The setting up of Nag dynasty among the Munda and tribes is looked upon by some as the acculturation process, while other consider it as spatial expansion of the OraonNaga and Chero Kingdom who were once the rulers of central part of India.The article presents a fresh look on the problem and also investigates into the inception of Nag dynasty on the basis of ethno-history of the people.
The interest in the study of state formation among the tribal communities of India was recently aroused by two thought provoking articles.In one of the articles,S. C Sin ha (1961) discussed state formation and status mobilisation among the central Indian tribes with reference to Bhumij of Manbhum district and in other K.S.Singh(1971) traced the history of state formation of the Chero and Munda tribes. State formation among the Chero and Bhumij tribes was viewed as internal development while that of the Munda by a secondary process.Here,it is to be noted that all these tribes have the common ethnic affinity and are settled agriculturists.
It is imperative to know,at the out set,as to what we understand by the state and non-state in the tribal society.The concept of state embraces itself two elements (a) decision making or power holding authority or government and (b) territory or subjects. In every tribal society a state of order exists and they are also said to have government but not the state. The state comes into being when authority or power is derived from the single source and obedience is claimed from the people. It is in this sense that Lucy Mair(1962:138) put forward the notion of state in these words “It is the kind of government that we call the state a single supreme authority is recognised and public affairs are regulated, decision taken and obedience claimed by persons acting in this name” territory as an element of state, is the later addition in the notion when its viability as source of power was felt by the government. Territory, along with people is the jurisdiction of activities of almost all organized tribal communities but in spite of this,they are supposed to lack the state.The Parha organisation of the Munda and Oraon tribes is a type of administrative system which derives its power and authority rom customs or customary laws and not from the chief.Te chief and other members of the Parha are the law making and enforcing authority. But some see unfavourable condition in the traditional administrative system for the development of state and oppose the view that the “Chotanagpur Raj arose from the Munda culture matrix” Nevertheless, the parha organisation was te primary form of the state to which we mean to-day.
Anthropologist and other (Blandier, 1970;154) have distinguished two categories of state on the basis of its origin-primary and secondary or derived state. The first is formed by means of internal or regional development without the stimulus of other pre existing state forms, the second results from a ‘response’ imposed by the presence of a neighbouring state, a power centre that eventually modifies the equilibrium established over a wide area (ibid 154).On this basis, the state among the Chero and Bhumij tribes is also by secondary process, for their traditional so cio-economic structure was stratified in the pattern of the dominant Hindu society through internal as well as external factors prior to the emergence of kingship among them. Development of state through the internal process is possible only by rationalisation of so cio-economic structure and when a leader or a dominant group as a ruler emerges concentrating all layers of public power in his hand as a decision making person or body.The formation of state by inviting a powerful group to rule over them and second, by success on resulting from the ambition of one of the sections of the tribe.
The favourable circumstances for the formation of state in pre-state society, Southhall (Ibid;155) in one of his studies from Africa state that “one of the group already possess an effective large-scale political organisation,it has at its disposal the means of politically controlling a large area and eventually imposes its supremacy on the micro-societies with which it is in relation.One of the groups contains charismatic leaders,who become the chief solicited by the neighbouring societies or the ‘modals’ according to which they organize the internal power by subordinating it.The establishment of a structure of domination is made possible in the one case by the ability to govern a large political area and in the second by the quality of the leader.At this stage an embryonic state is in being”. The chief of the Parha organisation, in this light, lacked the quality of dominant or charismatic leadership as well as political area. However, it is the acculturation of the elite group who voluntarily preferred change in the traditional administrative system which facilitated the formation of state.
