Urn burial still in practice in tribal pockets of western Odisha

BHUBANESWAR: The practice of "urn burial", an ancient method to bury bodies, is still prevalent in some tribal pockets in Nuapada, Kalahandi and Koraput. But the number of people practising it has gone down. Historian Jitamitra Prasad Singhdeo said this practice was popular among the aborigines of South Africa also. Remnants of urn burial have been found in Napada's Nehena village.

"Urn burial was a great custom among local tribes. It started in the early megalithic period in 1000 BC. Sabar, Sahara and Gond tribes followed this custom," said Singhdeo.

He said tribals used an urn to keep the body and after rituals, buried it. He lamented that there is no concrete research to throw light on the purpose of this practice. As history shows, it was meant to preserve bodies. "An urn of about 60 inch diameter was made, where the body was kept. The body could fit easily into the urn because of its wide mouth," said Singhdeo.

Explaining the reason behind the practice, he said, earlier there would be frequent group clash among tribals. "After death, the tribals would bury the bodies in such a manner so that they could preserve them for several years. As many lives used to be lost, they used this process to quicken the burial process," explained Singhdeo.

Remnants of urns, which were found during an excavation are preserved in the district museum, said the district culture officer, Durga Charan Naik. "Many things related to urn burial have been stored at the district museum apart from valuable historical findings about the tribes practising urn burial," said Naik.