Essay on the characteristics of Dormito­ries in Indian Tribes



The most important social institution in the tribal social organization is youth dormitory. These organizations are found in almost every tribe and their social life is centred on it.

They are known by different names in different tribes, for example, among the Nagas of Assam, they are called 'Morung', while the female youth dormitory is called 'Yo', among Angomi Nagas, and it is called 'Kinchuki'. In Uttar Pradesh, it is known as Rangbang, while among the Mundas and Ho tribes of Madhya Bharat, it is called Gitiora. The Oraons call it Dhoomkuriya, the Bhuiyan call it Dhangarbassa and the Gonds call it Gotul.

These youth organizations are centred in big buildings known as dormitories. They are buildings of straw and thatch. There are separate houses meant for boys and girls. All the youths of the tribe pass their night in the dormitory.

The boys and girls sleep separately. In the villages where there is no dormitory for the girls, they sleep in the house of some old woman. Such is the custom in the Munda tribe. In Bastar the boys and girls of the age of 15 and 16 sleep in the dormitories.

The Oraon youth has to pass his night in the Dhumkuria situated outside the village. In the Ho tribe the unmarried boys and girls live in separate dormitories. Among the Lhota Nagas of Assam the boys can get leave from the Morung only in the case of serious illness of their mothers. Among the Miami tribals of Assam both boys and girls sleep in the same dormitory.

While the girls sleep on the ground floor, the boys sleep on the first floor. Similar is the custom in the Muria tribe of Bastar. Their dormitories are situated outside the village. The unmarried boys and girls gather here at night, sing and dance and participate in other social activities and finally pass the night.

Characteristics of dormitory

The following are the important characteristics of the youth dormitory:

1. While at some places there are separate dormitories for boys and girls, in other tribes they live in a common dormitory. This is the custom in the Muria tribe. On the other hand, among the Konayak Nagas of Assam, the boys live in the Morung and the girls sleep at Yo.

2. Normally the dormitories are situated outside the village in the forest, but they may also be near the fields as it is in the case of dormitories of the Nagas. In Oraon tribe the dormitory is situated in the centre of the village.

3. The life in the dormitory is based on certain traditions and customs which are invariably followed by all the members.

4. The age of membership of the dormitory differs from tribe to tribe. As a general rule it is four or five years in most of the tribes.

5. The boys and girls live in the dormitory till they are married when their membership is automatically dissolved.

6. If a girl becomes a widow she can again enter the dormitory as its member.

7. In the evening the members of the dormitory gather after taking their meals at their homes. At the dormitory they gather after fire, sit around it, tell stories, sing, dance and play and finally sleep.

8. The members of the dormitory are divided into two classes according to age-seniors and juniors. The head of the dormitory is selected from the senior group. It is his job to take care of all the members of the dormitory and maintain discipline among them. The juniors follow the commands of the seniors and receive different types of education from them.

9. It is the duty of every member of the dormitory to keep every­thing secret about the dormitory.

10. The members of the dormitory carry out several functions together e.g., construction of a house on the occasion of marriage or helping the village folk in harvesting the crop etc.

The Gotul of Muria and Gond

Among the dormitories of Indian tribe, the Gotul of the Muria and Gonds of Madhya Bharat is worth mentioning. It is raised on the bamboo poles and the roofs of straw. There is no door or window in it.

The members enter through a small hole sufficient to permit entry. All the unmarried boys and girls gather here in the evening, make a fire, sing and dance, tell traditional legends and sleep here. The juniors serve the seniors and receive different types of training from them. Among the members of the Gotul, different boys and girls are given different status and the corresponding roles.

The head of the dormitory is known as Challen or Silledar. Under him there are Dewan, Tehsildar, Subedar and Kotwal, etc. Similar positions are also given to the girls. According to Majumdar, the purpose of the Gotul is to save the village folk from the attack of wild animals. The youths remain waking for most of the night and sleep only in its last lap or in the day. They help their parents on the field or in grazing the cattle in the forest.

In the evening they go to Gotul after taking their meals. Among the Muria tribals, the girls massage the bodies of the boys. Verrier Elvin has described the sexual life in the Gotul in details in his book, 'The Muria and their Gotul.' He has pointed out that the senior girls train the junior boys in matters of sex.

In 'The Gandwana and the Gonds" Shri Inder Jit Singh has denied any type of sexual activity in the Gotul. D.N. Majumdar and Hutton also agree with Singh. In fact Mr. Elvin has himself admitted and wondered that there is hardly any case of conception among the members of the Gotul. According to Majumdar and Hutton, the Gotuls are the centres of social education.

In it are shown the dances imitating agriculture, hunting, gathering honey and economic activities carried out by the village folk. The conceptions of crime and punishment and good and bad actions are taught through different stories.