Toto tribe in Bengal faces extinction due to their marriage system

The endogamous marriage system practiced by members of Toto tribe in West Bengal may lead to the extinction of their clan since the children are reportedly born with several genetic defects.


Members of the Toto tribe, who happen to belong to the most isolated indigenous communities in the country, are slowly becoming extinct due to their endogamous system of marriage.


A good number of these families reside at Totopara, a village in the north Bengal region near the Indo-Bhutan border.


The total population of Toto tribe is believed to be just 1,468 and such trends have caused much anxiety among the elders as well as other concerned anthropologists.

Their conventional system lets conjugal relationship between cousins and such practices have created problems in their society since the children are born with deformities.


A majority of the children born out of the prevailing wedlock among the Totos are prone to genetic disease of Thalassemia, in which blood is not manufactured by the bonemarrow, forcing the affected persons to undergo periodical transfusions every fortnight for the rest of their lives so as to survive.


The wise among the Toto tribals are concerned about their declining numbers and they have lent a serious thought to their traditional endogamous marriage custom.


"The rituals are one of the most unique types which we have inherited from our ancestors. The way of marriage is also a peculiar. Though we practice the Hindu religious faith, our way of giving offerings and the marriage life are different from the conventional ones. We don't have casteism and dowry system prevalent in our society. We suppose an early marriage life is ideal, which we call living together and this helps our couples to know each other more properly before the final bonding. We are married within our families, especially among our cousins. But for a while, we have noticed that the off-springs of these couples after marriage are affected with the deadly disease of Thalassemia due to some genetic problems. We want to stop this tradition so as to come out of this predicament," said Dhaniram Toto, chief of the Totopara village.


The Totos are generally divided into 13 other various downstream clans and they reside in the regions of north West Bengal bordering with Bhutan and Assam.


2010-03-10 / ANI

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2 Responses to Toto tribe in Bengal faces extinction due to their marriage system

  1. I am really astonished to read the article. I had the chance to work among them staying in their village for about two months at a stretch during mid 80’s. Though my nature of work related to anthropology in general, both Physical and Cultural. So far I remember the Toto are having 13/14 exogamous clans, and they do not marry within their own clan. When I see in this report that there is high percentage of beta-thalassemia trait, the next obvious question will be how many deaths have been recorded due to thalassemia? Nearby Madarihat hospital could have been approached. What I found about a matter of concern, is too much dependency on the “Jhankri’, the Nepali ethno medicineman. I personally experienced the death of an young lady with perhaps pneumonia, when she was denied to consult the doctors, though we( myself and local school head master) suggested at least hot garlic-mustard oil may be massaged at the extremities. They did. but Jhankri appeared, and black hen was sacrificed. when she was taken to hospital, it was too late. I had long discussions with young Bhakta, Ramesh, Dhaniram, Maniram, Sugrib and others who became befriended with us and spent much time with the members of late Dinesh Toto, the ex leader of the Toto community. A peculiar skin disease called “Yaws”, was found but literally adult beta thalassemia homo zygote, I could not come across. I may be totally wrong, and should update my knowledge.
    If we consider the demographic profile since the study of C C Sanyal, BK RoyBurman, ISI, CRI studies we will see the total number Toto is always increasing, except in one decennial census, which may be due to some error or temporary migration to some place. Even in our study we found close to 1000 souls of Toto.Therefore extinction in near future may not be a wise comment about the Toto.

  2. himangsu says:

    i would like to know about the toto community

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