Munda people

Mundari people

Various dialects spoken by Munda people
Total population
9 million (estimated)
Regions with significant populations
 India 9,000,000[1]
 Bangladesh 142,000[2]
   Nepal 1,900
 Bhutan 1,800
 United States 500[3]
Related ethnic groups

The Munda are an Adivasi ethnic group originating in the Chota Nagpur Plateau region of north-east India. They originally spoke the Mundari language, which belongs to the Munda subgroup of the Austroasiatic languages. The Munda are found across much of Jharkhand as well as adjacent parts of Assam, Odisha, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Bihar and into parts of Bangladesh. This tribal ethnic group is one of the largest tea tribes in India. The Munda people in Tripura are also called Mura. In Madhya Pradesh, the Munda people are often known as Mudas.

There were an estimated 9,000,000 Munda people in the late 20th century.[4]


According to Ricio et al. (2011), the Munda people are likely descended from the Austroasiatic migrants from southeast Asia.[5]...

Employment and occupation

Since the primitive times Munda people have been wanderers & hunters occupying India tribal belt, later they became settled agriculturists cultivators. Munda people are excellent in basket work and weaving. With the help of reservation policy of Government of India listing Munda people in Scheduled Tribes (Adivasi) plentiful of them have been now employed in various government sectors especially Indian Railways.[6]


Social arrangement is very basic and simple. The Indian caste system is an alien to the Mundas. The culture of the Munda people is a blend of Sarnaism and Christian cultures.

The 15 volumes of Hoffmann's Encyclopaedia Mundarica


Mundari people speak Mundari, one of the Munda languages in the Austroasiatic language family

Customs, laws and traditions

Although, they have preserved their pre-Christian Mundari culture and traditions, many Christian and influences have been absorbed. They still retain many of the practices of pre-Christian tradition. The Munda people have a rich range of folk songs, dances and tales, as well as traditional musical instruments. Both men and women participate in dances, which are performed at social events and festivals. Mandar, naqareh and kartal are the main musical instruments. Unlike various communities across the world Munda people have enormous rituals to celebrate birth, death, engagement, marriage etc.

Mundari ancestral worship and ancestral shrines

Buried ancestors are memorialized as Guardian Spirits of the Khunt, or genealogical family, symbolized by the burial stone referred to as the sasandiri (not to be confused with sasangdiri, which means turmeric (crushing) stone). These are placed flat on the ground, but do not mark "graves" as such. Rather, bones of the deceased, who are cremated or buried immediately after death, are placed under the sasandiri, where previous ancestors' bones are also present. They are usually put in an earthen pot and kept there from the time of the cremation or burial until the time of the jangtopa ceremony when the actual placing of bones in the sasandiri can take place. Once every year, all members of the family are required to visit burial stones to pay their respects. This practice is formally "forbidden" by the Church for Christianized Munda tribals in accordance with biblical theology, although in reality Christians frequently are present during the rituals. There are other stones for ancestors as well, e.g., the memorial stones (bhodiri, headstones), which are placed in an erect position, usually closer to the homestead. The landscape of chotanagpur is dotted with Cemetery having clusters of these two types of stones, sasandiri (burial stones) and bhodiri (head-stones). Ancestors are given due respect as during traditional Munda religious Veneration of the dead in the month of November.

Seasonal Festivals

Munda people are involved in agriculture. For this reason Munda people continue to show respect to the seasonal festivals of Mage, Phagu, Karam, Sarhul, and Sohrai etc. Over time some seasonal festivals have come to coincide with religious festivals but the original meaning of the festivals has not been lost. [8]


Not much of cuisines are made but during festivities and ceremonies these foodstuffs are prepared.

Art & paintings

Munda wall paintings are similar to wall paintings of tribal mud paintings are part of Mundari tribal art.

Religion and identity of the tribes

Munda people follow their own indigenous Indian religion referred to as Sarnaism. Sarnaism reveals the belief in a God called Singbonga. Singbonga (सिंगबोंगा), the God of Mundas, is neither the sun nor a God that would dwell in the sun, though he is in the Heaven of Sarnaism. In primordial times, the creator was called Haram (हड़म) and the same Haram is also known as Singbonga (सिंगबोंगा), who is the God of the Mundas. He is eternal, omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent. In sacrifices, he is commonly praised as the one who separated land and sea, set the course of sun and moon, and created man. Haram (हड़म) is referred to as God, who provides all good, while Singbonga (सिंगबोंगा) is often related to worship.

