(Last Updated on : 06/02/2010)
Munda tribes are residents of West Bengal and apart from it they are populated in various corners of Chhatisgarh
. The word Munda has an etymological significance. It means headman of a village. Between 1857 and1928, the Munda tribes gained so much of admiration amongst the anthropologists that the eminent scholar, Rev. John Baptist Hoffmann S.J. wrote his copious work "Encyclopedia Mundarica" in sixteen volumes.
Munda tribes are one of the largest tribes of India. Main languages spoken by these tribes include 'Munda' or 'Killi', Santali and Mundari. Munda tribes are also called by their alternative name, 'Heriki'. The physical characteristics of the Mundas are that they are generally short in height, dark complexion, and good looking.
The Munda society is divided into sub groups namely Patar, Mahali, Kampat Munda etc. A 'Gotiora' is situated in each Munda village and this carries a well adopted habitual culture in giving training the young men of Munda.. Moreover, the society is governed by the 'Panchayat' and there is an 'Akhra' which is the medium of entertainment for the villagers.
In earlier times the Munda tribes were wandering huntsmen and collectors. Very recently, these Munda tribes too take up the profession of shifting cultivation, thereby following the practice of most of the tribes of Indian subcontinent. They built up the Parha system of Government, which is fundamentally a 'confederacy of village governments'. The village markets play very vital role in their economic lives where they exchange their products required for their basic sustenance. Exquisite items also are being produced to a huge extent. Festivals and occasions are a major part of this tribal community. They perform Nupur dance in their festivals and tribal occasions. The specialty of this dance is that the people wear Nupur which is an anklet, and dance unitedly.
These Munda tribes are pious and religious minded, mainly practicing Hinduism
. Quite a number of people also have retained their traditional practice of Animism. Some are also followers of Christianity
. 'Sarana' is the place corresponding to a temple in the Munda tribe. Singbonga is the supreme god, other ethnocentric deity includes Jahweh. The Munda tribes uphold their tribal identity by barring intermarriage with other tribal communities.