Just these ten districts home to a majority of the tribal population in the state account for merely 16 per cent of the total cases of infection in Jharkhand. In fact, not even one tribal from the Tana Bhagat community has tested positive for Covid-19 to date.
Jharkhand’s caseload is beyond the 75,000-mark with the state recording more than 650 virus-related casualties.
Tana Bhagats account for a population of 21,783 people part of 3,481 families and not even one has tested positive for the virus to date. High standards of cleanliness and hygiene are being cited as the reason for Tana Bhagats’ heightened immunity.
Along with other Oraon tribes, Tana Bhagats are ardent followers of Gandhian philosophy. Guided by their motto of ‘simple living’, they gather around and worship the Indian tricolor each Thursday.
Tana Bhagats photographed in Jharkhand’s Baridih village (Photo Credits: Satyajeet Kumar/India Today)
Most members of the Tana Bhagat community own only two pieces of unstitched cloth that they wash every day. Strict vegetarians, they are also teetotalers and eat only home-cooked food.
In fact, they carry their own food when travelling for work.
Baridih village, barely 40 km from the state capital Ranchi, has been home to a sizeable number of Tana Bhagats for decades.
Even at the age of 80, clad in white from top to bottom, Ganga Tana Bhagat sounds healthy and stout. He told India Today about a local ritual to clean the area around the tricolour with cow dung before they wash their hands and pray to the Indian flag each Thursday.
Since they do not need air conditioners or refrigerators, Tana Bhagats keep their distance from society. This is perhaps what has allowed them to remain insulated from the pandemic. Their food habits and natural living conditions further add to their immunity.
Plaques in honour of tribal Tana Bhagats who laid down their lives during the Independence movement (Photo Credits: Satyajeet Kumar/India Today)
Two members of the community, namely Mangra and Somra Tana Bhagat stood under the statue of their ancestor Jatra and spoke of Mahatma Gandhi. They also remembered how the community sacrificed its people in the fight against the British. Names of those who laid down their lives have been inscribed on plaques spread across the village and serve as a reminder of the community’s message of peace.
Jharkhand health minister Banna Gupta, who himself tested positive for the virus was not surprised that Tana Bhagats had managed to keep Covid-19 away. Along with the rest of the state cabinet, Gupta and labour minister Satya Nand Bhokta lauded the tribal community for their way of life.
It goes without saying that the Covid-19 pandemic has presented an opportunity for each and everyone to learn from and imbibe the ways of tribal communities such as the Tana Bhagats. Their way of life and community has the potential to become a mantra for keeping infectious diseases and health concerns at bay.
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