(Last Updated on : 01/08/2011)
Indian tribes are abstract sections which hold in an astounding number of tribal populations in the country, meticulously assimilating each characteristic speciality. First traces of tribes in India can be traced to the species known as `Ramapithecus`, discovered in the Shivalik Hills
of the north-western Himalaya Mountain
. This species, held to be the first in line of hominids, lived approximately 14 million years ago. Researches have established that a species corresponding to the Australopithecus romped about in India roughly 2 million years ago. The people of India belong to different anthropological bloodlines.
Indian tribal people amount to an 8.14 percent of the total population of the country, numbering 84.51 million, according to the 2001 census. These tribal people reside in approximately 15 percent of the country`s area. Indian tribals primarily reside in various ecological and geo-climatic conditions ranging from plains, forests, hills and inaccessible areas that perhaps lie dotted in the panoramic Indian terrain. According to Article 342 of the Constitution of India
, at present, there exist 697 tribes notified by the Central Government. These Indian tribal groups of people have been notified to reside in more than one State. More than half of the Indian tribal population is concentrated in the States of Madhya Pradesh
. On the other hand, in other states of India like in Chandigarh
there is no particular tribal group that is reckoned as a specific tribal group.
Research scientists opine that the population of India, including Indian tribes, is derived from six primary ethnic groups namely Negritos, Pro-Australoids or Austrics, Mongoloids, Mediterranean or Dravidian, Western Brachycephals and Nordics. The Negritos or the brachycephalic (broad-headed) men from Africa were the earliest tribesmen to populate India. They presently survive in their original home-ground in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands
. The Jarewas, Onges, Sentinelese tribes and Andamanese Tribe are the perfect examples. Studies have indicated that the Onges tribes have been living in the Andamans for the last 60,000 years. Some hill tribes like Irulas, Kodars, Paniyan Tribe
and Kurumba Tribe
are found only in patches among the hills of south India on the mainland.
This group of Pro-Australoids or Austrics was the subsequent bunch to arrive in India after the Negritos. They symbolise a race of people, with wavy hair. The people of his community were distinguished for their prominent eye ridges, low foreheads and long heads. The other physical features of the people of this tribal community include thick jaws, low and broad based nose, small chins and large teeth. Austrics tribe, dispersed over the whole of India, Myanmar and the islands of South East Asia, are believed to `form the bedrock of the people`. The Austrics are proudly known to be the main founders of the Indus Valley Civilisation. These people were of agrarian culture and they lived on cultivating vegetables and rice. Some of them were also engaged in making sugar from sugarcane
. In Eastern and Central India, the language of this tribal community existed among the Munda Tribe
or Kol Caste.
Mongoloids bear features that are common to people of Mongolia, China and Tibet. These tribal groups are located in the North-eastern portion of India in states like Assam
and also in Ladakh
. Generally, these people are of yellow complexion, oblique eyes, high cheekbones, thinning hairline and medium height.
Mediterranean or Dravidian group of tribesmen arrived in India from South-west Asia and appears to be people of the same bloodline as the people of Asia Minor and Crete and the pre-Hellenic Aegeans of Greece. They are presumed to have constructed up the city civilisation of the Indus Valley, whose remains have been discovered at Mohenjodaro
and other Indus cities. The Dravidians
are believed to have circulated in the entire part of India, replacing Negritos and Austrics equally. Dravidians incorporate the three sub-types namely the aloe-Mediterranean, the true Mediterranean and Oriental Mediterranean. This group makes up the bulk of the scheduled castes in North India. This group also has a sub-type called Oriental group.
The bunch of Western Brachycephals includes the Alpinoids, Dinaries and Armenois. The Coorgis and Parsis of Indian tribal origin fall into this category.
Nordics or Indo-Aryans are the last immigrants into India. Nordic Aryans were a division of Indo-Iranians, who had originally left their homes in Central Asia, approximately 5000 years ago and had settled in Mesopotamia for some centuries. The Aryans
must have arrived into India within 2000 and 1500 B.C. Their first home in India was western and northern Punjab
, from where they scattered to Ganges Delta
and beyond. These tribes are now mainly witnessed in the Northwest and the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP). Many of these Indian tribes however belong to the `upper castes`.
The interesting and novel mode of lifestyle that such Indian tribal people lead, accounts for a vast section of Indian travelogue. Be it in the sphere of much-retold Indian tribes or yet-to-be-known tribes, various styles of eating, drinking, working, singing, dancing, clothing, accessorising, or religious customs, Indian tribal people lead a life of their own. This distinctness is as if encased and enveloped within a protective covering, that at times receives massive public coverage. The distinction in the variety of the tribal people in India enriches the Indian culture and art.