Last week, the Telegraph in Calcutta carried two different articles that featured the Birhor society of Jharkhand state. It appears as if the tragic deaths of numerous Birhor villagers early in October prompted the news organization to focus on a previously obscure group of peaceful people.
According to a news story in the paper on Monday last week, the Tribal Research Institute in the city of Ranchi opened a new museum that features all 32 tribes in the state, including the Birhor, many of which are shown as sculpted models in glass-enclosed dioramas. Ranchi is the capital and largest city of Jharkhand.
The article on the Telegraph website includes a photo of the Birhor diorama, with human models depicting a family sitting in front of their kumba, their house. The article says they are making ropes, though that is not really clear from the photo.
Dioramas in the museum evidently show other tribal societies pursuing their characteristic activities. In one village, people are depicted making iron, for instance. The model buildings and structural details shown in the displays are true to the cultures of the groups represented. Dogs, goats, hens—the dioramas include details from village life. The sculptor, Amitava Mukherjee, said he tried to capture the lives of the rural people in each display. In addition to the dioramas, the museum includes photos and artifacts from the different Jharkhand societies.
On Thursday, the Telegraph reported that in the district of Giridih, in Jharkhand State, 23 out of the 49 literate Birhor (47 percent) are women. This rate among the Birhor in the district compares quite favorably with the general rate of female literacy in rural parts of the state. Throughout rural Jharkhand, over 45 percent of the males are literate, while only 27 percent of the females can read.
The article points out that the only Birhor in the district to hold a government job is a woman, Kunti Devi. The Birhor men are envious. A local legislator opined, “The government has … done little for the education of the Birhors and women of this community have won the literacy race on their own.” He added, however, that local NGOs may have helped Birhor females learn to read.