The Traditional Administrative System of Jharkhand

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Adivasi/Indigenous peoples of Jharkhand (and in central India) traditionally have broadly three level of decision making process within the customary laws through a self-governing system, village level, cluster of village level and community level.

  1. Village Council: In Village level whole unit of village community are included whoever living in the village. This is the primary unit of traditional decision making process which called as village council or hatu dunub. In each village there is a head/ chief who are known by different names in different tribe. Among Munda community it call Munda and among Santhal community -Manjhi Hadam, among Ho community -Munda, among Kharia -Sohor and among Oraon -Mahto.
  2. Cluster of Village level/ Parha: The village cluster is known by different names in all the communities. Among Oraon five parha, twelve parha, among Munda community-12 mauja Sanga Parha, 24 mauja Guria parha, 22 mauja topno parha and so on. Among Mundas the Parha system is based on clan i.e. a clan is parha which includes many villages. Among Ho community it called Manki Pir, among Santhal community- Pargana, and among kharia community it called Dhoklo and so on.
  3. In the community level: In community level adivasi self governing system is known by different names such as among Oraon-Raji Parha and the post holder – Raji parha, among munda community Munda Sangh and post holder – Munda Disum raja, among Ho community Manki Sangh and post holder –manki munda, among Santhal community- Disum Pargana and post holder- Disum Parganait, among Kharia community – Kharia Maha Doklo Sohor and post holder –Doklo sohor.

 MUNDA ADMINISTRATIVE SYSTEM

The Mundas consider village as a political unit. It had a head and an organization to deal with other villages. The head of the Munda village was called the Pahan(the priest). He obtained this title by virtue of being the original founder of a new community or the oldest representative of the original founder.

His duty was to offer sacrifice at festivals mainly for three reasons:

  1. to preserve the village against the ravages of wild animals,
  2. To obtain satisfactory harvest;

iii. To ensure successful hunts.

The chief functions of the Pahan were:

(i). to preside over the Panchayat;

(ii). To punish those who violated established customs;

(iii). To collect the contributions of the village and hand them over to the proper authority.

The Pahan began to exercise the above functions with the introuduction of the Raja into the Munda political system. Later on he was assisted by a Munda in the execution of his duties. These two offices were solely for service without any remuneration or special grant of land attached toit. The two officials were highly respected.

Confederation of villages

The Confederation of villages was made up of ten or twelve villages. It was called a Patti. The chief of the patti was called the Manki. He was the political organizer of the Mundas.

His duties were:

(i). to settle disputes concerning land and other matters;

(ii). To settle questions of exceptional tribal interest within a village;

(iii). To settle peace between different villages with the help of a council of elders;

(iv). To collect chanda or rent and hand over it to the Raja.

NAGVANSI ADMINISTRATIVE SYSTEM

Nagvanshi Administrative system was based on the Kinship.Nag dynasty evolved out form the rudimentary state form through the interplay of both primary and secondary process of state formation.The elements of primary state form was there in the culture matrix of the Mundas as stated earlier otherwise the course of state formation would have been different.The classical ‘conquest theory’ as well as peaceful penetration are dispensed with as necessary condition for the rise of state among the Mundas on the ground that they do not get support either by history or ethro-history of the people.

The terms Pundra, Pundarika, Naga or Nagvanshis thus denotes to the tribal or clan or group that was centered around the Chotangpur region which is now a part of Bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand. Thus, Pundarika Nag was the was the father of the famed Pani Mukut Rai the first Nagbansi king of Chotanagpur.

Phani Mukut was then adopted by Madra Munda, and he and his successors were called the Nagvanshis. Phani Mukut Rai ruled from 83AD to 162 AD.

Pundarika Nag (the serpent)could assume the human form but like the ‘churail'(sprit of the woman died at child birth)who cannot change their heel from back to front,could not change the forked tongue.’Pundarika Nag was thus either a symbol or sprit and not snake or human being.Snake or any other animal,other than human being cannot learnscriptures or magic.

It is believed that Pithoria was the capital of Chotanagpur‘s Nagvanshi dynasty founder Phani Mukat Rai. Before this dynasty, tribal ruler Maharaja Madra Munda had founded his capital here circa 500 BC.

Khukragarh, excavation of coins and pottery proved that Nagvanshi ruler Bhim Karn founded his capital there in the 12th Century.

