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Malto: An Ethnosemantic Study (An Old and Rare Book)

Malto: An Ethnosemantic Study (An Old and Rare Book)
Item Code: NAW271
Author: B.P. Mahapatra
Publisher: Central Institute Of Indian Languages, Mysore
Language: English
Edition: 1979
Pages: 246
Other Details: 9.00 X 6.00 inch

The Central Institute of Indian Languages was set up on the 17th July 1969 with a view to assisting and co-ordinating the development of Indian languages. The Institute was charged with the responsibility of serving as a nucleus to bring together all the research and literary output from the various linguistic streams to a common head and narrowing the gap between basic research and developmental research in the fields of languages and linguistics in India.

The Institute and its four Regional Language Centres are thus engaged in research and teaching which lead to the publication of a wide- ranging variety of materials. Preparation of materials designed for teaching/learning at different levels and suited to specific needs is one of the major areas of interest of the Institute. Basic research relating to the acquisition of language and study of language in its manifold psycho- social relations constitute another broad range of its interest. The publication will include materials produced by the members of the staff of the Central Institute of Indian Languages and its Regional Language Centres and associated scholars from universities and institutions, both Indian and foreign.

The Central Institute of Indian Languages has initiated the Grammar series in non-literate languages in general and tribal languages in particular presenting a description of every such language in the sub- continent. This is undertaken with a view to producing instructional mate- rials necessary for learning and teaching the language concerned. It is also expected to be of interest to research workers and scholars engaged in the field of synchronic and diachronic study of languages.

Dr. B.P. Mahapatra’s ‘Malto—An Ethnosemantic Study’ breaks a new ground in the field of Indian Linguistics. It is clearly demonstrated how linguistic insight on the one hand and Anthropological and Sociological insight on the other can be blended together to give meaning to the cultural personality of the people. Dr. Mahapatra’s competent handling of this synchronic aspect of the study and indications for further synchronic and diachronic studies, I hope, will stimulate scholars to undertake similar in depth studies on various other tribal groups.


1.1. History :

The first full length description of the Pahariya tribe of the Rajmahal Hills, Santal Parganas, Bihar, by Lieutenant T. Shaw appears in the volume 4 of the Asiatic Researches in 1792. The article opens with the following lines. ‘‘A slight knowledge of the language of the natives of the hills in the district of Bhavnagar and Rajmahal, having brought to my observations that their customs, as well as their language, differed from those of the inhabitants of the neighbouring plains; I have, for some time endeavoured to acquire a good account of them, from the belief that, notwithstanding their connection with, and dependence on our Government, they have been little known beyond the limits of the hills’(1792 : p.45). Shaw has referred to these people generally as ‘Mountaineers’ obviously influenced by the term ‘Pahariya’ which the Malers still use. Another term ‘Mullare’ (Maler), as a possible alternative name for this tribe occurs in other con- texts (Ibid., p.47). As regards the area of his study he mentions three ‘Tuppahs’ namely ‘Mudgeway, Ghurry and Munnuary’, which I. am unable to locate now, but the linguistic material which his description contains, — such as: "Demauno (de:mano), muckmun (mak manu), kundone (kando), ruxey (raksi), chalnad (ca:| natd), kosarane (qosre), cherreen (cergni), oogoss (ugs—), poonate (pu:ne), singlah (sinla)" etc., leaves little doubt that the people were speakers of the Malto language. Furthermore, occur- rence of some words like ‘‘Takalloo (ti:qalo) — Indian corn, Naito (nafto) — millet, Kuldee (kaldi) — plantain, Chalnad (ca:1 na:d) — name of a god", peculiar to the Sawria dialect of the Rajmahal—-Godda Sub-divisions makes the identification yet finer.

The next important work which should have come here in chronolo- gical order is F. Buchanan’s ‘The Survey of the District of Bhagalpur in 1810-11’, but unfortunately this report remained fairly unknown until H.H. Risley, widely acknowledged him in his ‘The Tribes and Castes of Bengz!, Vol.II’, in 1891, which probably led to its final publication in 1930. In the meantime, W.S. Sherwill’s ‘Notes upon a Tour through the Rajmahal Hills’ appeared in 1851, and it was observed that, ‘The hills are inhabited by two distinct races, the Mountaineers or a race living on the summits of the hills and who are with rare exceptions, never found residing in the valleys; and the Sonthals who reside in the valleys. But these races have distinct languages, neither of which are understood by the Hindustani man, nor are the two languages understood by the two races" (1851,pp.544—545).

In 1872, E.T. Dalton recorded the various divisions of the so-called Mountaineets in his "Descriptive Ethnology of Bengal" — a work already accomplished by Buchanan equally efficiently decades ago, and to which Risley had alluded so faithfully. In any case, according to Dalton, "The Pahariyas are divided into three tribes, the Malers, the Mal and the Kumar; the first retain more of the habits of their ancestors than the other two, and are rather proud of their unbounded liberty in the matter of food" (1872, Reprint, 1960). But then, he was somewhat forced to admit that’ these tribes were "altogether unconnected", particularly when the languages spoken by these tribes did not prove sufficiently analogous to establish their identity.