However, with the arrival of British colonialism to Jharkhand came Christian missionaries to preach to the "tribals" beginning in 1845. The missionaries preached to the so-called "upper"-caste Hindus as well, albeit with different means. One-fourth of the Mundas accepted Christianity. Among the Mundari Christians, there are Roman Catholic Mundas and Protestant Mundas, the latter having several denominations.

But still, the majority of Mundas saved their religion from annihilation. Today, because of their own efforts and strength from their beliefs, the majority of Mundas adhere to the indigenous religion of their ancestors.

The surname of a Munda defines their identity. Many surnames are common among other tribes with minute variations. Surnames are based on natural elements, trees, animals birds or any nature-related object which are often found in Chotanagpur region.

Pahaan Munda

This is the status of a priestly class among Munda people. Pahaan Munda is one of the learned man among the tribal who has knowledge to overcome social troubles & cure various disease. He is believed to have spiritual powers which he utilizes for the welfare of his people.

Mundari folk legends

Mundari folk legends refers to the beliefs and practices strictly indigenous to the Munda people, including ancestral worship, worship of indigenous gods, and local festivals. Most of Munda

Mundari folk cosmology

Creation of the earth

At the beginning of Time, the face of the Earth was covered over with water. Sing-Bonga, brooded over the waters and the first beings that were born were a kachua or tortoise, a karakom or crab, and a lenda or leech.

Sing-Bonga commanded these first-born of all animals to bring Him a lump of clay (hasa) from out of the depths of the primeval Ocean. The tortoise and the crab by turns tried their skill, but in vain.

The persistent leech, however, met with better success. It succeeded in fishing out a bit of clay from underneath the deep. And with clay, sing-Bonga made this Ote-Disum, this beautiful earth of ours. And, at His bidding, the Earth brought forth trees and plants, herbs and creepers, of manifold varieties. Sing-Bonga next filled the earth with birds and beasts of all sorts and sizes.

And now happened the most memorable incident of all. The bird Hur* or Swan laid an egg. And out of this egg came forth a boy and a girl the first human beings. These were the progenitors of the Horo Honko---the sons of men, as Mundas still style themselves.***[Hur bird is said to lay its egg secretly in a Jir or Jovi (marshy ground). and the common belief among the Mundas is that a Hur will not lay more than one egg in its lifetime. The most solemn oath of the Mundas of old was, it is said, by Hur Jarom (the egg of Hur or Swan).]

The first human pair, however, were innocent of the relation of the sexes. So, Sing-Bonga pointed out to them certain vegetable roots and taught them the secret of making ili or rice-beer therewith. And the first pair, since remembered as Tota Haram and Tota Buri brewed ili as directed, and drank their fill. And the ili tasted very sweet and it inflamed their passions. And in due course they were blessed with offspring. Three sons were born to them, one after another. And these were named respectively Munda, Nanka and Rora.

All this happened at a place named Ajam-garh*. On their parent's death, the sons wandered about over the face of the earth--- over hills and dales, through forests untrodden by the feet of man and over fields unworn by the plough.***[Some Mundas explain the name of this place as "Adamgarh (आदमगढ़) or Adambakri (आदम-बकड़ि) ", the garden of Adam.]


There are twenty two Kili found in Munda people.

  • SUTIA MUNDA-barla
  • DUKA MUNDA- Horo
  • MANGRA MUNDA-Kerketta
  • BELO MUNDA-Kongari/kauwa
  • GANGU MUNDA-Dhechuwa
  • LAAKE MUNDA-Baba/dhan/dhanwar
  • HEMPO MUNDA-Dungdung/aind
  • JITRAY MUNDA- Jojowar/Jojo
  • BIRSA MUNDA- Baru/kandulna
  • LENDA MUNDA-Herenj/Hede
  • MANGTA MUNDA-Ore/kandir
  • SAMU MUNDA-Bagh/Surin
  • PODHA MUNDA-Hemrom
  • SANIKA MUNDA-Dahanga/Dang
  • DUKHAN MUNDA-Topno/haau
  • KHUT MUNDA-Samad

