Ādivāsīs

(‘Original inhabitants’)

The population of the Ādivāsīs, the original inhabitants of India or aboriginals—that is what the name signifies—exceeds thirty million. They are primarily to be found in north-east India, Bihar, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and parts of Maharashtra, Deccan and South India. How many of them are really the ‘original’ inhabitants and how many have come as migrants is anybody’s guess. The various tribes of Ādivāsīs largely inhabiting the mountain and jungle areas differ widely from one another with regard to racial characteristics, language, food habits, modes of dress, means of occupation as also their cult and culture. By and large they are treated as belonging to Hindu culture.

Their religious beliefs and observances include the worship of nature and totems as also their ancestors and spirits. Taboos are many. Bloody sacrifices are common. Priests are sorcerers too and have a tight grip over the community. Modern education, wherever it has percolated, is fast changing the complexion of their life style.