Life, Culture & Food of Ten of the Surviving Tribes in India

In the forests of India, there lie several tribes who still remain connected to their culture. We went through their life to uncover secrets.

Tribes in India

The world must hold itself accountable for looking back on history and putting together efforts to save the planet. Analyzing the correlation between dominance and change requires a continuous examination of the historical and contemporary periods. One must know that nature is the culmination of past activity, not independent of it. Looking back on this nature through the dense forests of India, we find many interesting people and clades with their sustainable lifestyles. I am sure you know what I mean: we’re talking about tribes. But before we get onto them, let’s briefly talk about the geography of India. The culturally rich spiritual land stretches across like a peninsula, surrounded by water on three sides. In the North, the Himalayas cover it, and the southeast and southwest part is bordered by the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea respectively. The fertile alluvial land of the Ganga Brahmaputra basin and the dense forests of Assam, Arunachal are noteworthy. We will begin with the article’s main topic, tribes, and learn about them in detail. It is not that rare talking about them since they have become so extensive and proliferating in the literature. There are as many as 645 tribes in India (considered by the constitution), registered in Schedule 5. It identifies them as a community of indigenous people and socially disadvantaged people. Generally speaking, tribal communities reside in forests and hilly regions that are not easily accessible. They have a simple economy that is reliant on natural resources. In the wake of the process of modernization, the life and livelihood of tribal communities have changed.

Landscapes around the village of Kodanad in the Nilgiri mountains in India

They exhibit a variety of distinct cultural traits. Socio-economic factors, ecological factors, historically developed technologies, and demographic features are some influencing matters in tribal life. They do not have access to modern agricultural tools such as hybrid seeds, pesticides, insecticides, fertilizers, etc, resulting in low yields and being highly dependent on the weather. There are traditional healing practices and taboos included in their health management style. Tribes in India are unique and have a rich culture, music, entertainment, and habitation. The structure of their houses, eating habits, resource utilization, coping mechanism, and socialization processes are typical. Indigenous modes of production connect to the biophysical environment (jal meaning water, jungle meaning forest, and jameen meaning land). They derive their identity, sense of unity, and resistance from their relationship with the ecosystem. These individuals are intrinsically linked to their environment through numerous means, including economic exchange, ceremonies, language, and spiritual practices. Surprisingly, they use the term phrase of the place to explain their deep connection with their micro-ecology. For them, the meaning of forests is not by their physical peculiarities but through their interaction with their environment. Particularly, their ecology shapes their 40 collective imagination, beliefs, and social systems. It comes in one direction how well they manage forests and their cultural linking. They are the reasons for the rich habitat and preservation of forests. It is they who made us believe that forest dwelling is a safe and beautiful experience.

Portrait of 2 Indian women working in fields

Before putting more thoughts about these indigenous people in your brain, there is much more that you must know. The word tribe has a vast history that you must consider. We know that traditionally all ethnic groups of India are classified as Jatis. Tribes are generally Berkeleian groups. And the most acceptable form with Tribes in India was Jannah, which consisted of people from a recurrent cultural pattern (Chaudhary 1977). In the 1891 Census, they have named forest tribes. However, in the 1931 Census, forest tribes were again replaced by primitive tribes. In 1935, they were referred to as backward tribes. The habitat of scheduled tribes has recently been called the tribal region, as part of the market in roads and neocolonialist expansion.

There are numerous policies for the development of these groups. The Government of India has initiated grand economic and social developments among them, starting with the five-year plan. Though the Panchasheel Yojana bought not much change to their conditions.

In India, the Ministry of Tribal Affairs is responsible for the overall development of scheduled tribes. After the bifurcation of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment in 1999, this Ministry was established to provide integrated socio-economic development for the Scheduled Tribes in India (STs), the most disadvantaged in Indian society, in a coordinated and planned manner. The Ministry of Tribal Affairs shall develop policy, plan, and coordinate programs of development for Scheduled Tribes. It will be the responsibility of the Central Ministries/Departments, State Governments, and Union Territory Administrations to plan, coordinate, monitor, and evaluate sectoral programs and schemes designed to develop these communities. For each sector, a central ministry or department acts as the nodal ministry or department. These Tribes in India are in the developing stages with respect to education and basic necessities.

