As per the CENSUS OF INDIA 2011, 705 ethnic groups are officially recognized as “Scheduled Tribes” in India. They are distributed throughout the country, each with its unique culture, language, and traditions.
Many of these tribes have been living in the same area for centuries, and their interactions with the natural environment have often shaped their way of life.
Top 24 Indian Tribes
1. Bhils Tribe
The Bhils tribe is one of the largest tribal groups in India. They are native to the state of Rajasthan, and their name comes from the Sanskrit word meaning “bowman.” Bhils had a long history of fighting against British rule in India, and they were one of the first groups to join the Indian independence movement. They speak their language and practice traditional occupations such as farming and hunting.
2. Gonds Tribe
The Gonds tribe is one of India’s largest and most renowned tribes. They are known for their unique culture, traditions, and skills in many different areas. The Gonds tribe is originally from Madhya Pradesh, but they can now be found in many other parts of India.
The Gonds are a very proud and independent people with a rich history. They are known for their agricultural skills, and they are also excellent craftsmen.
3. Munda Tribe
The Munda tribe is a large ethnic group native to India. They are primarily concentrated in Bihar, Jharkhand, and Odisha states. The Munda tribe has a long history in India, and they have been mentioned in ancient texts and inscriptions dating back thousands of years.
The Munda tribe is known for its unique culture and tradition, including various dances, music, and folk art. The Munda tribe is also one of the largest tribal groups in India.
4. Santhal Tribes
The Santhal Tribe is one of the largest tribal groups in India. The Santhal Tribe is indigenous to the Chota Nagpur Plateau in eastern India, where they have historically lived in isolated communities.
The Santhal Tribe has its distinct language, culture, and religious beliefs. The tribe is traditionally animist, believing in all animate and inanimate objects. Santhal people are also known for their love of music and dance.
5. Toto Tribe
One of India’s most unique and fascinating groups is the Toto Tribe. The Toto people are a small indigenous group living in India’s West Bengal region. They have their language, customs, and beliefs, which differ from mainstream Indian culture.
For example, the Toto people believe they are descended from tigers and often wear tiger skins as part of their traditional dress. They also have a rich oral tradition, and their myths and legends are passed down from generation to generation.
6. Bodo Tribe
The Bodo tribe is a group of people who live in India. They are believed to have migrated from Tibet centuries ago. The Bodo tribe is known for its unique culture and traditions.
The Bodo tribe is also known for its traditional clothing, which includes colorful clothes and beads. In addition, the Bodo tribe is known for its unique music and dance. The Bodo tribe has a rich history and culture that is worth exploring.
7. Angami Tribe
The Angami Nagas were hill people who relied on agriculture and livestock rearing. The Angamis are well-known for their terraced, wet-rice cultivation. This labor-intensive cultivation makes land the most valuable form of property.
This group is one of only two Nagas who cultivate wet rice on terraces built on hill slopes. They can cultivate the same plot every year. They are dependent to a small degree on slash-and-burn cultivation.
8. Bhutia Tribe
The Bhutia are a Tibeto-Burman ethnic group native to the Indian state of Sikkim and Bhutan and India. The Bhutia are also found in small numbers in Nepal and Tibet. Most Bhutia people follow Buddhism, and many still speak Tibetan as their first language.
The Bhutia tribe is believed to have migrated from Tibet to Sikkim around the 15th century. Since then, they have played a significant role in the history and culture of Sikkim.
9. Khasi Tribe
The Khasi tribe is an indigenous group that lives in the northeastern part of India. They are one of the largest tribes in India and are known for their unique culture and traditions. The Khasi tribe has its language related to Bengali and Assamese.
The Khasi community’s traditional political structure is democratic. The Khasis used to be made up of Syiemships, independent native states. Under the leadership of U Syiem, male elders from various clans would meet during Durbars or sessions to resolve any problem or dispute that might arise within the Syiemship.
10. Garo Tribe
The Garo Tribe is a sizeable ethnic group originally from India. According to tradition, the Garo originally lived in Tibet but eventually migrated to India and settled in Meghalaya. The Garo Tribe is renowned for its colorful traditional dress, which features intricate beadwork and designs.
In Garo Hills, one will find similar arts to architecture. They usually use locally available building materials such as timber, bamboo, cane, and thatch. These are the main categories of Garo architecture: Nokmong, Nokpante , Jamsireng, and Jamadal
11. Nyishi Tribe
The Nyishi tribe is originally from India, and they are one of the largest tribes in the country. They are known for their traditional clothing, which includes brightly colored garments and intricate beading.
The Nyishi people are also skilled artisans who create beautiful works of art, including paintings, sculptures, and jewelry. In addition to their artistic abilities, the Nyishi tribe is also known for their hunting skills. The Nyishi tribe is a proud and vibrant community and plays a vital role in Indian culture.
12. Warli Tribe
The Warlis are a tribal people who have lived in the Western Ghats mountain range for centuries. They are known for their colorful paintings depicting scenes from daily life, Hindu mythology, and nature.
The Warlis have a rich oral tradition, and their paintings often tell stories about their culture and history. Today, the Warli tribe is facing pressure from modernity as more and more members are leaving their traditional lifestyle behind. However, their art continues to thrive, and they remain an essential part of India’s cultural heritage.
