Houses of the Saora people

We have driven through villages sometimes and exclaimed at the beauty of the traditional houses without knowing much about the people. The Museum of Tribal Arts and Artifacts in Bhubaneswar was a lovely place to start filling in that blind spot. In the grounds of the museum, in front of the auditorium, there were traditional huts of different tribes of Odisha built using the original techniques. The one you see here belongs to the Saora (or Sora) people. They are a tribe of the Munda who traditionally lives in the southwestern part of Odisha and in the adjoining northeastern coastal part of Andhra Pradesh.

The house had thick mud walls, extremely good at controlling the temperature inside. The roof was thatched. I could only see the bamboo structure holding the thatching in place. I hope the museum extends its labelling in future to include more details about the construction of the huts. In particular, I liked the raised verandah in front of the house: perfect for casual visitors. It was interesting that a gap was left for the door, instead of having steps to go up to the verandah for entry. The white Idital paintings on the traditional red exterior walls it are called Tanger Sum and serve a ritual purpose of guarding the house. Each village is also ritually protected by paintings called Gosada Sum made by the woman who serves as the shaman.

As you can see from these photos, the doors are made with planks of wood, which meant that villages had a carpenter. The paint seemed to be modern. I wonder how that bright red colour of the exterior walls and the white of the idital was originally made. Elsewhere in the museum I’d seen the kinds of traditional implements that the Saora people used in their terrace and swidden agriculture. They required a functioning smithy. But iron working is such an ancient art in India that I guess the instruments used by farmers and carpenters may have reached their optimal form long ago. Like a good museum, this one filled my mind with more questions.