The four pre-conditions which K.S.Singh mentions (1971:171-173) for the formation of state among the tribal communities of India,all are secondary process except “settled agriculture and organised tribal village communities”.The Mundas are even considered to have been transformed into agricultural communities by secondary process i.e. “contact with new forces in the cradle of Sryan culture and Brahmanical influence”.Some of the scholars, on the other hand, are of the view that tribal’s particularly the Austric speaking group who once occupied the fertile Indo-Gangetic plain,where already transformed from nomadic to semi-sedantary life prior to the contact with invading Aryans.This view is well supported by archeological findings in which rice and cotton are found indigenous to India and the climate for its cultivation was favourable in Indo-Gangetic river valleys and central India. In those days too, different economic levels existed-hunting,gathering and agriculture. It is now an accepted fact, as the evidence in modern times also justify,that in ancient times too (Bridget & Raymond,1968:320) different social and economic levels co-existed,often in close proximity to one another and communities with different standard of living have for long co-existed every close quarters and have in fact depended upon one another economically (idib,254).It is therefore wrong to suppose that the tribal economy was transformed from hunting, gathering to settled agriculture through Aryan or Brahmanical influence.The process of change was continuous.But nevertheless, the “settled agriculture and organised tribal village communities” prompted for state formation in the already existing primary state when Brahmanical i.e. stratified so cio-economic system was adopted.The Chero and Bhumij re of no exception,for centralised power emerged only when the area and people were politically controlled by the central power.
The next interesting aspect of inquiry in the subject under study is -who are Nagas? Are they race or ethnic group or it simply denotes to people worshipping Nag i.e. serpents or Nag clans? The answer to these quarries cannot be easily given.Today ,we get ethnic groups who are identified as Nagas in North-eastern part of India.Once they established kingdom in this part of the country. Racially they hold Monoloid features and no records ever mentions their penetration West to Brahmaputra river.The Nagas tribe as ruling group had no influence to other parts of India,but the thrust of tribals Mongoloid people to the present state of Bengal and Orissa is accepted.
In ancient times,it is stated ,people were distinguished and given names on the basis of ecological region they occupied, the can they belonged and often the deity or totem they worshipped (Chaudhury,127-128).Such identity was not uniform and in course of time,often supplemented by another name.This has complicated the identity problem of ancient people any venture to associate them with today’s well named ethnic group is not beyond doubt and has led us to no acceptable conclusion,save few exception.
Today we get people who hold Nag clan and also worshippers of Nag i.e. cobra serpent.All these people are found in parts of central India from Vindhyan to Chotanagpur plateau .Besides,there are also tribal groups who have nomenclature of Nag or its equivalent such as Chero,Nagesia,Nagbansi etc who also hold the same territory where serpants worshippers.Nag clans and people claiming descent from cobra serpent are found.This region is supposed to be the seat of ancient Naga race who also were spread over the whole Indo-Gangetic Plains and whom the Aryans could not subjugate but only could brand them as snake or sarpa with best intension only known to them.They enjoyed supremacy over others in gallantry and administration whose totem name or cult was later incorporated in myth,legend and lineage name (Karve,1905:323).The Nags are said to have been associated with almost all great civilization-Mesapotamia,Rome,Greece and Egypt (Tavalkar,1979).D.D Kosambi (1965:86) states that Naga was a generic name for food gathering forest tribe and were a very respectable people.He further states (ibid. 93) apparently Naga became a generic term for forest aborigines,not necessarily connected or interrelated.who had a cobra (Nag) totem or worshipped the cobra as so many Indians aborigines (and not only aborigines) still do.The particular ‘Naga’ were in adjacent jungle at the time Kuru land was first settled by Aryans.Food gathering was much easier in Gangetic forest than in the open,semi desert basin or the foothills o the punjab.The same dense forest made it impossible to conquer the Nag or to reduce them otherwise to the status of tribals slaves, as had been possible with Dasa and Audra of the west.Naga line was friendly to and in some special relation with the Kurus,though not to the Pandavas.The term ‘Naga’ was not in vogue in vedic age for ethnic group (ibid,120),here it indicated aboriginal blood or at least aboriginal cult.And for that matter,Kolians the neighbours of Sakyan to whom Buddha belonged (ibid 109) were often counted among the aboriginals with the generic label ‘Naga”.So the term ‘Naga’ in all intent and purposes, denoted tribal groups or totemic groups of the tribals.
