Major Tribes of India: Types, Names | Tribal Groups in India

By K Balaji|Updated : January 23rd, 2023

A tribe is a group of people who share common culture and ancestry. Major tribes in India are spread across the country and form an important part of our national heritage and possess certain qualities and characteristics that make them a unique cultural, social, and political entity. Important tribes in India are Gond, Santhal, Munda, Toto, and Bhil, which are present in large sizes. They are also known as ‘Adivasis’. The Ministry of Tribal Affairs takes care of the welfare and protection of tribes in India. All the tribes come under Schedule 5 of the Constitution.

There are more than 550 tribes in India that have been living for a very long time. Tribes of India form an integral part of the UPSC exam. Hence, aspirants must check out the major tribes in India State Wise as well as features that are needed to be identified as a tribe that has been discussed below here.

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Major Tribes of India

As of the 2011 census, India has a total of 705 tribes. These tribes include both large and small tribes. Amongst such a vast number of tribes in India, we have listed the major tribes of India that have a large population and are found in a number of states.

Bhil Tribe

Bhil is one of the major tribes of India that constitute 40% of the total population. Bhil Tribe is found in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, and Maharashtra. ‘Bhil’ word is derived from the Vil or Bil, which means bow. This tribe was highly valuable as fighters against the Mughals, Britishers and Marathas. However, in the present scenario, the Bhil tribe is employed as sculptors, agricultural labourers and farmers.

Learn more about the largest tribe in India here.

Gond Tribe

The Gond tribe is one of the important tribal groups in India, often known for its bravery and is found in Central India in the Chhindwara district of Madhya Pradesh. However, it is also found in the Bastar district of Chhattisgarh, the Chhindwara district of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and many other states of India. Their staple food is Kodo and Kutki, which are two types of millet. Apart from this, they are to cultivate tobacco for smoking and produce liquor for the Mahua Tree.

Munda Tribe

Munda tribe has its habitat in Jharkhand, but it is also found in other Indian states such as Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Tripura, and West Bengal. Munda tribe is one of the oldest South Asian tribes that is known. They also existed during the pre-British era but got recognition only between 1857-1928 due to a freedom fighter Birsa Munda who played an important role in India’s freedom struggle. Their most important festival is Magha or Ba. They are fond of music and dance. their main language is Killi.

Santhal Tribe

Santhal Tribe is mainly found in West Bengal, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Assam, and Odisha and is densely populated in Bihar. This tribe loves music and dance and speaks the Santhali language. Their form of governance is known as Manjhi Paragana.

Toto Tribe

Toto is one of the endangered but important tribes of India. It is found in the Totopur region of West Bengal. This tribe is found to be in isolation as it remains disconnected from the world. It is found that it does not have a population of more than 1500; therefore, the Toto tribe is an endogamous group. Furthermore, their literacy rate is also very low. Anthologusts refer to this tribe as a ‘vanishing tribe’ as they are fewer in number. They were almost on the verge of extinction in the 1950s.

Important Tribes of India

India is home to over hundreds of tribes situated in the States and Union Territories of the country that separates them from other tribes making India a country of diversity and culture. Schedule 5 of the Indian Constitution has recognized the tribal community of Scheduled Tribes (STs) in India. Below, we have mentioned the important tribes of India state-wise.

List of Tribal Groups in India: State Wise

As the tribal population is spread across the country, therefore, we have listed the important tribes of India State Wise. Some of the major tribes of India, such as Gond, Santhal, Bhil, Toda, etc, are found in more than one state due to their proximity to the neighbouring states.

Major Tribes of India PDF

State

List of Major Tribes of India

Andhra Pradesh

Kondareddis, Sadhu Andh, Savaras, Yenadis, Bhil, Nakkala, Gadabas, Jatapus, Banjara, Kattunayakan, Pardhan, Kolam, Konda, Kolawar, Koya, Rona, Andh, Dabba Yerukula, Dhulia, Kammara, Thoti, Sugalis, Valmiki, Goundu, Sugalis, Manna Dhora, Lambadis, Bhagata, Gond, Mukha Dhora Chenchus (Chenchawar)

Assam

Chakma, Dimasa, Rabha, Miri, Hajong, Borokachari, Garos, Karbi, Kachari, Garo, Gangte, Chutiya, Boro, Sonwal, Khasis

Arunachal Pradesh

Abor, Adi, Taroan, Dafla, Momba, Singpho, Apatanis, Wancho, Mishmi, Idu, Tagin, Monpa, Nyishi, Sherdukpen, Galong

Bihar

Asur, Chero, Gond, Birhor, Savar, Parhaiya, Birjia, Santal, Banjara, Baiga, Tharu, Santhals, Kharwar, Oraon

