People, Culture, Language
Some time between the third and the fourth century B.C., the Contai-Hijli region raised its head above the sea –level in the shape of a few islands separated from one another by some streams or their branches. By the vagaries of nature, some of these streams in course of time lost their courses linking the islands with strips of low- land and giving emergence to Maljhita Mahal.
In the early part of its history, from 1435 to 1470 A.D, this Mahal or region consisting of Digha, Ramnagar, Kanthi, Khejuri, Bhagawanpur and a part of Egra belonged the Orissa kingdom under the name of Maljhita Dandapat.Afterwards the region frequently changed hands and came under the rule of Hindu, Pathan, Mughal and British rulers lending diversity to the religion and culture of the people of this area.
The aborigines of the area with longish skull, blunt nose, dark complexion and medium height belonged the Austric races like Santal, Bhumij, Murmu etc.who can hardly be traced distinctly anywhere in the area today. Side by side with this class of people, the existence of Dravidian race of the Decaan in this area is also marked. Fair complexioned, large- faced, sharp-nosed, fairly tall people of Alpine or Indo-European origin were also found here in the later years. Not only that, that the people of the region came into some kind of relation with the people of Mediterranean lands is also evident from the relics like the image of the Sun-god of the 7th century discovered in the region. The idol is found wearing European dress and ornaments.
Thus the people of the area is a highly amalgamated race assimilating the features of many races, native and foreign, Indiand and non – Indian, regarding religion, the people came under the influence of Vedic, Jainism, Buddhism, Shaivaism, Vaisnabism and even Islam.
The language or dialect used by the local people bears ample witness to this amalgamation, for instance, the use of Aryan suffixes in naming the villages and titles of people gives evidence of mutually honorable co-existence of the Aryan and non Aryan trips for long.
Generally all the people may be said to fall in two broad categories – the Hindus and the non –Hindus, The term Hindu is almost all – embracing in India, leaving only perhaps the Muslims and the Christians out of its fold. And of the Hindus from Brahimins, who belong to the highest place of the hierarchy down to those, who belong to the lowest, every variety is found in the region. A Wide range of titles that people bear with their names suggests, directly or indirectly, their one-time profession or the field of activity in which they once excelled. But, as at present there is little relation between the title one bears and the profession one follows and casteism is on its last leg, the matter has become of little importance.
The non –Hindus who came to the region from outside were mainly the Muslims and the Christians. They came on different purposes. Some came as invaders chanting martial songs; some came as mercenary soldiers hired by the local lords in order to protect their kingdom or to train their native army; some of them came on commercial purposes; there were some others who were merely fortune seekers.However,most of the forefathers of the non Hindus of the area were in fact converts who courted Islamic or Christian religion after being outcaste for any reason or being tired of the rigorous rules of the Hindu society or being attracted by the apparent simplicity and classless fraternity in these religions or to find favour with the rulers.Whatever reason may prompt the foreigners to come here, they, like the Lotus-eaters of the Odyssey,could never leave the land and their successors were gradually absorbed by the great motley society.
Thus out of numerous races ,racial cultutes and attributes,came to be a people who developed some regionally distinative characteristics,who developed a fighting-sprit to survive in the teeth of monstrous adversities,sometimes in form of political turmoil,sometimes in form of natural calamities