The Rabhas of West Bengal -Amal Kumar Das Manis Kumar Raha

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The Rabhas belong to Mongoloid stock having similarity with other members of Bodo group such as Garo, Kachari, Mech,
Koch, Hajong and others. Most of the Rabhas of Jalpaiguri district call themselves Rabhas but at present due to different Hinduistic movements, some of them instead of calling themselves
Rabhas, often declare themselves as Kshatriyas. According to Buchanan-Hamilton the Rabhas have a good deal
of similarities in socio-religious and material life with those of the Pani-Koch. Dalton on the other hand, is of opinion that the Rabhas and the Hajongs are the branches of Kachari race and connected with the Garos. According to Hodgson they belong to the Great Bodo or Mech family. It is also considered that Pani-Koch and the Rabhas have the same lineage and the latter has their connection with the Garos.Porter treats them as a branch of the Bodo group, whereas Rev. Endles with the Kacharis (Datiyal Kachari or Border Kachari).The Rabhas living in Cooch Behar and Jalpaiguri districts of this State are surrounded by dominant Rajbansi community of the region. Due to living side by side with them and due to recognising the Rajbansis as superior to them in every sphere of activities, these Rabhas have imbibed a good deal of Rajbansi culture traits as a result whereof the present day cultural pattern of the Rabhas present a profile which is quite similar to that of the Rajbansis. From the ecological point of view the Rabhas of
this region may be divided into two groups (1) those living in the villages having agriculture as their major subsistence activity and (2) those living in the Reserve Forest Bastis being employed as forest labourers by the Department of Forest, Government of
West Bengal. These two groups of Rabhas have two different sets of cultural pattern. The cultural pattern of the agriculturist Rabhas is quite akin to the Rajbansi community whereas the
torest dwellers have still retained many of their traditional socio-religious beliefs, customs and practices.This study among the Rabhas of West Bengal was carried
cut during 1962-64 in different phases from Madhya and Dakshin Kamakhyaguri and Hemaguri of Kumargram P.S. and Dakshin Parokata of Alipurduar P.S. of Jalpaiguri district and Barasalbari
of Tufangunj P.S. of Cooch Behar district. This study mainly embraces and presents the life and activities of the agriculturist Rabhas living in the villages, leaving aside those Rabhas who are forest dwellers. However, later on an attempt would be made to under take a comparative study of these two groups of Rabhas and present the differences between them in their socio-cultural and economic life.

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