Sora people

Sora people

The Sora (alternative names and spellings include Saora, Soura, Savara and Sabara) are a tribe from Southern Orissa, India. They are also found in the hills of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.

The Souras are second most prominent tribal community in the Rayagada district of Orissa and specific pockets of Koraput and Gajapati Districts. They are also sometimes called Lanjia Souras due to their dress pattern wear a loin cloth hanging from behind & which could be mistakenly identified as a tail by a stranger. They inhabit blocks of Gunupur, Padmapur and Gudari. Their highest concentration is found in the Puttasingi area, approximately 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.

They are known by various names such as "Savara", "Sabara", "Sora" and "Soura". They are concentrated in parts of Gunupur adjoining to the blocks of Gumma, Serango of Gajapati district. The Saoras have their own dialect. However, written language in saora is not followed by all. They practice shifting cultivation, with a few gradually taking up settled agriculture. Like Dongorias they belong to Proto Australoid racial stock.

They are endogamous and the clan, 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.


Instead of clan organization they have their extended families called Birinda, which consists of descendants from a common ancestors of four to five generation. Marriage by negotiation is held ideal, though expensive. 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. They also collect minor forest produce for their livelihood. They are very artistic people and are famous for their wall paintings called EDITAL. Dance and music constitute part and parcel of their rich aesthetic life.

The Saoras practice swidden or shifting cultivation. They are more adept or skilled in terraced cultivation where they grow varieties of cereal and pulses.

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.

The Religious Beliefs

Like the Dongorias, 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 social control mechanism revolves around the religious beliefs, which are very strong.

The tribals of Rayagada observe a string of festivals. Some are closed affairs, relating to a birth or death within the family or daughter attaining puberty. Others relate to sowing or harvest time and these involve the entire community. Mostly, a festival is an occasion for a good of Mahua liquor or HANDIA liquor, a game roasted on the spirit and a night of song and dance and reveling. But that is not the end. There is an animal sacrifice too for the deities and spirits must be appeased first, particularly the malevolent ones so that they will not face drought or sickness of land.

However, in the last two or more decades many of the traditional Sora beliefs have been superseded by Chritianity that was introduced by missionaries. In many areas the shamanic and animist beliefs are distant memories, and in some areas, particularly around Puttasingh the graveyards of the ancestors have been destroyed. Ther is nowadays a move by nationalist Hindu groups to convert the Sora to Hinduism. This conflict has given rise to great tension in the area.

Their Society

The saora have a traditional political organization at each village and region, having hereditary post of Gomango (secular head), Buyya (religious head), Mondal, Raito and Barik (messenger) discharging the function of a tradition court of law, by hearing both sides and awarding punishments. However, unlike the Dongaria, the Saoras in Rayagada have adopted Christianity in large numbers and therefore the traditional economy, polity and religion is at a cross road. Due to its impact, they have adopted modern ways of life by joining Govt. and non-govt. services. Their traditional dress pattern has been changed drastically, leaving behind only few people in the interior villages retaining their traditional cultural life style. The Saoras have made history in pre-British and British period and post independence as a community known for their economic and political integrity.

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