Mundari surname

  • Aind/Dungdung - River Eel
  • Baba/Dhan/Dhanwar - Rice
  • Bading
  • Bage - exodus
  • Bagsuri
  • Bajrai
  • Balmuchu
  • Barha
  • Barla - Fig Tree/Potter/Royal Lineage (i.e. Kings [from Munda mythology])
  • Barjo
  • Baru
  • Bhawra
  • Bhengra - Horse
  • Bhuyan - Earth
  • Binda
  • Bodra
  • Burh/Bur
  • Budu
  • Champi/Champia - A bird
  • Chauria
  • Cherwa
  • Chutiya Purty
  • Dang or Dahanga - Long Stick/Staff
  • Demta - Tree Ant
  • Dhan
  • Dhanwar
  • Dhechua - Black Drongo, a bird
  • Digwar
  • Dodrai
  • Gadabing - May be "River/Valley Snake"?
  • Gamang - Sour teeth
  • Gulgu
  • Guria
  • Hans -Swan
  • Hanuman
  • Hapad - Leach
  • Hassa - Soil
  • Hanjed - Anj`ed (means "dried"), Bitter round green fruit from a shrub.
  • Harusa
  • Hau - Tree Ant
  • Hemrom/Hembrom-Goat
  • Herenz
  • Honhaga - younger-brother
  • Horo - Tortoise
  • Hobo
  • Huni Purty
  • Jadu -Magic
  • Jaria
  • Jate
  • Jatrom
  • Jojo - tamarind
  • Jojowar
  • Jora
  • Kaitwar
  • Kandaiburu
  • Kandir - Lion
  • Kandulna/Baru(javarandi, Kusum)
  • Kandy
  • Kau - Perhaps Crow?
  • Kerketta - A bird, Traid surname shared with Kurux (Uraon/Oraon) and Kharia
  • Kauwa/Kongari - Raven (Genus Corvus)
  • Kula - Tiger
  • Linda
  • Lomga
  • Lugun - Flag/Flag bearer
  • Mankey/Markey/ Mankee/ Manki/Marki
  • Malu
  • Masih
  • Munda, As many 'Mundas' prefer to choose this surname.
  • Mundu
  • Mundri
  • Murga
  • Nag - Snake, Cobra Snake
  • Oreya
  • Purti/ Purty-Mouse
  • Samad
  • Sandil
  • Sardar
  • Sanga - Sweet Potato, Tubers in general
  • Sindur - Vermilion
  • Sor
  • Soy
  • Surin - Swan
  • Sulanki
  • Sutri- Thread
  • Tamsoy
  • Tiru
  • Topno - Tree Ant
  • Tumbli- Wasp
  • Turia
  • Tuti
  • Tanglangla

Origin of Munda Kilis (Surnames)

Balmuchu (बालमुचु)

Once few persons of the Horo kili caught a tortoise by means of a bow like net known as Balmuchu. Later they ate up the tortoise. From that day they became the members of the Balemucu kili and refrained from eating fish or tortoise that were caught by a muchu-net.

Bhengra (भेंगरा)

Once the ancestors went hunting in the dead of the night. They caught a deer and feasted on it in the night. In the morning they realised that the prey was not a deer but a horse. Hence the kili Bhengra came into being and the descends bear the surname Bhengra.

Bodra (बोदरा)

long ago there lived an old Munda couple in a village named Andiki in Tamar. Once they were invited to attend a feast. The old man was a gourmet and ate so greedily that he smeared his whole mouth, face and hand with the food. The people thus made him into a new clan Bodra and his descendant came to be known as Bodra from that day.

Champia or Champi Ancestor of this kili or surname was traveling in search of their place to reside. While traveling they reached in a forest and it was towards the sunset. They decided to spend the night in the forest. They prepared food for the evening. Before having food they heard a bird making a noise which goes likewise: "Looem Jomem champia". From that very moment they took their surname as Champia. Today some write their surname as Champi also. Both surnames are originated from the same sound of a bird.

Dodrai (डोडराय)

Once, a man of Mundu kili went to a tree in search of honey. Upon finding honey in the hollow of the tree he entered into it but his hair was badly besmeared with honey. The villagers came forward to rescue him and took him home. They spent almost seven vessels of oil to soften his hair. Thenceforward he became Dodrai kili.

Horo (होरो)

The ancestor of the Kili, while on a journey had to cross a swollen river. His 'hagas' or kinsmen crossed the river safely. But he himself did not venture to do so unaided, and exclaimed, "Whoever will take me safely across the river, will be my kith and kin forever." In those days all animal and vegetable creation could understand human speech and could themselves be understood by man.

A tortoise who heard the Munda's appeal for help, came up and offered to carry him across the river. The tortoise succeeded in carrying on his back not the Munda alone but all his family and luggage safe to the other side of the river.

True to his promise, The Munda henceforth assumed the name of Horo or Kachua, and his descendants came to form the Horo or Kachua Kili. No Munda of the kili will kill a tortoise or eat its flesh.

