(Last Updated on : 12/08/2010)
Baiga tribe is a primitive Dravidian tribe. Baiga tribes are located in the states of Bihar
, Madhya Pradesh
, and West Bengal
. They are scattered over the hilly forest provinces of India including Shahdol, Bilaspur
, Rajnandgaon, Mandla, and Balaghat
. As far as the origin of the Baiga tribes is concerned, they have got a rich history behind it. Baiga tribes belong to the Dravidian groups and are one of the ancient tribes of the central India including Madhya Pradesh. In the regions of Mandla and Balaghat, Binjhwar sub-caste is considered as the civilised sub-division of Baiga tribe. Bhainas are another off-shoot of Baiga tribe. All these tribal groups speak a corrupted form of Indo-Aryan vernacular languages.
There are altogether seven sub-divisions or sub-castes of Baiga Tribe namely Binjhwar, Bharotia, Raibhaina, Kathbhaina, Narotia or Nahar, Kondwan or Kundi and Gondwaina. Of these the Binjhwar, Bharotia and Narotia are well known. The name of the Binjhwar tribe
is said to have been derived from Vindhya mountain range
. In Baiga tribal societies, the rule of exogamy is strictly observed. In Kawardha, it is believed that the three sub-castes intermarry but they do not eat together. In Balaghat, Bharotias and Narotias can intermarry as well as eat together. Each of the sub-tribe has been divided into several exogamous septs. The names of these sub-sects are quite similar with those of the Gond tribe
In their societies, marriage proposal first comes from the parents of the bride, however, in some places; the girls are not allowed to select husbands herself. Usually three ceremonies precede marriage ceremonies. The Baiga society allows divorce but a divorced woman is not allowed to remarry without the permission of the Panchayat. Polygamy is also allowed in these tribal societies. They also observe several birth and funeral rites. The Binjhwar sub-caste professes Hinduism
. Thakur Deo is their local deity. Further, several Hindu deities are also worshipped by the Baiga people.
Bhumia is another name that is often used to represent Baiga tribe. The term Bhumia means 'lord of the soil'. In Mandla district
of Madhya Pradesh, a group named as Bharia-Baigas is also found. This group is mainly employed as village priests. They claim themselves to be a part of the Baiga tribe. It is also believed that the Baiga tribes were once prominent in the Chhattisgarh
region and the surrounding hilly areas. Further, some scholars say that this tribe is a branch of the Bhuiya tribe of Chota Nagpur. A discerning feature of the Baiga tribe is that their women are popular for drawing tattoos of several kinds on different parts of the body. The women artists mostly belong to the Badni, Ojha and Dewar tribes of Madhya Pradesh. They are called the Godharins. They are very well informed about the art of different types of tattoos that are widely favoured by various tribes. Their ancestors through traditional conventions pass on this knowledge to them. Tattooing amongst the Baiga tribes begins with the arrival of winter season and continues till the summer season.
To estimate the total population of Baiga tribes, several researches are being carried out. Amongst four hundred and twenty seven tribal communities that are found in every hook and nook of India, it consists of eight percent of the total population of the Indian subcontinent. Also according to many people, The Baiga tribe is one of the most ancient tribal groups of the country. Over the years, the recorded size of the Baiga population has grown steadily. Formerly, the Baigas practiced shifting cultivation. Presently several attempts have been taken by the government to train them about regular cultivation process.