Korku

ETHNONYMS: none


The Korku are a tribe of 275,654 (in 1971). The Korku language, which is often called the Kolarian language, belongs to the Munda Family of languages. This is further Divided into northern and southern groups. The general name for the northern languages is Kherwari: it includes Santali, Mundari, Bhumij, Birhor, Koda, Ho, Turi, and Asuri. The southern languages include Juang, Bondo, Sora, Gadaba, and Pareng. For territorial, social, and/or religious reasons the Korkus are divided into a number of endogamous sections: Bopchis, Mowasis, Bondhis, and Bondayas, for example. Depending on its degree of Hinduization or Sanskritization, the rank of a section varies. This splits the Korkus into two rough divisions: the Sanskritized Deshi Korkus and the Potharia Korkus.

People of the plains have two names for the most-used sections of territory: Muikal Hills for the easternmost range; and Satpura Hills for the westernmost section (outsiders use the name "Satpura" for the whole chain of hills). Most of the central portion of the Satpura range is occupied by Korkus, while at the same time they have extended their habitat into the regions north and south of the Satpuras.

Most recently, there has been increased pressure by excessive population and stricter governmental administration that is forcing shifting cultivators to abandon their traditional manner of cultivation for plow agriculture. This affects the Korkus because only those who were fully absorbed into Hinduism adopted plow cultivation and settled alongside Hindu farming castes. The staple food of the Korku is joari (or sorghum, made into wheat bread and eaten with vegetables or pulse) or rice with pulse and vegetables.

Most Korku housing consists of well-planned villages with two long rows of huts, hut on hut, with occasional space provided for passage in between them. The huts are constructed of wood and bamboo with fireplaces in front of every house; thus fire is an everyday danger. Wealthier Korkus have begun to use tile and corrugated iron sheets to cover their houses. There are no windows in the house: smoke escapes through the cracks in the walls, while fresh air cornes in through the same cracks. The house is rectangular in shape and is generally one room.

Marriage among the Korku can be viewed as a social contract or as a religious rite; it is considered as an arrangement not only between a man and a woman but even more so Between their families. Marriage also marks the final initiation for boys and girls into adulthood.

It is rare for a Korku household to consist merely of a Nuclear family. The family norm is parents, adult sons, the sons' wives and children, and often also the families of daughters married to mates who are paying off the bride-price through service. This is known as a joint family. Women are largely responsible for the smooth and efficient functioning of the Korku household and family life.

Certain property rights are granted to children within the Korku family. Once maturity is reached, the child's father takes him or her to the side and points out an animal and says, "From now on this animal belongs to you!" With this saying the father passes on property to his son or daughter. The animal is still considered the child's even after marriage, whether or not the child continues to live with the joint Family. The male head of the Korku family makes all the major purchases and sales of land, cattle, ornaments, and clothing for the entire family. The senior female purchases food, kitchen utensils, earthen pots, and iron pans at the local market.

Inheritance is dictated by detailed traditional laws. For example, on the death of a Korku, his eldest son usually Inherits the property; but if he was not living at home prior to the father's death, then the next-oldest son who did stay with his father inherits all the property. There is another catch, however: in either case, if the surviving sons decide to dismantle the joint family, the family property is divided into equal parts. Daughters don't inherit; a widow receives equal amounts with the sons and hands over her share once she decides which son she will stay with. If the widow remarries she can keep only her private property and not her share of the Inheritance, which is then redivided among her sons.



Bibliography

Deogaonkar, S. G. (1990). The Korku Tribals. Delhi: Concept Publishers.


Fuchs, Stephen (1988). The Korkus of the Vindhya Hills. New Delhi: Inter-India Publications.

LeSHON KIMBLE

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