 

Excavation may yield relics of the times of Phani Mukut Rai and Maharaja Madra Munda

The kingship among the Mundas and other neighbouring ethnic groups,such as Chero and Bhumij,developed after the fall of the Gupta empire and were almost contemporary to each other.Under this situation there was no pragmatic influence in the organisational set up of the Mundas from the neighbouring Chero and Bhumij tribes.

On the other hand,an elite class,due to an ongoing internal process of change as well as acculturetive forces,was evolving in the existing socio-political structure who were prone to divert from traditional system and were keen to establish socio-political relation with other power centers.It may be noted that in Chotanagpur when the population of the Munda was increased considerably, they sectionaised into a number of groups under the respective leader.And as it is told,formerly religious leaders (Pahan) was subordinated to secular leader (Munda),similarly, the Manki(leader of many sections) was always assisted by te Pahan whose position was subsequently liquidated totally.

By that time of Manki Madra Munda (foster father of first Nagbansi king) the position of the secular leader was at the apex of the Munda socio-political structure.It is on this background that the Nagbansi dynasty was laid down

The change-over from mankiship to kingship did not bring about corresponding change in the traditional administrative system.The king remained as an ordinary person without special power and privilege.

A change in the administrative system was brought much later when Nagbansi Raja was made tributary to the Mughals.The Raja,as is told by the Mundas, called upon the Partha chiefs for consultation and sought their help at this hour of trouble.Prior to their help with annual chanda i.e subscription and occasional gifts which continued till the Britishers came.

 

During the Brithsh rule the subscription was made permanent and was transformed into rent,though prior to this cases of forcible collection of subscription by king’s people was set free from captive by the Mughals,he adopted this administrative system.He created posts for ministers,military personnels and brought admirers and followers,all from outside whom he granted land in jagir. These people strengthened the hands of the Maharaja in administration.He was getting much difficulty in controlling the territory on which the tribals had exclusive ownership individually and collectively.

The traditional rights of the tribal over land was forcibly taken away by these people who also helped in spreading the Hindu culture in the region by establishing sacred centers.It was a heaven for trading and other occupational communities who swarmed into the region and who were all interested in the land of the tribals.The rent and land system of the British government proved to be a boon which further confermed the position of the Maharaja and land-hold of the Jagirdars and moneylenders.So economically the tribals were redused to the status of slave which adversely affected their social and political system.The formation of state thus,became complete which the founder of Nag dynasty,many generations ago,had laid down.But this delegated power and position itself was an indication of the decline of kingship.

PARHA ADMINISTRATIVE SYSTEM

There are two type of village head in an Oraon village , one is the secular head known as mahato who act on social issue and the other is religuous and sacred head known as pahan who looks into religious matters. The village elect the mahato once every three years He presides over the village council. The inter village organisation of the regional panchyat is known as PARHA . The head of the pahara is called parha Raja. The no of villages in different parha organisation very from region to region . In British village of the region the forest comnmunity protects and regulates the village head grant permission for the extraction of timber from nthe forest as per the household needs and making of agriculture tools.

In the traditional Oraon society the largest political unit is the tribe. A tribe is divided into a number of territorial segments known an Parha. These are divided into number of villages, which constitute the smallest political units. Each clan is associated with one Parha (a tribal section) In which it constitutes the aristocratic nucleus.

A Parha comprises a number of villages. The number of villages, however, varies from Parha to Parha. It may consist of seven, nine etc and generally they are called by numbers.

In a Parha all the villages are subject to the authority of the Parha Panchayat.

One of the villages in a Parha is called the Raja (king) village, another the Dewan (Primeminister) village, a third the Panrey (clerk of the village) a fourth the Kotwar (orderly) village, and the remaining villagers are the Praja (subject). The Raja village is the head village of the Parha, and the headman of the village presides at the meetings of the Parha Panchayat. Generally the Mahto (Headman) acts as the Kartaha (Chairman) and in his absence the Pahan (religious head) or any elderly bhuindar of the Raja village may be chosen to officiate as Kartaha (Chairman) of the Parha council

 

The Parha Panchayat decides cases of infringement of certain taboos that affect the whole Parha or the tribe, for instance sexual union between Oraon and non-Oraon, and any case of Incest. The settle disputes regarding precedence at the Jatra festivals, the right to game, and so forth, other matters which the village Panchayat cannot decide or in which their decision is not accepted are brought before the Parha council.

