Lohardagga's history dates to hoary
antiquity. Jain literature refers to Lord Mahavir's visit to a place called
"Lore-a-Yadaga," a term that also appears in Mundari literature. lore-a-Ydaga'
in Mundari means river of tears. There is reference to Kismate Lohardaga in
'Aain-e-Akbari' as well.
The ruins of forts and temples of Korambe, Bhandra, and
Khukhra-bhakso, are mute testimony to its rich cultural past. Local historians say that
Lohardaga was once a major centre for smelting iron ("Lohar" means iron monger,
"dagga" means centre).
Around 1765, the British entered this area. In 1833, when 'South
West Frontier Agency" was established, the chief agent of the Governor General was
resident in Lohardaga. In 1842 the Principal Assistant to the "Agent" was
relocated from Lohardaga to Ranchi (then known as Kishunpur). In 1843 a Deputy
Commissioner was placed and Courts were established at Ranchi but the Commissioner
continued to work from Lohardaga until 1899 despite the fact that in 1854 the South West
Frontier Agency was abolished. Bihar government notified Lohardaga as a Sub Division in
1972 and as a district on 17ltl May 1983.
Lohardaga district is part of the wider tribal region, called
Jharkhand. The region has been a sort of loose confederation of freely associating
concatenation of economically self-sufficient village communities since time immemorial.
This confederation of tribespersons extended from south-western Bengal, southern Bihar,
large parts of Orissa, northern Andhra, southern Madhya Pradesh, Western and coastal
Maharashtra. Many tribespersons are still alive who can trace their ancestors from these
parts. The tribals of Lohardaga had a sophisticated culture based on fine understanding of
land, sustainable natural resource management, and community rights. The following
paragraphs document a few singular facts about these people.
A typical village was carved out of
forest. Homestead land would generally be selected at an elevation surrounded by farmland
and forests. There would be a water source- a well, a river or a pond- as close to the
homestead as possible. The forests compensated the low productivity of soil to the extent
of making village communities self-sufficient.
The tribespersons, therefore, came to depend heavily on forest
resources such as stems, tubers, fruits, leaves, flowers, animals, timber, and herbs, for
food, shelter and medicines. Despite the emergence of money economy, a part of their cash
requirement is still met from non-timber forest produce (NTFP). Even today, despite
education, many Munda, Oraon and Kharia households, who own more land as compared to other
tribes, depend upon the forests for their survival needs. There is a symbiotic
relationship between the tribespersons and the forest that transcends purely material and
takes on deeper metaphysical, often spiritual, connotation. "Sarna," the sacred
grove, where elders are buried, is invariably located within a Sal forest.
Cultural ethos and conservation
Local people narrated another interesting feature of the tribal
life to the investigating team. Traditionally males and females of marriageable age were
first symbolically married off to mango and mahua trees respectively. After the actual
marriage, the males would marry the mahua and the females the mango tree. Thereafter
married couples were expected to look after their respective trees.