Tribes: Munda Languages and Munda Essay

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Deandra Martucci
ANT 101
DUE: 4/23/14
The Munda Tribe
The Munda tribe is an indigenous tribe to India that lives a sedentary lifestyle in both the forests and on plateaus. Munda usually refers to a group of languages, but the tribes that speak it have collectively become known as Munda (Parkin, 1996). Their subsistence comes from agriculture, paid labor, hunting and gathering, animal husbandry, and fishing (NativePlanet, 2004). Their language is Mundari, their religion is influenced by Hinduism, Christianity, and their own customs, and they are located in areas of Madhya Predesh, Orissa, Bihar, West Bengal, and a few in with in Mirzapur District, Uttar Pradesh (Parkin, 1996). Their family unit can be nuclear or extended but is subject to change forms as members come and go. Their descent is patrilineal but their kinship is mostly based on symbolic and ritualistic shared attributes. The kinship terminology of the Munda tribe is described as “symmetric-prescriptive or bifurcate-collateral,” with some variations throughout different clans (Parkin, 1996, p. 182). Many of the traditional culture and customs of the Munda people have been subject to change because of recent industrialization and urbanization, but the tribe continues to hold tight to its culture.
Most people of the Munda tribe are agriculturalists, but another significant form of subsistence is hunting and gathering, which the groups of Birhor and Korwa are particularly involved (Parkin, 1996, p. 182). However, all of the Munda groups participate in hunting and gathering to some extent in order to supplement their agriculture (Parkin, 1996, p. 182). Many members of Munda are now working in plantations, mining, as day laborers for Hindu landowners, and in the steel industry because government policies on forests present obstacles to their forms of subsistence (Parkin, 1996, p. 182). There are also some Munda groups who work in specific trades, such as basket making or ironworking, to make a living. However, Hindu artisans typically provide the Munda people with the things they need. Some of these Munda artisans trade their goods or sell forest products, but very few Munda include trade as a major part of their subsistence (Parkin, 1996, p. 182). The basic subsistence of the Munda people is agriculture, but hunting and gathering is also prominent. Labor work and artisan trades have only become more prevalent in the subsistence of the Munda people in recent times because of the influence of industrialization and government policies regarding the forest and its preservation.
The religion of the Munda people varies, with some influences of Hinduism, and includes numerous deities in all tribes who are both good and bad. There are agricultural gods, nature gods, clan gods, animal gods, and ancestral spirits, who are especially evil if they are not properly cared for during funeral processions, similar to the beliefs of the ancient Romans about ancestor worship. They also believe in ghosts of women who died during pregnancy or people who were killed by suicide or tigers (Parkin, 1996, p. 184). There are some converted Christians in most tribes, the majority of them in the Kharia sect, and there are not many Muslims (Parkin, 1996, p. 184). The Munda living in Jharkhand, where their population numbers over half a million, live in villages which consist of a “mixed population of Sarna Mundas (those Munda who worship Nature) and Christian Mundas (converted to Christianity)” (Srivastava, 2007, p. 328). The Munda have priests and shamans, typically one of each for each village, and who may come from other tribes. Priests cannot be female, but shamans, who must somehow demonstrate their powers of healing and ridding malevolent spirits, may be female (Parkin, 1996, p. 184). The Munda also have their own religion called Sarna. The Sarna Mundas are considered the members of Munda who worship nature. There are four locations where the Munda