Tribes of India | UPSC

Tribes of India | UPSC – Tribes In India Is An Important Topic For UPSC Prelims, Mains And Many optional Papers of UPSC . In this Article We Will Discuss All Details about Tribes, Different Types Of Tribes And Their Position In India According To Indian Constitution .

The Constitution of India has recognized tribal communities in India under ‘Schedule 5’ of the constitution. Hence the tribes recognized by the Constitution are known as ‘ Scheduled Tribes’.

Tribes of India | UPSC

What Is A Tribe ?

  • A tribe is a social division in a traditional society consisting of families linked by social, economic, religious, or blood ties, with a common culture and dialect.
  • A tribe possesses certain qualities and characteristics that make it a unique cultural, social, and political entity.
  • Tribes are also known by the name ‘Adivasis’ in India.

India And Tribes Population In India :

  • India has been described as a “melting pot” of races and tribes.
  • India has one of the largest and diverse tribal populations in the world.
  • The tribal population in India according to the 2011 census is 104 million or 8.6% of the total population.
  • Madhya Pradesh has the largest population (15.3 million i.e 21%) according to number and Lakshadweep has the highest population (94.8%) compared to its total population.
  • The largest tribe are Bhils nearly 46 lakh and the smallest tribe are Andamanese only 19 members.

States and union territories having maximum ratio of scheduled tribes, as per Census-2011 (in descending order) : 

  • Lakshadweep (94.8%) > Mizoram (94.4%) > Nagaland (86.5%) > Meghalaya (86.1%) > Arunachal Pradesh (68.8%).

States and Union territories having minimum ratio of Scheduled tribes, as per Census-2011 (in ascending order) : 

  • Uttar Pradesh (0.6%) < Tamil Nadu (1.1%) < Bihar (1.3%) < Kerala (1.5%) < Uttarakhand (2.9%)
  • Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, Delhi and Puducherry have no population of Scheduled tribes.]

State-wise Total Population of Scheduled Tribes (in descending order)

StatePopulation of Scheduled Tribes (in lakh)Percentage 
Madhya Pradesh152.314.70%

Sex Ratio Scheduled Tribes

  • As per Census 2011, the sex ratio in India is 943 whereas it is 990 in scheduled tribes.
  • The sex ratio of children (0-6 age group) in India is 919 whereas that of it are 957 in scheduled tribes.
  • The sex ratio in scheduled tribes is in favour of females in Goa (1046), Kerala (1025), Arunachal Pradesh (1032), Odisha (1029) and Chhattisgarh (1020).
  • In Jammu and Kashmir (924) the sex ratio in scheduled tribes is the lowest in the country.

Literacy of Scheduled Tribes

  • As per Census 2011, the rate of literacy in India is 72.99% whereas that of it in scheduled tribes is 59%.
  • State-wise, the rate of literacy in scheduled tribes is highest in Mizoram (91.7%) and lowest in Andhra Pradesh (49.2%).
  • Among union territories, the highest rate of literacy in scheduled tribes is in Lakshadweep (91.7%).

Important Points About Tribes In India

  • The total population of Scheduled Tribes is 10.43 crore as per the Census 2011.
  • Tribes accounts for 8.6% of the total population of the country.
  • The Scheduled Tribes in India form the largest proportion of the total population in Lakshadweep and Mizoram followed by Nagaland and Meghalaya.
  • Madhya Pradesh has the largest number of scheduled Tribes followed by Orissa.
  • Bastar district of Chattisgarh consists of the largest number of Scheduled Tribes.
  • There are no Scheduled Tribes in Punjab, Delhi, Chandigarh, Pondicherry, Haryana.

Scheduled Tribes And Indian Constitution :

  • The term ‘Scheduled Tribes‘ first appeared in the Constitution of India.
  • Article 366 (25) defined scheduled tribes as such tribes or tribal communities or parts of or groups within such tribes or tribal communities as are deemed under Article 342 to be Scheduled Tribes for the purposes of this constitution”.
  • Article 342, which is reproduced below, prescribes procedure to be followed in the matter of specification of scheduled tribes.