One of The State Tribal Research Cum- Cultural Centres And Museums In India

Coming on the article, we will discuss ten of the major tribes in India belonging to PVTGs (Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups) that have a specialty in their culture, festivals, food, and living standards.

Major Tribes in India That Survived Ages.

Map of India in the Age of the Mahabharata (Ancient India Map)

1. Chenchu Tribe.

Chenchu, also known as Chenchuvaru or Chenchwar, is a small nomadic forest tribe of Orissa. They belong to the hunters and gathering category for sustaining their livelihood. Some believe that they are named after an interpretation that they live under a ‘Chettu’ tree or their habit of eating mice. Inhabiting in Nallamalai hills of eastern India, they believe in the female deity Brahma Rambha of Srisailam. There is a belief that Chechus was the first forest dweller who came before even the Dravidian people. As per the 2011 Census, their population numbered only 13 people. They have their own language known as Chenchu- a dialect of Telugu from the Dravidian style. Tribes in India are prevalent as discussed above but the Chenchu Tribe is slowly decreasing.

A family belonging Chenchu tribes in India

Dress and Ornaments.

Men do wear loincloths (gochi). The females prefer to wear sarees. Additionally, they have ornaments of cheap metal bought from nearby cities. The young kids of 2-3 years are usually naked. It appears that females dress well than men then.

Chenchu woman with her kids, standing near the door her house
A man wearing loincloth (gochi), from Chenchu Tribe of India
Ornaments worn by Chenchu women

Living Standards.

In the past, they slept under trees or rocks, without building any homes. It was because they lived entirely in the forest. Presently, they have temporary settlements of thatched huts.
Some can even be found inside forests. However, most of their habitats are located near the edge of forests. They live in small settlements called gudem or Penta. The main type of huts is cone-shaped thatched huts, with 5-8 at one place and others scattered over a range of 5-6 km. Huts are built with bamboo wattle walls. Generally, having three kinds of them- chuttu gudhisa (round hut), Mula gudisha (square hut), and kottamu (rectangular hut). Due to suspicion of wandering evils, they change their settlements from place to place.

A hatched hut of Chenchu tribe of India


As previously stated, these tribes in India are proclaimed hunters and gatherers. They usually hunt animals for their survival. Additionally, they consume tubers, roots of different trees, fruits, and honey. Because they do not kill female animals due to their superstitions, it has a positive impact on the ecology. Smoking and drinking are prevalent in them. They make liquor from Mahua flowers and even sell them for extra income. In agriculture, they rely on millets, like Bajra and Jowar. They have the same eating habits as the other Tribes in India with a small variation.

A group of Chenchu tribes in India walking towards the forests

Religious Beliefs and Practices.

Usually, they worship both Hindu gods and goddesses as well as their own tribal deities. Stone slabs are propitiated under a tree and used for this. Their traditional god is Lord Venkateshwar. As well, after hunting any animal, the flesh is offered to their deity Garelamai-Sama. While they used to celebrate all festivals, Shivaratri is an important festival for them. There is a belief in witchcraft, black magic, white magic, and other forms of supernatural power in them.

Their dance form is just for social interaction and not for religious purposes like other tribes in India. One of their dance forms is Chenchu Natakram, which is a combination of step dance and drum beat. Their primary song theme is love and romance.

Religious place of Chenchu tribes of India to worship their ancestors

2. Gadaba Tribe.

In one of the prominent tribal communities of Orissa, Gadaba tribe presents some spectacular characteristics. They are one of the prominent tribes in India.

Gada refers to a brook in the Godavari valley, and so the name Gadaba. They belong to Proto-Austroid origin, speaking the Gutob language of Autsro-Asiatic origin. Their habitat belongs to the areas of the southern district of Koraput, Orissa, and extends across zones of the Vishakapatnam and the Bastar region. Living above 3000 sea level, they lie in the central belt of Koratpur, the eastern Ghats of Orissa. As per the 2001 Census, their population is 72,982, which accounts for 0.90 percent of the total tribal populace of the state.

Habitat of Gadaba Scheduled Tribes in India

Dress and Ornaments.

Gadabas dress in very scanty clothes. Women wear colorful striped cloth, big-sized rounder silver necklaces, and copper earrings with a long circumference, whereas men use a piece of cloth called lenguthi with a flap, which hangs down in the front. Alongside, the ladies majorly decorate their bodies with ornaments. They wear peculiar earrings: made from brass, silver, or aluminium. Besides, they use ornaments like rings and mudies for fingers and nose, bangles for hands made from brass, and beaded necklaces. Their hair is combed neatly with a neat look, pinned at the back.

