Tribes of India

Tribals constitute 8.14% of the total population of the country, numbering 84.51 million (2001 Census) and cover about 15% of the country’s area. The fact that tribal people need special attention can be observed from their low social, economic and participatory indicators. Whether it is maternal and child mortality, size of agricultural holdings or access to drinking water and electricity, tribal communities lag far behind the general population. 52% of Tribal population is Below Poverty Line and what is staggering is that 54% tribals have no access to economic assets such as communication and transport.

These indicators underline the importance of the need of livelihood generating activities based on locally available resources so that gainful employment opportunities could be created at the doorstep of tribal people. Recognizing this need for initiating such livelihood generating activities in a sustained and focused manner, the Ministry of Welfare (now Ministry of Tribal Affairs) established an organization to take up marketing development activities for Non Timber forest produce (NTFP) on which a tribal spends most of his time and derives a major portion of his/her income. In 1987, the Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India Limited (TRIFED) was set up with an aim to serve the interest of the tribal community and work for their socio-economic development by conducting its affairs in a professional, democratic and autonomous manner for undertaking marketing of tribal products.

Further to achieve the aim of accelerating the economic development of tribal people by providing wider exposure to their art and crafts, tribes India, the exclusive shops of tribal artifacts were set up all over India by TRIFED. They showcase and market the art and craft items produced by the tribal people and thus demonstrate the magical mystique of tribal India espousing tribal cause.



The old and original tribes still exist in many parts of India; though their history is lost in antiquity but their oral traditions and myths sustained their identity.

Central India, Lower Bengal, Andamans Baigas – dwelt in the Pachmathi hills of Madhya Pradesh.

Bhilss-one of the first tribes to be brought under British rule in 1818. Today they are found in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.

Bhuiyas-lived in the Bhagalpur region of Bihar.

Bhumij- Bengal-Orissa border.

Conds- southern Orissa.

Hos or Lanka Ko/s- Biharand Bengal.

Juangs Kharrias- Cuttack (Orissa).

Khattries-said to have opposed Alexander of Macedonia in the Punjab and then migrated to central India.

The Khonds were found in the Cuttack and Ganjam areas of Orissa. Kolis at one time inhabited the Gujarat area and were known to be armed robbers. Korkus belonged to the Pachmathi region of Madhya Pradesh.

The Konoas inhabited the eastern Madhya Pradesh.

The Mairs were driven by the Rajputs from the hills and they settled in the Aravalli hills of Rajasthan.

Mundas occupied the Chhota Nagpur area of Madhya Pradesh.

Sarubals originally inhabited the Rajmahal hills on the Bengal- Bihar border.

North-East Frontier

The Abors of this region had decidedly Mongolian features. The Angami Nagas Sidis of Gujarat occupied the tract of land immediately to the east of Kachar.

The Bhutias were Lamaic Buddhists, of the Mongolian type, closely allied in blood and language to the Tibetans.

Chaikata Mishmis were a hill tribe with Mongolian features.

Caras believed themselves to be aboriginals but claimed relationship with the English.

Fantias and Kasias (Khasis) were a muscular race inhabiting the Khasi hills of Assam.

Khamtis were said to be a branch of the same Shan race to which the people of ‘Laos and Thailand belong.

Kukis of north Kacbar live on the Burma border.

The Lepchas are settled mainly in Sikkim and Darjeeling.

The Lusbai, an offshoot of the Kukis, live in south Kachar and Chittagong (Bangladesh).

Miris and the HilMiris were of Mongolian stock.

Mishmis were traders and possessed large herds of cattle. Nagas, one of the largest tribes, are known for their war dances and beautiful shawls.

Shendus of the Arakan hills made their own gun powder.

Singpbos like the Khamtis entered the Assam valley only around 1793; they possessed Mongolian features.

South India

The Chenchus, of mixed descent lived in the Eastern Ghats. This ancient tribe is commemorated musically in the raga, Chenchu Kamboji. Todas settled in the Nilgiris and live and dress in a distinct style. Irulas are traditional snake-catchers and are now employed in Tamil Nadu to pursue their ancient calling.


While many of the tribes mentioned in the old list are no longer in existence or have merged their identities, it is also equally true that today there are many splintered groups; there is also a variation in the names (or spelling) of some of these tribes.


While the Nishis, Hill Miris and other related groups merge imperceptibly into one another, the Apa Tanis who constitute a separate endogamous community retain their own territory, language, customs, traditions and an economy different from that of all other tribals of Arunachal Pradesh.


Andhra Pradesh. They are an ethnic splintered group left behind by the material advance of the great majority of the south Indian population. They now inhabit the rocky hills and forest areas of the Nallamalai range flanking the Krishna river.


They stand out in the tribal population by sheer numbers and by the size of their vast habitat. The majority of the Gonds today are found in the Satpura plateau of Madhya Pradesh. The former princely state of Bastar is the home of three important Gond groups-the Murias Cor Miris), the HillMurias and the so-called Bison horn Murias. Gonds are also found in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh.


In the hills of Sri kakulam district in Andhra Pradesh, the jatapus live in symbiosis with the Saoras, members of both tribes dwelling either in the same or adjoining villages.


A small tribe in habiting about ten villages in the Bomdila Circle of Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh.


The Kolam tribe lived until a generation ago some 400 km from the habitat of the Konda Reddis, in the highland of Adilabad (northernmost district of Andhra Pradesh). The reservation of forests has largely eroded the lifestyle and economic basis of this tribe. The Kolams were known for their skill in divination and performed the role of priests, with the result the tribe got the popular name ‘Pujari.’ The Gonds, natural marksmen.


Konda (hill) Reddis of Andhra Pradesh dwell in the wooded hills on the sides of the Godavari river where it breaks through the Eastern Ghats.


A group greatly influenced by Tibetan culture, the Monpas of Arunachal Pradesh are high altitude dwellers. Buddhist beliefs and traditions dominate their cultural life.


The same wooded hills that serve as a habitat for the Kolams also served the Naikpods. Like the former, the Naikpods also fell victim to the forest reservation policy and today they are found only in in-Significant numbers.


A large population of closely related tribal groups extends over this mountainous region of Arunachal Pradesh, previously known as the North-East Frontier Agency (NEFA). According to tribal tradition all Nishis are descended from a mythical ancestor called Takr and it is believed that his sons were the forefathers of three branches of the tribe, namely Dopum, Dodum and Dol.


Also known as Savaras, they are spread widely over Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal, concentrating in the Ganjam district of Orissa and Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh.


This small tribe inhabits a single valley of the Kameng district in Arunachal Pradesh. According to the Sherdukpens they are descendants of a Tibetan prince.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *