Tribes in India

Tribes in India


  • There are hundreds of tribes in India, it becomes very difficult for the aspirants to remember each and every tribe. UPSC generally asks one question about tribes in prelims  and I have tried to discuss about the major tribes and tribes which are in news.


  • Tribal people constitute 8.6% of the nation’s total population, over 104 million people as per 2011 census.


  • The Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order (Second Amendment) Bill, 2013: The bill aims at inclusion of Narikoravan, grouped with Kurivikkaran community from Tamil Nadu, and Dhanuhar and Dhanuwar communities from Chhattisgarh in the list of Scheduled Tribes will require a Constitutional amendment.


Tribes spread across different parts of India


Name State Description
Bhils (derived from bow)
MP, Gujarat,  Rajasthan, Maharashtra and north-eastern part of Tripura Popularly known as the bow men of Rajasthan
largest tribe of the whole South Asia
Two main groups : Central or pure Bhils and  Eastern or Rajput Bhils
Speak Bhili, which is an Indo Aryan language
Religion practice among the Bhils differ from place to place
Baneshwar fair is the main festival celebrated during Shivratri
Munda ( means headman of  the village)
Mainly Jharkhand
Spread across  Bihar ,WB, Chhattisgarh and  Orissa
Speak Mundari, which is a Austro- Asiatic language
Complexion is blackish. They have short curly hair.
Christianity is the main religion.`
They believe in Singbonga, which means the Sun God
They remained hunters for centuries. But now they have been converted into the settled agriculturist
Mage, Phagu, Karam, Sarhul, and Sohrai are the few festivals celebrated
West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, Jharkhand and Assam Largest tribe in India
Fought war against the permanent settlement of Lord Cornwallis in 1855.
Speak Santhali, which is a Austro- Asiatic language
Engaged in hunting, fishing and cultivation for their livelihood
They have no temples of their own. They even do not worship any idols. Santhals follow the Sarna religion.
They mainly celebrate the Karam festival to please the God to increase their wealth and free them from all the enemies.
Widely spread in the Chhindwara district of Madhya Pradesh, Bastar district of Chhattisgarh and also in the parts of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, and Orissa.  They are the largest tribe in Central India
They speak Gondi language which is related to the Telgu and the other Dravidian languages. In the northern parts Gonds are often seen speaking the local Hindi.
They are divided into four tribes namely – Raj Gonds, Madia Gonds, Dhurve Gonds, Khatulwar Gonds
They are largely influenced by the Hindus and for the long time have been practicing the Hindus culture and traditions
Keslapur Jathra is the important festival of the Gonds
Mainly found  in the state of Assam and the Khasi Jaintia hills in Meghalaya.
Other places are Punjab, UP, Manipur, WB and J&K
They are called by the different names such as Khasi Pahris, Khuchia, Kassi, Khashi and Khasa
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 men wear large earrings.
Nongkrem is the major festival celebrated among the Khasi’s.
Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa They are the forest-dwelling aboriginals from central India
They do not interact with other tribal, believe in a hand-to-mouth existence.
 Do not try to access education, eat outside their community, or associate with others 
Tattooing is an integral part of their lifestyle
(means peoples of jungles)
Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa Hunter tribe.
Proto-Australoid tribe, physically recognizable by their deep, dark-brown skin color and wavy, curly/frizzy black hair
Divided into two major sub-tribes, the Jaghis Birhor (wandering, practice shift cultivation) and Uthalu Birho (settled, follow agro-based economy)
Tanda: The settlement whether permanent or temporary, which consists of usually half a dozen or more huts.
 Andhra Pradesh,  Karnataka and Odisha Speak Chenchu language with the Telgu accent
Worship number of deities. Mainly believe in Bhagaban taru who lives in the sky and look after them  in all their doings
Primitive Tribal Groups that are still dependent on forests and do not cultivate land but hunt for a living
Most of them inhabit in the Nallamalai hills of AP



