cultural dimension of ecology : a case study of Oraons
This article discusses how the life of the tribal people is intricately linked with nature.
People from the community of various tribes have always been linked with nature when spoken about. This link has been close knit and their lives are forever to calculate on the essence of nature. Unlike the urban culture where nothing can be acquired without money, these tribal communities no nothing about arithmethric and currency. One such tribal community is that of the Oraons, which constitute one of the major tribal groups in India. Culture is all about the way of life and in the case of Oraons; it is about the place that nature has in their lives, it is about the values that keep the link connected and also about how they sustain this order.
Oraon culture is intimately related to environmental features such as in their food habits, construction of houses, knowledge of the treatment of diseases, customs, festivals etc.
Tracing the livelihood of this tribal community tells us that they are primarily agriculturists. Their diet would comprise of dal, rice, and vegetables. Fish and meat are consumed less comparatively. Interestingly leaves, flowers, seeds, roots and fruits are an integral part of their diet. The source of these products is the forest. Related to the food of these groups are 87 kinds of common native plants. They grow only a few of these plants. There are about 21 of these native plants whose leaves are eaten by them.
Construction of houses
The kind of products that the Oraons obtained from the forest to construct houses, household items and artifacts show a great deal of connection between them and the environment. Some of these products obtained can be substituted as major and minor, of which minor is of great concern to the Oraons. Their houses are usually made of mud walls and tile roofs. The use of timber and bamboo is also crucial for the construction. The minor products, made out of forest products, include mats, cots, wooden stools, baskets, cups, plates, cushions, rope, mortar and pestle and oil presses. Since these communities also include hunting groups, hunting implements such as bows and arrows, slings, spears and swords are also obtained from forest sources. Other products include fishing implements that are made from bamboo, umbrellas, waterproof coat etc.
Knowledge of the treatment of diseases
Due to the absence of development and technology, the best source of medical treatment for Oraons is the use of medicinal herbs found in the region. Diseases like constipation, diarrhoea, dysentery, epilepsy, rheumatism, insomnia, tetanus, eczema, pain, fever, wounds etc can be cured when treated with these medicinal herbs. The herbs could be leaves, roots, the bark of trees and wild plants. Some of these are also grown in their own fields. About 34 diseases are likely to be cured by such a treatment.
The culture of these tribes generates certain customs that pertain to marriage and death. There are customs preceding marriage which involves the making of marriage mats and baskets of various sizes. The custom also follows a ritual of men going to the forest to fetch firewood and women to fetch Sal leaves so as to prepare cups and plates. The most significant of all is the setting up of “marwa”, which involves the planting of 9 Sal saplings with leaves on top in the courtyard in 3 rows. Branches of bamboo, sidha, bhelwa, mango and mahua are considered as elements symbolizing progeny, fidelity of husband and wife, protection from the evil eye, perpetuity of descendents and love between the couple respectively. Without this invocation of trees and plants the marriage is considered incomplete.
As is followed in many of the Hindu rituals and practices, the Oraons also burry or cremate the body of the dead. Various shapes of the branches of trees and plans cover the bottom of the grave, both lengthwise as well as crosswise.
Festivals that these communities celebrate pertain to hunting, forest, agriculture and cattle. With the commencement of different seasons, there are socio-religious gatherings known as “jatras”. Interestingly the sprig festival is celebrated when the Sal tree is in full blossom and the Oraons celebrate by performing the symbolic marriage of the sky with earth.
Therefore, through the above examples, it is very well understood that living in the forest and the availability to its sources and its shelter is of great need for the tribes who have been part of it since their clan originated.
How is the existing social order sustained by the tribal people?
The interdependence of the Oraon community and nature is overwhelming and it is this that harmonizes the relationship. The nature provides for the various needs of survival to these communities and in return they protect the environment. The overriding social values that guide the society are also responsible for keeping this harmony tact. These values include those of equality, collectivity, accommodation, ethical living, folkism and group participation.