‘Pundra’ or ‘Pundarika’ is another term which is associated either to the name of ethnic group or to area of their habitation and has relevancy to the present enquiry.Ramchandra Jain writes(1964:120-121) about the area of habitation of these people.He states that with Andhra,Pundra,Sabra,Mutiba covered the deccan peninsula.Robert Safer(1954:21) tells that Pundra was a Mundic (Austric speaking)Territory.The Dandakarneya of Mahabharat falls to this region from where the king Janamejaya 3 (the last king of the Pandava race)wanted complete annihilation of the Nagas.And according to the history told by the Nagbansi king of Chotanagpur, Pundarika Nag fled to Kashi to avoid killing.The terms Pundra,Pundarika,Naga or Nag thus denote to the same aboriginal or clan group.Pundarika is also said to stand for a territory of Chotanagpur plateau which is now a part of Jharkhand and Bengal.Thus,Pundarika Nag,the father of Fanimukut Rai i.e the first Nagbansi king of Chotanagpur,was not the personal name but denotes either to an aboriginal group or territoty.To address or refer a person by the name of the village or clan he or she belongs,is still the practice of the Chotanagpur tribes.
Sarpa or Nag are the inter changeable term to which all scholars agree.It is stated (Mazumdar, 1951;156) that “the Austri proto Australoids were spread over the greater part of India.In the Indus and Ganges valleys,when the Aryans first met tem,they were known as Nishada.Furlong(1958;280_states that theAryans found the area held by the Naga worshippers called Nishada and everywhere they encountered Kolarian and Dravidian races.It is on te basis of wide distribution of Austric speaking people in India in ancient times,that Irawati Karve(1965:323)asks “have we any evidence to connect the Nagas with the present day Mundari speaking tribes? In this connection she cites from Harivamsa purana where mention of a tribe of degreded warrior called Kola-Sarpa is found.She states that “Naga and Sarpa are interchangeable terms.The word Kola is even now applied for the Munda tribe.So the Kola-Sarpa of Harivamsa seems to be identical to Naga Munda of Pali tradition and it seems very probable that Nagas were a Mundari speaking people”.
Nagesia or Nagbasia of Madhya Pradesh, according to Rusell and Hiralal (1965;255) claim descent from the Nagbansi of Chotanagpur, they are supposed to be Munda offshoot and the Hindu neighbours use their name for the Mundas.Nagbasia is supposed to mean original settlers(basia) in Chotanagpur (Nag).Traditionally the Mundas call themselves as ‘Naguri disum'(country of the Nag people),all these phrase and terms indicate directly or indirectly to Austric speaking people or aboriginal groups belonging to them.
It is in this light that the setting up of Nag dynasty is to be considered afresh.It is clear Nag dynasty evolved out form the rudimentary state form through the interplay of both primary and secondary process of state formation.The elements of primary state form was there in the culture matrix of the Mundas as stated earlier otherwise the course of state formation would have been different.The classical ‘conquest theory’ as well as peaceful penetration are dispensed with as necessary condition for the rise of state among the Mundas on the ground that they do not get support either by history or ethro-history of the people.
Many generations after the first Nagbansi king, the ethno-history of the Munda tells, that Dalpat Rai and Medni Rai the chief of Palamau were equally known to them.It is told that many Chero chief also visited Nagpur i.e the Munda region and co-operated in many fields in war and peace in one way or the other.But it is not known whether any Chero chief was ever crowned as Maharaja in Nagbansi dynasty or extended his administrative jurisdiction beyond Palamau over the Munda-Oraon region.