A couple belonging to Gadaba tribe of India
Women of the Gadaba tribes of India wearing traditional jewelry

Living Standards.

Their village consists of well-defined compounds marked by stone walls. The Sardar or village chief house with a dance arena and shrine of village deities are all located in the center of the structure. Their housing colony has no particular layout, but they lie on both sides of the street. The three types of houses they reside in are Mahad Dien, Dandual Dien, and Chhendi Dien. The first two are rectangular and square, whereas the third is a conical-shaped house with a circular shape. They are made of stone and mud walls with grass as the flooring of thatched roofs. For extra earnings, they work on daily wages. Additionally, hill-brooming is common among them for generating supplementary income.

Houses and Streets of Gadaba tribes in India


Their primary food item is Mandia Pej, a traditional recipe. Besides, boiled rice, tamarind chutney, and mango with pulses are prevalent. Among other vegetables they consume are roots, bamboo shoots, and jackfruit. On festive occasions, they eat meat, fish, and chicken. The Gadaba tribes usually believe in drinking and smoking. Landa bear, which is a rice beer, is prevalent in them. They also collect the juice of the salap tree, which is also their favorite among drinks. They manufacture Cheroot powder from dried tobacco that they use to smoke through dry sal leaf. They usually practice Swidden cultivation and majorly depend on rainwater. They grow rice, some pulses, and practice pastoralism and fishing for survival. These are one of the tribes in India who are good agriculturists.

Food of Gadaba tribe of India
Food preparation by Gadaba men
Women and children eating their meals
Gadaba men climbing Salap tree to collect it's juice and make a drink
A man belonging to Gadaba tribes in India
Gadaba woman smoking
Gadaba man consuming the group's favorite drink

Religious Beliefs and Practices.

Their spiritual world revolves around natural as well as supernatural objects. An enshrined deity resides in their homes on a sacred pillar near the hearth. When laying the foundations of a house, it is ritually installed as protection from evils and as a blessing. They worship God and Goddesses, the chief of them is Thakurani, enshrined on the outskirts of the village. The evil spirit Duma, according to them, causes diseases and calamities.

For them, dance and music are love. Their famous Dhemsha dance is performed by women who wear Kerang clothes. The men play musical instruments, and the women dance in semi-circles.

They spin threads immensely from the Kerenga type, extracted from forests. Then, the women swirl them into colorful clothes. They have many festivals like Chaita Parab, Dashera, Dewali, and Banandapana Parab, each of their significance.

Tribal women dancing in semicircle
Worshipping God on the outskirts of a village
Sacred pillar inside a home of tribes of India
A group of men belonging to a tribe in India playing musical instruments
Gadaba women spinning thread
Balls of red, blue and white thread made by Scheduled Tribes in India

3. Dongria Kandha.

The Dongria Kandha, considered forest dwellers among the category of Tribes in India, live in the Niyamgiri hills in Bissamcuttack, Kalyansingpur, and the Muniguda hills in Rayagada. These mountains, which are part of the Eastern Ghats, rise steeply from 1000 feet to several peaks, of which the highest is 4970 feet above sea level. Being hill-dwellers, forest dwellers, and highland dwellers, their neighbors call them Dongria, but they call themselves Dongran Kuan or Drili Kuan.

The habitat of Dongria Kandha tribes in India

Dress and Ornaments.

Dongrias are wholly fashionable compared to other Tribes in India when it comes to their attire. Apart from their famous festival, Meria Festival, this is one of the qualities that makes them stand out from others. The men wear a long and narrow loincloth with two embroidered ends at the front and the back. They are called Drili. In contrast, the women use two pieces of cloth, each measuring 3-4 feet and an inch and a half wide. Wrapping the first piece around the waist with a knot in front, another covers the upper body, like an apron. The women fix a wooden comb to their hair knot, which adorns their hair and keeps it tucked away. Women and men alike can complement their unique hairstyles with a wide variety of hairpins and clips. Women wear brass for ornaments such as bangles, anklets, toe rings, neck rings, and nose rings.