Chhattisgarh

Nagasia, Bhattra, Khond, Sawar, Mawasi, Gond, Halbi, Biar, Kawar, Bhaina, Halba, Binjhwar, Agariya

Goa

Naikda, Dubia, Varli, Dhodia, Gawda, Siddi

Gujarat

Bhil, Dhanka, Talavia, Dhodia, Siddi, Patelia, Barda, Kokna, Bamcha, Charan, Gamta, Halpati, Patelia, Dubla, Naikda, Rathawa, Paradhi

Jammu and Kashmir

Balti, Beda, Mon, Gaddi, Purigpa, Changpa, Bakarwal, Garra, Sippi, Gujjar

Jharkhand

Mundas, Gonds, Kharia, Birhors, Kharwar, Banjara, Bhumij, Santal, Mahli, Santhals, Ho, Lohra, Savar, Bedia, Parhaiya, Kol

Himachal Pradesh

Khas, Swangla, Gujjars, Bhot, Lamba, Beta, Gaddis, Pangwala, Lahaulas, Beda Bodh

Karnataka

Patelia, Barda, Koraga, Gond, Naikda, Marati, Iruliga, Bhil, Hasalaru, Yerava, Meda, Soligaru, Koli Dhor, Adiyan

Kerala

Adiyan, Kattunayakan, Kurichchan, Kurumbas, Eravallan, Moplahs, Irular, Malai arayan, Uralis, Kanikaran, Arandan, Muthuvan

Maharashtra

Bhunjia, Bhaina, Dhodia, Katkari, Kokna, Warlis, Kathodi, Rathawa, Khond, Koli, Halba, Thakur, Dhanka, Mahadev, Pardhi

Madhya Pradesh

Bhils, Birhors, Pardhan, Bharia, Mawasi, Sahariya, Korku, Khond, Baigas, Katkari, kharia, Kol, Murias, Gonds

Manipur

Anal, Naga, Maram, Chiru, Meitei, Thadou, Paite, Monsang, Thadou, Tangkhul, Mao, Aimol, Angami, Kuki, Purum, Poumai Naga

Mizoram

Chakma, Kuki, Pawi, Lushai, Khasi, Raba, Lakher, Dimasa, Synteng

Meghalaya

Garos, Lakher, Chakma, Pawai, Raba, Hajong, Mikir, Jaintias Khasis

Nagaland

Ao, Angami, Kachari, Lotha, Kuki, Chakhesang, Mikir, Rengma, Garo, Nagas, Sema, Konyak, Phom, Sangtam

Odisha

Ghara, Khond, Bhumij, Khayara, Bhottada, Koya, Kora, Rajuar, Oraons, Bathuri, Gadaba, Paroja, Juang, Santhals, Kharia, Bathudi, Gond, Shabar, Kisan, Kolha, Munda, Matya, Saora, Lodha

Rajasthan

Nayaka, Bhils, Meenas(Minas), Sahariya, Naikda, Damaria, Dhanka, Patelia, Kathodi

Sikkim

Lepchas, Khas, Limboo, Bhutia, Tamang

Tamil Nadu

Kanikar, Aranadan, Irular, Kadar, Eravallan, Kurumans, Adiyan, Kanikar, Kotas, Malayali, Todas

Tripura

Bhil, Chaimal, Chakma, Khasia, Mizel, Bhutia, Lushai, Halam, Namte, Munda, Mag, Riang

Telangana

Chenchus

Uttarakhand

Buksa, Bhotias, Khas, Tharu, Jannsari, Raji

Uttar Pradesh

Buksa, Kharwar, Saharya, Jaunsari, Chero, Kol, Baiga, Tharu, Bhotia, Raji, Agariya, Gond, Parahiya

West Bengal

Parhaiya, Ho, Mal, Rabha, Asur, Savar, Chik Baraik, Hajong, Lodha, Khond, Santhals, Bhumij, Kora, Kheria, Parhaiya Khariam, Bhutia, Kisan, Pahariya, Mahali, Oraon

Types of Tribes in India

The tribes in India are segregated into two types. One is based on permanent traits, and the other one is based on acquired traits. We have discussed the type of tribes in India below.

Types of Tribes - Based on Permanent Traits

The permanent traits used to classify the tribal people are language, ecological habitat, region, and physical characteristics.

Types of Tribes - Based on Acquired Traits

Based on acquired traits, the types of tribes are divided based on livelihood and incorporation into Hindu Society.

