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Ho people

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The Ho people are a tribe of people belonging to the Indian
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 state of Jharkhand
Jharkhand is a state in eastern India. It was carved out of the southern part of Bihar on 15 November 2000. Jharkhand shares its border with the states of Bihar to the north, Uttar Pradesh and Chhattisgarh to the west, Orissa to the south, and West Bengal to the east...


They are the fourth most numerous scheduled tribe Jharkhand after Santals
The Santhal , are the largest tribal community in India, who live mainly in the states of Jharkhand, West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, and Assam. There is also a significant Santal minority in neighboring Bangladesh, and a small population in Nepal....

, Oraon
The Oraon उरांव or Kurukh कुड़ुख tribe , also spelled Uraon, Oran, or Oram, are tribal aborigines inhabiting various states across central and eastern India as well as Bangladesh...

s, and Munda
Munda people
The Munda are tribal people of the Chota Nagpur Plateau region.They are found across Jharkhand, Bihar, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Orissa and Assam states of India, and into parts of Bangladesh...

s, and constitute around 10.5 percent of the total population in the state, numbering 7,087,068 (total in the state) in the 2001 census. Although not mentioned in the census highlights Orissa
Orissa , officially Odisha since Nov 2011, is a state of India, located on the east coast of India, by the Bay of Bengal. It is the modern name of the ancient nation of Kalinga, which was invaded by the Maurya Emperor Ashoka in 261 BC. The modern state of Orissa was established on 1 April...

 or West Bengal
West Bengal
West Bengal is a state in the eastern region of India and is the nation's fourth-most populous. It is also the seventh-most populous sub-national entity in the world, with over 91 million inhabitants. A major agricultural producer, West Bengal is the sixth-largest contributor to India's GDP...

 small groups could be present, as the territory they inhabit in Jharkhand borders these two states. According to an American publication, total number of people speaking the Ho language
Ho language
Ho is a Munda language of the Austroasiatic language family spoken primarily in India by about 3,803,126 people. It is written with the Devanagari and the Varang Kshiti scripts. It is spoken by the Ho people. 0.103% of India's Population speaks this language as per the 2001 census.The Script was...

 was 1,077,000 in 1997. There were 200,000 people speaking the language in Orissa.


Starting from the period between the 9th and 12th centuries, copper was smelted in many parts of old Singhbhum district. It is believed that many immigrants entered Singhbhum from Manbhum
Manbhum was one of the districts of the East India during the British Raj. After India’s independence, the district became a part of Bihar state, and upon re-organization of the Indian states in the mid-1950s, the district became a part of the West Bengal...

 in the 14th century or earlier. When the Hos entered old Singhbhum, they overcame the Bhuiya
The Bhuiya are a Hindu tribal found in North India, and those in Uttar Pradesh have scheduled caste status . They are also known as Roy.- Origin :...

s, who were then inhabitants of the forest country. In the latter half of the eighteenth century, the Hos fought several wars against the Rajas
Rajas ) is, in the Samkhya school of Hindu philosophy, one of the three gunas. Of these, rajas, is responsible for motion, energy and preservation...

 of Chota Nagpur
Chota Nagpur States
The Chota Nagpur States were a group of princely states at the time of British India, located on the Chhota Nagpur Plateau in the present-day Indian states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, and Orissa...

 and Mayurbhanj
Mayurbhanj District
Mayurbhanj district is one of the 30 districts in Orissa state in eastern India. It is the largest district of Orissa by area. Baripada city is the district headquarters. As of 2011 it is the third most populous district of Orissa , after Ganjam and Cuttack.-History:Mayurbhanj District was formed...

 to retain their independence. As far as is known, the Muslims
Islamic empires in India
Beginning in the 12th century, several Islamic states were established in the Indian subcontinentin the course of a gradual Muslim conquest in the Indian subcontinent....

 left them alone. Although the area was formally claimed to be a part of the Mughal Empire
Mughal Empire
The Mughal Empire ,‎ or Mogul Empire in traditional English usage, was an imperial power from the Indian Subcontinent. The Mughal emperors were descendants of the Timurids...

, neither the Mughals nor the Marathas, who were active in the surrounding areas during the decline of the Mughals, ventured into the area.