Parha Panchayat has the right to excommunicate an Oraon for sexual intercourse with a non-Oraon or having eaten cooked food at the hands of a non-Oraon. It is believed that the breach of these taboos will affect good fortune of the Parha and is the main concern of the Parha council

It was in the seventies that Bhikhna Bhagat revived this declining institution of the Oraon. A vigorous movement was launched and the Sarna Oraon mobilised themselves under the banner of their respective Parha. The movement however, has sustained a set back, though it is pcraued by the large section of younger generation under Sarna Sabha.

orans

Among the Oraons the word Bhuinhari means owner of the land. The Bhuinhars are the descendants of the pioneer families who cleared the jungle and brought that particular area under cultivation and became owners. The Bhulnhar khunt (maximal lineage) comprises two segments,the Pahan khunt and the Mahto khunt.In the original Bhulnhar family authority was vested in the original founder or the eldest member of the lineage. He was known as the Pahan and was both the ritual and the secular head. In the exercise of his secular duties he was assisted by another member of the lineage called Mahto. In time the descendants of these two officials came to be regarded as belonging to the Pahan khunt nucleus of the maximal lineage in a Bhuinhari village.

 

Authority in the Bhuinhari lineage comprises of two offices the Pahan or Baigas (the village priest) and the Mahto (secular head). The authority of the Pahan and the Mahto is derived from their spritual status and from their seniority in The hierarchy of lineage elders. The Pahan belongs to the Pahan khunt and the Mahto belongs to the Mahto khunt. Great prestige and respect is attached to the status of the Pahan and Mahto and to avoid dispute these officers are selected triennially or in a few instances at a longer interval by the magic sup (winnowing basket). It is believed that the selection of these officers rests in supernatural hands,so that the headship is selected through a ritual process and is believed to have a spiritual backing. A bachelor cannot be a Pahan.

The function of the Pahan is primarily religious. It Is believed that he has a sacred association with the earth and the ancestors which give him ritual power. The Mahto is the secular head of the village elders. Usually the most influential person among the lineage heads is elected as Mahto. The Mahto leadership is an ancestral heritage and hence a person elected must belong to the Mahto khunt. He is responsible for the protection of the village community from external threats and hence his duty is to maintain satisfactory relationship with the outside world. He is the chief organiser of all important public work in the village He must be Informed of all the important affairs that concern the whole lineage and the village community in general.

 MANJHI ADMINISTRATIVE SYSTEM

The political organization and administrative unit of the Santals village are mostly governed by councils of elders who regulate the life of the people within the village and the order of the village outside world. The political organization and administrative is generally is democratic in nature. The Santals govern by their own laws and have their own method of treating different kinds of offences. The offices of the political organization were generally hereditary and passed patrilineally but now days the offices are not only hereditary but are conferred by selection of person. These officials are responsible to the community for their functions.

The Santals have a well established political organization. It functions at the village, inter-village (pirh or pargana) and regional (disam) levels. The village is considered as the smallest and most important unit at the ground level. There is a traditional village council (atu mone hor) constituted of functionaries like Manjhi (secular village headman), Jog Manjhi (deputy village headman), Parmanik, (assistant to village headman), Gadet (secretary to village headman 7 messenger), Jog Parmanik (Deputy Parmanik), Naike (village head priest) and Kudam Naike (assistant to village priest). All the household heads are the members of the village council. Manjhi presides over the village council meetings and settles all the disputes relating to theft, conflict, divorce, partition of property, adoption of children, quarrels over land, violation of social customs, tradition, etc. at the village level. The meeting of the council generally takes place at the manjhi than.

These officials have to perform their functions in accordance with the tribal system and that is why they are expected to be well acquainted with the Santal traditions, customs, religious beliefs and practices(J. Troisi, Tribal Religion: Religious Belief and Practices among the Santals, 56). These traits are still prevalent in the village, where the community live.

The inter-village council known as the pirh or pargana constituted of fifty to sixty villages, deals with matters which cannot be settled J at the village level. It is constituted by the representatives of several villages  under the pirh or pargana. Pir Pargana is the secular head of the pir, nominated by all the Manjhis of the component villages once in every five years. Along with Pir Pargana, Pir Dihiri and Pir Godet are also two important functionaries at pir level administration. Major offences like incest, adultery and inter-village disputes are discussed and decided at this level. When somebody is dissatisfied with the decision of the village council, he may appeal to the pirh or pargana council. It also functions as the hunt council. The annual hunt is organized by a large number of Santals from different villages beyond the pirh or pargana, which gives them a chance to meet and discuss complicated disputes. Hunting expeditions may continue for three or four dys. Spending the whole day in the chase, the hunting party takes a rest at one place overnight where they discuss different problems. Any case previously referred to the village or pargana council may be placed before the hunt council for a fresh trial. Excommunication from the community or bitlaha for grave offences can be awarded by the hunt council. Guilty persons are fined by the council and the fine is spent on feasting.

