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Other Tribes

Tribals in Kerala are living on the hill ranges, mainly on the Western Ghat, bordering Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. As a natural border, the mountain has branches in Kerala as well as in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. The tribals on the Kerala hills are only listed here.

Akas Ollar Gadaba Halbi Kodaku Rajabonsi
Gutob Gadaba Muria Gondi Irula (Tamilnadu) Mishmis  
Mudhili Gadaba Southern Gondi Juang Paniya  

1. Adiyan

Alternate names: Aka, Hrusso, Angka, Angkae, Tenae
Population: 4,600 (1991 census)
Literacy: 16%
Language: Hrusso and Kora.
Religion: Animistic (Donipolo – Sun and Moon)
Geography: Arunachal Pradesh, India

The People

Aka, in Assamese means ‘painted’. The women folk of the people group paint their face in colour to hide their beauty and thereby protecting themselves from outsiders. The name 'Aka' is given to them by the people of the plains and they call themselves 'Hrusso'. According to the 1991 census, they have a population of 4,600 with two major dialects spoken, namely Hrusso Aka and Kora Aka.

Where do they Live

The Akas are inhabitants of the south-eastern part of Kameng district of Aunachal Pradesh. Their main concentration is noticed in the Thrizine area.

How do they Live

Akas are a closely knit community, with eleven clans and sub clans. Polygamy is widely practiced in their society.

They have shift cultivation and rear domestic animal Mithun. The main food of Akas is maize and millet. Handicrafts, basket weaving and woodcarving are the principal arts among the Aka tribe. Aka men wear a silky Assamese toga, while the women wear a long dark red garment that covers the entire body. Silver ornaments play an important role in the female costume. Vase shaped earrings and for the richer ones, a fillet of silver chain is worn around the head.

Akas are proud of their long history. They claim that King Bhaluka, the grandson of King Bana who was defeated by Lord Krishna at Tezpur, was their ancestor. Both the Aka groups follow the same religious beliefs and practices. Akas profess and practice dono poloyism. Donyi Polo means the sun god and the moon god. They believe that the universe is controlled by the Omnipotent supreme controller of all living and non-living things of the universe, the donyi polo.

However centuries of Buddhist and Hindu influences have greatly shaped the religious rites of their religion. Superstition and magic has an important role in their belief system. Shizon proved to be the most popular form of magic ritual among the Aka.

The rituals of the Shizhon involve slaughtering a dog, draining the blood from its head, and either sprinkling a few drops of the blood into the enemy undetected, throwing them into his house, or burning them in his hearth.

2. Gutob Gadaba

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Population: 56,911
Language: Gutob Gadaba.
Religion: Animistic (Donipolo – Sun and Moon)
Location:

The People

According to one tradition, they were the cup bearers of Bikram Deva the king but very little is known about their background. The total population, according to the 1981 census of India of all Gadaba in Orissa is 56,911.

Where do they Live

The Gutob Gadabas are found in Orissa in three districts (Nowrangpur, Malkangiri and Koraput) and the highest number is in Koraput district, especially in Lamtaput block. One recent survey estimates about 10,000 Gutob Gadaba people in the state and about 5,000 in the Lamtaput. The movement of bulldozers for the erection of two major hydroelectric power projects has chased away a good number of the peace-loving rural Gadaba community to other interiors parts. This dispersed minority elsewhere also gradually shifted their speech to the local Desiya language. But forty villages in Lamtaput still speak Gutob-Gadaba, their heart language.

How do they Live
Village

People live in clusters and a typical village will have houses between 30 and 80 and about 200 to 500 people. The social administration of the village will be handled by the three-tier leadership- The Naik, Chalan and the Barik. Naik is the village elder and the post comes by succession. Chalan who is selected from the elders assist the Naik. Barrik comes from a lower caste family who live in the village.

Occupation

Agriculture, tending cattle are common occupation for the Gutob. Farming is done on wetland as well as dry land. Rice, regi, millet, vegetable and cash-crops like ‘grape seed’ (a kind of oil seed like jingly) and mango are grown in these fields. Cattles are used for plowing and for meat. Buffaloes, sheep, goats and pigs are reared. Other seasonal works are making broom from wild grass and collecting fiber from a shrub known as ‘muruga’ plants. The poor who do not own much land engage in manual work.

