Tribes

Sahariya

Living in north western part of Madhya Pradesh the community is placed under the category of primitive tribes. The members of this tribe mainly live in Shivpuri, Guna, Gwalior, Morena, Bhind, Vidisha, Raisen, Sehore and Bundeli Janpad. They also live in Kota, Shahbad and Kishanganj areas of Rajsthan . According to the census of 1991, the population of Saharia tribe was 3, 32,748 in Madhya Pradesh.

The Saharias are considered to be member of Kolarian group and a sub-branch of the Bhils. This community is also known as Seher, Sair, Sawar, Saor, Sahara etc. In Guna-Shivpuri area they are called “Raut”. They also like to be addressed as Khutia Patel as this is a respectful term. The Saharias call themselves younger brothers of the Bhils and that is why they claim to be descendents of Valmiki and Shabari. According to mythological legends the hunter named Jara who caused the death of Krishna belonged to Sanwar community.

The Saharia origin myth is a touching narrative, telling that once in the centre of the universe how the entire tribal community was gradually marginalized.

As per the myth, the God created water, air, trees and flora and fauna on the earth. But there was no one to enjoy such a beautiful earth. So He created His own lookalike in the form of a man. The first human couple was seated in the middle of the earth and then He got busy in creating other human images. Subsequently, these images grew beautiful and brilliant and they pushed the first couple onto the margins. The God called up all the humans and distributed implements like plough and Pothi to them. The first couple that reached in the last was given only crowbar. They were satisfied with it and went into the forests. From there they dug out roots and offered them to the God. To tease them a bit the God made it pungent, but without being disturbed a bit they went out in search of some other roots. The God realized that His first progeny (Saharia) would be content with whatever they get. That is why he named them as Saharia- those who have profound knowledge of herbs and are content with whatever little they have.

Saharia basti is called Saharana where houses are built in the shape of English letter U on three sides. In the middle there is a common courtyard for all the houses. The Saharia women besmear the main doorframes, doorsills, courtyard and kitchen with a paste of yellow clay, chalk and ochre. Now a days they use colours from the market for this purpose. They paint auspicious figures with these materials. This painting is done not only on special occasions and almost daily in the kitchen. This shows their aesthetic sense even in daily routine activities. It is very difficult for us urbane to appreciate the vision behind this.

Saharia men and women like brilliant colours and their dresses have impact of Rajstahan and other tribes. Apart from agriculture the Saharias also collect forest produces. They eat rotis of jwar and bajara and different bhajis and roots found in the forests. On the auspicious occasions like marriage rotis of besan are made. The Saharias are very much fond of hunting and fishing. They have profound knowledge of herbs and are very expert in obtaining honey from beehive. Besides, they make baskets, ropes, broomsticks etc and collect wood from the forests.
The Saharias have been living with Hindus for a long time, so they have started worshipping all Hindu gods and goddesses and celebrate almost all Hindu festivals. Sita is their most favourite goddess. Besides, they also worship Gram Devta-Thakurdev, Bherudev, Nahardev, Darethdev, Karasdev, Bhumaia or Dharti Ke Dev, Harimandev and Tejaji.

The language of the Saharias is now extinct and they now speak the local language wherever they live. However, the songs related to rituals, seasons got story of Pandav, Languria, Phaag, Janki Vivah songs, Chakia songs, Sdagadawat-Bagadavat stories etc show their interest in singing of stories. Lahangi is a special dance of the Saharias and they have a tradition of singing a drama song based on the life of Tejaji.