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Ranjoarh


Ranjoarh an ethnic community settled at village Nakria in Panchbibi upazila of Jaipurhat district. The Rajoarhs have ten clans: Shank, Karhor, Kanch, Nag, Chandra, Surya, Agni, Kochchhop, Dumur and Matsoa.

The dwelling houses of the Ranjoarh are generally mud walled huts with straw roof. They make separate huts for their kitchen, bedroom, cattle-shed and prayer room. Agriculture is their main occupation. Both male and female of the Ranjoarh participate in agriculture. Along with agriculture they also deal in vegetables, cattle and fish.

The Ranjoarh family is patriarchal, and only the sons inherit the property. However, in case the mother possesses any property and if she does not give the property to her son or male children, the property is inherited by her female-children after her death. Ranjoarhs maintain both single and joint family systems. However, single family system is widely noticed in the poor families.

Among the Ranjoarh, male-child is more desirable. The post birth rituals include the shaving of the head of the newborn baby on the 9th to 13th day of birth and arrangement of a feast. All the members of the family and preferably neighbours and relatives attend the ceremony. They are offered meals prepared with the rice, pulse, spices and chicken sent as gift from the baby's maternal grandfather's house. The wet-nurse is also given rice, cash money and a sari. Traditionally a son is named after his mother or grandfather and a daughter is named after her father. Anna Prashon is also held on the occasion of feeding the baby a solid food, boiled rice for the first time. The ceremony is held after 7 and 6 months of birth of male and female child respectively. On this occasion, neighbours are entertained in a feast, and arrangements are made for dance and music.

In ceremonies, Ranjoarh boys wear Dhuti and Panjabi and the girls attire traditional Bangali dress. Ranjoarh women used to wear ornaments like Baju, Bichha around the waist, Jhutia on finger, Dhan Tabij around the fingers, Payel on ankles, Hashuli around the neck, ear rings, Nakchona, Chur on ear etc. Due to poverty, now many of them cannot afford such ornaments.

The Ranjoarh celebrates durga puja, kali puja, Goal Puja, Laxmi Puja, Narayan Puja, Dal Puja and Bishari Puja. They also celebrate some festivals like Pausna, Labon, Sannyashi Mela etc. At the end of the Bangla month of Paush, the neighbours are offered cakes' (pithas) made of newly harvested rice powder. The lawns and houses of the Ranjoarhs are beautifully decorated with alpana. On the eve of Labon festival, celebrated on the first day of the month of Agrahayan, relatives and neighbours are invited to take a special type of food called mukkit, made of rice powder, milk, banana, and sugar. At that time, Gita is recited and Kirton is sung. Furthermore, 9-types of vegetables, boiled rice and frumenty (payes) prepared from newly harvested paddy and hard drinks known as Haria, are served to the guests.

No intra-tribe marriage is held among the Ranjoarhs. Once the bride and bridegroom are selected the amount of dowry is settled and the dates of marriage and blessings ceremonies are fixed up. The dowry-money is to be paid before the marriage. The bride is brought to a house near the bride-grooms' home 3/5 days ahead of the marriage. According to the tithi, as the sacred moment, the marriage is solemnised at night. brahman (the priest) utters mantras of marriage and elder brother/maternal uncle/paternal uncle of the bride bestow her ceremonially to the bride-groom. The bride-groom paints the forehead of the bride with a red powder called shindur. Day after the wedding day is held basi-biye and bau-bhat. On the third day, the bride-groom accompanied by the bride and his sister's husband go to the father's house of bride carrying with them betel leaf, betel nut, hard drink (haria) and sweetmeat and stay there for eight days. This period is called astahar, after which all of them return home. In the Ranjoarh community polygamy or widow-marriage is not allowed. However, if any young lady losses her husband, she may re-marry without facing any social taboo.

For physical ailment, Ranjoarhs go to doctors and traditional healers called kabiraj, fakir and ojha. The chief of Ranjoarh is called Mandal. Mandal is elected hereditarily. If any problem is acrued or any offence is committed, Mandal and other elites of the community are invited to arbitrate. In the matter of marriage and death, the decision of the Mandal is highly regarded.

Generally the Ranjoarhs cremate the corpse, but due to the price hike of the fuel wood many of them now prefer burial. Those who carry the corpse to the crematory, is called katharia. The eldest son of the deceased set fire in the mouth of the corpse. After cremation, the ash of the corpse is put inside a bowl and sacrificed in the river. From the fourth day after death family members of the deceased start habishya (diet of fruits and vegetables) ritual and continue this for the next 12 days. On the 13th day of death, the deceased family observes a ritual called karia. On that day all members of Katharia who participate in the cremation are fed with custard, sweetmeat in the lunch and fish and rice in the dinner. Sraddha is performed by the Brahmans on the 14 day after death, and the villagers and relatives are offered dishes of fish and rice on the 15 day after the death. Vermilion on the forehead of the widow is wiped out with the finger of hand or finger of toe of the deceased husband. [Khandaker Fatema Zahra]