Tribal women wearing several hairclips and other cultural jewels
Man and woman of Dongria Kandha tribes in India
Wooden comb fixed in the hair knot of a Dongria woman
Small ornamental knife carried by the Dongria Kandha tribes of India
Brass Waist Chain worn by Dongria Kandha tribes in India
Brass Neck Ring worn by Dongria Kandha tribes in India
Brass Bangle worn by Dongria Kandha tribes of India

Living Standards.

On the hill slopes, their villages are in between thick vegetation. At its entrance within the mango grove and jackfruit trees, the shrine of the village deity- Jatrakudi Penu, is enshrined. The walls are painted with geometric colored designs to protect the people from evil eyes.
Their houses have low thatched roofs hardly 2-3 ft above the ground with a rectangular ground plan. It consists of a spacious rectangular room and other small rooms at the back with verandahs in front and back.

Trading through a barter system is one of the ordinary systems in them. Additionally, wage-earning is less common since they believe in mutual exchange and treat everyone as equals.

The settlement of Dongria Kandha tribes of India


They are known for their horticulture practices. They eat three times a day, and their food consists mainly of cereals, pulses, vegetables, maize, millets, kating, baila and jhudang, roots likerani Kanda, fruits, and green leaves. Fond of Mahua liquor and sago palm juice, they also drink Kadali-Kalu and Guda Kalu. The Non-veg items prepared by them include fish, chicken, mutton, pork, beef, etc. They also chew raw tobacco. They plant vegetables and fruits like jackfruits, mangoes, bananas, pineapples, and turmeric plantations. They also raise animal husbandry for their use in ritual occasions. They love drinking and smoking as much as other Tribes in India.

Dongria Kandha men preparing food
Dongria woman working in farm fields

Religious Beliefs and Practices.

They strongly believe in the existence of many supernatural beings. Their pantheon consists of deities, gods, and spirits. Jatrakudi penu, Hira Penu, and Niyam-raja Penu are their village deities, whereas the household spirits consist of Lai-penu, Sita-penu, Danda Penu, etc. They have numerous magico-religious functions to mediate between humans and supernaturals.

Wooden poles installed for religious purposes and worshipping
Jatrakudi Penu installed at the village outskirts (Dongria Kandha tribe)
The diety's hut built by the tribes in India

4. Jenu Kuruba.

Jenu Kuruba derived its name from roaming the forests for honey, edible tubers, fruits, etc. They inhabit 2000 square miles of forest among the Tribes in India that are located in the tri-state conglomerate of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala. They usually have short stature, curly hair, and a dark complexion.

When the world crashed, a vegetable called burude (bitter Guard) survived. A piece of earth eventually became home for this vegetable. The Jenu Kuruba tribe was perpetrated by a man and a woman descended from this burude.

According to the second version, the world came into existence in 40 days when the male and female Kont [God] created the first man and woman from the first handful of mud. As shown in history, the Jenu Kurubas used to supply elephants to the Chola and Pallava kings in the mid-1970s. In 1972, they played a crucial role in capturing and training wild elephants since they were skilled mahouts and very knowledgeable about the flora and fauna of the forest.

An old man belonging to the Jenu Kuruba tribes in India
Portrait of 3 women from Jenu Kuruba tribes of India

Dress and Ornaments.

Men wear Lungi with shirts. And there is a common tradition of wearing white in their marriage, whereas the women wear sarees [Vidyuth Joshi (1998)]. They comb their hair by applying oil, wear glass bangles and kumkum, and decorate with jasmine flowers. They also wear bead necklaces and toe rings in ornamentation. Generally, older people do not wear chappals. The attire of Jenu Kuruba men is somehow similar to other Tribes in India. In general, they marry within their tribal group. But due to recent contact with other tribes, this practice is slowly changing.

Jenu Kuruba man wearing white shirt and lungi
A picture of Jenu Kuruba women and children

Living Standards.

Earlier, An elliptical cluster of ten to fifteen huts stands within the forest, surrounded by hillocks. Built of bamboo slits they have a wall that measures five to ten feet high and eight feet wide. There is the use of mud for plastering them. Their roof is slanting and has a small door. Bamboo curtains divide the hut so that a kitchen is available on the right side. There is a head-zone (tale kade) and a foot-zone (Kal kade) in the outside world. The head zone is near the wall opposite the doorway used for the dining hall. Around the hearth are utensils and pots. Bamboo mugs hung from vertical bamboo pillars. Currently, through schemes of the Indian government for the Tribes in India, they are provided with brick houses for their improved living conditions. They are also professional agriculturists.

The tribal huts made of bamboo slits
Brick houses allotted to Jenu Kuruba tribes in India


The population of Jenu Kuruba is predominantly non-vegetarian with their dependence upon the flesh of dead animals. They also hunt. These may include goats, pigs, deer, rabbits, hens, other birds, etc. They are fond of the flesh of rats and for avoiding the beef from the edibles. Apart, they prepare sambhar and palye with vegetables, vegetable leaves, and pulses. With Tur dal as their main pulses, Ragi as their staple food, and fruits and nuts as additional food supply, the tribe relies on their local yield or nearby markets. They celebrate festivals with the preparation of sweet Payasa. The consumption of coffee, tea, milk, and milk products is quite common. Smoking beedis, chewing betel leaves, areca nuts, and tobacco and drinking practices (alcohol) are common among men and women. Obbittu and Payasa are their famous sweets made on occasion.

The people of Jenu Kuruba working in farm fields

Religious Practices and Beliefs.

They believe in Shiva, the lord. Among the festivities, they celebrate Navaratri, Diwali, Dusshera, etc. Also, after every marriage occasion, they pray to their ancestral spirits to bless the couple. They do believe in evil and malevolent spirits and deities unlike other tribes in India. One such type of Black magic known as Bunde kareyuvudu is known to have contact with the dead person.

5. Baiga.

It is a particular backward tribe residing in the Chattisgarh, Dindori, Mandla, Jabalpur, and Shahdol districts of Madhya Pradesh. Historically, there is no evidence of them. According to legends, Brahma Ji created the Universe and produced two people. He gave a plow to the first person and tangia to the other. Since the other one who had Tangia had no cloth at that time; so it was called the Nanga Baida tribe. As per the 2011 census, they account for a population counting 89,744 among the total population of tribes in India.

Baiga women in traditional dress

Dress and Ornaments.

Men usually wear loincloth or Pancha with their upper bodies uncovered. The young men wear Bundy. Their women wear white Lugda, covering their bodies to the knees. Their ornaments include Kandhan on the waist, Rupia Mala, Chain Mala as necklaces, Guriya Mala of glass beads around the neck, glass bangles on hands, and aethi on the wrist, khinwa earrings in-ear, made up of fake silver. They also wear tattoos on their bodies.

Tribal woman sitting in an exhibition hosted by state government
A woman belonging to Baiga tribe in India carrying her child
Men of Baiga tribe in India sitting under a tree and having a conversation with other members
Baiga man dressed traditionally while attending the state gov. sponsored exhibition

Living Standards.

They live in clay houses covered with thatched grass on roofs. They paint their walls with either white or yellow soil. The flooring is done, unlike the traditional methods, filled with dung and mud. Their households consist of a pestle, bahna as a grain grinder, Janta as a bamboo basket, and kitchen utensils made of brass and aluminium. They are great agriculturists with sustainable agriculture. Also, they sell bamboo baskets and bamboo utensils for their extra income. Like several other tribes in India, Baiga’s living is also seen as sustainable.

A picture of a clay house that belongs to a Baiga family


They have rice, khatki, bhaat, maize bread, pigeon peas, green gram, lentils, and vegetables. They are partly non-vegetarian, including the flesh of goats, cock, fish, crabs, turtles, deer, rabbits, etc. Fond of drinking and smoking, they drink self-made liquor of mahua and tobacco through Tendu leaf.

Baiga man smoking while sitting next to his wife and kid

Religious Practices and Beliefs.

The foremost deities of the Baiga tribe are Budha Deva, Narayana Deva, Bhimsen, Budhimai, etc.

They believe in witchcraft, black magic, ghosts, evil spirits, and holy spirits. Some of their festivals are Pola, Hareli, Diwali, Holi, Kali Chadash, etc.

6. Kadar.

Kadar tribe comprises three groups, living in Tamil Nadu. The first group lives in the hill forests of Vaalpaarai Taluk and Anamalai Hills of Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu. The second one lives in Wayanad District, whereas the third group stays in Tiruchirapalli and Tanjavur districts. They have certain Australoid features. Their short stature, dark skin, flat noses, and thicker lips distinguish them from other hill tribes. Several Kaadar tribes exhibit frizzy hair, a characteristic that has led some anthropologists to associate them with Aboriginal tribes in Australia.

The Athirappilly waterfalls, habitat of Kadar tribes in India

Dress and Ornaments.

Their dressing style is somewhat different from the other tribes, making them look modern. Women here wear sarees, sometimes Odhava, with long maxi dresses. They wear necklaces and bangles. They look clean and beautiful with neatly combed hair and kajal in their eyes. Shirts and loincloths are the norms for the men here. Children wear the same outfits and follow the same rules.

A group of women belonging to Kadar tribes of India
Families of Kadar tribe moving to their houses

Living Standards.

They have a small settlement of nearly 10-15 families near a lake or water resource. Incapable of cultivating their own food, they do not form agriculture as their profession. They live in thatched huts made of mud, bamboo, and grass as the roofing. Even they make doors and windows of bamboo and leaves. They usually rely upon Bamboo baskets and mats.

Thatched hut of Kadar tribes in India


Kadar lives a nomadic lifestyle, moving from one place to another constantly. Forest products and hunting are their primary sources of income. Their diet includes succulent roots, bamboo seeds, a mealy portion of Cycas seeds, and sago palm (Caryota urens). They also eat deer, porcupines, field rats, monkeys, pythons, etc along with sheep and fowl. Their staple food is bajra and rice with Jackfruit. But since they are incapable of growing paddy on their own, so they depend on others for it. Honey is famous among them.

Kadar Tribal group having forest edible products

Religious Practices and Beliefs.

During illness or before auspicious undertakings, the Kadars worship their dead ancestors. In addition to devoting themselves to the Forest Lord, they also adopt similar traditions to Hinduism.

A snapshot of temples built in the Kadar surroundings

7. Bharia.

Among the tribes of Madhya Pradesh in India is the Bharias, who speak Dravidian. There are about 400 meters of separation between Patalkot and Tamia in the Chhindwara district of Madhya Pradesh, where the Bharias live. Dudhi River originates from here. In the past, one could only reach Patalkot valley on foot.

However, the Madhya Pradesh government built a road recently.

There are more than 100 medicinal plant species in the Patalkot valley, and the Bharias are well-versed in the herbs and medicinals growing there. They belonged to Dravidian tribes and were designated with the status of Bhumia, meaning Lord of Soil.

Landscapic view of the habitat of Bharia tribes in India

Dress and Ornaments.

The beautiful and hard-working women of Bharia tribes wear a Sedri saree, mainly red color with a blouse and head covered by it. They decorate themselves through ornamentation that includes necklaces of beads and coins, bangles, armlets, ankle chains, and bracelets. Nose Ring, Bindi, and Sindoor are also prevalent here among them. Additionally, a star design on a woman’s face makes her stand apart. The men wear loincloths and shirts with a white Bandi safa tied around their heads.

Bharia Woman wearing Sedri saree and ornament
Men of Bharia tribes of India
A man belonging to Bharia tribes in India, pictured while sitting in open and smoking

Living Standards.

Because Bharia is economically weak, they generally live in Kuchcha houses made from wood, grass, bamboo, and other tree branches. They do not have doors in their homes.

They live in groups near a lake majorly. Agriculture is prominent among these tribes. For income, they also sell fish and make baskets. They grow paddy, moong, gram, tur, and urd and are self-sufficient.

Clay house that belongs to a Bharia family


The main dish of the Bharia tribe is Page. Their diet generally consists of mahua and mango seeds, flour chapatti, tree roots, and fruits seasonally. This tribe is usually non-vegetarian and enjoys hunting. Fishing, pastoralism, and agriculture are also prevalent in them.

Religious Practices and Beliefs.

They worship Hindu deities and devote themselves to their ancestors for the sake of relief from any illness and problems. They have enshrined them in their village in the form of rocks. They also believe in black magic and white magic. Their traditional deities include Burha Deo, Dulha Deo, Barua, and Nagdeva.

