Sahariya Tribe is the only primitive tribe of the Rajasthan
state, residing in the Shahabad and Kishanganj Panchayat Samitis of Baran District
. The name Sahariya is said to be derived from the Arabian word `Sehara` or `wilderness`. The Muslim rulers found them residing in the jungle, and gave them their present name `Sahr` which means `Jungle`. Accordingly they came to be called `Sahariya` meaning residents of jungle. They are basically `bhel`, though there are some differences with the Bhel tribe, such as the main arms of `bhel` is `Dhanush-ban` and Sahariya`s is `Kulhada`. Even in the absence of genuine historical accounts it may be stated that the Sahariyas have been one of the earliest settlers in Rajasthan. In the state of Madhya Pradesh
they are spread across 21 districts with the highest concentration apparently found in and around the Gwalior District
, approximately 3.5 lakh Sahariyas are estimated to reside in the Gwalior and Chambal region in north Msdhya Pradesh.
Society of the Sahariya Tribe
Sahariyas generally reside in separate basti in the village which is called Saharana. They follow Hindu religious practices and speak a dialect influenced by Hadoti. The Sahariyas maintained ecological equilibrium with their environment for ages, despite a low level of technology. Mostly they were engaged as gatherers of minor forest produce and agricultural labourers. The main business is gathering and selling of forest wood, gum, Tendu leaf, honey, fruits and vegetables. Though Sahariyas, in general are primitive, all of them are not so. Some of them are also settled cultivators. Others are landless labourers and forest produce gatherers. They live in small families. The elder sons live separately after marriage and the younger sons bear the responsibilities of the parents and unmarried brothers and sisters. Marriages are performed after attaining the age of 15 years. There are some arranged marriages and ceremonies held in the fairs.
Culture of the Sahariya Tribe
Thwe tribes follow Hinduism. They worship Goddess `Tejaji`, `Dhakar Baba`, `Goddess Durga`, `Lord Hanuman`, `Lalbai`, `Bejasan`. They mainly celebrate festivals like `Makar Sakranti`, `Savni Amavasya`, `Janmashtmi`, `Raksha Bandhan`, `Diwali`, `Holi` and `Teja Dashmi`.
Sehariya takes seasonal `Kandmul` fruits and vegetables found in forests. Vegetables leafs of `Senjna`, `Phang`, `Bichotiya`, `Kanna`, `Bansi`, `Charetha`, `Churangli`, `Barsak`, `Lahaylai`, `Chaurai`, `Totam`, `Chani`, `Bajar`, `Rajan` etc. are usually eaten by Sahariyas. They even eat Crushed dry `ber` with salt. Eating non vegetarian foods is also prevalent. They eat chicken, fish, sheep, goat, egg, pigeon, rabbit and other forest found animals. Another form of food, `Sawa,` is used by the tribals too. `Sawa` is the seed of a special grass found in the jungles. Sahariyas make delicious foods from the seeds of these grasses. The seeds of the sawa grass are crushed to flour and chapatis are made. The sawa flour is also used to make `kheer`, `Rabri` etc. The sawa seed`s flour has nutritive value too, and it is also used by the urban people in their fast (Upwas).
Durga Gautra is very significant in Sahariya`s marriages. The main gautra of the Sahariya`s are `Sohara`, `Gorchia`, `Dotiya`, `Chauhan`, `Seliya`, `Bakhudiya`, `Parodiya`, `Gogaiya`, `Kalkhoriya`, `Somliya`, `Khelra`, `Nugapan`, `Sagruliya`, `Bandwal`, `Babuliya`, `Jeswariya`, `Baraliya`, `Pagdiya`, `Kanwar`, `Kasriya`, `Susiyar`, `Navoliya`, `Churawat`, `Dewriya`, `Badhiya`, `Parani`, `Matvehi`, `Semriya`, `Devriyan`, `Bhagya`, `Silwar`, `Pawar`, `Girwar`.
Education among the Sahariya Tribe
The people of the Sahariya tribe are not too well educated. Only 3-4 percent people are literate. Efforts are being consistently being made by the State Government towards their education.
The Sahariya live in weak infrastructural and remote areas, not well connected through road and bridge network even now. Lack of exposure to modern life and historic exploitation by landlords who paid them less wages has left Sahariya extremely primitive and backward. In the last one decade there has been some interest and efforts towards `Sahariyas` development. After the emergency period, the state government has constituted `Sahariya Innovative Project` whose office is in Shahabad. There are a large number of NGO`s working for the upliftment of Sahariyas, prominent among them being, ASSEFA, SANKALP, Adim Jati Sangh, Lok Jumbish and DPIP. Most of them have produced successful results in one area or the other.