ORAONS, an aboriginal people of Bengal. They call themselves Kurukh, and are sometimes also known as Dhangars. Their home is in Ranchi district and there are communities in the Chota Nagpur states and Palamau, while elsewhere they have scattered settlements, e.g. in Jalpaiguri and the Darjeeling Terai, whither they have gone to work in the tea-gardens. They number upwards of three quarters of a million. According to their traditions the tribe migrated from the west coast of India. The Oraons are a small race (average 5 ft. 2 in.); the usual colour is dark brown, but some are as light as Hindus. They are heavy-jawed, with large mouths, thick lips and projecting teeth. They reverence the Sun, and acknowledge a supreme god, Dharmi or Dharmest, the holy one, who is perfectly pure, but whose beneficent designs are thwarted by evil spirits. They burn their dead, and the urn with the ashes is suspended outside the deceased's hut to await the period of the year especially set apart for burials. The language is harsh and guttural, having much connexion with Tamil. In 1901 the total number of speakers of Kurukh or Oraon in all India was nearly 600,000.
See E. T. Dalton, Descriptive Ethnology of Bengal (Calcutta, 1872), and his article " The Kols of Chota-Nagpore," in Supplement to Journ. of Asiatic Soc. of Bengal, vol. .xxxv. (1887), part ii. p. 154; Batsch, " Notes on the Oraon Language " in Journ. Roy. Asiatic Soc. of Bengal for 1866; F. B. Bradley Birt, The Story of an Indian Upland (1905).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)