Essay on the origin and functions of dormitories in Indian tribes

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Scholars do not agree about the origin of tribal dormitory. According to one view, they are residence of the ancient communal houses when the whole village used to live under one roof and there were no individual homes.

According to another view the purpose of the dormitory is to keep boys and girls unaware of the sexual relationships of their parents. According to Majumdar, the purpose of dormitory is to gather the youths of the village at one place to save the village from the attack of wild animals and the village maidens from the attack of males of other tribes. Besides it, the origin of the dormitory may be due to want of houses, the bliss of communal life and the development of tribal culture.

Whatever may be the origin of dormitory, it is undeniable that it is the centre of tribal culture in a tribe. In it are taught the lessons of the traditions, norms, ideals, religious beliefs, methods of earning livelihood and discipline to the boys and girls of the tribe. According to S.C. Roy, the tribal dormitory carries out the following three functions:

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1. Helping in the gathering of edible things and consolidating economic organization.

2. Educating boys and girls in social and other duties and imparting them education in the matters of sex.

3. Following the principle of endogamy and keeping the movement of women limited and controlled.

At present unfortunately the institution of youth dormitories is gradually weakening in tribes. The two important causes of this development are as follows:

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1. Contact with the city. Due to contact with urban people the tribals are gradually forgetting their social ideals and institutions and following urban culture. As the education is now being provided by the schools, the children do not go to dormitory to receive education.

2. Influence of Christian missionaries. The spread of Christianity among tribals and the presence of Christian missionaries among them have adversely affected their youth cultural set up. The institution of youth organization is gradually weakening, which has led to social disorganization among the tribes.

In fact, as has been rightly pointed out by Elwin, the condition of the social organization of a tribal group can be rightly estimated from the condition of its youth dormitory, which is the centre of the maintenance and development of its culture.

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