Tucked away in their own haven, are communities with their own unique culture. They have their own language, art, music and practice a different religion. The tribes of India residing in the various pockets of the nation have heritage that can be traced back to centuries. Discover some of these interesting tribal communities and the culture they showcase.
Warli tribe in Maharashtra
With a heritage that can be traced back to the Neolithic age, this tribal community of Maharashtra is well-known for its art comprising of basic shapes – lines, triangles and circles. Warli art can still be found outside their red coloured homes made of cow dung, mud and wood. The tribe speaks an Indo-Aryan dialect termed as Warli language and have unique dances like the harvest dance called Tarpa, performed on the tunes of musical instruments made from dried vegetables like gourd.
Bishnoi tribe of Rajasthan
Devotees of Lord Jhambheshwar, the Bishnoi tribe is known for their fierce protectiveness of nature. This tribe was an inspiration for the famous Chipko movement with their own tree hugging activity in the 1700s. Over 300 tribals were executed as they hugged the Khejri trees to protect them from felling on the orders of the then Maharaja of Jodhpur. To date, the tribe buries their dead instead of cremating them to avoid wasting wood. Not only do they refrain from hurting animals but nurture them by keeping bird feed and water around their dwellings.
Also Read: Heritage arts & crafts of India
Gond tribe in Madhya Pradesh
One of the largest tribes of not just India, but South Asia, the Gonds are believed to have been inhabitants of the kingdom of Gondwana. They are found across the forests of Kanha, the Deccan hills and even, Chhattisgarh. The tribes are known for the Gond art which depicts various elements of nature. They worship a God called Pharsa Pen and believe that every aspect of nature is inhabited by a spirit which must be appeased by their sacrifices.
Siddi tribe of Gujarat & Karnataka
The Siddi tribals of Gujarat and Karnataka are well-known as descendants of the East-African Bantu tribes who reached the shores of India as sailors and Portuguese slaves. The tribes have long embraced the local languages but still have their own form of music and dance called Goma and Dhamal. The tribe celebrates a festival called Siddinasa where they offer prayers to a stone deity.
Toda tribe of Tamil Nadu
A Toda village called Mund is well-recognized by the presence of its Teepee like homes. The Todas of Ooty are largely dairy farmers who revere their buffaloes. The animal is so integral to their culture that they not only celebrate a buffalo festival but have motifs resembling the buffalo horns embroidered on their traditional shawls called Poothkuli. The red and black drapes are hand-made and sport many other motifs inspired by nature and divinity.
Chenchu tribe of Andhra Pradesh
The Chenchu tribals of Andhra Pradesh continue to be forest-dwellers who rely on gathering and hunting their food. A Chenchu village is called Penta and consists of close relatives with one village elder called Peddamanishi. Untouched by the modernization around them, they continue to trade their forest wealth like honey and liquor made from Mahua flowers for their meagre needs. The tribe has strong rituals and worship God Taru who they believe, looks after them from the sky.
Santhal tribe of West Bengal
Quite like the Chenchu, the Santhal tribe were aggregators of food but have now, become cultivators. The tribe is well-known for their graceful dances and unique musical instruments like the bamboo flute -Tirio and lac based Dhodro Banam. Every tribal home in a Santhal village has a Karam tree growing near it. The people consider the same auspicious and even celebrate a festival around it.
Changpa tribe of Ladakh
The Indo-Tibetan nomadic clans of Ladakh – the Changpas, are well-known for the rearing of the famous Pashmina goats. These inhabitants of the Changthang valley speak a Tibetan dialect called Changskhat and are largely Buddhists by religion. They normally settle in tents and herd their flocks between the high, chilly mountains of Ladakh.
Apatani tribe of Arunachal Pradesh
“Sometimes beauty can be a curse” -or so was the case with the women of Apatani tribes of Arunachal Pradesh. Frequently abducted by the men, these women started hiding behind large facial tattoos and noserings. Even today, the older women of the tribe sport the same. These traditional worshippers of Sun are in news for their eco-friendly manner of cultivating rice and their villages are in consideration for a Unesco World Heritage status for high productivity and ecological preservation.
Angami tribe of Nagaland
If you have attended the famous Hornbill Festival of Nagaland, there is no way you would have missed meeting the warrior tribe of the state. The Angami clan can be seen with their elaborate headgear and traditional dresses – Mhoushu for the males and Mechala for the females. The tribe is renowned for their artistic bamboo work as well as wet rice cultivation on the hilly terrains of their homes.