  • Based on Livelihood - The tribes that are into the plantation and industrial workers, hunters, fishermen, shifting cultivation, food gatherers, and peasants are categorized as tribals based on livelihood.
  • Based on Incorporation into Hindu Society - This is the dominant classification of tribes based on the degree of assimilation into Hindu society, such as public affairs, politics, and academics.

Tribal Population in India

As per the Census of India 2011, the total population of Scheduled Tribes (ST) in India is 104.49 million. STs constitute 8.6% of the total population of India. Rural areas constitute 11.3% of the tribal population, while urban areas constitute only 2.8%. Male ST has a population of 52.5 million, while ST female has a population of 52 million. Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Pondicherry, and Chandigarh have no tribal population living.

If we compare the decadal growth of the ST population in India in 2011 with 2000, then there has been a growth in the ST female population of 25% as compared to 23% ST male population.

States with Majority of Tribal Population

The following States and Union Territories of India have a majority of India’s tribal population living in them.

  • Mizoram (94.4%)
  • Lakshadweep (94.4%)
  • Meghalaya (86.1%)
  • Nagaland (86.5%)

Issues faced by Tribes in India

Some of the major issues faced by the tribal groups in India are as follows:

  • Land Alienation: Tribal populations mainly depend on natural resources for their livelihood. However, during the colonial rule after the discovery of minerals and other resources in the tribal regions, they were forcefully displaced. After independence, these regions came under state control, which negatively impacted the tribal way of life. They lost their forest rights, which resulted in tribal people being trapped in the hands of moneylenders and landlords. Indebtedness increased, and their livelihood was lost.
  • Identity Crisis: The displacement of these tribes from the mining areas and the development of industries in these regions has forced them to live either on the periphery of these industrial pockets or to move to urban centres in search of livelihood. Disconnecting from their homeland and unawareness and unpreparedness for the urban lifestyle have led to an identity crisis for these people. This gave birth to various psychological issues like depression, low self-esteem, low confidence, a feeling of un-belongingness, etc.
  • Illiteracy: According to the Population Census of India, 2011, the literacy rate for ST is 58.96 per cent (literacy rate for the male is 68.53 per cent and for females is 49.35 per cent), which is lower than the national average of 74.04 per cent (for male 82.14 per cent and female 65.46 percent). Their traditions and customs, prevailing poverty, the tendency of isolation, nomadic lifestyle, and lack of necessary infrastructure and teachers suitable for their needs.
  • Gender Issues: Despite a better sex ratio of 990 females per 1000 males of the Scheduled tribes in India (While the national average is 943 females per 1000 males), women of the community also have to face various challenges. Due to their sudden exposure to the urban lifestyle and their inability to adapt to the changes that occurred as a result of their forced displacement post-independence, women of society became more vulnerable. Consumerism and commoditization of women have weakened their position in society.
  • Issues with Health: Prevailing poverty, financial insecurity along with illiteracy have resulted in various health problems among the tribal population. They generally reside in slums and live under unhygienic conditions, which make them prone to diseases. Their inability to purchase and consume healthy food products and buy supplements to fulfil the nutrient requirement, they are likely to malnutrition and associated challenges including anaemia, high infant mortality rates, etc.

Literacy Rate of Tribal Groups in India

The overall literacy rate is a key socio-economic indicator of a country’s progress. In order to improve the literacy rate of the major tribes in India, the government of India has introduced several schemes. As per the Census figures, there has been an increase in the literacy rate of tribes in India from 47.1 per cent in 2001 to 59 per cent in 2011.

States like Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Kerala have shown a considerable increase of 18 per cent in the literacy rate of STs in 2011. One of the reasons for an increase in the literacy rate is the government schemes being taken to uplift the tribal people. Schemes such as EMRS, ST Hostels, Post Matric Scholarship and Pre-Matric Scholarship for ST students studying in classes IX & X, Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas (KGBVs), Scheme of Strengthening Education among ST Girls in Low Literacy District, etc. have been implemented by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs that has led to an increase in the literacy rate of tribes in India.

It is a well-known fact that in spite of implementing so many schemes for the upliftment of the ST population, there are still certain complications that have led to the slow progression of literacy among the population. Some of the difficulties faced by the major tribes of India to attain literacy are as follows:

  • As a vast majority of tribal people do not have good economic conditions. Thus, their parents make them either drop out of school at an early age or not send their children to school. The reason is that these children will earn a livelihood that is needed for the family to survive.
  • Tribal people are often found living in remote areas of the country. As they are remotely situated, therefore, they have no or very little means of transportation. Thus, they are deprived of education.

To overcome these challenges, many NGOs have also taken up initiatives to attain good education so that they can earn for themselves. Basic handicraft skills and farming techniques are taught to them. Schools are also set up by them. They also spread awareness about the need to attain education among the tribes in India.

