Baiga - Orientation

Identification. The Baiga (who call themselves Bhumiaraja or Bhumijan) are a Munda or Kolarian people (part of the Bhuiya tribe) located in the central highlands of India. The name "Baiga" means "sorcerer, medicine man" and is applied in this sense to the priests of the Chota Nagpur tribe. The Bhuiyar of Mirzarpur are also called Baiga, as are any Individuals who serve in the capacity of village priest in this immediate region (cf. the usage of the Pardhan, Ghasiya, Kharwar, and Gond). The Kol and Gond consider the Baiga as priests having knowledge of the secrets of the region's soil. They also recognize the Baiga as a more ancient people than themselves and respect their decisions in boundary disputes. It is believed that the Baiga migrated from Chhattisgarh into the Satpura Hills on the western borders of the plains, and were among the earliest residents of the Chhattisgarh Plains and the northern and eastern hill country.

Location. The locus of Baiga culture is an area formerly part of the Central Provinces of India and now part of Madhya Pradesh. It extends from about 22° to 24° N and 80° to 82° E.

Demography. In 1971 there were 178,833 Baiga.

Linguistic Affiliation. The Baiga have lost all trace of their native Austroasiatic language and have assimilated the speech of their neighbors. Verrier Elwin (1939) reported that in Bilaspur they adopted Chhattisgarhi, in Mandla and Jubbulpore they spoke a modified Eastern Hindi, in Balaghat they spoke Marathi, Hindi, Gondi (or a combination of Marathi, Hindi, and Gondi), and Baigani (a language of Indo-Aryan Stock belonging to the Indo-European Phylum).

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