It is to be kept in mind that this harmony can also boil down to debris and the sources can be many. Some of these include rapid development such as opening up of the economy to the market where profit is the driving force. Also societies marked by assessed needs and not profit add to the factors responsible for this collapse in harmony. It is the attitude and desires to conquer the world that disrupts this connection. It is the spirit of competition and domination rather than cooperation that disturbs the foundation of traditional societies.
The relationship and the orders, that are social and natural, are not separate, discrete and autonomous. Infact they are integral to each other. The social order also tends to be the moral order for these communities and hence they try to maintain it. These orders are either maintained through prohibition or propitiation. Restrictions that surround hunting or the commencement of a season or totemic institutions are examples. Propitiation of village deities symbolizing different environmental features is another way of maintaining the moral order.
Environment and Education
The origin of the Vishnoi sect can be associated with “Jhambhoji”. He was a Tanwar Rajput of a village in Nagpur district. He was believed to have renounced the world and devoted to ascetism to attain close proximity with the lord. Born in 1508 in Samvat he got entombed alive in the village Himmatsar in 1593. This is the reason why the place is considered famous. Jhambhoji prescribed rules and the followers of these rules were known as Vishnoi and they formed the Vishnoi sect. They regarded Jhambhoji as their Guru. It was in samvat in 1542 that the Vishnoi sect was established by Jhambhoji.
The entombed of Jhambhoji is present in Nokha district Bikaner. The Vishnoi sect in particular is the representative of the temple and also others who in general worship Jhambhoji. The rules that Jhambhoji prescribed were regarding the preservation of environment, security of the animals and all creatures and mercy for living beings. The place where Jambhoji prescribed aseticism is on a mound, 3 kilometers, from the Samadhi. Here wild animals such as deer, stags, birds roam fearlessly and they behave intimately with the visitors. Every care is taken that no damage is done to any of the elements of nature. The principles of Jhambhoji are strictly adhered to by the Vishnoi sect. Today when the environment is in great danger of pollution and extinction of animals and birds, this place assumes a special quota of importance.
The chipko movement started in the hills of jharkhand in 1973.The movement sparked the need to protect environment all over the world. It started when the village dwellers request for the feeling of trees so as to make agricultural implements was denied and the land instead given out for commercial purpose. This raged the villagers especially the women and they formed circles around the trees whenever there was a threat confronting them.
The movement began as a spontaneous movement and soon grew into a massive movement with support with across the country. It was one of those few successful movements to protect the environment that gained grounds. The movement was also special for the fact that women in large numbers protested against the exploitation. Though the issue of protest started with the illegal acquisition and felling of trees, it took over to many other issues that were later brought down to certain extent. One of them was the excessive consumption of alcohol. The success of the Chipko movement in the hills saved thousands of trees from being felled. There was also a 15 year ban on the felling of trees in Uttar Pradesh by the orders of Mrs. Indira Gandhi.
Tehri dam is the primary dam of the Tehri development project, a major hydroelectric project near the Tehri town in uttarakhand. It is locates on the Bhagirathi River and is the principal tributary of river Ganga. It can supply 270 million gallons of drinking water per day to the industrialized areas of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
The Tehri dam has been since long an object of project by environmental organizations and the local people of the region. About 100000 people were relocated from the area and this led to legal conflicts over resettlement rights and resulted in the delay of its completion. In addition to the human rights concerns, the project has spurred concerns about the environmental consequences of locating a large dam in the fragile ecosystem of the Himalayan foothills. It was observed that since 2005, filling of the reservoir had led to a reduced flow of the Bhagirathi River from the normal. Since the Bhagirathi River is considered a part of the sacred river Ganga, the reduction in its water levels has caused people of the local region to protest. Its rivers are considered crucial to Hindu mythology.
There has also been a debate on the stability of the dam if looked at the seismicity. The proponents of the dam say that it is designed to withstand an earthquake of magnitude 7.2 but some seismologists say that earthquakes with a magnitude of 8.5 or more could occur in the region. Provided that the region is located in the central Himalayan seismic gap, it is believed that if a catastrophe occurs it will potentially result in dam-break and would submerge numerous towns downstream.
Like it on Facebook, +1 on Google, Tweet it or share this article on other bookmarking websites.