‘It would be absurd to argue’ writes I.M Lewis (1976:351) “that by some curious law of opposites, states were invariably founded by leaders from non-state.But the knowledge that this can and does happen helps to correct the crude evolutionary view that,because states and non-states are structurally poles apart, they are necessarily seperated by a long chain of intermediary stages.”The state formation among the Mundas also holds this view.
The kingship among the Mundas and other neighbouring ethnic groups,such as Chero and Bhumij,developed after the fall of the Gupta empire and were almost contemporary to each other.Under this situation there was no pragmatic influence in the organisational set up of the Mundas from the neighbouring Chero and Bhumij tribes.On the other hand,an elite class,due to an ongoing internal process of change as well as acculturetive forces,was evolving in the existing socio-political structure who were prone to divert from traditional system and were keen to establish socio-political relation with other power centers.It may be noted that in Chotanagpur when the population of the Munda was increased considerably, they sectionaised into a number of groups under the respective leader.And as it is told,formerly religious leaders (Pahan) was subordinated to secular leader (Munda),similarly, the Manki(leader of many sections) was always assisted by te Pahan whose position was subsequently liquidated totally.By that time of Manki Madra Munda (foster father of first Nagbansi king) the position of the secular leader was at the apex of the Munda socio-political structure.It is on this background that the Nagbansi dynasty was laid down.The detail of how the Nag dynasty,with the adoption of kingship in exchange of Mankiship,was up in the Munda socio-political system is to be comprehended in the following story fabricated by the intrested Brahmins.
The most often told myth about the man to whom the Nagbansi claim descent, is based on the ‘Family annals of Nagbansi dynasty prepared by the Brahmins.Dalton(1872: 165-166)tells this story in these words,To avoid killing either from the hands of Raja Janmejaya,Pundarika Nag assumed the form of Brahman and repaired to the house of a Brahman of Benaras .He married there his only child Parbati.Unfortunately however, the Naga could not get rid of his forked tongue.Consequently,to hide his identity,he always would sleep with his back to his wife.But the lady curious like others of her class,soon discovered her husband’s secret and became eager to get an explanation.To avert her attention,he proposed that they should make together a pilgrimage to Puri which the lady accepted gladly.They made their return journey through Jharkhand.On reaching the hill of Sitiamba near Ranchi,the wife was seized with sever pain of child birth.And according to the custom secret desire nursed for years of either husband or wife should be fulfilled or answered.The wife accordingly asked the husband for explanation of his secret.The husband was thus compelled to disclose but he warned that it would lead to their separation.After disclosing the secret that he was the Naga king in disguise,he assumed his original form i.e cobra,plunged into the pool and disappeared.the wife while giving birth to a child,also died.
At this moment,a Sakaldwipi Brahmin appeared on the scene holding an idol which had the image of the Sun.He slaked his thirst at the pool,and when about to proceed on journey,found that he could not lift the idol that he had hither to carried without difficulty.And whilst pondering on this,his eyes fell on the child lying,sheltered and guarded by a great hooded snake.This was Pundarika in his proper form protecting his child.Addressing the Brahman he narrated his own history and fortold that the child would become to be the Purohit and the idol his tutelary deity.This happned in A.D 104
The other version of the story is not at all known to other people than the tribals of the area.It is told that a Sakaldwipi Brahman along with his little daughter came begging to the house of Madra Munda,the then Manki of the region.The Brahman requested the Manki to provide him job and shelter.He told the Manki that he can teach the children.Seeing the pitiable condition of the Brahman,the Manki allowed him to stay in the village and the children were sent to learn reading and writing from him.Though this part of the story has no sequence with the story of Pundarika and his son, but the story of the Brahman as told after the birth of the child beside the pool has a definite link with it.In the Munda version of the story,there is no mention of the Pundarika and his wife performing journey from Kashi to Puri and back.Here it is simply told that some tribal women found the child at the bank of a pond.They also saw the cobra with its spread up hood close to the child(the child’d body movement may have attracted the poisonous snake who was about to strike on him and so the spread up hood) Seeing the women,the cobra disappeared.They brought the child to the house of the Manki who had also a new born son.Both the children were brought together.The son of the Madra Munda was named Mukut Rai and the foster son Fani Mukut Rai.Later,when they attained the age,was selected to Mankiship on the basis of his personal qualities.
