(Last Updated on : 23/07/2011)
Tribes of Gujarat
have an interesting history. The Ramayana
and the Mahabharata
make several references to the hill tribes. The reference to the Bhil hunter mistakenly slaying Lord Krishna
at Prabhas Patan shows that the tribe had freedom in this region. In the character of Shabri, Valmiki
's Ramayana portrays the simple and hospitable nature of the Bhil women.
Bhil tribes ruled over the Chhota Udaipur
, Rajpipla and Sagbara region of Ratanmal in the Panchamahals district, the Danta
region in the Banaskantha district
and over principalities around Idar.
In the 11th century, Karnadeo (son of Bhimadeo, the Chalukya king who ruled over North Gujarat) marched against Asha Bhil of Asha Palli and vanquished him. He then established Karnavati, a new kingdom near Palai, in the southern suburb of Ahmedabad
Location of Tribes of Gujrat
Tribes of Gujrat inhabit the rugged terrain adjoining the Aravallis, the western ridges of the Vindhya and Satpura mountain Range and the northern slopes of the Sahyadri Ranges.
The tribal belt in Gujarat consists of the districts of Danga, Surat
, Broach, Baroda, Panchmahals, Sabarkantha and Banaskantha. Various sects of adivasis, mainly of Bhil Tribe
and Konkan origin reside in this region.
Tribes such as the Siddhis
, Rabari tribe
, Padhar tribe
, Mers and Bharwads live in the coastal Saurashtra districts of Junagadh
The Siddhis are known to have come to India from East Africa and have distinct Negroid features. The Rabaris and the Mers seem to have come from the Mediterranean in early times.
The Australoid Adivasis (who have Australoid features) live in two tracts. They have Konkan features. the other group lives in the hill tracts along the state's eastern border and comprise of the Bhil Garasias, Dungri Bhils, Ratwas, Naikas and others. They have Bhil features.
In the plains of the Surat
, Broach and Bulbar Districts, there are also other tribes, such as, the Dublas, who seem to have a foreign origin, the Dhodias, who might have migrated from the Dhulia region of Maharashtra
and the Choudhuris, who may have come from Orissa
or West Bengal
Demographics of Tribes of Gujrat
There are over 5 million Adivasis or tribal communities in Gujarat. Tribes with Bhil features account for more than 50% of the Gujrat's Adivasi population. Most of the Adivasi sects claim descent from clans, such as, the Rathod, Solanki, Chauhan, Parmar and Makwana. The colourful ghagra, the jhulki, the sallo and the jewellery worn by the Bhil Garasia women reveal Rajput influence as well.
The Bhils near Akkalkavu in West Khandesh and those living in Ratnapur, came under the influence of the Muslims and though they adopted the Muslim faith, their women neither accepted the practice of wearing veils.
Culture of Tribes of Gujrat
The tribal people of Gujarat are religious and are animistic in religion. They worship animals, such as the tiger, crocodile and snake as Gods and also worship some plant Gods and a hill God (Thumbi Dev). They also have many Gods in common with the Hindus such as Chamunda
, Kalka, Amba
, Lord Hanuman
and Lord Krishna
. Their greatest festival is Holi
It is said that this and other festivals such as Diwali
, which it is said originally belonged to these aborigines, were in due course of time adopted by the Hindus. Scholars are also of the opinion that the concept of the Mother Goddess, Parvati
(daughter of the hill king) and that of the Lord Shiva
has been borrowed by the Hindus from the Adivasis. The tribes also worship their dead ancestors.
Occupation of Tribes of Gujrat
The tribes of Gujarat are engaged in different occupations. In olden days the Bhils depended on the slash-and-burn cultivation system under which they cleared thick forests by cutting trees or burning them and cultivated crops in this land for a few years until the natural fertility of the soil was exhausted. They then moved on to new forests, leaving the land fallow for it to recover its fertility. They also lived by gathering forest produce and hunting wild beasts or fishing. Some tribes work as casual labourers, cattle breeders and find employment in the ports.
Even today the tribal groups, such as, the Koknas, Gamits, Dhodias, Vasawas, Garasias and some other Bhils generally lived on agriculture. Most of the Adivasis depend on agriculture either as landowners or as farm workers.
The social set up of the tribes in Gujarat is quite different from that of a usual Hindu community. The women in these communities have more freedom than their Hindu counterparts in matters of marriage, divorce and remarriage. Besides this the customs and lifestyle of the tribes vary as well. The colourful costumes of the tribal people of Gujarat add charm to the eyes of the beholder. Moreover the tribal people celebrate various fairs and festivals with great gaiety and tribal folk songs and dances.