Struggle of a Dying Clan rather a Complete Civilization: The Uncertain Future!

A particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group – its origin, culture and social status that is cut off
from roots , Jharkhand’s endangered tribes battle against all odds to survive.
|| Chamak Tara

Asur are considered to be the oldest community in India. It falls under Proto-Australoid category of ancient human who started migrating from Africa around 65,000 years ago. Asur is one of the most ancient ethnic groups in the state of Jharkhand and speak Asuri language. Asur believes Mahishasur, a demon in Hindu mythologies to be their proud ancestors of Harappa-Mahenjodaro civilization and hence they inherit their common surname ‘ Asur’. K K Leuba’s study reveals that the present Asurs are the descendants of the Asur of Mahabharat Age. Archaeological excavations in Jharkhand have confirmed this fact.

In India, there are more than 2800 castes. Out of the 76 Primitive Tribal Groups in India, 40 Tribal Communities live in Jharkhand.


The total population of Asurs is 10,712 with a decennial growth rate of 37.63 from the 1981 population. As per the 1991 census; they are an insignificant group in West Bengal, but Asurs were amongst the Proto-Australoid groups inhabiting the western regions of West Bengal in Pre-Historic times. In the 1981 census, their literacy rate was just a meagre 10.66 percent.

(Ref: ENVIS Centre, Ministry of Environment & Forest, Govt. of India)

Researchers believe that The Asurs (which in Sanskrit means “the demons”) is the only tribe in the world today with knowledge of how to extract iron from laterite rocks, while everywhere else it is extracted from hematite and magnetite. They are now one of the most vulnerable tribes in central India who have built the ancient Indus Valley Civilization using unique metallurgical knowledge.

The Asurs of 12 B.C. were the greatest. They established the Mohenjodaro and Harappan Civilizations. They were tall and herculean in their builds. The word Asur occurs in a number of places in the Rigveda, Brahamanas, Aranyakas, Upanishadas and Epics which comprise the sacred literature of the Hindus.

The UNESCO has listed the Asur language as “definitely endangered” with only 7,000 speakers left and have put Asur, Birhor and Korwa in its list of world’s endangered languages while Birhor has been tagged as “critically endangered” with just 2,000 speakers left.

According to other thoughts Asur had settled in Jharkhand before one thousand B.C. There are references to the asurs in the Rigveda describing them as great builders.

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