and functioning of which have
greatly been influenced by the physical and social environment of this new area.Here they have been residing in comparatively small numbers surrounded by dominating castes and communities, having no communication with the kith and kin of their motherland for generations and this has further accelerated the process of change of their original culture.The present study, which was carried on during 1962-63 among the Oraons of the Sunderban area, was mainly undertaken to find out the pattern of their life and activities in this region and to throw some light on the changes that have been brought about by migration,contact,new environment etc. as compared to their congeners in Bihar.

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