(Last Updated on : 11/08/2010)
Agaria tribe is considered as an offshoot of Gond tribe and it is a small Dravidian caste. This caste is associated with the occupation of iron smelting. Agaria tribe is residing in various regions of central India, mainly Madhya Pradesh
and some parts of Maharashtra
. As per surveys the Agaria tribal communities are widely spread out in different districts of central India including Mandla district
, Raipur district
, and Bilaspur district. Further, similar Dravidian castes of Agaria tribe are found in parts of Mirzapur.
History of Agaria Tribe
The history of the origin of the Agaria tribal community is quite interesting. The name Agaria has been derived from the Hindu god of fire, namely Lord Agni
. Some historians also claimed that the name originated from the demon that was believed to be originated from the flames of fire. The name of that demon of tribal community is Agyasur.
Society of Agaria Tribe
Although they do not form a homogenous group, most of them primitively belong to Dravidian speaking group. Agaria tribes have been branched into various sub castes, Lohar castes too fall amongst them. Others include Sonureni, Dhurua, Tekam, Markam, Uika, Purtai, Marai etc. The names of these exogamous groups are same as that of the Gond tribes
. The names of these groups have been taken from the names of animals, plants and other objects of nature. In their societies, marriage within the same sub-caste is prohibited. Main languages that they speak, for obvious reason, also have originated from the famous Dravidian tribal language group. Agaria tribe has two endogamous divisions namely the Patharia Agaria and Khuntia Agaria.
Agaria tribes are chiefly iron smelters by profession. There are a handful of Agaria tribes who have also settled down in cities and adapted to different trading occupations like labourers, masons, grocery, etc. They get their ore, mostly dark red coloured stones, from various corners of the Maikal range of Madhya Pradesh region. They also make ploughshares, mattocks, axes, and sickles. As per conventions of Agaria culture, both males and females collect the ore and make the charcoal for the furnaces. In Bilaspur District, however, only the males carry on this task. At nightfall the women cleanse and also prepare the kilns for the next day. Special cylindrical vents are made from clay for oozing out air to a furnace. While extracting metals by heating, the women use the bellows and the men pound the hammer and thus mode the ore on anvils. The preparation of a new furnace is a significant family event. All the members of an Agaria family are being involved. Also mantra (prayer) is recited near the furnace at the end of it.
As far as lifestyle of Agaria community is concerned, the society follows the patrilineal rule. The father usually arranges marriages. In Agaria tribal communities, the marriage proposal is first send by the boy's father to the girl's house. If the girl's father accepts the marriage proposal then the boy's father visits their home where he is given a warm welcome. In their community, wedding ceremonies usually take place during the rainy season. Usually marriages are held during the monsoon seasons because of the fact that iron smelting is postponed and there is no work. Widow re-marriage is allowed. Late husband's younger brother, particularly if he is a bachelor is considered as the most eligible one for second marriage. Divorce is permissible for either party on grounds of adultery, extravagance, or mistreatment. Several birth and death rites are followed in their society.
Culture of Agaria Tribe
Festivals of an Agaria society are truly colourful, bearing the tradition of their own religion. Their ancestral god is Dulha Deo, and during festivals the Agaria community sacrifices various animals like goat, fowl etc. They also worship the forest Gond deity, Bura Deo and also the demon Lohasur, is the revered deity, whom they believe dwells the smelting kilns.
Enrichment of Agaria tribal community is widely possible due to its language, festival festivities and also in its exotic lifestyle.