Sahariya, the only primitive tribe of the Rajasthan state,
resides in the Shahabad & Kishanganj Panchayat Samiti's of Baran district. They are
mostly under privileged group. They are basically 'bhel'. There are some
differences with the 'bhel' tribe like the main arms of 'bhel' is 'Dhanush-ban'
and Sahariya's is 'Kulhada'. The name Sahariya is said to be derived from the
Arabian word 'Sehara' or 'wilderness'. The Muslim rulers found them residing in jungle,
gave them their present name 'Sahr' which means 'Jungle' and accordingly they came to be
called 'Sahariya' meaning residents of jungle. Even in the absence of genuine historical
account it may be stated that the Sahariyas have been one of the earliest settlers in
Rajasthan. Rajasthan Government has announced this area as a Sahariya region. Sahariya
live in infrastructurally weak and remote areas, not well connected through road/bridge
network even now. Lack of exposure to modern life and historic exploitation by landlords
who paid them less wages, has left Sahariya extremely primitive and backward. In the last
one decade there has been some interest and efforts towards 'Sahariyas' development.
After the emergency period, state government has constituted 'Sahariya Innovative Project'
whose office is in Shahabad. There are large number of NGO's working for the upliftment of
Sahariyas, prominent among them being, ASSEFA, SANKALP, Adim Jati Sangh, Lok
Jumbish and DPIP. Most of them have produced successful results in one area or the other.
Sahariyas generally reside in separate basti in the village which is called Saharana. The religious practice by these tribals is Hinduism and they speak a dialect influenced by Hadoti. The Sahariyas maintained ecological equilibrium with their environment for ages, despite low level of technology. Mostly they were engaged as gatherers of minor forest produce and agriculture labourers. The main business are gathering & selling of forest wood, Gum, Tendu leaf, Honey, fruits and vegetables. Though Sahariyas, in general are primitive, but all of them are not so. Some of them are settled cultivators. Others are landless labourers and forest produce gatherers. They live in small families. The elder sons live separately after marriage and younger son bear the responsibilities of the parents amd unmarried brothers-sisters. Marriages are performed after attaining the age of 15 years. There are some arranged marriages and some in the ceremony in the fairs.
Gautra are very significant in Sahariya's marriages. The main gautra of the Sahariya's are 'Sohara', 'Gorchia', 'Dotiya', 'Chauhan', 'Seliya', 'Bakhudiya', 'Parodiya', 'Gogaiya', 'Kalkhoriya', 'Somliya', 'Khelra', 'Nugapan', 'Sagruliya', 'Bandwal', 'Babuliya', 'Jeswariya', 'Baraliya', 'Pagdiya', 'Kanwar', 'Kasriya', 'Susiyar', 'Navoliya', 'Churawat', 'Dewriya', 'Badhiya', 'Parani', 'Matvehi', 'Semriya', 'Devriyan', 'Bhagya', 'Silwar', 'Pawar', 'Girwar'.
They are less educated. Only 3-4 percent people are literate. State government is trying to literate them.
They worship public Goddess 'Tejaji', 'Dhakar Baba', 'Durga', 'Hanumaan', 'Lalbai', 'Bejasan'. They mainly celebrate festivals like 'Makar Sakranti', 'Savni Amavasya', 'Janmashtmi', 'Raksha Bandhan', 'Deepawali', 'Holi' and 'Teja Dashmi'.
Sehariya takes seasonal 'Kandmul' fruits and vegetables found in forests. Vegetables leafs of 'Senjna', 'Phang', 'Bichotiya', 'Kanna', 'Bansi', 'Charetha', 'Churangli', 'Barsak', 'Lahaylai', 'Chaurai', 'Totam', 'Chani', 'Bajar', 'Rajan' etc. are very commonly taken by Sahariyas in their foods. Crushed dry 'ber' with salt is also eaten with interest. They are non-vegetarian also. They eat Hen, fish, sheep, goat, egg, pigeon, rabbit and other forest found animals.
'Sawa' is the seeds of the special grass found in the jungle. Sahariyas made delicious foods from the seeds of these grass. The seeds of the sawa grass are crushed to flour and chapatis are made. The sawa flour are also used to make 'kheer', 'Rabri' etc. The sawa seeds flour is a nutritive value which is also used by the urban people in their fast(Upwas).