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Culture and Tradition

Contribution to Bharatiyata

Contribution to Bharatiya Science

Advanced Tribals

Although the present Indian Constitution classifies 'tribals' under 'scheduled tribes', in real sense they are the communities dwelling nearby a mountain range and forests. History of tribals dates back to where history of India starts. However, till the British rose to power, no governance or empire disturbed the various tribals, residing in forests. It was a granted status that they will exist peacefully in the mofussil jungle-lorne areas.

During the British rule, a need emerged to utilize more of coal and wood. Mainly for the railways and also for the building of British Empire in India and in U.K. This was the time when traditional land rights of the tribals were challenged. Their habitat- the forests were regarded as a resource owned by the government. It was no longer the community ownership of tribals.

This British policy gave rise to natural resistance from tribals and as a result many fierce battles were fought against the British by tribals throughout India-thus giving their contribution to the freedom movement of India. It was difficult even for the British rule to bring the tribals on record, gazettes and give them an identity. Before 1931, all the census reports by the British used the terms 'animists' for the tribals (animal worshipers).

The word tribal religion was first used in the 1921 census report. All these attempts also had an ulterior motive- to segregate the tribals and to avoid their assimilation in the mainstream of the society. During independence, Dr. Warrier Elvin a British anthropologists studied the life of tribals very extensively.

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He advocated strongly against assimilation of tribals into mainstream, either Christianity or Hinduism and felt that their separate identity should be preserved. Still due to the encouragement from British government and a fearless approach, missionaries entered in life of tribals- converting thousand of tribals into Christianity. Anthropological survey of India. 1992 states that "in near past 383 tribes have embraced Hinduism, 267 are following Christianity, with 112 tribes following Muslim religion and 63 Sikh religion".

In peculiar 15 tribes the 'conversions' to Christianity seem more important.
The danger with conversion in strict sense is the original culture and tradition of Indian tribals, their dialects languages are abolished in many cases. According to 1991 census, tribals amounted to 6.78 billions in number. This means they have a share of 8.08 % in the total Indian population.

The state of Madhya Pradesh inhabits maximum number of tribals, i.e. 23.22% of their total population. Then follow the state of Orissa, Bihar, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Andhrapradesh and West Bengal.Literacy rates amongst tribals are low but are improving.
By 1981 a percentage of 24.52 of tribal males and 8.04% women were literate. Mainly they survive on the forest-related products for their livelihood along with certain other activities like daring, fishing, poultry-keeping, bee keeping and art and craft.

They do avail the benefit of various welfare schemes by the government of India and NGOs. 91% of tribals are radio listeners with a television viewership of 27.02%. Their contribution to science although is low but their knowledge of traditional herbal medicine can open new avenues of research.


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