Identification. The Bhuiya are one of the most widespread tribes of India. Their name is derived from the Sanskrit word bhumi, "land." The ethnonyms are applied either in the sense of autochthons or of some connection with land. The Bhuiya are classified into a southern division, with Orissa State as its center, and a northern, with Bihar State, particularly the Chota Nagpur region, as its center. The southern division of the tribe is more backward than its northern counterpart. The two divisions together contain various groups. For example, the Katti, Dandsena, Hake, Dake, and Naksiya are just descriptive names. The Musahar, Rajwar, Rikhiasan, and Pawanhans are distinguished on the grounds of their varying mythical origins. Some groups, such as Bhatudi, Saonti, and Santali, share many common social and cultural traits with the Bhuiya and long ago attained the status of separate Communities. The other groups are the Das or Mal (Pauri Bhuiya), who are swidden cultivators; and the Paik, Rajkoli, and Parja, who are agriculturists, farmers, and agricultural laborers, respectively. The Ghatwar or Tikait is a landowning community. The economically most backward group, the Hill Bhuiya (Pauri), are the focus of this entry.
Location. The Bhuiya tribe is found in the states of Orissa, Bihar, West Bengal, Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu. The main concentration of the tribe is in the former northern princely states of Orissa. The tribe represents various stages of cultural development, ranging from the primitive Hill Bhuiya to the Hindu-influenced Bhuiya landowning sections. The Pauri group is located roughly Between 21° and 22 ° N and 85° and 86° E. Jungle-clad hills and high woodland valleys in the northwest of Keunjhar, northeast of Bonai, and north of the Pal Lahara subdivision in Orissa form their home. The settlements are situated Generally on higher elevations at about 600 to 1,050 meters above sea level. The climate is at certain times unhealthy. Lack of roadways has kept most of the inhabited Pauri villages cut off from the outside world. During the monsoon, approach to most of the villages is difficult.
Demography. In 1971 the population of the tribe was 1,312,472 (probably an undercount), making it one of the largest tribal groups in the world. The literacy of the tribe as a whole in 1981 was 22.5 percent, but only about 5 percent of the hill group were literate at that time. The economic benefit of education is still not appreciated by that group.
Linguistic Affiliation. Opinions differ about the linguistic affinity of the tribe. The Bhuiya speak an Indo-Aryan language.