Herbal products made by Bharia Tribes in India

8. Pahari Korwa.

The forest tribe Pahari Korwa belongs to the family of the Austro-Asiatic group with medium height, muscular body, and black skin as their characteristics. They speak the Korwin language. Living in the forests of Sarguja, Balrampur, Jashpur, hills of Korba, of Chattisgarh, they have a population of around 44,026. According to Dolton, they are a part of the Koraliyal group. Some legends say that Lord Ram and Sita were passing through a field and put a putla to protect it from animals. Then she asked Ram to give him life. And this brought the first member of the Pahari Korwa community into existence. They are forest dwellers among the Tribes in India who change their settlements frequently.

Pahari Korwa tribal community migrating with belongings
Habitat of Pahari Korwa tribes of India

Dress and Ornaments.

Men and women here do not believe in decoration through ornamentation. They wear elementary clothes. Men wear loincloth, dhoti, kurta, and the women here wear Lugri, which is a different style of saree. Here women also make tattoos of the Sun, moon, trees, snakes, etc. In the form of earrings, they wear Gilat or a thin wood branch. They oil their hair properly and comb them in a neat style. Among ornamentation, bangles, and toe rings, Kamarbandh is famous.

Pahari Korwa people showing their attire
A portrait of Pahari Korwa girl showing her hairstyle and jewelry
Leg Tattoos of Pahari Korwa tribes in India

Living Standards.

They live in mud houses with roofing of wood and dried grasses. In the interiors of their dwelling, it comprises mainly a bedroom with a kitchen combined. Gobar and soil serve as plaster for their walls. They used to follow Bervi Agriculture earlier and still have no modern equipment for agriculture. Their primary earnings are from forest produce. Mahua leaves, tendu leaves, star chironji, jadibuttis, and honey are some commodities they sell to earn extra. They also practice broom making, baskets and mats making, and sometimes work as labourers.

Pahari Korwa people making bamboo products for earning purposes
Other economic activities the community relies upon


They used to grow Kutki, Kodo, Makka, Urad, cucumbers, etc. Their primary food is nonveg which consists of the flesh of animals like deer, rabbits, squirrels, birds, etc. They are also great fishers.

Religious Practices and Beliefs.

They worship their ancestors. Each of the houses has space and enshrines their ancestors there. Dankatch dance and karma dance are popular in them occasionally.

Ancestral practices performed by Pahari Korwa tribes in India

9. Kolam.

They are a primitive endogenous Dravidian Tribe living in the wild and mountainous tract of the Andhra Pradesh district of Adilabad. They also live in the agency areas of the Maharashtra districts of Chanda, Yeetmal, and Wardha. According to Grierson, Kolan is their dialect and is related to Gondi and Telugu, Kannada, and Tamil in some ways. The word Kola means stick or bamboo, and since it holds a pivotal place in their culture; so they also call themselves Kolavars. According to some legends, they trace their descent to Bheema and Arjun, the characters of the epic Mahabharata. They do not have any contact with outsiders and live in wooden cottages in hilly areas. Earlier, they used to follow shifting cultivation for agriculture. They are one of the Adivasi tribes in India.

Dress and Ornaments.

They wear ordinary South Indian attire themselves. For women, wear sarees with necklaces, bangles, toe rings, and nose rings brought from local markets. At the same time, men wear dhoti or loincloth with kurta or shirts. Their ornaments are made from silver or other materials and are compulsory to wear throughout the year. The old-aged women wear one rupee necklace welded on a metal ring.

Snapshot of a group of women from Kolam tribes in India

Living Standards.

They live in huts made of wood and mud, covering their roofs with leaves, and building them with wood. They craft their doors from wood logs. A key observation is how the doors are carved and decorated. Gobar and mud avail themselves for flooring purposes. In addition, they live in a nearby settlement with houses. They make baskets, mats, and all kinds of bamboo artefacts. They produce food from agriculture, and pastoralism is prevalent in them. They use teak wood for outer space, a commonplace for winnowing, crushing, grinding, etc.

Kolam woman making bamboo baskets for economic benefits


They have vegetables such as Brinjal, red chilies, onions, pulses, and millets such as bajra. Alongside, they also consume milk and eggs. They collect forest produce and include them in their diet.

Religious Practices and Beliefs.

They celebrate a variety of festivals, for example, Gutadi and Nagoba. They believe in Hindu traditions. They offer kurmul made from steamed jowar to their ancestors on the occasion of Polala Panduga. They have a strong belief in Ethnomedicine. Ritualistic procedures for getting rid of evil spirits are also prevalent in their culture.