Ministry of Tribal Affairs

The Ministry of Tribal Affairs is a division of the Indian government tasked with overseeing the welfare of the country's many tribes. Following the separation of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, it was founded in 1999. The Ministry of Tribal Affairs' main area of attention is a concentrated strategy for the planned and coordinated integrated socio-economic development of the tribal groups in India. The main ministry in charge of organising and coordinating a variety of initiatives and programmes for India's tribes is the Ministry of Tribal Affairs.

When the Ministry of Tribal Affairs was not established, the tribal affairs in India were handled by the following given Ministries.

  • As a Division of the Ministry of Home Affairs named as ‘Tribal Division’ from 1947 to September 1985.
  • Ministry of Welfare: September 1985 to May 1998.
  • Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment: May 1998 to September 1999.

Government Initiatives for Tribes in India

The Ministry of Tribal Affairs has initiated several schemes for the development and empowerment of the major tribes of India. Below are some of the important schemes launched by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs.

  • Program for Capacity Building of Scheduled Tribe Representatives in Local Self Governments
  • 1000 Springs Initiatives
  • Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India (TRIFED)
  • Digital Transformation of Tribal Schools
  • Development of Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups
  • Pradhan Mantri Van Dhan Yojana
  • Eklavya Model Residential Schools’ (EMRSs)

National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST)

The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) is a constitutional body that was established by amending Article 338 and inserting a new Article called Article 338A in the Indian Constitution. This amendment was made through the 89th Constitution Amendment Act, 2003. NCST was formed to protect the interest of the major tribes in India.

The former National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes was replaced by two independent Commissions as of February 19, 2004, as noted below, in accordance with the Indian Constitutional Amendment.

  • National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST)
  • National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC)

1st Tribal President of India

Droupadi Murmu is the first tribal president of India. She belongs to an important tribe in India which is the Santhal tribe. She is the 15th President of India and the 2nd female President of India after Smt. Pratibha Patil. She hails from Uparbeda village of Mayurbhanj district in Odisha in a Santhali tribal family to Biranchi Narayan Tudu. She was married to Sri. Shyam Charan Murmu, a banker by profession but passed away in 2014. Smt. Murmu was a schoolteacher before she entered politics.

Major Tribes of India UPSC Notes

Tribes in India form a crucial role in the country’s diverse population that have deep-rooted artistic cultures and an enthralling historical significance. Major tribes of India are an important part of the UPSC syllabus carrying a good weightage. Thus, UPSC aspirants need to prepare this topic thoroughly for the Prelims and Mains exam. It is crucial to know about the different types of tribes in India, their population, state-wise listing, customs and culture, etc., as questions from such topics are often asked in the UPSC exam.

Important Notes for UPSC
National Health PolicyBuddhism
Lachit BorphukanLocal Winds
Bhagat SinghCommissions and their Recommendations
DemonetisationScheduled Tribes
Important Boundary Lines of IndiaDisinvestment Policy

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FAQs on Major Tribes of India

  • Tribes are those communities of people who never practised religion, nor did they have division on the basis of caste. They are termed “Scheduled Tribes” by the Indian Constitution. There are more than 550 tribes in India at present that share common culture and ancestry. Gond, Santhal, Bhil, Garo, Khasi, Munda, Bodo, Bhutia, etc., are some of the important tribes that are found in India.

  • India is home to a number of tribes that is present across the States and Union Territories of the country. The important tribes of India have a good population and are found in more than just one state. The important tribes are Gonds, Santhals, Munda, Bhil, Bodo, Toto, and Bhutia in India.

  • The Ministry of Tribal Affairs is responsible for the overall policy, planning and coordination of programmes of development for the Scheduled Tribes. The major schemes implemented by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs for tribes in India include the setting up of the Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India (TRIFED), Pradhan Mantri Van Dhan Yojana, Digital Transformation of Tribal Schools, Programme for Capacity Building of Scheduled Tribe Representatives in Local Self Governments, 1000 Springs Initiatives, etc. Such schemes are aimed at the progression of the tribal community.

  • As per the census of 2011, the total number of tribes in India is 705. These tribes are located all across India, where the tribes share a distinct culture and tradition as per their own community.

  • Tribes/Tribals are called Scheduled Tribes because the Indian Constitution has recognised the tribes in India to be added 5th Schedule of the Indian Constitution. Thus, the tribes recognized by the Constitution of India are known as 'Scheduled Tribes’.

  • Tribes in India UPSC notes PDF can be downloaded by clicking on the link given here. The Major tribes of India notes provide you with a good amount of information that is needed to prepare for the UPSC exam.

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