How for rest of the two stories carry fact is to be considered on the basis of the following points:
Route of pilgrimage
Before christan era,there were very few Hindu pilgrimage centres.The prominent sacred centres were Puskar,Kashi,Gaya,Kedar-Badri and Puri.The pilgrims would perform their journey mostly through the river valleys and trade routes.The whole Kaimur and Vindhyan range including Chotanagpur plateau was then covered with dence forest.Aryan penetration was scanty in this region and no secred center had developed,moreover there were no trade route(Bhardwaj, 1973:29).There is no mention in the story as to which route Pundarika Nag and his wife had adopted in their journey to Puri.But it is stated that the return journey was through the Jharkhand i.e Chotanagpur plateau.The Brahman also followed the same route in his journey from Puri to Gaya.In the Munda version of the story ,te Brahman alongwith his daughter came to the village for begging.Duringpre-christian era,as is told,Brahman were in search of vergin areas for patronisation from the chiefs and were out for spreading Hinduism,particularly among the settled agriculturists non-Hindus.Since there were no route through the Jharkhand,the journey performed by the Brahman and Pundarika Nag is doudted as is told in the first version of the story.But there is some authenticity in the second version of the story.
Who was Parbati?
There is no denying the fact that Parbati was the daughter of a Braman- either of Kashi or wandering Brahman.It is told by the Mundas that Parbati grew in the village environment among the Mundas and that she was not in pilgrimage journey.She was with her father in Madra Munda’s village and she was well aware with the Mundas customs and rituals.It is why when she was suffering with pains of child birth,she demanded her husband to leak out the secret of his identity to help easy birth.For it is believed by the tribals that when there is no easy birth.(besides the involvement of evil sprits)something wrong is supposed either with the girl or her husband or the public.Dhanur Singh Purti in his published book (1978:5) on Ho mentions in details the obstacle of easy birth and its remedies.He narrates that when there is difficulty in easy birth,the girl is being asked about her previous intimacies etc.Similarly,the husband as well as his family members are also requested to reveal the secret which may be the cause of obstacles of easy birth.Parbati believed in this custom; that is why when she was suffering with pain during delivery,she asked her husband to reveal the secret of his forked tongue(forked tongue is not at all referred in the Munda version of the story nor the inquisitiveness of Parbati).It was not possible for her to know this belief system and follow it,had she not been grown up among the tribal communities.And it is doubted, this custom at this period,was widely prevalent in India amoung other communities also.It is told,since Parbati grew up among the village folk,she developed intimacy with a Munda boy and the result was the birth of Fani Mukut Rai.Parbati either died at the time of delivery or commited suicide as it is told in the annals or deserted the baby and so no puestion of tracng out the paternity of the child arose.The Brahman as well as the woman who found the child had seen the snake with its spread up hood close to the child asn saw no human being there.
who was Pundarika Nag?
As it has been stated in previous pages “Pundarika and Naga” denotes to the one and same people who are identified with Austric speakers or aboriginal groups belonging to them and as such Pundarika Nag is not the personal name.The annals of Nagbansi dynasty mentions Pundarika Nag (the serpent)could assume the human form but like the ‘churail'(sprit of the woman died at child birth)who cannot change their heel from back to front,could not change the forked tongue.’Pundarika Nag was thus either a symbol or sprit and not snake or human being.Snake or any other animal,other than human being cannot learnscriptures or magic.If Pundarika Nag was a human being he may not have abnormal tongue like that of snake otherwise how could he learn the scriptures from the kashi Brahman.For forked tongue is a phusical obdtcle in speaking.Most probably,Pundarika Nag was a bi-lingual which has been taken for forked tongue.It is Parbati who detacted the bi-lingualism of Pundarika Nag.