North and North-West

Name State Description
Himachal Pradesh Mainly dwell around Dhauladhar mountain range, Chamba, Bharmaur and the areas near to Dharamshala
Main occupation is shepherding and they make their livelihood by rearing and selling sheep, goats, mules and horses.
Most of them are Hindus and a few Muslims. Most attractive aspect about this tribe is their attire.
Speak the Gaddi Language but for writing they use Takri and Hindi.
Himachal Pradesh Inhabitants of the Pangi valley of Chamba district.They are mostly engaged in farming.
Charming faces, fine physique and for their love of song and dance.
(Baichung Bhutia? J)
Sikkim Known as the Lachenpas and Lachungpas
Tibetan origin and migrated to Sikkim around 16th century.
They form 14% of the total population of Sikkim.
Speak Sikkimese.,Lepcha, Bhutia, Nepali, English and Hindi.
Traditional Bhutia house is called a “khim” and is usually rectangular.
Losar and Losoong are the main festivals celebrated
Limbus/ Limboos
Sikkim Indigenous tribe of Sikkim belonging to Nepali stock
Mongoloid looking by figure having their own language, faith, costume, culture and life style.
Traditional group dance called Dhannach is performed in the marriage, death and any festive celebrations.
Farmers by profession and they love enjoying their life more by singing, feasting and dancing.
Traditional dress of the Limbus is mekhli and taga.
Sikkim Indigenous tribe of Sikkim
Fair in complexion, shy in nature wearing generally a kind of set wear of shirt and trousers called Hontaj Gyador.
They call themselves Rong in their language.They speak their own dialect and they too follow the same Tibetan form of Buddhism besides their local faith. 
Buksa Uttarakhand and UP Primitive tribal groups of India
Indigenous people concerated in the Dehradun and Nainital in the Kumaon foothills of the outer Himalayas
Major occupation are agriculture and animal husbandry



Name State Description
Apatani or Tanni
Arunachal Pradesh Settled agriculturists inhabiting the valley around Ziro– Subansiri district. Practice permanent wetland cultivation.
Loyal followers of the Donyi-Polo faith, who pray to the Sun and the Moon
Men of other tribes would often steal the Apatani women, which led the Apatani men to tattoo the faces of their women and make them wear massive nose plugs, in order to make them less appealing.
Adis/ Bokar Lhoba
(meaning hill or mountain top)
Arunachal Pradesh , Assam They have two main divisions the Bogum and Bomis
 Have democratic and organized village council called Kebang
Traditional dance called Ponung is famous in the whole of Arunachal .Dances are very popular among them.
The women are very good weavers and weave cloth with highly artistic designs.
Arunachal Pradesh Largest groups of people inhabiting the major part of Lower Subansiri district
Their menfolk wear their hair long and tie it in a knot just above the forehead
They are Indo-Mongoloid group of people and their language belongs to the Tibeto-Burman family.
The tribe as a whole is fond of hunting and fishing in which they perhaps excel any other neighboring tribes
Arunachal Pradesh Sub-group of the Shan people Lohit district. Posses East Asian features. Followers of Theravada Buddhism
They have adopted a script of Shan origin, known as Lik-Tai for their language. They are renowned for their craftsmanship.
Tagin Arunachal Pradesh They are main inhabitant of Upper Sunansiri district.
Main occupation is agriculture.
Polygamy is customary among them.
Nagaland Tenyidie is the most common language spoken
Population is around 12 million. Agriculture is the main occupation.
Christianity is the major religion followed 
They are quite popular for their woodcraft and artwork( producer of bamboo work, cane furniture, beds, shawls and powerful machetes)
Sekrenyi is the main festival celebrated which marks the beginning of the lunar year
Nagaland They are one of the seventeen major Naga Tribe. Follow patriarchal system.
Originally they were animist. They believed in various gods and goddess. The Christianity is also present among the tribe.
Agriculture is the main occupation. They practices Jhumming. Women are expert weavers.
Nyada is the main festival celebrated. This is to mark the end of the agricultural years.
Note: A section of them have migrated to Karbi Anglong districts of Assam
Sema /Sumi Nagas
Nagaland and Assam They are one of the major tribes of Nagaland recognized for their martial art skills. They mainly inhibit Zunheboto district.
They are most united and aggressive tribe. Tuluni is the major festival celebrated. They follow Christianity.
Nagaland The Zeliang is the official name of the Zemi and Liangmei people in Nagaland. Primarily in the south-western part of Kohima district
The Hega festival is one of the most important and the biggest festival. They inhabit Barrail range of hills in Manipur, Nagaland and Assam.
They are very famous for their sanitation and hygiene.
(means blackhead or human)
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
The most important festival is AolingMonyu which is celebrated in spring season and the occasion is related to the sowing of seeds.
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.
Meghalaya Second-largest tribe in Meghalaya and comprise about a third of the local population. Mainly Christians.
The youngest daughter inherits the property from her mother. Matrilineal not matriarchal society.
Sons leave the parents’ house at puberty, and are trained in the village bachelor dormitory. After getting married, the man lives in his wife’s house.
Meghalaya Follow Christianity. Proto Autroloid Monkhmer race
Sub tribe of Khasis and since they have been residing in Jaintia hills, they have been named so.
The men wear Jymphong and dhoti while the women wrap several pieces of clothes so as to give a cylindrical shape.
Tripura Second largest tribal community of Tripura. Indo-Mongoloid race
Their language is known as “Kaubru” which have a tonal effect of Kuki language though broadly it is Kok-Borok (language of men). 
They are still a nomadic tribe and a large numbers among them maintain their livelihood involving Top Hill Jhum Cultivation, food gathering, fishing & hunting.
They follow Hindu religion.
Tripura They belong to Kuki-Chin group of tribes.
They are commonly known as Mizos.
They live on Jhum Cultivation and hunting of wild animal. They are also famous as orange producing community.
They follow Christianity as their religion. 
Their Bamboo Dance (Cheraw-dance) is very much popular in and outside the country.
Manipur An ethnic tribe spread across vast areas of North-eastern region of India except Arunachal Pradesh, Burma and foot hills of Chittagong hills
They form a part of the great Mongolian race
 They prefer to live on the hill tops and their villages are cluster of houses closely constructed to protect from alien raiders.
Mainly followers of Christianity and Judaism
Assam They belong to Indo-Mongoloid family. It is believed that their origin was Tibet and China.
The speak Bodo language that is derived Tibeto Burmese family of language
Most of them are engaged in rice cultivation, tea plantation and poultry farming. Women engage themselves in weaving 
They are expert in bamboo and cane craft; hence one would usually come across houses fashioned out of bamboo and wood in places where they live in majority
Some of them  are Christians, while a large chunk follows the precepts of Hinduism
Mishing /Miris
Assam They are the second largest schedule tribe of Assam.
As per tradition they practice group fishing in winter and group hunting in summer. The women are expert weavers.
The ‘Ali-Ai-Ligang’ is the most well-known and widely observed festival (festival of sowing seeds)
They have their own language, but no script: hence they use the Assamese language when the written form is required
Karbi/ Mikirs
Assam They belong to the Mongoloid group and linguistically to the Tibeto-Burman group
They reside in hilly areas of Assam and form the major portion of population of Karbi Anglong district. They also inhabit places in North Cachar Hills, Nagaon and Sonitpur districts of Assam
Their main occupation is agriculture.
The place of women is same as the men, and women help their men in every step of life
Dance and Music play an important role in their life 
They are mentioned as Mikir in the constitution of India.
Assam They are widely scattered but mostly concentrated on Goalpara, Kamrup, and Darrang.
Agriculture is the main occupation
Traditionally they were very religious. Now most of them have embraced Hinduism or Christianity.
They like to live in compact blocks having 50-100 families.
(means worshipper)
Mizoram, Assam and Meghalaya They are also one of the oldest living tribes in the NE.
Though they are less in term of population, they have their own identity with a rich and distinctive history, culture, dialect and religious heritages..