13. Chenchu Tribe
The Chenchu are nomadic people who live in the state of Andhra Pradesh. They are known for their unique way of life, including hunting and gathering aspects. The Chenchu are also known for their colorful dress, traditional music, and dance.
In recent years, the Chenchu has been working to preserve their culture and way of life in the face of modern pressures. As a result, they have become an essential part of India’s cultural heritage.
14. Siddis Tribe
The Siddis are an Afro-Asian community that has its roots in East Africa. Over the centuries, they have migrated to various parts of India, where they have settled and intermarried with local populations.
As a result, the Siddis are a diverse group with African and Indian features. The Siddis have a rich culture and tradition and play an essential role in India’s social and economic life.
They are also known for their athleticism, and many Siddis have excelled in sports such as cricket and football. Despite their small numbers, the Siddis are essential to India’s multicultural heritage.
15. Soliga Tribe
The Soliga Tribe is a small indigenous community living in southern India’s forests. The Soliga people have a deep cultural connection to the land and its resources, traditionally subsisting on hunting, gathering, and shifting cultivation.
16. Kodava Tribe
The Kodava tribe is an ethnolinguistic group native to India. They are predominantly located in the Kodagu district of Karnataka, with a small population also living in Kerala. The Kodava language is closely related to Tamil and Kannada, and the Kodava people traditionally follow Hinduism.
However, they also have their unique customs and traditions, which set them apart from other Hindus. For example, the Kodava practice martial arts, known as kalarippayattu, and their traditional dress. The Kodava people have a rich culture and history, and they continue to play an essential role in Indian society today.
17. Toda Tribe
The Toda tribe is a largely isolated community that has resided in the Nilgiri Hills of India for centuries. The Toda are known for their love of the natural environment and their traditional agricultural practices.
The Toda people are also masters of embroidery, and their colorful clothing is one of the most distinctive aspects of their culture. Despite their long history, the Toda tribe is now facing extinction.
In recent years, the number of Toda people has dwindled to just a few hundred, and the future of the tribe is uncertain.
18. Irular Tribe
The Irular tribe is a small but significant ethnic group native to India. The Irular tribe is distinct from other groups in India due to their language, which is not Indo-European like most of India’s population.
The tribe is also renowned for snake hunting and honey collections. Despite their challenges, the Irular tribe continues to thrive and play an essential role in India’s diverse cultural landscape.
19. Kurumba Tribe
The Kurumba Tribe is a small tribe from India. They are known for their unique and intricate handicrafts, which are made using natural materials like bamboo, feathers, and tree bark.
The Kurumba Tribe is also known for its traditional medicine, which is based on plants and herbs in the local area. The Kurumba Tribe has been working to preserve its culture and heritage recently.
The Kurumba Tribe is also working to revive traditional farming practices and establish a Kurtaka-specific agricultural cooperative.
20. Great Andamanese Tribe
The Great Andamanese Tribe is one of India’s oldest and most unique tribes. This secluded group has managed to maintain their traditional way of life despite attempts by the outside world to contact them.
The Andaman Islands, where the tribe lives, are relatively isolated from the rest of India, which has helped the tribe stay hidden. Recently, however, contact with the outside world has increased, and the tribe is now at risk of losing their traditional way of life.
The Great Andamanese Tribe is a fascinating group of people who have managed to remain isolated for centuries.
21. Jarawa Tribe
The Jarawa Tribe is one of the last surviving tribes in India. They live on a small island in the Indian Ocean, and their numbers are estimated to be between 400 and 500.
The tribe is believed to have been isolated from the outside world and has little contact with the outside world. The tribe is nomadic, and they subsist on hunting and gathering.
This tribe is on an island, so food sources in the sea are essential to them. In shallow water, men fish with bows or arrows. Women catch fish using baskets.
22. Lepcha Tribe
The Lepcha are a tribe of people who live in India. They are also known as the Rong. The Lepcha language is spoken, and most live in Sikkim, India.
The Lepcha have their own unique culture and traditions. They have a strong sense of community and are very family-oriented.
The Lepcha is known for handicrafts, including carpets, baskets, and pottery. The Lepcha is a friendly and welcoming people. If you ever have the chance to meet them, you will indeed be charmed by their warm personalities and exciting culture.
23. Nagasia Tribe
The Nagasia tribe is a small community of people who live in India. They have a rich culture and history and are known for their beautiful handmade textiles.
The Nagasia tribe is also known for their unique form of dancing, which they perform to express joy and happiness. In addition to their dances, the Nagasia tribe also has a strong oral tradition, and they often sing songs to pass down their history and traditions.
24. Onges Tribe
The Onges Tribe is a small indigenous community that lives on North Andaman Island in India. They are among the few tribes that have managed to maintain their traditional way of life and culture in the face of modernization and globalization.
The Onges are hunter-gatherers and rely on the forest for their livelihood. They also practice shifting cultivation, a sustainable form of agriculture that involves clearing a patch of forest and then moving on to another area after a few years.
India is a land of incredible diversity, with over 1.3 billion people and thousands of distinct cultures. This diversity is especially apparent when examining the country’s many different tribes. One large tribal group is the Santhal, concentrated in Bihar and West Bengal states. With their rich cultures and long histories, the tribes of India offer a fascinating glimpse into the country’s diverse past.