Thus,it is a fact that Pundarika Nag was the name of an aboriginal community.Both the stories indicate to the fact that Fani Mukut Rai was a tribal boy born from a Brahman mother.It is to be noted that Madra Munda i.e the Manki and his lineages were already proseletised to Hinduism like the neighbouring Chero and Bhumij tribes who adopted Hindi personal names and titles.
About Nag dynasty,it is told that Fani Mukut Rai had only one son known by the name of Sitia,whose name is not found in the Nagbansi line of kings.Sitia had eight sons who all moved out to different directions.One of them came to Panch Pargana area along with a large number of Mundas and settled down there and some moved even further.One of his son settled at Khunti and some moved towards Jashpur in Madhya Pradesh.After Fani Mukut Rai,it is recorded,Mukut Rai the son of Madra Munda, became the king.And as the kingship was founded with the crowning of Fani Mukut Rai,whose paternity is derived from cobra i.e Nag,the whole line of kings were recorded as Nagbansi or lineage of the Nag.But it is to be observed that not a single person belonged to the descendants of Fani Mukut Rai occupied the thown.
The change-over from mankiship to kingship did not bring about corresponding change in the traditional administrative system.The king remained as an ordinary person without special power and privilege.A change in the administrative system was brought much later when Nagbansi Raja was made tributary to the Mughals.The Raja,as is told by the Mundas, called upon the Partha chiefs for consultation and sought their help at this hour of trouble.Prior to their help with annual chanda i.e subscription and occasional gifts which continued till the Britishers came.During the Brithsh rule the subscription was made permanent and was transformed into rent,though prior to this cases of forcible collection of subscription by king’s people was set free from captive by the Mughals,he adopted this administrative system.He created posts for ministers,military personnels and brought admirers and followers,all from outside whom he granted land in jagir. These people strengthened the hands of the Maharaja in administration.He was getting much difficulty in controlling the territory on which the tribals had exclusive ownership individually and collectively.The traditional rights of the tribal over land was forcibly taken away by these people who also helped in spreading the Hindu culture in the region by establishing sacred centers.It was a heaven for trading and other occupational communities who swarmed into the region and who were all interested in the land of the tribals.The rent and land system of the British government proved to be a boon which further confermed the position of the Maharaja and land-hold of the Jagirdars and moneylenders.So economically the tribals were redused to the status of slave which adversely affected their social and political system.The formation of state thus,became complete which the founder of Nag dynasty,many generations ago,had laid down.But this delegated power and position itself was an indication of the decline of kingship.
With the cange in situation, the tribals also changed course.They disliked cultural assimlation and acculturation and withdrew themself from the identification with the Nagbansis in the same way as they did many times in bygone days.They in the mean time,brought corresponding change in the political system and reorginised.In the Parha organisation different post weer created with the denomination similar to Maharaja’s court.But nevertheless,the Parha orginisation remained a confederate body and functioned in the traditional pattern.The Nagbansis who segregated themself from the tribal mainstream,were assimilated into the Hindu fold and were provided Kshatriya status.(It is to be noted that Munda tribe as a whole were recognised and confirmed in 1978 convention of All India Kshatriya Mahasabha as Kshatriya)There were no inferaction between the two groups,except during fairs and festivals organised by the Nagbansis in which the tribal would participate s mere spectator.Thus,at last when the so-called Nagbansi asserted themselves as master of the land and ruler of the masses through police power and rent system of the British government, as stated earlier,the state was formed in true sense of the dynesty indicates.They were from the elite group,the decendants of Madra Munda the Last manki.The decendants of Fani Mukut Rai the founder of so called Nagbansi dynesty,thus were never crowned as kings and christening the line of kings as Nagbansis is therefore wrong.