This, however, would not deter Risley from re-examining the issue. While he generally agreed with Dalton on the question of resemblance between the language of the Male and the "Mongrel dialect spoken by the Malpaharias" as slight, he held the view that "they tend on the whole to show that Buchanan’s opinion is not so clearly untenable as has been some times supposed to be the case" (1891, Vol.II). And in Buchanan’s opinion, ‘The northern tribe (the Males of Rajmahal) consider their southern neigh- ours as brethren, and call them Maler (Maler is the plural of Male), the name which they given themselves; but the southern tribe shocked at the impurity of the others, deny this consanguinity and most usually call the northern tribe Chet, while they assume to themselves the denomination of Mal or Mar, which however, is probably a word of the same derivation with Maler. The Mal, however, divide themselves into three tribes — Kumarpali, Dangerpali, and Marpali; and they often call the northern mountaineers Sumarpali, thus as it were, acknowledging a common origin, which I have little doubt is the fact’. Further, Risley adds that, "The Mal Paharias are divided into two sub-tribes — Mal Paharia proper and Kumar or Komar-Bhag. The latter group, which corresponds with Buchanan’s Kumarpali is the more Hinduised of the two"’ (1891, Vol.II).

French evidence appeared in 1910 which supported Risley’s hypothesis of Maler — Malpaharia identity. In O’Malley’s words, "They (Malpaharia) now regard the Maler as barbarians, contemptuously calling them Chest (a corruption of the Hindi Chit meaning supine) while one branch arrogates for itself the title of Kumarbhig, i.e., the princely race, and claims kinship with the Rajput family of Sultanabad. There appears to be little doubt however, of their common origin, and in Kumarpal, which is the wildest, and least accessible part of the Damin-i-koh, they assimilate in polity and- mode of cultivation more to the Maler in the north than to their brethren elsewhere in the district. Here also they prefer to speak the Maler tongue instead of the dialect used by the Malpaharias of the south and west. In fact, in this ‘tappa’ which lies on the boundary between the two sections of the Pahdrias, they are said to be undistinguishable from the Maler in language, habits and appearance" (1910, pp.82—83).

In this connection, Sarkar’s observations are also equally significant, for he too notes that "The inter-relationship of the above two tribes (Maler- Malpaharia) is interesting. The more one goes to the south the more the divergence between the two tribes appear to be pronounced. There are many a village in Pakur sub-division under Litipara and Kunjobona Bunga- lows where these people live side-by-side in the same village and intermarriage age is practised. From the many evidences in the culture of the two peoples there cannot be any doubt that the Malers and the Malpaharias belong to _ the same ethnic stock. The Malpaharids have partly absorbed the Hindu culture but their dialect still possesses the influences of their mother tongue, the Malto" (1938, p.17).

Two Census Reports, which have played key roles in the history of these tribes are the Census Reports of Bihar and Orissa, 1931 and 1941. The former classified the Malpaharias as speaking a form of western dialect of Bengali and the latter recorded the Kumarbhag Paharias separately from the Malpaharias. Shortly after these developments, in 1946, the first exclusive report on the Kumarbhags appears in print. It is said that, "Kumarbhag Paharias will intermarry with Mal Paharias, but will not have any social inter-course with Sauria Paharias whom they look down or as unclean and unworthy to mix with their tribe in any way, though all speak the same language, Malto. The Saurias eat beef but not the Kumarbhag or Mal Paharias" (Adair, 1946, pp-209—210).

In the late fifties and sixties, when interest with these tribes was revived, the old question of the last decades, however, did not gather fresh momentum. For instance, B.B. Verma who had worked among all the three sections of the Pahariyas had very little to comment on the identity question. He merely states that, "The Kumarbhag Pahariyas observe all the tribal customs and manners, and have tribal pattern of life" (Verma. 1960, p.3). However, the latest significant work in this line is LP. Vidyarthi’s and according to him, "At another level the Paharia make distinction among the Paharia themselves. Some are Malar or Sanvaria Paharia, some are Mal or ‘Manr’ Paharia and the other are Kumarbhag Paharia. For all practical purposes they are three distinct endogamous and linguistic tribal groups" (1963, p.58).

1.2. Divisions of the Pahariya Tribe :

From all these interesting descriptions, we can isolate the three most important factors which are advanced consistently to contrast the divisions of the Pahariya tribe. These factors are. food-taboo, endogamy and the language. The carliest opinion is as follows. "The territory of the mountaineers may be divided into a northern and southern portion : the former occupied by a tribe chat has an appropriate language, that eats beef, and has not the least vestige of the doctrine of caste, the southern tribe has adopted the Hindi or the Bengalese languages. according as these prevail in the lowlands adjacent to their hills; with this they have adopted the spiritual guidance of some low It Hindus, and the doctrine of caste, and finally they have rejected the use of beef" (Buchanan, 1939, p.161). ‘The latest opinion is that of Vidyarthi’s. "The basic cultural difference that comes up between the Maler on the one hand and the Mal and Kumiarbhag Paharia on the other is owing to the use of beef (1963, p.59).

**Contents and Sample Pages**

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