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Among the tribes there is very little specialization of social roles, with the exception of role differentiation in terms of kinship and sex and some specialization in crafts, the only other role specializations are Head-man, Priest, Shaman and the Haruspex.
There is very little rigid stratification in society. The tendency towards stratification is gaining momentum among several settled agricultural tribes under the impact of modernisation. The tribes of Orissa are at different levels of socio-economic development.
The position of priest, village headman and the inter-village head-man are hereditary. The village headman is invariably from original settlers' clan of the village, which is obviously dominant. Punishments or corrective measures are proportional to the gravity of the breach of set norms or crime, and the punishments range from simple oral admonition to other measures, such as corporal punishments, imposition of fines, payment of compensation, observance of prophylactic rites and excommunication from the community. Truth of an incident is determined by oath, ordeals and occult mechanism.
As regards the acquisition of brides for marriage, the most widely prevalent practice among the tribes of Orissa is through "capture", although other practices, such as, elopement, purchase, service and negotiation are also there. With the passage of time negotiated type of marriage, which is considered prestigious, is being preferred more and more. Payment of bride-price is an inseparable part of tribal marriage, but this has changed to the system of dowry among the educated sections.
The religion of the Orissan tribes is an admixture of animism, animalism, nature-worship, fetishism, shamanism, anthropomorphism and ancestor worship. Religious beliefs and practices aim at ensuring personal security and happiness as well as community well-being and group solidarity. Their religious performances include life-crisis rites, cyclic community rites, ancestor and totemic rites and observance of taboos. Besides these, the tribals also resort to various types of occult practices. In order to tide over either a personal or a group crisis the tribals begin with occult practices, and if it does not yield any result the next recourse is supplication of the supernatural force.
Their common cyclic rites revolve round the pragmatic problems of ensuring a stable economic condition, recuperation of the declining fertility of soil, protection of crops from damage, human and live-stock welfare, safety against predatory animals and venomous reptiles and to insure a good yield of annual and perennial crops.
The annual cycle of rituals commence right from the initiation of agricultural operation, for instance, among the Juang, Bhuyan, Kondh, Saora, Gadaba, Jharia, Didayee, Koya and Bondo, who practise shifting cultivation. The annual cycle begins with the first clearing of hill slopes during the Hindu month of Chaitra (March-April) and among others it starts with the first-fruit eating ceremony of mango in the month of Baisakh (April-May). All the rituals centering agricultural operation, first-fruit eating, human, live-stock and crop welfare are observed by the members of a village on a common date which is fixed by the village head-man in consultation with the village priest.
Thus the ideological system of all the tribes surrounds supernaturalism. The pantheon in most cases consists of the Sun God, the Mother Earth and a lower hierarchy of Gods. Besides there are village tutelaries, nature spirits, presiding deities and ancestor-spirits, who are also propitiated and offered sacrifices. Gods and spirits are classified into benevolent and malevolent categories. A peculiarity of the tribal mode of worship is the offering of blood of an animal or a bird, because such propitiations and observance of rites are explicitly directed towards happiness and security in this world, abundance of crops, live-stock, plants and progenies. Sickness is not natural to a tribal, it is considered as an out-come of the machination of some evil spirits or indignation of ancestor spirits or gods. Sometimes, sickness is also considered as the consequence of certain lapses on the part of an individual or group. Therefore, riddance must be sought through propitiation and observance of rituals.