Article 342 : E Rupi | UPSC |

  • The President may, with respect to any State or Union territory, and where it is a state, after consultation with the Governor thereof by public notification, specify the tribes or tribal communities or parts of or groups within tribes or tribal communities which shall, for the purposes of this constitution, is deemed to be scheduled tribes in relation to that State or Union Territory, as the case may be.
  • Parliament may by law include in or exclude from the list of Scheduled tribes specified in a notification issued under clause(1) any tribe or tribal community or part of or group within any tribe or tribal community, but save as aforesaid, a notification issued under the said clause shall not be varied by any subsequent notification.
  • Thus, the first specification of Scheduled Tribes in relation to a particular State/ Union Territory is by a notified order of the President, after consultation with the State governments concerned. These orders can be modified subsequently only through an Act of Parliament.
  • The above Article also provides for listing of scheduled tribes State/Union Territory wise and not on an all India basis.

Ministry of Tribal Affairs

  • Ministry of Tribal Affairs is responsible for the overall development of the scheduled tribes in India.
  • This Ministry was set up in 1999 after the bifurcation of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment with the objective of providing a more focused approach on the integrated socio-economic development of the Scheduled Tribes (STs), the most underprivileged of the Indian Society, in a coordinated and planned manner.
  • The Ministry of Tribal Affairs shall be the nodal Ministry for overall policy, planning, and coordination of programs of development for the Scheduled Tribes.
  • In regard to sectoral programs and schemes of development of these communities policy, planning, monitoring, evaluation, etc. as also, their coordination will be the responsibility of the concerned Central Ministries/ Departments, State Governments, and Union Territory Administrations.

National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST)

  • The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) was established by amending Article 338 and inserting a new Article 338A in the Constitution through the Constitution (89th Amendment) Act, 2003.
  • By this amendment, the erstwhile National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes was replaced by two separate Commissions namely- the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) w.e.f. 19 February 2004.

Tribal Sub Plan (TSP) strategy

  • The Tribal Sub Plan (TSP) strategy is a Government of India initiative aimed for the rapid socio-economic development of tribal people.
  • The funds provided under the Tribal Sub Plan of the State have to be at least equal in proportion to the ST population of each State or UTs.
  • Similarly, Central Ministries/Departments are also required to earmark funds out of their budget for the Tribal Sub-Plan. As per guidelines issued by the Planning Commission, the Tribal Sub Plan funds are to be non-divertible and non-lapsable.
  • The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes is vested with the duty to participate and advise in the planning process of socio-economic development of STs, and to evaluate the progress of their development under the Union and any State.

Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs)

PVTGs are more vulnerable among the tribal groups. In India, tribal population makes up for 8.6% of the total population. In 2006, the Government of India renamed the PTGs as PVTGs.

  • There Are 75 tribal groups have been categorized by Ministry of Home Affairs as Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTG)s.
  • PVTGs reside in 18 States and UT of A&N Islands.
  • They have declining or stagnant population, low level of literacy, pre-agricultural level of technology and are economically backward.
  • They generally inhabit remote localities having poor infrastructure and administrative support.
Committees For PVTGs :
  • In 1973, the Dhebar Commission created Primitive Tribal Groups (PTGs) as a separate category, who are less developed among the tribal groups.
  • In 1975, the Government of India initiated to identify the most vulnerable tribal groups as a separate category called PVTGs and declared 52 such groups, while in 1993 an additional 23 groups were added to the category, making it a total of 75 PVTGs, spread over 18 states and one Union Territory (A&N Islands) in the country (2011 census).
  • Among the 75 listed PVTG’s the highest number are found in Odisha (13), followed by Andhra Pradesh (12).

