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India’s Tribal Communities- The DharuaTribe of Odisha

  • The Dharua (also known as the Parji) are a sub-group of the Gond, the largest tribal group in India.
  • Today, the Dharua inhabit the central-eastern portion of the Bastar district and overflow into parts of the Orissa district, especially south of the Indrawati River.
  • A large part of their territory consists of densely wooded forests and hills, with rivers and streams crossing the valleys.
  • The Dharua have been so absorbed by the surrounding higher castes (social classes),  such as the Bhatra, that many have adopted Bharti as their mother tongue, forgetting their native language (Parji) altogether.
  • Etymologically, the ‘Dharua’ has been assumed to have derived Dhara, meaning to catch, as their traditional occupation is to catch, reptiles, birds and wild games from the forest.
  • They are not declared PVTG yet.



LANGUAGE: Parji (Dravidian), Desia Odia (Indo-Aryan)

RELIGION: Autonomous Tribal Religion, but mainly Hindu and some Christians

LOCATION: Malkangiri, Koraput, Nowrangapur, Bolangir

What Are Their Lives Like? 

Most of the Dharua are farmers who use bulls to plough their fields of rice and other grains.  Because they do not make their own farm equipment, the Dhurwa are dependent on nearby villages for supplies like earthenware, iron tools, and carts. Such items can be obtained in the weekly markets.

  • Dhurwa society consists of exogamous clan units, which means that they do not marry within the same clan.
  • There are two types of marriage: the curca and the tika (union). In a curca marriage, a  bride-price is paid.
  • A tika takes place when a divorced or widowed person is wed or when a Dharua marries someone of a higher or lower ethnic group.
  • The Dharua live in small, windowless huts made with mud walls and thatched roofs.
  • Some, though not all, of the villagers, live together as extended family households.
  • Each village consists of several huts that line a narrow, open space. In this area, people gather to chat, hold meetings, or perform certain rituals.
  • No one is allowed to settle in the village without first receiving permission from the leading clan.
  • The Dhurwa do not make their own clothes.
  • Thus, all ornaments and items of dress are obtained from outside.
  • Ordinarily, this would give them opportunities to interact with neighbouring ethnic groups; however, such communication has been hindered by the government and private contractors.
  •  Men are responsible for outside work and women do all household works like cooking, etc.
  • They are dependent on forest produce.
  • Lives in kaccha houses.


  • Originally agriculturalists and believed to have been employed in military service of the native Rajas, the community now also engages in wage labour, basketry and forest collection.
  • Mainly hunting, agriculture, crafts with cane, gathering forest products. Average earning per week is Rs. 80-100 (Rs. 1.77- 2.22) every week there is a market where they sell and buy.
  • Many items they sell at throwaway prices to traders.
  • As per the villages, they do not get the right price for their products like cane, Cosa silk cocoon, forest vegetation and medicinal roots.
  • They are very good at making bamboo products and leaf bowls and plates


  • Apart from their traditional work they have no other opportunity of employment.
  • Unemployment is a serious problem in most tribal areas and rural villages.
  • Many precious medicinal, cosmetic roots and seeds gathered from forests are sold at throwaway prices, in the raw condition which is processed in urban cities.


  • The endogamous community is segmented into two groups such as bara and chot on the basis of the purity of descent.
  • The tribe is divided into clans and sub-clans.
  • Each subclan, vansa, is named after a mythological Rishi who is represented by a totemic animal following the Hindu Puranic traditions.


  • Men wear only dhoti and no other cloth for upper body part
  • Women wear Sari in a different way tied on one shoulder
  • They wear silver and steel ornaments

What Are Their Beliefs? 

  • Although the Dharua are 100% Hindu, their beliefs vary from tribe to tribe. Many of their Hindu practices have been combined with animism (the belief that non-human objects have spirits).
  • Although they do not necessarily believe in the immortality of souls, they do believe in the transmigration of souls, or the passing of a soul from one body to another after death.
  • Some believe that a person may be transmigrated into the body of an animal or a human, depending on whether he or she lived a good or evil life.
  • The Dhurwa believe that animals, birds, and trees possess souls.
  • They call upon a spirit of rain/river water to bless them with good catches of fish and abundant crops.
  • They live in fear of the spirit Rau, who marks its victims by shooting small, painful stone or clay pieces at their backs.
  • Only a medicine man can extract the small pieces of stone, which remain invisible to the human eye. If not removed, these can lead to death.
  • The Dhurwa believe that there are three worlds.
  • The earth is considered the “middle” world, inhabited by humans and supernatural beings.
  • The sky, or “upper” world, is thought to be the home of the supreme spirit, or “high god.”
  • He is not represented by any symbol but is believed to be the creator and to be supreme to all other gods.
  • He is considered too remote to directly interact in the lives of people. The third is the  “underworld,” or place of the dead.


  • Dharua practise arranged marriage. They perform sindurdan, the ritual of marrying to a  mango tree.
  • They follow the rule of patrilocal residence after marriage and patrilineal rule of descent.
  • The Dharua profess their autonomous tribal religion of animism with an admixture of few  elements of Hinduism


  • Started going to schools but the literacy rate is still very poor.
  • Now the practice permanent cultivation
  • Started using aluminium utensils for cooking food
  • Started wearing modern clothes
  •  Lack of basic facilities such as electricity, health etc.

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