Most Famous Tribal Groups
- The Bhils are a tribe found mostly in the mountain ranges of Udaipur and in some districts of Rajasthan.
- The Bhils are the largest tribes in India.
- Popularly known as the Bow men of Rajasthan
- They speak the Bhili language.
- Their celebrations are the Ghoomar dance, Bhagoria Mela during Holi, Than Gair-a dance drama, and the Baneshwar Fair during Shivaratri.
- Found in the Chhindwara district of Madhya Pradesh and in parts of Maharashtra, Orissa, and Andhra Pradesh, the Gonds are the second biggest tribe in India.
- They are known for their valor and speak many Indian languages including the Dravidian Gondi language.
- They have houses of mud walls and thatched roofs in the Gondi forests.
- Agriculture is their main occupation.
- Keslapur Jathra and Madai are their festivals.
- The Baiga (means sorcerers) is one of the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs).
- They mainly live in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Odisha, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh.
- Traditionally, the Baiga lived a semi-nomadic life and practiced slash and burn cultivation. Now, they are mainly dependent on minor forest produce for their livelihood.
- Bamboo is the primary resource.
- Tattooing is an integral part of Baiga culture, every age and body part has a specific tattoo reserved for the occasion.
Munda Tribe ( means headmen of village)
- This tribe is found in Jharkhand and parts of Chattisgarh, Bihar, Odisha, and West Bengal.
- Their life is simple and basic. They speak the Mundari language. The Mundas were hunters in the past but now are laborers in farms.
- They follow the Sarna religion owing allegiance to a God called Singbonga which means the Sun God.
- Their language is Killi and Nupur dance is the main entertainment.
- The Munda tribes celebrate the Mage, Karam, Sarhaul, and Phagu festivals.
- The Santhal tribes are a major tribe of West Bengal. They are also seen in parts of Bihar, Odisha, and Assam and are the largest tribe in Jharkhand.
- First tribe to offer resistance to British during 1855 Santhal rebellion which resulted in the creation of separate Santhal Paragans district.
- They depend on agriculture and livestock for their living and are great hunters.
- They have no temples of their own. They even do not worship any idols. Santhals follow the Sarna religion.
- In addition to traditional festivals like Karam and Sahrai, Santhali dance and music is a major attraction.
- Distribution: Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh
- Meenas claim a mythological descent from the Matsya avatar, or fish incarnation, of Vishnu.They also claim to be descendants of the people of the Matsya Kingdom.
- The Meena tribe is divided into several clans and sub-clans (adakhs), which are named after their ancestors. Some of the adakhs include Ariat, Ahari, Katara, Kalsua, Kharadi, Damore, Ghoghra, Dali, Doma, Nanama, Dadore, Manaut, Charpota, Mahinda, Rana, Damia, Dadia, Parmar, Phargi, Bamna, Khat, Hurat, Hela, Bhagora, and Wagat.
- In Rajasthan, the Meena caste members oppose the entry of Gurjars into Scheduled Tribe fold, fearing that their own share of Scheduled Tribe reservation benefits will be eroded.
- These are one of the most excluded tribes who are not only isolated but also still primitive in their living.
- Totapara village in the Alipurdoar district of West Bengal is home to the Toto tribe.
- Their language has no script and is influenced by Nepali and Bengali.
- They trade vegetables and fruits to maintain their simple life.
- They believe in God Ishpa and Goddess Cheima, though they proclaim to be Hindus.
- The Bodo tribe is found in Assam and parts of West Bengal and Nagaland.
- They are believed to be the early indigenous settlers of Assam.
- They belong to Indo-Mongoloid family. They speak a Tibetan-Burmese language, the Bodo.
- The weaving of handloom products is an intrinsic part of their culture.
- They celebrate the Baishagu festival in spring, dedicated to Lord Shiva, Hapsa hatarani, Domashi.
- The Angami Nagas is one of the major tribes found in the district of Kohima in Nagaland.