Central India


Name State Description
Khonds / Dongaria Khonds
Orissa They are indigenous tribal groups in 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.
Odisha They are also known as Bondo or Remo
They live in the isolated hill regions of the Malkangiri district of southwestern Odisha.
They are one among the Primitive Tribal Groups identified by GOI.
They are generally semi-clothed, the women wear thick silver neck bands.
The Gov of Orissa had setup Bonda Development Agency (BDA) in 1977 with the aim of bringing Bonda’s into the mainstream
Oarons /Kurukh
Odisha ,Bihar, Jharkhand, WB They mainly depend on agriculture for earning their living.
Most of them are engaged in the occupation of tea cultivation.
They are considered to have the second largest population of tribes in Bihar and Jharkhand
They speak Kurukh language related to Dravidian family.
Majority of them are Hindus and are religious minded people. They worship Gods and Goddesses but a great number of these tribes have adopted Christianity.
Khairwar Madhya Pradesh It is on the brink of extinction because of the tribe members’ inability to conceive
They reside in a remote village called Harrai.
There are only about 30 families left — all childless couples who are either old or middle-aged and past their reproductive age.
(means human)
MP, Other states include Bihar, UP, Chhattisgarh, Assam,Tripura It is one of the most ancient tribes of India, whose mention is found in the Rig Veda and many other mythological scriptures.
Most of them are landless and work on farm as laborers and sharecroppers
They prefer to live in groups near the villages called as Kolhan
 Chhattisgarh They are a sub-group of the Gonds and inhabit the forests and plains of central India. They live along the Indrawati River, which flows through the Bastar district.
They survive mainly by farming, hunting, and eating the fruits of the forest.
The ghotul, or temporary dormitory for unmarried youth, is a significant building within the Muria villages
Pahari Korwa/ Korba Chhattisgarh, Bihar They belong to Austro-Asiatic family
The Korwas are divided into Pahari Korwa and Dihari Korwa.
The main concentration is in Jashpur, Sarguja & Raigarh.
They are medium to short height have a dark brown or black skin.
Fishing and hunting are practiced as occupation.
Karma dance is very popular dance and all the villagers participate in it.
Chhattisgarh Two types: Abhuj Maria and Bison Horn Maria Both are sub castes of the Gond tribals.
Abhuj Maria:
They live in isolation( fear mankind) and inhabit the secluded enclaves of Narayanpur tehsil of Bastar District
They are one of the few tribes that have many to keep their quintessential culture alive and unaffected by the vestiges of time
Bison Horn Maria:
They are found in MP and Maharashtra also
Their introvert nature makes them live in isolation in the interiors of dense forest areas.
They derived their name from their unique custom of wearing a distinctive headdress, which resembles the horns of a wild bison



