Sora - History and Cultural Relations

Contact with the outside world is probably ancient. In British times the area formed the farthest northern tip of Madras Presidency. The hill area was brought under government Control in 1864-1866 by a British expeditionary force that executed and transported Sora resistance leaders and established a permanent police presence. In Koraput District the British established the system of village headmen ( gomang, also meaning "rich man") to collect revenue for the raja of Jeypore; in Ganjam District the Sora were ruled by march lords, or chieftains of the borderlands, of Paik (Kshatriya) caste. For a long time, and even up to the present, Sora have had a reputation for extreme fierceness, though this has not been the experience of anthropologists. However, every decade or so there are still violent uprisings, usually against Pano trading communities.

Many cultural features can be explained by the Soras' ancient association with Southeast Asia. (Their relation to Hinduism was explored inconclusively by Louis Dumont in his Review of Elwin.) Sora are aware of Hindu values and use them in defining their own identity. As a nonliterate culture, they associate literacy with the power of the state; the power of shamans' familiar spirits is also associated with ideas about writing. The Sora have contributed to mainstream Hinduism: Oriyas say that they originally stole their god Jagannath (Juggernaut), an avatar of Krishna, from the Sora.

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