- The men dress in white Mhoushu and black Lohe. The women wear Mechala and ornaments of beads, mask pendants, bracelets, etc.
- The tribe is best known for the famed Hornbill Festival which attracts crowds from various parts of the world.
- Hornbill Festival – first started in the year 2000 is celebrated in the month of December every year. It starts on December 1, a day that is celebrated as Nagaland Statehood Day, and it goes on for ten days, ending on December 10.
- The 17 tribes that take part in the festival are Angami, Ao, Chakhesang, Chang, Dimasa Kachari, Garo, Khiamniungan, Konyak, Kuki, Lotha, Phom, Pochury, Rengma, Sangtam, Sumi, Yumchungru, and Zeliang.
- Their intricate art and woodwork and work in bamboo and cane are beautiful. They speak different dialects like Gnamei, Ngami, Tsoghami.
- Distribution: Nagaland
- They are one of the seventeen major Naga Tribes.
- They follow patriarchal system.
- Originally they were animist. They believed in various gods and goddess. Christianity is also present among the tribe.
- Agriculture is the main occupation. They practice Jhumming. Women are expert weavers.
Koyank Tribe (means black head)
- Distribution: Nagaland
- They are the largest out of 17 officially recognized tribes in Nagaland.
- They are known as ‘those violent headhunters with tattooed faces.
- One of the last headhunters, they now practice agriculture and hunt seasonally. More than 95% of them follow Christianity.
- The men wear earrings made out of deer horn, necklace made out of boar tusks, and brass heads.
- Festivals: Aoling to welcome spring, ‘Lao Ong Mo’ harvest festival
- The Bhutias are mainly found in Sikkim and parts of West Bengal and Tripura.
- They are of Tibetan ancestry and speak Lhopo or Sikkimese language.
- They are known for their art and cuisine. The steamed meat dumplings called momos are their staple food.
- Thukpa, noodles in a broth, is another of their dishes. Losar and Loosong are the festivals celebrated.
Bru or Reang Tribe
- Bru or Reang is a community indigenous to Northeast India, living mostly in Tripura, Mizoram, and Assam. Reangs belongs to Indo-Mongoloid racial stock.
- Reangs are the second largest tribal community of Tripura. In Tripura, they are recognized as a Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group.
- In Mizoram, they have been targeted by groups that do not consider them indigenous to the state.
- In 1997, following ethnic clashes, nearly 37,000 Brus fled Mamit, Kolasib, and Lunglei districts of Mizoram and were accommodated in relief camps in Tripura.
- Since then, 5,000 have returned to Mizoram in eight phases of repatriation, while 32,000 still live in six relief camps in North Tripura.
- In June 2018, community leaders from the Bru camps signed an agreement with the Centre and the two-state governments, providing for repatriation in Mizoram. But most camp residents rejected the terms of the agreement.
- The camp residents said that the agreement didn’t guarantee their safety in Mizoram.
- Distribution: Mizoram, Tripura, Arunachal pradesh
- The Chakma possess strong genetic affinities to Tibeto-Burman groups in Northeast India and to East Asian and populations.
- They believe they are also part of Buddha’s Sakya clan from Himalayan tribes. After many struggles to survive, they gradually migrated to Arakan, and spread their territory to the nearby hills of Chittagong Hill Tracts.
- During the construction of the Kaptai Dam in the 1960s, many Chakma settlements were submerged due to the creation of the artificial Kaptai Lake.
- In the mid-1970s, the eruption of the Chittagong Hill Tracts conflict caused some Chakma people to become refugees in NEFA (present Arunachal Pradesh). The conflict ended in 1997 with the Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord.
- Language is Chakma part of Indo-Aryan group.
- Religion is mainly Theravada Buddhism
- Festivals: Bizu, Alphaloni, Buddha Purnima and Kathin Civar Dan.
- Lepcha is a tribe of the Himalayan range lives at the North-East corner of India. They largely resides at Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Bhutan, Sikkim, and Darjeeling.
