Answer: Gopinath Mohanty portrays a picture of the eco-system and landscape rituals, beliefs, ceremonies, and tribal wisdom in his novel Paraja, which is rich in ethnographic aspects. He gives a vivid depiction of Koraput’s mountains and woods, as well as the Paraja’s many activities from one winter to the next over the course of a year. The yearly hunt during the spring festival is a major event in the novel. All of the village’s young and strong men go on a hunting excursion that lasts two or three days. The men would walk into the bush knowing that if they returned empty-handed, they would face the ridicule of their wives. Anyone who failed to kill something would be forced to crawl beneath the garments and be bombarded with dung-balls and other dirt… Success, on the other hand, was met with garlands, dancing, and joy. (Paraja) Mandia and Bagala go off on a hunting adventure not only to kill an animal, but also to hunt their friend. Bagala kidnaps Kajodi and flees into the bush, using the ancient Paraja privilege of wedding by kidnapping. Singing, dancing, and drinking are all part of every celebration. “Mahua wine was served to the males, while pendom-strong mandia beer – or landha, which is just slightly less powerful – was served to the ladies.” Mahua wine is prepared from the blooms of the mahua tree, fermented and boiled in clay pots, then cooled with stream water. “The tribesman required booze not just to propitiate his gods but also to drown his hunger and his sorrow,” Gopinath Mohanty said of the cleaning procedure. ‘Paraja 98’ is a paraphrase of the phrase ‘Paraja The Paraja honour their ancestors by placing a stone in the open area in the centre of the communal plaza, vertically for a man and horizontally for a woman. The spring festival is celebrated with a bonfire with the young men and ladies having a good time. The living as well as the dead came together to rejoice in the arrival of spring.
Attempt a critical note on the ethnographic details and eco-systems of the Paraja tribe.
Mohanty is a firm believer in the notion of bonded labour, which is common in Odisha. The forest guard has his eye on Jili, but after being rejected by her and humiliated by her father, he seeks vengeance on the family by accusing Sukru Jani of illegal tree felling. To pay the fine, Sukru loans a significant amount from Sahukar Bisoi and therefore becomes a debt-bound goti or bonded labourer. The Parajas’ goti tradition refers to a pre-arranged arrangement in which a man is required to labour for the moneylender rather than repaying the loan. The tribesmen ask the Sahukar for loans for weddings or bride prices, as well as crops during the rainy season. The principal was greatly surpassed by interest, and the debt expanded year after year. Poor tribals would mortgage their land, giving the Sahukar control of their land, bodies, and souls. According to the contract on which Sukru Jani and his son Tikra Jani leave their thumbprint, the Sahukar charges compound interest at fifty percent per year and only rupees five each year for the services provided by Sukru Jani and his son. As the Sahukar’s goti, his son Mandia joins Sukru Jani and Tikra. Mandia was apprehended while selling illicit wine. Non-tribals’ selfish goals, according to Gopinath Mohanty, endangers the link between the paraja and his land. Sukru and his sons bemoan the fact that they are unable to plough their own land while working on the Sahukar’s. Wind and rain caused the walls of the houses to droop, and the thatches became bald, ripped clothing hung from the ceilings; and children, men, women, dogs, chickens, and swine grovelled in the same dust, says the author.
The Sahukar deceives the tribesmen at times, putting down all mutinies by violently beating them and passing them over to the police, who are then kept satisfied by the Sahukar by offering favours. Despite the fact that bonded labour is no longer practiced, it is still used in some manner as 87 percent of Scheduled Tribes in South Odisha is still below poverty line.
To the tribals, migrant labourers are another face of exploitation, which Mohanty is very concerned about. The migration of Jili and Bili as labourers at a road construction site demonstrates the exploitation of the paraja by strangers. After mortgaging his property to the Sahukar, Sukru Jani frees himself and returns them home. ‘A Paraja girl exclusively works for her father or spouse,’ says the author. As Sukru Jani points out, there are 239 people in the world. The young men also wish to flee to Assam’s tea plantations for higher pay, but they are unable to do so since they are Sahukar’s gotis.
As with any other tribe, the Paraja are unaware of any laws. They are constantly on the lookout for police enforcement. The tribals have a poor literacy rate, which causes parajas to be fearful of the law, government officials, and police. This is one of the reasons the moneylenders have them entrapped. Because he doesn’t know the details of the contract between the Sahukar and the goti, the tribesman has a natural aversion to the law. “He has his own shabby way of accounting a length of rope in which he makes a knot for every year of goti-hood accomplished by him,” Gopinath Mohanty reveals. It is totally beyond his grasp for it belongs to a system in which he has no part, albeit he lives on its borders,” the writer says of the jail. Once a paraja is imprisoned, he is shunned by society. As a result, Mandia decides to take a fifty rupee loan from a money lender and become a goti instead of going to jail after getting found selling illegal booze. “The legislation forbids anybody who is not himself a tribal to acquire tribal land,” Gopinath Mohanty says. However, the moneylenders discover a means to purchase the tribals’ lands. The Sahukar’s friendly connection with the tribal headsman and other authorities has earned him tribal land rights. “The income records were doctored to demonstrate that the property in issue truly belonged to the Sahukar,” according to Mohanty. “It was all done by word of mouth, tribal way,” says Sukru Jani, who mortgaged his land to the Sahukar without using any written documents. In addition, there were no eyewitnesses… And, according to tribal custom, Sukru Jani ceased to be a goti as soon as the deal was signed;… and the territory came into the hands of the Sahukar.”
Justice appears to be a distant memory in the life of the Paraja. While the Paraja enjoy themselves and gather during festivals, hunts, and bazaars, they do not help Sukru in his hour of need. Their cohesiveness and power have been weakened by their dread of the Sahukar, poverty, retreat, and materialistic difficulties. Sukru, Mandia, Tikra, and Nandibali try to talk to the Sahukar as a last resort, but the Sahukar dismisses them. Mandia axes the Sahukar in a fit of rage, and the three surrender to the cops. The carnage at the novel’s conclusion is a consequence of the silent agony and rage, which is like a “fire that feeds on itself and waits” until it can no longer be suppressed. When tribals are exploited, Mahasweta Devi claims, violence is justified. “When the legal system fails, violence is permissible…. No one can suffer in silence.” (Imaginary Maps, number xii) Because Gopinath Mohanty is a bureaucrat, he is able to work productively, humanely, and meaningfully with and for tribals. “Gopinath Mohanty, while offering the tribals justice as magistrate and educating them about their rights as their guardian, was prepared to broaden the boundaries of Odia literature, exploring locations until then untapped and characters until then unknown,” according to Prof.Manoj Das. Gopinath Mohanty’s work combines a vivid folk-idiom with a lyrical that is subterranean, recapturing symbolism and allegory. He is without a doubt the greatest Odia writer, and his works have been translated into nearly every Indian and international language.