Western India

Name State Description
(meaning residents of Jungle)
Rajasthan Only primitive tribe of Rajasthan residing in the Baran district
They follow Hindu religion and speak a dialect influenced by Hadoti.
Faced with social ignorance, anger, deprivation and inhuman treatment inherent in the system, the people of this tribe are once again in the miserable condition.
 In the absence of sources of livelihood, this tribal group is again forced to resort to migration
Mina/ Meena
(meaning fish)
Rajasthan  They are found in the northern part of Rajasthan.
Originally a nomadic, warlike people practicing animal breeding and known for lawlessness, today most of them are farmers.
At the time of British rule, this community had been acclaimed as criminal tribe
Majority of them follow Hinduism


South India

Name State Description
(meaning darkness)
Tamil Nadu They are inhabitants of the scrub jungles of Southern India belonging to the Negrito (or Negroid) race.
Hunter-gatherers by tradition, their expertise in catching snakes is legendary
Most of them are wage laborers working in tea estates now.
Partly Hinduized, but have their own indigenous religious system
Tamil Nadu It is one of the oldest tribal communities in the Nilgiris.
The main occupation of the people in this community is agriculture. Tea plantation is the major agriculture here.
Socially, educationally and even economically advanced now. 
The Badaga language is a mixture of Kannada and Tamil and there is no script for this language. They are Hindus of Shiva sect.
(Ko meaning mountain)
Tamil Nadu They have been living in the Nilgiri mountains for ages
Living only in seven settlements, referred to by them as Kokkals
 They are the only artisan community on the hills of the Nilgiris
Most of the crafts practiced by them are on the decline.
The major festival is the annual Kamatra-ya festival
Kerala Traditionally nomadic community, who now lead a primarily settled life in the forests of the Agast-Hymalai hills of the Western Ghats
Have an extremely rich and unique Traditional Knowledge about the use of the resources, particularly the biological resources around them
They introduced Tropical Botanical Garden and Research Institute (TBGRI) to a medicinal plant in their forest from which a drug named ‘jeevani’ was isolated and commercialized
(means ruler of a locality)
Kerala and Tamil Nadu Mostly found on the Idukki hills of Kerala. Agriculture is the main occupation. They worship nature as Gods and inventor of the world.
They have their own native language called as Urali language
Lambada / Banjaras/ Sugalisa
Andhra Pradesh 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.


Island Region

Name State Description
 Andaman Indigenous peoples of the Andaman Islands. They have inhabited the islands for thousands of years
Their present numbers are estimated at between 250–400 individuals.
Since they have largely shunned interactions with outsiders, many particulars of their society, culture and traditions are poorly understood.
Andaman Andamanese indigenous peoples and one of the most remote tribes of the Andaman Islands. They inhabit North Sentinel Island.
They are noted for vigorously resisting attempts at contact by outsiders.
The Sentinelese maintain an essentially hunter-gatherer society subsisting through hunting, fishing, and collecting wild plants; there is no evidence of either agricultural practices or methods of producing fire. Their language remains unclassified.
Great Nicobar Island They are one of the last surviving stone-age tribes in the world.
They wander in their forest and coastal habitat in search of food.
They are also on the brink of extinction as the four other hunter-gatherer tribes (the Jarawa, the Andamanese, the Onge and the Sentinelese).
They are of mongoloid stock unlike the other primitive tribes of the Andaman Islands which are negrito
(means ‘we people’)
Little Andaman  A negrito tribe with just 96 in number now. They are divided into 5 families comprising of 15 members in all living in South Bay
They are pure hunter-gatherers and are not aware of agriculture
They have no clear concept of religion but they are animistic.



TMH GS Manual

Indian Tribes Through the Ages


Name: Divya V Prabhu




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