- Lepchas are Mongoloid tribe. Their language is an admixture of Nepalese and Sikkims languages, which is very familiar with the Indo-Chinese language. They themselves call “Rong”.
- Lepchas live on rearing a large number of cattle and milch cows besides cultivation of Agricultural and Horticultural crops.
- Originally Lepchas were the nature worshiper and had beliefs in witch-craftship and spirits. But in due course, they embarrassed Buddhism.
- In Tripura, they are known as Nepalese and their social and community relationship also bounded with Nepalese.
- This tribe is mainly spotted on the Khasi Hills of Meghalaya and in parts of Assam, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, and West Bengal.
- Most of the Khasis follow Christianity.
- They speak Khasi – an Austro- Asiatic language
- The property of the Khasis is passed on from the mother to the youngest daughter.
- The women wear silver or gold crown on their head and the men wear large earrings.
- The tribe plays plenty of music and a wide range of musical instruments like drums, guitars, flutes, cymbals, etc.
- Their major festival, the Nongkrem festival is five days long when the women wear a dress called Jainsem and the men a Jymphong.
- Garo tribes are mainly found in the hills of Meghalaya and parts of Assam, Nagaland, and West Bengal.
- The tribe is one of the few matrilineal societies in the world. Garo architecture is quite unique. Nokmong, Nokpante, Jamadaal and Jamsireng are some of them.
- The tribal women wear a variety of traditional ornaments. The men wear their traditional dress with a turban with feathers stuck in them.
- The festival of Wangala is their celebration.
- This tribe inhabits the mountains of Arunachal Pradesh with the majority of them from districts of Kurung Kumey, Papum Pare, Upper, and Lower Subansiri.
- Nishi is the language spoken by them.
- A good majority of them have converted to Christianity.
- Distribution: Himachal Pradesh
- They mainly dwell around the Dhauladhar mountain range, Chamba, Bharmaur, and the areas near to Dharamshala
- The main occupation is pastoralism and they make their livelihood by rearing and selling sheep, goats, mules, and horses.
- Most of them are Hindus and a few Muslims.
- They speak the Gaddi Language but for writing, they use Takri and Hindi.
- Festivals: Shivarathri, Jatra.
- Distribution: Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Kashmir
- The Gurjars/Gujjars were no doubt a remarkable people spread from Kashmir to Gujarat and Maharashtra, who gave an identity to Gujarat, established kingdoms, entered the Rajput groups as the dominant lineage of Badgujar, and survive today as a pastoral and a tribal group with both Hindu and Muslim segments.
- They mainly practise pastoral and dairy farming.
- Practice transhumance.
- The tribe is found in the Maharashtra-Gujarat border and surrounding areas.
- This tribe is well known for the Warli Art, where a mixture of cow dung and earth, rice paste, bamboo stick, red ochre are used to create art, paintings, and murals.
- They conduct the Tarpa dance during the harvest season and the Warli Folk Art Dancing People Festival during March of every year.
Khonds/ Dongari Khond
- Distribution: Orissa
- Their native language is Kui, a Dravidian language written with the Oriya script.
- They are nature-worshipping forest dwellers.
- Vedanta Resources, mining company, was set to destroy the forests, wildlife, and way of life of the Dongria Kondh people. Their four-year-long protests finally paid off as the government has now banned Vedanta from mining in Niyamgiri Mountain and in their forests.
- Practice shifting cultivation locally called Podu.
- This tribe is indigenous to Andhra Pradesh and inhabits the forests of Nallamala Hills.
- They are also present in the districts of Kurnool, Nalgonda, Guntur.
- They hunt and trade in jungle products like honey, roots, gums, fruits, and tubers.
- They speak the Chenchu language with a Telugu accent and are a very ritualistic lot.
- Festivals: Mahashivarathri is celebrated by them with great pomp especially in Amarbad tiger reserve Telangana.
- Distribution: AP, Karnataka, Rajasthan
- They are the largest tribe of AP.