The criteria followed for determination of PVTGs are as under:

  • A pre-agriculture level of technology.
  • A stagnant or declining population.
  • Extremely low literacy.
  • A subsistence level of the economy.
Scheme for development of PVTGs:
  • The Ministry of Tribal Affairs implements the Scheme of “Development of Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs)” exclusively for them.
  • Under the scheme, Conservation-cum-Development (CCD)/Annual Plans are to be prepared by each State/UT for their PVTGs based on their need assessment, which are then appraised and approved by the Project Appraisal Committee of the Ministry.
  • Priority is also assigned to PVTGs under the schemes of Special Central Assistance (SCA) to Tribal Sub-Scheme (TSS), Grants under Article 275(1) of the Constitution, Grants-in-aid to Voluntary Organisations working for the welfare of Scheduled Tribes and Strengthening of Education among ST Girls in Low Literacy Districts.

Denotified Tribes :

  • Denotified tribes were those tribes which were listed under the Criminal Tribes Act 1871 under the British as Criminals and addicted to the systematic commission of non-bailable offences.
  • Once declared notified they were required to register with the local magistrate and severe restriction was placed on their movement.
  • But after Independence Criminal Tribes Act was repealed and were placed under the Habitual offenders Act. Thus they till now suffer from numerous disabilities due to this and are unable to meet their subsistence needs.
  • The Idate Commission appointed by the Government called for the repeal of the Habitual offenders Act to allow for inclusive development of these tribes.

Important Tribes of India (Statewise)

Andhra PradeshAndh, Sadhu Andh, Bhil, Bhaghata, Dhulia,rona, Kolam, Gond, Thoti, Goundu, Kammara, Savaras, Dabba Yerukula, Sugalis, Nakkala, Pardhan, Gadabas, Chenchus A.k.a Chenchawar, Kattunayakan, Jatapus, Manna Dhora
Arunachal PradeshSingpho, Monpa, Abor, Sherdukpen, Galo,Apatanis
AssamKhasis, Chakma, Dimasa, Gangte, Garos, Hajong, Chutiya
BiharGond, Birjia, Asur, Savar, Parhaiya, Chero, Birhor, Santhals, Baiga
ChhattisgarhNagasia, Biar, Khond, Agariya, Bhattra, Mawasi, Bhaina,
GoaVarli, Dubia, Siddi, Dhodia, Naikda
GujaratPatelia, Bhil, Dhodia, Bamcha, Barda, Paradhi, Charan, Gamta
Himachal PradeshSwangal, Gujjars, Lahaulas, Khas, Pangwala, Lamba, Gaddis
Jammu and KashmirBalti, Garra, Sippi, Bakarwal, Mon, Gaddi, Purigpa, Beda
JharkhandGonds, Birhors, Savar, Mundas, Santhals, Khaira, Bhumji
KarnatakaGond, Patelia, Barda, Yerava, Bhil, Koraga, Adiyan, Iruliga,
KeralaMalai, Aarayan, Arandan, Uralis, Kurumbas, Arandan, Eranvallan
Madhya PradeshKharia, Bhils, Murias, Birhors, Baigas, Katkari, Kol, Bharia, Khond, Gonds,
MaharashtraWarlis, Khond, Bhaina, Katkari, Bhunjia, Rathawa, Dhodia.
ManipurThadou, Aimol, Maram, Paite, Chiru, Purum, Kuki, Monsang, Angami
MeghalayaPawai, Chakma, Raba, Hajong, Lakher, Garos, Jaintias Khasis
MizoramDimasa, Raba, Chakma, Lakher, Khasi, Synteng, Kuki, Pawai.
NagalandNagasAngami, Sema, Garo, Kuki, Kachari, Mikir, Konyak, Lotha
OdishaGadaba, Ghara, Kharia, Khond, Matya, Oraons, Rajuar, Santhals.
RajasthanBhils, Damaria, Dhanka, Meenas(Minas), Patelia, Sahariya, Lambada(Banjara).
SikkimBhutia, Khas, Lepchas.
Tamil NaduAdiyan, Aranadan, Eravallan, Irular, Kadar, Kanikar, Kotas, Todas.
TripuraBhil, Bhutia, Chaimal, Chakma, Halam, Khasia, Lushai, Mizel, Namte.
UttarakhandBhotia, Buksa, Jaunsari, Raji, Tharu.
Uttar PradeshBhotia, Buksa, Jaunsari, Kol, Raji, Tharu.
West BengalAsur, