India is a country of ancient mysteries, healing practices, vibrant culture, and scientific discoveries. Yet despite all the progress, it still has lots of hidden nooks where people have been living the same way for hundreds of years. Being the second most densely populated country in the world, India has numerous indigenous tribes, each with its own language, traditions, music, and weaving techniques. Here are the incredible tribes you can find deep in the forests of India.
Kurumba people from the Nilgiri Mountains are amazing artists, great musicians, and sorcerers. Yes, that’s right! They are believed to cast spells that cause illness and death, as well as heal all kinds of ailments and even turn themselves into animals! There are people who have a special role in the Kurumba society – the Sorcerer, the Therapist, the Exorcist, the Diviner, and the Wizard.
Found in the regions of Tripura, Mizoram, and Meghalaya, the Hmars are unique as they don’t follow Hinduism, but chose to become Christians instead. Apart from Hmer language they can speak Hindi and English. Their community is more open and they are working to build a better future for their families.
The Cholanaikkan tribe has enjoyed peace and solitude for hundreds of years until it was finally touched by civilization some 50 years ago. Hunters and gatherers, they’ve been leading a simple life, living off trees, fruits, and game. Cholanaikkan people worship ancestral spirits and animals.
Oraon tribe is one of the most developed tribal communities of India. Most of Oraons are well-educated and have contributed a lot to the field of education. Many young people study abroad to come back and work for the betterment of the community. They started out as simple farmers, gathering whatever else they needed from the forest, but now they are full on agriculturalists.
The Halakki Tribe from the picturesque town of Ankola in Karnataka is on the verge of extinction as modernisation is taking over every aspect of the tribe’s life. That’s a huge tragedy as Halakki women have an amazing tradition of writing their whole lives, as well as historical chronicles, into beautiful poetry and songs. None of it is written down and it’s fading away as we speak!
The Meghalaya state of India is mostly inhabited by the Khasi tribe. They comprise more than 50% of the population, inhabiting mainly the Khasi Hills district. They are among the few tribes in India that have a Maternal Society, which means that maternal ancestors play a greater role than fraternal ones.
Can you believe that tucked deep in the state of Gujarat there lies a village filled with the descendants of African people? That’s exactly what you’ll find in Sirvan village, whose ancestors were supposedly brought here from Africa as slaves. Siddi people don’t know much about it themselves, but their beautiful music and the spectacular Dhamal dance is proof enough.
Bhil tribe is the largest and most colourful ancient tribe that survived until today. Found mostly in Rajasthan, Bhil people are known for organizing the spectacular Baneshwar fair dedicated to Lord Shiva. During the festival there are special performances on the banks of Mahi and Som rivers.
The Changpa Tribe inhabits the picturesque mountains of Jammu and Kashmir. This nomadic tribe relies solely on the resources that can be found in the mountains. They gather salt, cultivate barley, and live in spectacular tents made with goat and yak skin.