- They live in exclusive settlements of their own called Tandas, usually away from the main village, tenaciously maintaining their cultural and ethnic identity.
- They are expert cattle breeders and largely subsist by sale of milk and milk products.
- Festivals: Teej, Ugadi etc.
Apatani Tribes (or Tanni)
- Aaptani are a tribal group of people living in the Ziro valley in Arunachal Pradesh.
- They speak a local language called Tani and worship the sun and the moon.
- They follow a sustainable social forestry system.
- They celebrate major festivals – Dree with prayers for a bumper harvest and prosperity of all humankind and Myoko to celebrate Friendship.
- The Apatanis practice aquaculture along with rice farming on their plots. Rice-fish culture in the valley is a unique practice in the state, where two crops of rice (Mipya and Emoh) and one crop of fish (Ngihi) are raised together.
- UNESCO has proposed the Apatani valley for inclusion as a World Heritage Site for its “extremely high productivity” and “unique” way of preserving the ecology.
- This tribe of Karnataka is believed to have descended from the Bantu people of Southeast Africa. History says that the people were brought in as slaves by the Portuguese.
- They are found in various parts of Karnataka.
- The majority of them are Christians while others follow Hinduism and Islamism. They are fond of ritual practices, dance, and music.
- This tribe from Mysore, Karnataka is concentrated in Coorg.
- Well known for their bravery, the tribe is a patrilineal tribe from Kodagu or Coorg.
- They speak the Kodava language.
- They are basically agriculturists. The people of the tribe, both men and women, are very passionate about hockey.
- Kodavas are the only people in India permitted to carry firearms without a license.
- Distribution: Karnataka and Kerala
- They traditionally lived in structures made of leaves, called koppus and also dressed in leaves.
- They were subjected to inhuman practice of Ajalu which was banned by Karnataka Government in 2000. But it was in news recently due to it prevelance.
- They practice endogamy with regard to their three main subdivisions, the Sappina, Ande and Kappada Koraga.
- They worship spirits known as Bhutas as well as some devas and a sun god.
- Koraga people are known for drum beating (dollu or dolu beating) and Flute music and dance involving both men and women.
- Language is Koraga which has no script.
- Distribution: Kerala and Tamil Nadu
- They live in forests and do not practice any agriculture but are specialists in collection of honey, wax etc which they trade to obtain food items.
- Live in temporary shelters with thatch leaves and shift according to employment availability.
- They worship many jungle spirits.
- The Todas are found in parts of the Nilgiris mountain in Tamil Nadu.
- Their livelihood depends on cattle farming and dairy. Their skill in architecture is reflected in the oval and tent-shaped bamboo houses with thatched roofs.
- Toda embroidery work, Pukhoor, is well acclaimed. Their most important festival is Modhweth.
- The tribe inhabits areas of the Nilgiri mountain in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
- They are the second-largest tribe in Kerala and are found mostly in the Palakkad region.
- They are mainly farmers and dependent on the production of paddy, dhal, Raggi, chilies, turmeric, and plantains.
- They are ritualistic, believe in their own Gods and are known for their skills in black magic.
Kattunayakan (King of Jungle)
- Distribution: Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka
- Hunting and collecting forest produce are the two main means of living.
- Kattunayakar believe in Hinduism and have a language, which is a mixture of all Dravidian languages. The main deity of the tribe is Lord Shiva and (jakkamma [Nayakkar])under the name of Bhairava. They also worship animals, birds, trees, rock hillocks, and snakes, along with the other Hindu deities.
- Child marriages were common before the 1990s, but now the girls marry after attaining puberty. Monogamy is the general rule among the Kattunayakar community.
- Kattunayakar are non-vegetarians and are fond of music, songs, and dancing.
- They are also called Cholanaickar and Pathinaickars.
- Distribution: southern Kerala State, especially Silent Valley National Park.