Five to ten Pirs together constitute a Disham, whose secular head is Desh Pargana. He is elected by the Pir Parganas once in every five years. He settles disputes on the cases which are not decided at the Pir level with the consultation of Pir Parganas and Manjhis. In case of serious social offence (bitlaha), Desh Pargana is vested with powers to impose both physical and financial punishment to the guilty person considering the severity of the offence. Sometimes, the culprit is excommunicated from the society.Disam Dihiri and Disham Godet also help Desh Pargana in this work for smooth administration at Disham level. But now with the introduction of the 3 -tiers Panchayat Raj Institutions (PRIs), the traditional political system is losing its importance.

                  MUNDA MANKI ADMINISTRATIVE SYSTEM

The Munda Manki System normally three level organised were prevalent, the first level organisation in the lineage level second at the village level and the third at the in the inter village level. However in some area inter village organisation are weak in Ho area, Munda are the head men of the village and are subject to the authority of mankies , who are the head of inter village panchayats (known as PIRS) the post of munda is hereditary .

Some of the pirs are large so these are divided into a number of sub divison each presided over by a manki . The british vasted the mundas with the power of collecting revenue Taxes.

At the lineage level the elder or the lineage head leads the own lineage people, whereas village head is the munda . There are two type of inter village organisation known as Parha and Patti as political and social organisation respectively . The Khuntkhatti area is a divided into circules called Pattis . A patti is a group of village generally at least ten or twelve . thehead of patti is called Manki the patti organisation is again of two types, Bhuinhari patties and khuntkhatti patties while patti organisation is territorial , parha is based chiefly on the killi i‘e , clan the patti organisation has jurisdiction on every individual falling under its territorial jurisdiction whatever be his or her clan , while parha has jurisdriction over every individial of the clan no matter where he be territorialle. Thus there is inherent contraditionin this system an individual will have two heads , one clan head, parha and one Manki ,pattii head .

DOKLA SOHOR ADMINISTRATIVE SYSTEM OF KHARIAS

Its based on Law of Equality-Kharias strongly advocate the law of equality within tribes and between tribes. According to them all tribes and members of the tribes have equal right to thrive on this earth. Nature has provided equal environment resources to every body. They consider no tribe superior to other.

Moral and Ethical Laws- The Kharia religion and Kharia life are interdependent and have recognized certain moral rules. They believe in certain acts as sins. All rules and moral behaviors are established by God. God has overall control on individual, society, the country / world. God has framed the rules and laws to keep the tribe(s) pure, and to protect it. God is the only giver of punishment. Kharias believe that there are two fundamental sins-Pride and Greed. From Pride and Greed originate jealousy, envy, quarrels, fights, murder, and all the other evils.

Gram Panchayat– Every village has a Gram Sabha. Every villager of 18 years is deemed to be a member of the Gram Sabha, which is a general body. It selects the ?Gram Pradhan‘ who is elected for every five years. The Gram Sabha is required to convene two meetings in one year.

The functions of the Gram Sabha are-

(a) to approve the budget for one year,

(b) to consider imposition of new taxes,

(c) to review the audit report of the last years‘ accounts.

CASTE PANCHAYAT ADMINISTRATIVE SYSTEM

Among these Adivasis community the decision making process is more people centered or democratic which includes three sections i.e. Karyapalika (Administration), Vidhayika (Parliament) and Nyayapalika (Judiciary) that exist from the level of village to community level. The whole process is based on collective decision making process. Since among the Adivasis the decision making bodies were non-hierarchical and so power was decentralized. Traditionally Adivasis believe that power should be distributed within the community that is why adivasi village/ Hatu is called small republic.

The decision making process was based on their way of life which was closely related to land, forest and water. Adivasi were socially, religiously and politically well integrated. The whole natural resources was closely connected with human being and spirit, these Cosmo- centric people were interconnected and interdependent with nature-human-spirit that led them to live peacefully. Their self-governing system was based on mutual consent and non-hierarchical system.

The main component of their decision making was getting mutual consent from the whole community and non-hierarchical ideology which was sign of decentralized decision making process.

ADMINISTRATION

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