Kolam tribe performing ritual

10. Tagin Tribe.

The Tagin tribe is significant in Arunachal Pradesh. They form part of an enormous tribe known as the Tani tribes. Their territory is Upper Subansiri, which is south of Taksing. As well as the Shi Yomi, the Kara Dadi, the West Siang, and the Papum Pare, Tagins inhabit adjacent districts in Arunachal Pradesh. Also, they are inhabitants of some Tibetan areas adjacent to Arunachal Pradesh. Their ancestors were the brothers Kangra and Mara. After migrating from Nyime in Tibet, the two brothers settled in Arunachal Pradesh. The Tagin people descend from the Mongoloid race. The people migrated from Tibet and settled in different spaces around their present homeland of Sunansiri. In 1971, about 20,000 Tagins claimed to be Tagin. Using resources from the forest, the Tagins lead a rural lifestyle. They possess a great deal of knowledge of medicinal plants and are well known for their use. According to them, this will help conserve medicinal plants, cultural traditions, and even biodiversity. Furthermore, the tribe uses natural resources for its healthcare, even though it visits doctors and goes to hospitals when it suffers from complicated illnesses.

The tribe tagins were engaged in barter trading as traders. Long before the Indo-Tibet border was closed due to a Sino-Indian conflict in 1962, they traded with northern Tibetan tribes. Between those periods, they bartered the following things: Mithuns, tribal mass, animal hides, and dye made of plants from the Nishi and Sulung tribes of the south.

Upper Subansiri on Map
Landscape of Upper Subansiri district

Dress and Ornaments.

The traditional Tagin attire for women is a red and patterned Ghaley that wraps around their torso and is a bit longer than their knees. In addition, a headscarf is worn around the head, exposing just a little bit of the hairline. A waistband of joined bells adorns the dresses. They wear necklaces and other tribal jewelry made with decorative beads. They wear a longer reddish overcoat around their bodies and hang a sword around their busts. In addition, they wear a long beaded necklace made of adorning beads. They also wear hats shaped like leaves. Their dresses and attire are different compared to other tribes in India.

A family belonging to the Tagin tribes in India
A Tagin girl wearing the tribe's traditional dress


Tagins eat rice, maize, and millet as staple foods. Their eating habits include leafy vegetables, roots, fruits, tubers, pumpkin, ginger onion, mustard leaves, chili, bamboo shoots, etc. They are fond of fish and meat. They often dry the meat and preserve them in many ways. Alongside, drinking is habitual there. Their traditional drink is Apo.

Religious Practices and Beliefs.

They worship Sun and earth as their gods. One of the famous festivals among them is Si-Donyo. They do believe in sacrifices and rituals unlike few other tribes in India.

Si Donyi festival of Tagin tribes in India


There are numerous tribes in India who live in the forests and under different habitations. They form predominant cultural and ecological benefits. The above 10 are the ones that belong to the category of Primitive Vulnerable Tribal Groups and stand apart in the Scheduled tribes of India. I hope this reading was as ting as I wanted it to be and that you found some great hidden information to grasp.

However, don’t leave without telling me what would you want me to cover next about them!

Frequently Asked Questions.

Who are called tribes in India?

The Constitution of India defines tribes on four attributes, geographical isolation, backwardness, distinctive culture, language and religion and shyness of contact. It can further be elaborated as,
Geographical isolation – They live in cloister, exclusive remote and inhospitable areas like hills, forests,
Backwardness – Livelihood based on primitive agriculture, low cost closed economy based on low level of technology which leads to their poverty. They have a low level of literacy and health.
Distinctive culture, language and religion – They have developed community wise their own distinctive culture, language and religion.
Shyness of contact – they have margin degree of contact with other cultures and people.

How many tribes are in India?

According to Section V of the Constitution of India, there are 645 recognized tribal groups across the country.

Which is the largest tribe in India?

Santhal is the largest tribe found in India. Spread across Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha and West Bengal, they account for over six million of the population in India alone.

Which is the smallest tribe in India?

Chenchu is the smallest tribe in India. As per the 2011 consensus of India, there were only 13 people in this tribal group.

Which ministry takes care of the welfare of tribes in India?

Constituted in 1999, the Ministry of Tribal Affairs is responsible for the overall development, mainly the socio-economic development of tribes in India.

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