Hunipurti (हुनि पूर्ति)

Once a Munda had planted cotton in his field. When the capsules began bursting his wife went to gather wool in the field. In the field she kept her baby and engaged in collecting wool. During this time the field rats came by and upon seeing a lively child they took it to their hole. The wife of the Munda soon came in search of her find only to find him missing. Anxious and concerned she began weeping loudly and informed the villagers about the incident. The villagers made a vigorous search and found the baby in the rat hole. They saw the baby lying comfortably on a bed of cotton wool and playing. Considering the fact that the rats had given the child much comfort and treated it kindly they thought of regarding them as their brethren. Thus, they addressed the rats as their brethren and decided that in future they would inflict no harm on the rats. From then they came to be known as Hunipurti clan.

Kandir (कंडीर)

A certain Munda family had several brothers and a sister who was quite hefty and bulky. The circumference of her waist was such that it required about 9 feet of cloth to cover it up. She was relegated the job of cooking food for her brothers but never carried out in a responsible way. The brothers thus, thought of marrying her off as she did not care for them. All of them took half a maund of flattered rice with them and set out in search of a bridegroom. After a few days they returned and marriage their sister off and sent her to Arnapota to her husband`s house. As the brothers went out with half a maund of flattered rice, they from that day began to be known as Kandir clan.

Lang-Bodra (लंग बोदरा)

One day the people of Tebo Bodra kili set out together for a hunt. They wandered in different directions the whole day and met in the evening. Upon inquiring about their hunt none replied but a man who had killed a Lang, the fly-catcher bird. They all tried to fathom the reason as to why they had only killed only a bird. An old man said that as it was the first day of their hunt hence that they had hunted only a Lang. Thenceforward they must be known as Lang Bodra and should refrain form killing the Lang bird. All the people from then adopted their kili as Lang Bodra.

Marki Munda

They also known as Pahan Munda. They were believe in worship in Sarna God called Singbonga. Generally they want to stay in group and found in Rania Jharkhand area (Manoharpur, Bano, Baghiya Etc.). Marki Munda are counted as minority. Their main occupation is hunter and cultivation. In Munda communities, Marki counted as number one position.

Mundu (मुंडू)

While coming to Sonepur side from the Eastern Parganas (whither they had first migrated from the central plateau), the head of the migrating family was carrying a lighted twist of straw (bor) at night.

While he was nearing the end of his journey, the strawlight burnt down to its lower end (lo mundu jana). From this circumstance this Munda and his kinsmen constituted the Mundu Kili.

Pandu Bing/Nag (पांडु बिंग/नाग)

The story of the origin of the well-known 'Nag kili' (the same as the 'Pandu Bing kili') is as follows: A Munda snake-charmer had tamed a white Nag snake ('Pandu Bing') which he used to take with him in his itineraries

At length, while returning home from a distant village, the snakecharmer died on the way. The Nag-serpent now coiled itself round the corpse and carried it home to the bereaved sons.

Out of gratitude to the faithful 'Pandu Bing', the deceased snakecharmer's sons kept the snake in their house, and gave it plenty to eat and drink every day. And the snake, too, would do them no manner of harm.

Henceforth the descendants of the deceased snake-charmer came to be called the men of the 'Nag Kili'. No member of the Kili would injure a Nag serpent.

Ramra-Bodra (रमड़ा बोदरा) one day the people of Iti belonging to the Bodra clan ate Ramra i.e. a pulse before it was prepared. It was actually to be eaten with the cooked rice. From that very day they were called Ramra Bodra.

Sarukad Purti (सरूकद पूर्ति)

Once a group of Mundas were migrating to some other place when a river they had to cross became flooded. One of them ventured to cross it by swimming but was swept away by the strong current.

However, he succeeded in saving himself by catching hold of a Taro plant through which he reached the shores on other end of the river. He then advised others to cross the river taking help of the Taro plant. One by one all of them crossed the river.

Upon being safely transported to the other side the group thought of offering a sacrifice of fowl in case they thought, the spirits might become displeased.

To roast the fowl they rolled it in the leaves of the same Taro plant. Since the Taro helped them cross the river and bake the fowl by rolling over the leaves of Taro plant they were called the Sarukad Purti kili.

Soy (सोय)

A Munda had grown 'kapas' cotton (kasom) on his field close by a river named 'Chilua Ikir'. A large Soy/Soe or Soel fish made a subterranean passage from the river up to this cotton field, and every night the fish would stealthily come to the field through this passage and damage the cotton.