- They are called Cholanaikan because they inhabit the interior forests. ‘Chola’ or ‘shoals’ means deep evergreen forest, and ‘naikan’ means King. They are said to have migrated from Mysore forests.
- The Cholanaikkans speak the Cholanaikkan language, which belongs to the Dravidian family.
- They live in rock shelters called ‘Kallulai’ or in open campsites made of leaves.
- They subsist on food-gathering, hunting and minor forest produce collection.
- Kanikkaran are a tribal community found in the southern parts of Kerala and Tamil Nadu states in India.
- Though they cultivate everything and make agriculture as the main profession, they have a special liking for fishing and hunting.
- Kaanikkar Nritham is a form of group dance performed as a rural offering.
- The Kanikkars are semi-nomadic, living in temporary huts of bamboo and reeds. These are generally situated on hillsides.
- This is a major tribe found in parts of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. They are one of the earliest settlers of the Western Ghats.
- They lead a simplistic lifestyle depending on agriculture and gathering of honey and wax.
- They are adept at formulating traditional herbal medicines.
- They are well known in the region for their skills in witchcraft and magic.
Great Andamanese Tribe
- The tribe is based in the ‘Strait Island’ of Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
- The members speak Jeru dialect among themselves and their number stands at 51 as per the last study carried out by Andaman Adim Janjati Vikas Samiti in 2012.
- More than 5,000 Great Andamanese lived in the Islands before British settlers arrived in the 19th century.
- However, hundreds were killed in the conflict as they defended their territories from British invasion, and thousands more were wiped out in epidemics of measles, influenza, and syphilis (a bacterial infection).
- The Onge were semi-nomadic and fully dependent on hunting and gathering for food.
- The Onge are one of the least fertile people in the world. About 40% of the married couples are sterile.
- Onge women rarely become pregnant before the age of 28.
- Infant and child mortality is in the range of 40%.
- The Ong speak the Önge language. It is one of two known Ongan languages (South Andamanese languages).
- A major cause of the decline in Onge population is the changes in their food habits brought about by their contact with the outside world.
- The Shompen are a hunter-gatherer subsistence people, hunting wild game such as pigs, birds and small animals while foraging for fruits and forest foods.
- The lowland Shompen build their huts on stilts and the walls are made of woven material on a wood frame and the roof of thatched palm fronds, and the structure is raised on stilts.
- A man usually carried a bow and arrows, a spear and through his loincloth belt, a hatchet, knife and fire drill.
- The Shompen are a hunter-gatherer subsistence people, hunting wild game such as pigs, birds and small animals while foraging for fruits and forest foods.
- Language is Shompen belonging to Austroasiatic Language.
- They are one of the world’s last uncontacted peoples.
- The Sentinelese are hunter-gatherers. They likely use bows and arrows to hunt terrestrial wildlife and more rudimentary methods to catch local seafood, such as mud crabs and molluscan shells.
- Some of their practices have not evolved beyond those of the Stone Age; they are not known to engage in agriculture. It is unclear whether they have any knowledge of making fire though investigations have shown they use fire.
- The Jarawas are an indigenous people of the Andaman Islands in India.
- They live in parts of South Andaman and Middle Andaman Islands.
- They have largely shunned interaction with outsiders, and many particulars of their society, culture and traditions are poorly understood.
- From the 1970s, the controversial Great Andaman Trunk Road was built through their western forest homeland. As result, contacts between the Jarawas and outsiders began to increase, resulting in occasional trading but also the outbreak of diseases.
- On 21 January 2013 a Bench of Justices G.S. Singhvi and H.L. Gokhale passed an interim order banning tourists from taking the trunk road passing through the Jarawa area.
- As a response to this interim order, a petition was filed on behalf of local inhabitants which stated that the Andaman Trunk Road is a very vital road and connects more than 350 villages.
- The Supreme Court therefore, on 5 March 2013 reversed its interim order, allowing the road to be fully re-opened, but with vehicles only being allowed to travel in large convoys four times a day.