Here’s The Truth You Didn’t Know About Tribal Youth Dormitories In India

Written By Jyotsna Hans

Tribals in India have varied sets of beliefs and ideologies. These play a major role in their upbringing and form an important institution in their communities. One such institution is tribal youth dormitories, and such dormitories are made especially for tribal youth for different purposes.

These dormitories have different names in different tribes, for example: Ghotul (Muria), Nokpante (Garo), Morung (Naga, Wanchoo and Nocte), Zawlbuk (Lushei), Nadrong (Dimasa Kachari), Mosup (Adi), Jyrkodam/Hangsekia (Karbi), Samadi/Chamadi (Tiwa/Lalung), Chavadi (Muthuvan), Dhum Kuria (Oraon), Rang bang (Bhotia) Kichuki (Angami Naga) Ikhuichi (Zemi), Iloichi (Zemi), and Dhanga Bassa (Bhuiya).

The real purpose of these dormitories has been defeated over the years and remains hidden in anthropology books and is subject to a lot of misrepresentation among non-tribals. Tribals have utilised these dormitories for varied reasons which provide shreds of evidence of their belief and lifestyle. The youth dormitory is regarded as the expression of a social tendency, an ‘ethos’, rather than as an isolated ‘element’ of culture. There are different types of dormitories for different types of tribes. Some dormitories are exclusively for girls or boys, some of these dormitories are even utilised by married men and women. 

Morung, Nagaland

Morung in Nagas is the most celebrated of the youth dormitories. 

A Morung in Leangha, Nagaland. Image source: https://www.picuki.com/media/2023160519536330183

It was a kind of bachelor’s dormitory for the village youth and performed a variety of functions. It was a tradition among the Nagas that all the boys after they reached puberty, were required to enter the Morung. A boy who entered the dormitory at the age of six or seven remained there till he married and set up his own independent house.

A Morung served as the educational centre for the Nagas, where the traditional training and learning process was maintained and implemented. Members were required to follow a disciplined life and were taught the techniques of war, fighting, wrestling, games and sports, handicrafts, sex, and moral education, religious philosophy, etc. by the elders. These dormitories occasionally serve as a village hall or rest-house for visitors but are fundamentally youth clubs and youth dormitories, run by and for the benefit of the unmarried boys or girls. 

Dhumkuria

Dhumkuria is a similar youth-centric dormitory in the Oraon tribe. 

As in any other dormitories, members engage in singing and dancing, and the elders of Dhumkuria provide training in socio-cultural, politico-economic, and religious grounds to the young members of the group. They encourage cooperativism and collectivism.

Members of the dormitory help in all the events of the community and also take major decisions for the benefit of the village. There is no curriculum as compared to the modern education system we see in schools and colleges. However, all the teachings are based on people’s everyday experiences. The youth learn the values and skills required for their livelihood.

Ghotul

Ghotul is a tribal youth dormitory for the Muria tribe. 

While staying at the Ghotul, there are various dances and cultural activities performed by the girls and boys. Image source: https://htoindia.com/blog/ghotul-dance/

Ghotul became famous for its practice of allowing the youth to explore their sexuality in the dormitory. While sex is still a topic of taboo in India, this practice continues in such dormitories and approaches sexual viewed in different attitudes and perspectives. The main purpose of Ghotuls is to educate youths through Ghotul education.

Members are taught various lessons such as discipline, cleanliness, and hard work. In Ghotul, adultery is considered a social crime, a danger not only to the individual but to the whole community. According to Verrier Elwin, a famous anthropologist, couples in Ghotuls are less likely to get divorced as compared to other communities.

These dormitories symbolise the cultural heritage of their respective tribes. People who are unaware of the system of dormitories in tribals have overlooked other uses of these dormitories and have mainly focused on the sex among youths. The ignorance towards the significance of such dormitories cannot be considered as mere confusion or misunderstanding but rather as misrecognition of the identity of tribals.

Such dormitories and their concept are ahead of its time, especially when we consider India’s regressive mentality when it comes to openly speaking about certain issues. Their thoughts, vision, and perspectives revolve around the youth and their development, both physically and mentally. Allowing each youth to find a partner for themselves, possess equal rights and obligations is progressive thinking which is a concept uncommon even in urban areas. It’s time we acknowledge the value of this system and learn from it, rather than misjudge it.

About the author: Jyotsna Hans is a content writer for Adivasi Lives Matter. She is pursuing her undergraduate degree in law. She is fond of good food, good reads and good places to travel. “Through my articles, I tend to bring all tribal goodness in the limelight,” she says. 

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