In 1765, Chota Nagpur was ceded to the British East India Company
British East India Company
The East India Company was an early English joint-stock company that was formed initially for pursuing trade with the East Indies, but that ended up trading mainly with the Indian subcontinent and China...

 as part of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. The Raja of Singhbhum asked the British Resident at Midnapore
Midnapore is the district headquarters of Paschim Medinipur district of West Bengal. It is situated on the banks of the Kangsabati River . This area had taken a pioneering role in India's freedom struggle...

 for protection in 1767 but it was not until 1820 that he acknowledged himself as a feudatory of the British. The restless Hos broke the agreement soon and took part in the fierce rebellion of 1831-33, along with the Mundas. The immediate cause of the Kol uprising in 1831-32 was the oppression of Adivsis by non-Adivasi thikadars (literally meaning contractors) or farmers of rent. The Hos and Mundas were joined by the Oraons and the houses of many dikku (non-Adivasis or outsiders) landlords were burnt and a number of people were killed. It compelled the British to recognise a thorough subjugation of the Hos. The uprising was suppressed with a good deal of trouble by Captain Wilkinson, who had several hundred troops at his disposal. While local troops quelled the uprising, another group under Colonel Richards entered Singhbhum in November 1836. Within three months all the headmen surrendered. In 1857, the Raja of Porahat
Porahat is a town in West Singhbhum District of Jharkhand state in eastern India. Before Indian independence in 1947, it was the capital of a princely state of British India. The town also gives its name to the Porahat Forest Division....

 rose in rebellion and a sizable section of the Hos joined in the revolt. Troops were sent and that put an end to the disturbances in 1859.


In the 2001 census, 91 per cent of the Hos declared that they professed ‘other religions and persuations’.They follow the 'Sarna' religion. This means that they did not declare themselves to belong to any of the major religious groups and follow their own religious systems. Religion plays an important part in the life of tribals. Their beliefs in gods, goddesses and spirits are ingrained in them from childhood. The religion of the Hos resembles, to a great extent that of Santals, Oraons, Mundas and other tribals in the region. All religious rituals are performed by the village priest, deuri. However, he is not required to propitiate malevolent spirits or deities. The spirit doctor deona takes care of this.


For the Adivasis, dance is the very breath of life rather than a means of entertainment. Their songs are generally accompanied by dances, which change with the change of seasons. Most villages have an akhra or dancing floor. It is usually a cleared space of hard ground under a spreading tree. The Hos have their distinctive choreography expressive of their culture and art traditions.

One of the dancing festivals of the Hos is called Mage Porob, held in the month of Magh
Magh (Bengali calendar)
Magh is the 10th month in the Bangla Calendar. This is the last month of the winter season.-Festivals:* Maghi Purnima , a Buddhist festival* Suryavrata, a festival observed by Hindu women, on the first day of Magh....

. The festivities are organised on a staggered basis in the villages so that other villagers can participate.The Ho people use musical instrument namely dama, dumeng, rutu, etc. Tribals in Jharkhand have several festivals.

Position of women

Houlton writes, “I do not want to give the impression, by mentioning occasional divergences from the straight and narrow path, that aboriginals are immoral. On the contrary, their standards of post-marital morality and fidelity are probably a good deal higher than in some races that claim to be more civilised. The status of women is high. Wives are partners and companions to their husbands. It is even whispered that hen-pecked husbands are not uncommon among the tribesmen.”

There is a system of payment of bride-price amongst the Hos. The bride-price is often a status symbol and even until today's modern times it remains not more than Rupees 1001 or rupees 101. As a result many Ho girls remain unmarried till advanced age. Among the Hos, females outnumber the males in their total population.


The Ho people brew a sort of rice-beer commonly known as handia, otherwise also known as "diyeng" in the Ho language. It is said to be highly refreshing and invigorating. It has great importance in religious festivals, and is also used as a good medicine for the stomach.


Almost half the population is engaged in cultivation and another one third also work as land-less agricultural labourers. The Hos, along with Santals, Oraons and Mundas, are comparatively more advanced, and have taken to settled cultivation as their mode of life.

The discovery of iron ore in Ho territory opened the way for the first iron ore mine in India at Pansira Buru in 1901. Over the years iron ore mining spread out in the area. Many Hos are engaged in mining work but that does not add up to any sizeable percentage. However, small, well planned mining towns dotting the territory have brought the Ho people in close touch with the good and bad aspects of urbanization. Some of the prominent mining towns in the area are Chiria
Chiria is a census town in Pashchimi Singhbhum district in the state of Jharkhand, India. India's largest iron ore mine with reserves of 2,000 million tonnes of iron ore is located here. It is operated by Steel Authority of India Limited.-Geography:...

, Gua
Gua is a census town in Pashchimi Singhbhum district in the Indian state of Jharkhand. It is a mining township situated in the Chotanagpur Plateau. The mines are operated by the Steel Authority of India Limited and are linked to IISCO at Burnpur....

, Noamundi
Noamundi is a census town in Pashchimi Singhbhum district in the Indian state of Jharkhand.It is also an administrative 'block'. It is a small mining town in close to the Orissa border. It lies near to Jamshedpur and from Chaibasa. Nearby towns include Padapahar, Barajamda, Kharsawan, Gua and...

 and Kiriburu
Kiriburu is a census town in Pashchimi Singhbhum district in the Indian state of Jharkhand.The town is mainly popular for having big Iron-ore Mines KIOM & MIOMboth governed by SAIL....