Unable at first to trace the thief, the owner of the field ultimately remained watching the field one night, and at length discovered the Soy fish eating his cotton. Forthwith, with an arrow, he killed the fish. But the fish was so large and heavy that he had to call in the aid of all his 'hagas' or bhayads to carry the huge fish to the village.

The fish was then chopped into pieces, and the meat distributed amongst all the 'hagas'. The Munda who had killed the fish with his arrow came to be called 'Tuing Soy' and his descendants formed the 'Tuing Soy kili'.

The Munda who divided the meat into different shares came to be called 'Til Soy' and his descendants formed the 'Til Soy kili'. The Munda who distributed the shares came to be called 'Or Soy', and his descendants became the 'Or Soy kili'. The Munda who had brought the leaves on which the different shares of the meat were placed came to styled 'Patra Soy' and his family the Patra Soy kili'.

One of the bhaiyads had taken his own share of the meat in a piece of cloth dyed with gamcha earth (a kind of ochre-coloured earth called gerua mati) and came to be called the 'Gamcha Soy', and his descendants cam eto constitute 'Gamcha Soy kili'. The men of the 'Gamcha Soy' kili would not use cloth dyed with 'Gamcha' earth, and no Munda of the different branches of the 'Soy kili' will not eat the Soy fish.

The other sub-divisions of the Soy kili are the 'Mandi Soy', the 'Chiki Soy', the Tula soy, the Adoa soy, the Rura Mandi Soy and the Banda Soy' Kilis, each of which kilis is somehow or other connected with the legend given above.

Surin (सुरीन)


Tuti (टुटी)

The ancestors of the sept lived in a village Chutia near Ranchi, whither they had migrated from suitiame-Korambe. While migrating further to the east, from Chutia they had to cross a swollen river, in the depth of winter. One batch of the emigrants first crossed the river, but began to shiver terribly with cold when they reached the other bank. They shouted out to their relatives on the other bank to send them some burning charcoal which the latter had with them. The men on the other bank, finding no other means of helping their kinsmen, put some burning charcoal into a fork made of a twig of the 'tuti' plant which abounded in the vicinity, and sent the twig with the charcoal to the other bank with the help of a bow and arrow. The Mundas on the other bank thus relieved from the biting cold, vowed not to eat the 'tuti' plant any more and thenceforth formed a separate kili called the 'Tuti Kili'.

List of Munda people

Padma Shri

Army Martyrs

Indian revolutionaries


Indian politics

Poets and writers

Music & singing

Indian Administrative Service




Religious leaders



Jauna Murmu, gold medalist in women’s 400m hurdles at the 12th South Asian Games-2016 [23]


Literature and studies


See also


  1. Indian Census. (14 May 2012).
  2. "Munda in Bangladesh". Retrieved 29 January 2016.
  3. Joshua Project - Munda Ethnic People in all Countries
  4. "Munda", Encyclopedia Britannica
  5. Riccio et al. (2011), The Austroasiatic Munda population from India and Its enigmatic origin: a HLA diversity study.
  6. "List of Schedule Castes". Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India. 2011. Archived from the original on September 23, 2014.
  7. Bhatt, Shankarlal C. (2006-01-01). Land and People of Indian States and Union Territories: In 36 Volumes. Jharkhand. Gyan Publishing House. ISBN 9788178353685.
  8. "Mundas, Munda Tribe in Jharkhand India, Occupation of Mundas". Retrieved 2016-03-26.
  11. "birsamunda". Retrieved 2016-03-26.
  12. "Hindi stalwarts praise tribal poet". Retrieved 2016-03-26.
  13. :: SAHITYA : Akademi Awards ::
  14. AIPP. "Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) Announces Recipients for the 2014 Indigenous Voices in Asia (IVA) Regional Award". AIPP: Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved 2016-03-26.
  15. "In Brief". Retrieved 2016-03-26.
  16. "BMS to intensify agitation on Mundari language". Retrieved 2016-03-26.
  17. Shri Amrit Lugun appointed as the next Ambassador of India to Republic of Yemen
  18. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on April 3, 2015. Retrieved January 23, 2015.
  19. "Rajiv Topno appointed Modi's private secretary". The Times of India. Jun 19, 2014. Retrieved 7 July 2014.
  20. Profile of Priyanka KERKETTA |
  21. Kapadia, Novy. "Silver Jubilee of Tata Football Academy". SportsKeeda. Retrieved 5 January 2013.
  23. "Johar Times". Johar Times. Retrieved 2016-03-26.
  24. "Archer Jhanu Hansda breaks world record". Retrieved 2016-03-26.
  25. || TS ||: Mundari: The Language of Munda Tribe

Further reading

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