Housing Ancestors. The Reorganization of Living Spaces among the Birhor of Jharkhand and Odisha

  • Deborah Nadal (Author)

Identifiers (Article)


The Indian Government has defined the Birhor as a Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group (PVTG). They live in small, scattered communities in Jharkhand and Odisha. Until the 1950s, their lifestyle was primarily nomadic and depended on the availability of forest game and market trends. The government of India then began to limit Birhor access to the forests, forcing them into low-skilled agricultural and mining jobs and settling them in resettlement colonies. The majority of the Birhor still live in these colonies, in houses that they use and inhabit, yet cannot completely appreciate. The reason for this lack of appreciation derives mainly from their religious beliefs and their cultural perception of living spaces. Consequently, many Birhor have made considerable changes to their allotted housing, not only to adapt it to their cultural concepts, but also to serve the perceived requests of the invisible, yet omnipresent, hapram bonga, spiritual ancestors, who are always treated with the greatest consideration in Birhor settlements.