Sal (Shorea robusta) is the most important tree in the area and it seems to have a preference for the rocky soil there. Although sal is a deciduous tree and sheds its leaves in early summer, the forest undergrowth is generally evergreen, which has such trees as mango
The mango is a fleshy stone fruit belonging to the genus Mangifera, consisting of numerous tropical fruiting trees in the flowering plant family Anacardiaceae. The mango is native to India from where it spread all over the world. It is also the most cultivated fruit of the tropical world. While...

es, jamun
Jambul is an evergreen tropical tree in the flowering plant family Myrtaceae. Jambul is native to Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia...

, jackfruit
The jackfruit is a species of tree in the Artocarpus genus of the mulberry family . It is native to parts of Southern and Southeast Asia. It is the national fruit of Bangladesh, . The jackfruit tree is believed to be indigenous to the southwestern rain forests of India...

, and piar
Guavas are plants in the myrtle family genus Psidium , which contains about 100 species of tropical shrubs and small trees. They are native to Mexico, Central America, and northern South America...

. Other important trees are mahua
Madhuca longifolia
Madhuca longifolia, commonly known as mahwa or mahua, is an Indian tropical tree found largely in the central and north Indian plains and forests. It is a fast-growing tree that grows to approximately 20 meters in height, possesses evergreen or semi-evergreen foliage, and belongs to the family...

, kusum, tilai
Wendlandia is a genus of plant in family Rubiaceae. It contains the following species :* Wendlandia andamanica, Cowan* Wendlandia angustifolia, Wight* Wendlandia arabica, DC....

, harin hara (Armossa rohitulea), gular (Fiscus glomerata), asan
Terminalia elliptica
Terminalia elliptica is a species of Terminalia native to southern and southeast Asia in India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam...

. The Singhbhum forests are best in the Kolhan area in the south-west of the district. The lives of Ho people have long been intertwined with sal forests and there is a strong resentment against the efforts of timber merchants to replace sal forests with teak plantations.

The reserved forests are the haunt of many animals. Wild elephant
Elephants are large land mammals in two extant genera of the family Elephantidae: Elephas and Loxodonta, with the third genus Mammuthus extinct...

s are common in Saranda
Saranda forest
Saranda forest is a dense forest in the hilly region of West Singhbhum district in the Indian state of Jharkhand. This area was formerly the private hunting reserve of the Singh Deo familySaranda forest is a dense forest in the hilly region of West Singhbhum district in the Indian state of ...

 (literally meaning seven hundred hills) and Porahat forests. Herds of sambar
Sambar Deer
The Sambar ' is a large deer native to southern and southeast Asia. Although it primarily refers to R. unicolor, the name "Sambar" is also sometimes used to refer to the Philippine Deer and the Rusa Deer...

 and chital
The chital or cheetal , also known as chital deer, spotted deer or axis deer is a deer which commonly inhabits wooded regions of Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, and in small numbers in Pakistan...

 roam about the forests. Bison
Members of the genus Bison are large, even-toed ungulates within the subfamily Bovinae. Two extant and four extinct species are recognized...

 is still found (locally extinct when a study was undertaken in 2005 by Kisor Chaudhuri FRGS). Tiger
The tiger is the largest cat species, reaching a total body length of up to and weighing up to . Their most recognizable feature is a pattern of dark vertical stripes on reddish-orange fur with lighter underparts...

s were never numerous but they are there (locally extinct when a study was undertaken in 2005 by Kisor Chaudhuri FRGS). Leopard
The leopard , Panthera pardus, is a member of the Felidae family and the smallest of the four "big cats" in the genus Panthera, the other three being the tiger, lion, and jaguar. The leopard was once distributed across eastern and southern Asia and Africa, from Siberia to South Africa, but its...

s are more common. The Hos are keen hunters and have practically exterminated game in Kolhan. They organise great battues, in which thousands of people join. They beat their drums in a huge circle, and gradually close in over hills and across forests, driving the wild animals on to a central point, on to which lines of hunters converge until the animals are surrounded and slaughtered.


As per the 2001 census, Hos have an overall literacy
Literacy has traditionally been described as the ability to read for knowledge, write coherently and think critically about printed material.Literacy represents the lifelong, intellectual process of gaining meaning from print...

 rate of 39.2% and a female literacy rate of 23.9%. This is against the overall literacy rate of 53.56% in Jharkhand, and a women’s literacy rate of 38.87% in Jharkhand. Both are amongst the lowest literacy rates in India
Literacy in India
Literacy in India is key for socio-economic progress, and the Indian literacy rate grew to 74.04% in 2011 from 12% at the end of British rule in 1947. Although this was a greater than sixfold improvement, the level is well below the world average literacy rate of 84%, and India currently has the...


Percentage of school-going children in the age group 5 –14 years was 37.6. This is a far cry from UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations...

’s call of education for all by 2015.

Among the Hos 19.7% have completed schooling and 3.1% are graduates.

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