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Savara Tribe
About Savara Tribe

The Savara are an ancient tribe that lives in the northeast of India. They are thought to be successors of both the Dravidian people and the Mongolian. They are of medium or short height. The Savara villages consist of houses with mud walls and sedge grass roofs, generally situated in foothills. The adult males dress with a gavancha and the women with sarees. They are a patriarchal society.

The Savara people are the second most famous tribal community in the Rayagada district of Odisha and specific pockets of Koraput and Gajapati districts. They are also sometimes called Lanjia Souras due to their dress pattern of wearing a side cloth hanging from behind and which could be mistakenly identified as a tail by a stranger. They are also present in Srikakulam, Vizianagaram and Visakhapatnam districts. They inhabit blocks of Gunupur, Padmapur and Gudari. Their highest concentration is found in the Puttasingi area, about 25 km away from Gunupur NAC. Although, they are close to the assimilation process, yet some interior GPs like Rejingtal, Sagada and Puttasingi have Souras who still retain their traditional tribal customs and traditions.

Language of Savara Tribe

Savara speak Savara language which belongs to the Kol-Munda group of Austro-Asiatic family of languages. They are usually bilingual. Those in the plains lost touch with the original language and speak Telugu only. The Savara language has a complicated grammar, in particular its verb system. A Savara verb can effectively compact a complete sentence into just a single word. In some areas, the younger generations no longer speak Savara. With no official support, the long-term prospects for the survival of the Savara language are not good.

Dress Pattern of Savara People

There is hardly anything distinctive about the dress of a Savara man which consists of loin cloth about 6 ft long and 10 inches breadth. This may be plain or may be decorated with red tarsels at the ends. Occasionally they wear a single necklace of beads; a traditional dress of a Savara woman is a waist cloth with grey border which hardly reaches the knee. The skirt is about three ft in length and about two ft in breadth and for the upper part they wear another piece of cloth.

The Savara women use simple ornaments to decorate themselves. A few necklaces of beads, round wooden plugs, spiral rings made of grass, bell metal or aluminum in the fingers and toes, little rings in the nose, and metal anklets are worn by them. Their traditional dress pattern has been changed drastically, leaving behind only few people in the interior villages retaining their traditional cultural life style.

Religion and culture of Savara Tribe

The Saoras are highly religious with each and every natural phenomenon attributed to the works of some Gods, deities or spirits. Therefore, the customary law, values, norms are highly respected by all members of the society for the fear of inviting personal or communal harms. The Savara people are a tribe from Southern Odisha, north coastal Andhra Pradesh in India. They are also found in the hills of Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.

Savara people believe that spirits guide their destiny, worshiping mainly the deities Jakaradevatha and Sandhidemudu. The village headman is called Gamong and the religious is called Buya. They practice shifting cultivation and the men hunt. A weekly market, called shandies, is a significant role in the society, in the economy and in culture exchanges with other tribes and Western culture.

The Sora people are a dwindling jungle tribe with a unique shamanic culture. According to an article in Natural History, "a shaman, usually a woman, serves as an intermediary between the two worlds (of the living and the dead). During a dream, her soul is said to climb down terrifying precipices to the underworld, leaving her body for the dead to use as their vehicle for communication. One by one the spirits speak through her mouth. Mourners crowd around the shaman, arguing passionately with the dead, laughing at their jokes, or weeping at their accusations.

They are known by various names such as Sabara, Sora, and Soura. They are concentrated in parts of Gunupur adjoining to the blocks of Gumma, Serango of Gajapati district. The Saoras speak a Munda language. However, written language in Saora is not followed by all. They practice shifting cultivation, with a few gradually taking up settled agriculture. Like Dangaria Kandha they belong to Proto-Australoid racial stock.

They are endogenous and the tribe, although absent, is related to Birinda, which is exogamous. Families are nuclear although joint or extended families are also found. Marriages are made by bride capture, elopement, and by negotiations.

Physical Features of Savara Tribe

People of Savara resemble the predravidian tribes with long heads and flat noses. The brow ridges are famous. There is a depression at the root of the nose. The hair is generally curly and the skin color is brown to dark brown. The Savara are not strongly built, but they are physically well built in comparison to the tribes of north coast Andhra. The Savara men are skillful marathon walkers. They are also expert climbers and hunters. The most amazing point of men from the Savara tribe is his dexterity in climbing hills and efficiency in maneuvering the intractable forest land.

Occupation of Savara Tribe

Instead of clan organization they have their extended families called Birinda, which consists of descendants from a common ancestors of four to five generation. The Saoras' religion is very elaborate and deep rooted. They are polytheist and believe in large number of deities and ancestral spirits. They practice both Podu and terraced cultivation with varieties of cereals. Dance and music constitute part and parcel of their rich aesthetic life.

The Saora family is polygamous. The total household economy revolves around the woman member who is hardworking and who helps her husband in ploughing and harvesting crops in addition to attending household chores exclusively.

Village and House

The housing pattern of the Savara is of linear type. The villages where Savara live are generally at the hilltops of Eastern Ghats (Palakonda Hill ranges) between Vamshadhara and Nagavali rivers Vizianagaram and Srikakulam Districts respectively. The villages are quite small with ten to twenty families. The Savara always live in exclusive settlement of their own. They never build their houses in the company of either the other tribal or non-tribal groups. Villages are homogenous, exclusively inhabited by Savara People.

A typical house is square or rectangular single room with mud plastered walls supported with bamboos. The roof is thatched and covered by locally available Dhabba grass. All other supporting structure is made of bamboo, collected from adjacent forest. The roof slopes down to front and back side of the house. Usually the roof is further extended on one side of house to form a small verandah. The room has no windows except one entrance door. They cook food outside the house i.e., in verandah. They divide the verandah into two portions and use corner place for cooking and other portion to accommodate/entertain guests. They decorate walls by applying red coloured mud and they also apply cow dung on floors and on mud walls to keep house clean. They believe that this type of arrangement keeps the insects, terminates, flies etc., away from the house.

Another significant feature of the Savara settlements is the presence of half a dozen or more Jeelugu (salpam) trees. An area with abundant Jeeluqu trees is readily preferred in case of establishment of a new settlement.The Savara villages are situated in the most in-accessible areas and in many cases lie hidden in forest clad hills making it difficult to reach them except through zig-zag steep hill paths. They build their houses on the slope or foot of the hills.

Social life of Savara Tribe

The Saora have a traditional political organization at each region and village, having hereditary post of Gomango (secular head), Buyya (religious head), Mondal, Raito, and Barik (messenger). The Saoras have made history in pre-British and British period and post independence as a community known for their economic and political integrity.

Savara Tribe Speciality

Also the Savara tribal are noted for their paintings. Among the various tribes of Eastern Ghats, the Savara are known to have the best developed artistic sense. The tribal are known to decorate the walls of their home with paintings depicting birds and animals, men on hunting trails, their lifestyle, fauna etc. One of the essential elements of Savara paintings are the geometrical shapes that are used to create bold borders for the center-piece that is invariably drawn in fine lines. They are also known for their handloom products and particularly T-Shirts made by the Savara with a type of Warli painting done on them are very highly appreciated.


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