Food Habits

Ragi and rice are staple food along with a kind of millet called irik which is available around the month of September.

Food is taken normally twice a day. A drink made of ragi malt is consumed in the afternoon and any time around the day. The poor may not be able to afford having rice every day but even the poorest of the poor will have ragi drink which keep them away from starvation. All kinds of vegetables are used for food and onion, ginger, garlic and green chilly are common spices used for cooking. They eat flesh of animals like cow, goat, deer and pig and all kinds of fishes and tortoise. They also eat birds like chicken, peacock, duck, goose, and other birds from the quail family. Eating snake is a practice that disappeared recently.

Both men and women enjoy the local drinks made from a type of millet. Children from a small age are encouraged to drink. Fermented drinks are also made from fruits like mango and cashew. Every festival and important occasions like marriage and special days, heavy drinking is common.

Marriage

Marriages are within the tribe and between certain assigned clans. For most Gadaba men, marriage is bringing work force home. Work is the motivating factor behind marriage and the grooms are always younger! If a mother dies and there is no one to take up the responsibilities, a teenage son has to get married to an older woman who can do all the work. In most of the cases Gadaba women do have a say regarding choosing their life partner.

The Gadaba marriages are arranged in two ways; the first is through raipadia (by negotiation) and the second through anoriring (by capture). But marriage can also be by running away. In the former, a person is summoned and commissioned to go to the bride’s house with pendom (local rice beer) to make the formal proposal. If the parents accept the bride price (jola) offered and drink the liquor brought by the boy’s party, it indicates that they have agreed to the marriage. They call the rest of the villagers who are aware of the proposed alliance. The liquor is shared with other members of the village too. However, if the girl does not like the proposal, she has the choice of backing out and may refuse to go to the bridegroom’s house. In that case the girl’s party would have to pay the money back. If she likes another boy she may go with him.

The marriage will be conducted at the residence of the groom. Marriages will have three stages; the proposal and fixing, bringing the girl home and conducting the wedding. All these three stages can be stretched longer according to the financial situation of the parties. Once the proposal is agreed and the girl is brought, the marriage becomes legitimate and they live together, even if the wedding function is postponed for want of money to give the wedding feast to the relatives and villagers. Some even get married after the children are grown-up witness their parents’ wedding.

At the wedding ceremony, the bride will be sitting on the mother’s lap and the groom will have to sit on the lap of his father. The invitees at the wedding ceremony also give cash gifts to the boy’s family, which will be duly accounted and returned in similar occasions.

Divorces and remarriages are allowed. Rich and the leaders can marry more than once but it should be in a different village.

What do they Believe
Religion

Gadabas are animists and worship spirits of ancestors. Worship and sacrifice is associated with agriculture or life-cycle. There is an altar and a small closet under a tree in every village. But there is no trace of any idols. One of the wooden pillar of the inner room in the house is assigned to the ‘house- god’ (mapru- diyan). Every year a sacrifice is done under this pole towards the god of the house. The religious leader for every village is called ‘Dissari’, (the priest) who performs most of the offerings, rituals and sacrifices.

Gunya’ is a high-priest, for a few nearby villages, who is more powerful to tell fortune and conducts witchcraft even to harm the opponents. They also believe in ghosts (duma) and live in constant fear about them. There are different things observed to get rid of the ghost or appease them.

Festivals

The ‘Goter’ is the final and the most important death ritual observed by the Gutob-Gadaba people. It is believed that even after their regular ritual, the spirit of the deceased continues to remain impure. The spirit, until the ‘Goter’ is performed, is believed to wander and likely to harm the family. That means, disaster might strike someone or the yield from crop may be poor that year. This ‘Goter’ is performed collectively in a village by sacrificing buffaloes. There are a lot of taboos and observation around this sacrifice. Like the other Gadaba people, the Gutob Gadaba too has a dozen festivals around the year. The most important among them are three: Poos Porop, Choith Porop and Bandha Pond Porop. All these three are associated with the first fruits.

For every festival there is a puja and a sacrifice conducted which are meant to thank or appease the spirits.

3. Mudhili Gadaba

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Population: 11,000
Relgion: Animism
Literacy: 4 %
Location: Vizianagaram District, AP

Where do they Live

The Mudhili Gadaba people live the Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram and Srikulam districts of Andhra Pradesh. There were 11,000 people in the region according to the 1981 census.

They claim to be the earlier inhabitants of the Godhavari deltas; hence their name carried the word Gadhaba.

How do they Live

Mudhili Gadabas are non- vegetarian. Unlike many other tribals, they eat beef and pork. Rice and ragi are their staple food. Occasionally, both men and women drink alcohol, purchased from the market or distilled at home.

Mudhili Gadaba society has several clans, each with a unique surname. They have closely knit community ties with their own people beyond their villages. They are endogamous. All of them are related to each other in some way or other. Gadaba people live together in hamlets within the village. They live in a single room hut with walls made of mud and stones and thatched roof or tiles, provided by the government.

Gadabas own land and are very hard working people. They do farming and also earn by collecting forest products. Tending flocks and cattle are other source of their income. They have a very good sense of saving money among them though many do not manage finance wisely. Most of them have Saving Banks accounts and Life Insurance policies. They are not able to manage the money properly. In contrast to this they also have Barter system still existing in the society.

4. Ollar Gadaba

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Population: 15,000
Religion: Animism
Literacy: 6.53
Location: Koraput District in Orissa

The People

'Ollar Gadabas' are one of the primitive tribes of India and the most distinctive of all tribes in Orissa. They are also known as Sano Gadaba. There are 15,000 Ollar Gadaba people living in Orissa.

Where do they Live

Ollar Gadaba community lives in Koraput and Malkangiri, the Southern districts of Orissa. This mountainous region linked to the Eastern Ghats, is very typical in its structure. The hills are chained and flat-topped. Ollar Gadabas have made their settlements on these hill tops. Most of the villages are spread out on the plateau, on the slopes of the hills and the narrow strip of valleys lying between the hills.

How do they Live
Occupation

Ollar Gadabas live in remote areas and do not have much interaction with the main stream societies. They are mainly farmers and observe traditional forms of agriculture. Their main income is from agriculture and breeding of livestock. Hunting and fishing are also other occupations which fetch income for some. They own land and practice shift-cultivation. The landless among them work as laborers in the fields of others. Rice and ragi are their staple food. They are non-vegetarians and prefer to eat chicken and mutton though some of them eat beef and pork as well. Both men and women drink alcohol occasionally, either bought from the country liquor market or brew it at home. Though they tend cattle, they do not drink milk, but they have a special charm for liquor called pendum.

Social Administration

In each village, there is 'Nayak' as the chief who settles the matters. Under 'Nayak' there is 'Chalan' and under him there is 'Barik'. But the Gadabas are intensely democratic. Influence in the community and social status depends on the ability and economic status. Women are able to make decisions in house hold matters and take part in all the social, ritual and religious matters of the community.

How do they Dress

The Ollar Gadabas living in the interiors are almost nude except for a piece of cloth worn as lungoti with a flap, which hangs down in front. But those who are exposed to the outside world wear dhoti and shirt. Women wear a long strip of cloth tied around the waist and the second piece of cloth is worn across the breasts. They wear bangles made of aluminum or silver, finger ring particularly in middle finger, necklace and nose ring.

What do they Believe

The Ollar Gadabas are traditionally animists and follow the tribal religion and Hinduism. The village deity is known as 'Undi' or 'Thakurani' and they also worship Darasidebi (goddess of water), Danleswari, Jakasamma, Data Devata (god of the forest) and deities of the Hindu pantheon like Shiva and Lakshmi. The priests are either from their own community known as 'Palas' and 'Aisari' or from other communities such as the Mali and Ganda. The religion is expressed more in observable rituals rather than in doctrines. Several festivals are observed and they play a major part in their lives.

The Ollar Gadabas believe that everyone has a soul (Jive) which cannot be seen by eyes and departs from the body when the person dies. They also believe in the existence of a supreme being who is called 'bhagwan' or 'mahaprabu'. For them, he may be likened to a father. They believe in supernatural beings that are generally benevolent. A male violent spirit called 'shavsi' is feared most for he is responsible for causing the illness which may even lead to death, if not properly propitiated. It is to ward-off his evil effects that they regularly perform rituals through the Disari.

5. Muria Gondi

The People

Gonds are the second largest tribe in India, next to Bhils. Based on the different dialects they speak, they can be classified as nine groups. ‘Muria Gondi’ is the dialect spoken by Muria Gonds. Muria Gonds are also called ‘Gottul Murias’. They call themselves Koytor, which means landowners; they are settlers unlike some nomadic Gonds who shift their places.

Muria Gonds are native tribals who live in the northern side of Bastar district in Madhya Pradesh. They live in the forest regions and depend on the forests for their livelihood.

History of the People

Little is known about the ancient origin of the Gondi speaking community. Some assume that they are an ancient Dravidian tribe who migrated to the northern part of India during the prehistoric period. Others postulate that Gondi is the adopted language of many of the original tribal population of Central India. These larger groups were known by the generic term “Gonds”. Before the Mogul era, splendid Gondi Empire existed under the control of several Gond Rajas (kings). In the fifteenth century, they fell into the Mogul invaders but the direct authority of the Mogul conquerors was exercised over the Gonds lasted only for a short time before the ruling authority returned to the Gond Rajas. Under the loose political structures the Gond dynasties flourished until the seventeenth century when they were conquered by the Marathas. In the later years the Gondi speaking people came under the dominion of the British. Today they are incorporated into the respective Indian states in which they live.

Where do they Live

Northern Bastar district, the home of the Muria Gonds, occupies most of the large mountain plateau from Keskal in the north to Konda goan in the south. Most of the areas are relatively flat; occasional low hill ridges break the monotony of the terrain. As one approach the Narainpur area this flatness gives way to more ridges on the Abhujamad hills. Gonds make their dwellings on the ridges and use the lower areas as fields where paddy is the major cultivation.

Forest covers about 80 percentage of Bastar district, which means there are fewer laid roads with good transportation. Narainpur, the culture nerve centre of Muria Gonds, has limited bus services. Buses also ply twice a day on some of the mud roads during the rainy season. There are weekly markets on the plain where they go to buy their provisions and necessities.

How do they Live

According to 1991 census, the population of Muria Gonds was 400,000 in the Bastar district. They also live in Orissa and Maharashtra. There are a few towns in the Muria area with an average population of 10,000 people, dominated mostly by outsiders consisting business people and government officials. Very few Murias live in towns. They confine themselves to their settlements in the jungle villages. The villages are scattered in the clearings of the forest. A Muria village will have about twenty five houses which will include two or three paras (area or side) with a population of 100 to 150 people.

In every Muria village there will be one or two families who belong to Halbi or other Gond sects, who are not tribals. Apart from them no outsiders live in the village. A few Murias who have found works in the towns usually do not identify with the villagers and even they deny that they can speak Muria.

Murias are proud of their social identity though other caste groups consider them as low caste and ill-treat them. There are several clans within the Murias and some clans are occupational like the blacksmiths. There are no different levels of prestige within the group.

Social Organisation

The most notable social institution that distinguishes the Muria Gonds of the Narainpur Tahsil from the other people of the area is the Gottul, a village dormitory. The unmarried youth and older children of the village gather each night to sing, listen to stories, play games, dance, and discuss matters that concerns them. Men and women have separate gottuls. Although entertainment appears to be the order in the gottul, the institution does not exist merely for fun. Its major functions appear to be religious and educational. Without exception, every religious festival of the community will be dominated the with singing and dancing by the members of the Gottul. The preparation of the young for adulthood, including sex education is interwoven with the routine life at the Gottul.

Until marriage the girls are required to stay in the village and are not supposed to spend the night outside the village. If a girl fails to come regularly to Gottul, the members or even the villagers would not attend her wedding. A fine up to Rs.200 has to be paid to the Gottul in order to settle it. Parents arrange the marriages of their children between the ages of 1 to 12 or even more. Premarital pregnancies are rare in the Gottul. If that occur, both the girl and the boy are married off to the persons who had been chosen for them by their parents many years ago in accordance with the practice. Divorce and elopement are common. Elopement is relatively rare as the boy or his parents must pay a fine to the village elders and to the family of the bridegroom to whom the bride had originally been promised. Marriage outside the caste is not common but not considered as a serious matter.

Village Administration

Patel, a traditional leader, is the head of the village. There is another contact person or representative for the government called sarpanch. Patel calls the meeting of elders to decide matters regarding the village, settlements of disputes and other government matters. For five or six villages in the area, there is a ‘patwari’ (village officer) appointed by the government, who deals with the land revenue and related matters. Similarly the police department has a ‘Kothwar’ who reports about the births and deaths in the villages. He will be a local person and does not have any power in the village. Apart from these there is another ‘Nakedar’ (forester) who is supposed to guard the forest. Most of these officials except the Kothwar, exploit the tribals. Due to the exploitation by the government officials and business class the Naxalite activities are quite common. There were instances for tribals obliging to their directions like not voting in the state election.

6. Southern Gondi

Population 2,50,000
Religion: Animism
Literacy: 15%
Location: Gadchiroli, Chandraput And Yavatmal District of Maharashtra
Adilabad District of A P

History of the People

The Southern Gonds are one of the five people groups of the larger Gond tribe who live in central India in the states of Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. Many years ago they were a ruling class in this region. Though economically poor and backward, the Gonds still enjoy a higher social status as compared to the other communities in the villages.

Where do they Live

The Southern Gonds are one of the five people groups of the larger Gond tribe who live in central India in the states of Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. There are approximately 2,50,000 Southern Gonds who call themselves, “Koitor”. They are mostly found in Gadchiroli, Chandraput and Yavatmal district of Maharashtra and Adilabad district of Andhra Pradesh. Gondi villages are usually near forests and hilly regions.

How do they Live

They sustain their living by farming. To supplement the produce, they would occasionally do hunting in the nearby forests.
Though they are included to Hinduism by the government, they are mainly Animists. Witchcraft and sorcery is very common among them.

7. Halbi

The People

Halbi is language spoken by about 200,000 people both as a mother tongue and as a second or trade language. The Halbi speaking communities are primarily found in the Bastar District, of Chhattisgarh states and the bordering areas of the adjacent states in Northern India.

Where do they Live

Halbi community lives in clusters of villages around which agricultural fields are located. One village is divided into sections known as "para". Each para will be occupied by a caste or clan of the same tribe. The Halbi community has several sub-divisions; some are treated 'high' while others 'low'. Most of the people live in mud houses, roof thatched with dry grass or clay tiles baked in the village.

How do they Live/ Social Organization

They have many festivals celebrated throughout the year and each of them is associated with a community activity. It is customary for them to do things together as a community. Seasons of farming, fishing, gathering of forest products, game and so on start with a festivals.

Consumption of alcoholic beverages is a widespread practice, which ruins the society. A newborn is given a few drops of alcohol to begin with. The wife manages the family, in most cases including the financial affairs of the household. Extended family system is in existence, but is diminishing gradually.

Marriage as an institution is highly honoured. A boy has to marry his maternal uncle's daughter. If he renounces, he has to pay a fine decided by the 'Panch' (village court).

What do they Believe

The Halbis are mainly Animists, who worship the spirits of ancestors. However, they have a very strong concept of a Supreme Being who is the creator God. They have a worshipping place called Gudi, in the corner of the village. No idols are there except for a stone slab, on which they perform sacrifices and make other offerings. The priest enjoys unlimited power as he can invoke divine judgment on people. They believe that the spirits causes sickness, famine and all evil things. To appease the spirits sacrifices are offered by families and the community.

Bali is a festival before the beginning of cultivation; sacrifices are made to the 'rain god'. Evil possession and dancing are part of the worship. "Sira' is the head of all witch doctors. There are women spirit mediums that are almost powerful as a 'Sira'. The Siras predict the mishaps and calamities. They also prescribe remedies and the one who seeks help has to perform it.

In the recent past, Hinduism has been making inroads into this tribal community. Government offices and other work places have conscious efforts for cultural and religious infiltration. Festivals celebrated and practices observed in schools encourage them to be adherents.

Concept of sin is relative. Man is a created being. After death the spirits of the people wander around and live in the jungles on Pipal trees. They take rebirths to the same clan in the course of time for a better life. Good people will go to heaven and the bad to hell. Evil is considered as an unavoidable element of life.

Economy:

The main source of income is agriculture and produces from the forest. But the real benefits are reaped the business communities who do not pay fair prices to the harvest. The exploitation is unbridled even for basic necessities of life. Their illiteracy and ignorance are often taken as advantage by the traders, agents and employees from the government departments. There are many government welfare schemes, known as 'Tribal Development' which exists and carried out in books and documents!

Village administration

The village Panch administers disciplinary actions and decides on disputes of various sorts. 'Sarpanch' – (the village head) is an elected member from the village. All other members/office bearers hold their post in succession. "Kotuval' is the village police, who has a link with the government police department. Kotuval refers cases/disputes, which are not settled in the village council, to the court. Any decisions arrived upon in the village is also binding to the legal courts! "Patel' is the one who keeps the land records of the village and he assists the govt. surveyor (Patwari) to collect taxes from people.

8. Irula (Tamilnadu)

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Alternate Name: Irular
Location: Tamil Nadu

The People

Irula is a native tribe who used to be on the hills. Irul means darkness and in several respects their life was in darkness.

Where do they Live

The Irula people are found in the remote and distant stretches in Tiruvalluvar and Tambaram areas. They preferred to stay in the shade of bushes and on the hills, in ambush for rats and snakes. Deforestation and the state’s ‘welfare measures’ relocated and brought them downhill. Now they live in small groups in distant settlements in the backyards of the town. The village heads have marked their boundaries and are considered untouchables and live in poor and non-hygienic conditions, including no drinking water facilities. They fetch water from ponds where they also wash themselves and their clothes.

How is their Life Like:

They live in small groups of 3 families minimum and up to 22 families (Irula tribe is considered as “low caste”) The village head allots a place for them to live near a pond in the village which is away from the villagers. In some villages they are accepted a little and in some they are still considered untouchables.

Occupation

The once snake and rat catchers are caught up with poverty and live as un-kept illiterates in ignorance. Some of them are engaged in jobs like cutting firewood, climbing trees or in the farms of the villagers seasonally, which are sparse. Children below 5 years do not wear any cloths and about 90% of them are victims of malnutrition. Moral and social norms are not strict and marriages not formal among them. Births and deaths of children are a common feature among them as there is little external help sought for child birth. They seldom go to a hospital or sending children to school has not become part of their thinking. The huts they live do not have a doorpost and even if there is one, it does not carry a number! They mostly are ‘non-existent’ people who do not register their birth, death or marriages. Development may be still far away from them.

Irulas as a tribe are unskilled in doing any kind of job. They earn their living by doing odd agricultural or woodcutting works. They work as laborers in the fields of the landlords during the sowing and harvesting seasons or by working in the rice mills.

They are also engaged in household or domestic works of the landlords. Fishing is also an occupation in some of the Irulas' villages. Some of them also gather firewood from forest to sell.

Years of neglect by people who are strong are also responsible for their economic hardships. Often the landlords treat them as bonded laborers in many of these villages.

The rice mill laborers live in dreadful conditions. They stay and work in the rice mills, as they have no other place to go. In addition the fear of the outer world, forces them to continue their livelihood within the four stockades of the mills.

They are ignorant about their own benefits as a Schedule Tribe and often are objects of cheating. Most of them lost ownerships of the land they had.

9. Juang

Population: 30,876
Religion: Animism
Location: Orissa

History of the People

Juang is a tribe who are found only in the state of Orissa. According to the 1981 census returns there are 30,876 Juang people. The Juang people were food gatherers and hunters and lived in the forest areas until the early part of the 20th century. They made leaves their dress and forest their dwelling. But the reservation of forest by the government in the1900’s deprived them of their original livelihood and led them to a settled life and made them learn the occupation of agriculture.

How do they Live

Today apart from agriculture, a large portion of the population makes a living by making baskets, selling firewood and working as laborers. Most of the Juang live below the poverty line.

Juang are predominantly animists. In addition to other deities, they also worship the sun god and the earth goddess. Women do not have any role in the religious activities of the community. Witchcraft and sorcery are practiced. The sick are taken to a sorcerer for treatment; the community tends to use modern medicine only when the traditional means of healing are proved to be a failure. In the recent past, as a result of increased propaganda by religious fanatics, some among the community started taking part in Hindu festivals.

Language and Literacy

The literacy rate among the Juang is very low. Schools being in the state language, Oriya, have failed to attract students at the beginner's level. There are no schools or teaching of literacy in their mother tongue. Secondly the focus of education is not on the girl children. Out of every 100 girls only about two get an opportunity to go to a school. Apart from lack of motivation to go to school, the education of a girl child is not valued.

10. Kodaku

Alternate names: Koraku, Korku
Population: 1 lakh
Literacy: 11%
Language: Kodaku
Religion: Animistic
Location: Chattisgrah, Jharkand, U.P

The People

Kodaku are known so by their mother tongue. The alternative name for Kodaku is Korku. They also speak Sadri and Chhattisgarhi as their trade languages.

Where do they Live

Kodaku people are one of the primitive tribes in the central part of India, who live in hills and forest of Chhotanagpur; the bordering area of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh states. Kodakus live in hamlets in the jungles surrounded by mountains.

How is their Life Like

Elephants and other wild animals are common in these reserved forests, destroying the houses and crops of these poor villagers. Kodakus live in constant fear of being attacked and most of the hamlets have groups to fight against any immediate threats. Most of them worship spirits and offer sacrifices in their name for the protection of their village.

‘Saila’ is a famous singing and dancing event where they recite some song for pleasing their spirit god ‘Ramdev’. This is usually once in ten years and sometimes more frequent. It begins when the village shaman (priest) identifies a specified time for the event which is followed by strict planning by the villagers. Kodakus spend days to practice this spirit dance, by which many of them get possessed by demons, which is the culmination of the spirit worship.

11. Mishmis

Population: 16,000
Literacy: 16%
Language : Digaru, Miju.
Religion: Animism (Donipolo – sun and moon)
Location: Arunachal Pradesh

The People

Mishmis a tribe with the weakest in economy conditions live in Arunachal Pradesh.

How is their Life Like:

The main economic resources of the Mishmis are land and forests. They are primarily farmers. One of the traditional occupations of the Mishmis is weaving, which also involves them in trading in order to sell what they make. Mishmis also produce shawls, blouses, jackets, bamboo baskets, skirts, coats, bags and bead-necklace. Mishmis are non-vegetarians. Men and children consume pork, beef and all other kinds of meat available. However, the women eat only small birds and fish. Their houses are made of Bamboos and the roof is thatched with a long grass. The peculiarity of these houses is that they are made on pillars and the basement of the house is used for keeping pigs and hens.

Mishmis belong to hereditary shamanism. The most important characteristics are the complex system of belief in the spiritual qualities of nature and the concept of one Supreme Being. Donyi-polo the sun and the moon are regarded as the symbol of eternal truth.

Animals like mithun and pigs are sacrificed for a number of rituals and pujas during festivals. They have pre and post delivery rituals. They believe in some malevolent and benevolent spirits. Mishmis are the followers of the animistic Donyi-polo faith, known as Phong kelum, with some Buddhist influence, notably in their rites.

12. Paniya

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Population: 93,000
Literacy: 11%
Language : Paniya
Religion: Animistic
Location: Kerala, Tamilnadu and Karnataka.

The People

Paniyas are a people group found in the southernmost part of India. They live on the hills adjacent to forests, mostly in Kerala and a relatively small number in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Paniyas are the major group among the scheduled tribes in Kerala. According to the 1991 census there were 87,000 in Kerala, 6393 in Tamil Nadu and 482 in Karnataka. The name Paniya is derived from the Malayalam word pani meaning work. Paniyan refers to a labourer. Considering the historical background of the tribe, this name is quite apt.

History of the People

Nothing certain is known on the origin Paniya. The general appearance and features of the people like dark complexion, thick lips, and curly hair, suggest Paniya of African origin. There are tales about the wreck of a slave ship on the Malabar Coast, accounting to the lineage of the Paniya people.

Their place of origin is referred as ‘Ippimala’. The Nair janmis (land lords) say that, when surprised or alarmed at some mistake or mischief, the Paniya run away calling out “Ippi! Ippi!” but they are ignorant as to where Ippimala is. Some also suggest ‘Kapiri’ (Africa or the Cape) as their original land.

Where do they Live

In Kerala, the Paniyas are found in the northern part of the Wetern Ghat which is the Eastern Border of the state with Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. The major concentration of the people is in Wayanad District, and the rest in the eastern regions of Kozhikode (Calicut), Malappuram and Kannur districts. Many of them live in row houses and tribal colonies provided by the government.

In Tamil Nadu, the primary concentration of Paniyas is in Gudalur and Pandalur area of Nilgiris District. In Karnataka, the tribe’s habitat is in southern part of Kodagu District.

Settlements

Paniyas live in groups usually referred to as ‘colonies’. An average colony consists of eight to twenty-five houses. Paniya colonies used to be found only inside the forested areas, yet many colonies are recently found close to towns also. The government has established a few colonies housing some families, while the rest of them make their own dwelling. Life in the colony is important as it helps the community to preserve their culture and language. Outside the colony, Paniyas are under social pressures to adapt to the culture and value system of the non-tribals.

Occupation

In the fifties of the last centaury when planters from the plain pioneered into Wayanad hills, they purchased the land with the Paniya people living on it, who were practically slave workers of the landowners. They believe their original occupation was agriculture as it is, for the most part at the present day. Some make both ends meet by working in the Coffee and Tea estates.

Food

Those who have some piece of land also cultivate rice and ragi (Eleusine Coracana); and women and children may be seen digging up jungle roots or gathering herbs for food. They eat land-crabs, supposedly to prevent baldness and grey hair but unlike many other primitive tribes here, they do not eat the flesh of Jackals, snakes, vultures, lizards, rats or other vermin. They have a discrete favouritism for alcohol.

What do they Believe

With nil education and no association with other tribes or people the Paniya have very crude ideas of other religions. Though they claim to worship the Hindu deities, they believe and worship spirits especially the god of the jungles called kadubhagavathi, or kuli. The shrine will be under a tree and the image in the form of a stone will be terrible in appearance, neither male nor female. At this crude shrines they offer boiled rice, half a coconut and small coins. They revere the Banyan tree, believing that the spirits live on its branches.

Language and Literacy

Paniya do not have any written form of language. The literacy rate is noted as 11%. (K.S. Singh, 1994, pp.976). The Sociolinguistics survey has confirmed that Paniya is a distinct language in comparison with the speech varieties of other Dravidian varieties (Adiyar, Kurichiar, Kurumas, Ooralis and Kattunaikas) and the state language, Malayalam. Moreover, the Paniya people have a high regard towards their mother tongue. The Paniya language is actively used in all in-group domains, though Malayalam is used for interactions involving outsiders.

13. Rajabonsi

Population: 25,00,000
Literacy: 25%
Location: West Bengal and Assam

History of the People

The Rajabongshi People live in the states of Bihar, West Bengal and Assam. There are different beliefs as to their origin. According to one view, they belong to the great Bodo family that entered India in the 10th century B. C., from the East and settled on the banks of the river Brahmaputra and gradually spread over Assam and the whole of North and East of Bengal. They have several mythologies connected to their Kings and palaces.

Where do they Live

Rajabongshis number about 25,00,000 and are distributed in the states of Bihar, West Bengal and Assam. They are mostly found in the districts of Cooch Behar, Jailpaiguri, Darjeeling, North and South Dinajpur of West Bengal. In Assam they are found in the Goalpara region. Cooch Behar is considered to be the home land of Rajabongshis. The biggest concentration of the people are in Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar.

How do they Live

Rajabongshi people are mostly farmers and have rich varieties of cultivation. They prefer to live in their agricultural lands, unlike those prefer to stay in clusters. A Rajabongshi landlord is called Jotedar, who will never build his home outside his own land. When a Rajabongshi buys a plot of land for building a house, he consults a Panjiar (a Rajabongshi Pundit) to see if the land would be suitable for the purpose. The Panjiar draws some figures on the earth to determine whether it is ideal for living and thereby good for purchase.

Agriculture is the main occupation and the chief source of income. There are also business men, government employees and daily labourers among them. Cultivation includes rice, potato, onion, garlic, carrot, cabbage, beetroot, beans of different kinds, ground nuts, green peas, cauliflower, ladies’ finger, brinjal, and almost all kinds of vegetables. They have twenty-five varieties of leafy vegetables and several types of chilies. Fruits like mango, jackfruit, olive; different kinds of berry fruits are also available. Mostly they themselves sell these products in the market.

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