(Last Updated on : 28/02/2013)
Death rituals of Munda Tribe
are mostly related to observance and adherence of specific rites and customs to nullify the pollution of death. The Munda believe in rebirth and it is thought that he was earlier a Munda and would always remain so. It is also deemed by them that after the death the spirit of the deceased moves about the remains of the body and continues to loiter about aimlessly in the surroundings of the house until proper rites are performed. Hence it must be appeased by performance of different rites and rituals until it finds its permanent shelter. It is thought that as the members of a family live together in a common house, the members of the family of the spirits also reside in a common house.
After the death on the third or fifth day the bhayads i.e. the relatives of the dead man shaving their hair and bathe to purify themselves. Next they fetch four saplings of tiril tree. Two of them are planted crosswise on the spot where the cot that carried the corpse was placed during their way to the burial ground. The third sapling is fixed at the junction of the two that makes it appear like a star.
An earthen vessel is next placed on it and the complete structure is covered with straw that depicts a miniature hut facing north direction. The hut is supposed to be home of the deceased. One of the relatives then sits in front of the house offering the deceased rice and turmeric and then burns down the hut shouting names aloud. The earthen vessel is then smashed with the fourth sapling of the tiril. Subsequently they depart for the deceased's house where they are offered a few leaf coups in which food is served. The spirit of the deceased in also welcomed through chanting of hymns to accompany them during their feast. The relatives however, hide themselves from the scene upon welcoming the spirit. After a while they return to the scene and if they see that the food served in the leaf is scattered or few grains thrown on the ground and the ash bearing foot prints, they conclude that the deceased had consumed the meal. This rite is called the Umbul Adir. However, if no such signs are found they believe that the deceased had not arrived and the Umbul Adir is repeated. A small stort representing the soul of the deceased is carried by the relatives before they enter the ading i.e. the house of the deceased. They offer some meal to the ancestors and present a libation beer to them. The stort is placed there and the ancestors in the 'ading' are requested to accept the newly deceased into their world, their brotherhood, and their clan.
The Mundas believe that the deceased reside with them in the same house they dwell in hence they are remembered and offered sacrifices and meal at almost all the festivals. These spirits are thought to be always benevolent and never cast misfortune or trouble the people. However, it is supposed that the women who died during their pregnancy or during childbirth assume the identity of a malignant spirit or a ghost as no proper rites are performed for these women who died under such conditions. They are thought to hover round the house where they had died. Being deprived of their everyday lives these women find no shelter to live. Thus, to prevent them from causing problems or to restrict them from returning the family members of the deceased women prick needles into the corpse and throw mustard grains on the way from her house to the burial ground. The Mundas think that these would cause trouble for the spirits to walk as the needles would prick her and it would take a long time for her to reach her house as she would need time to gather the mustered grains.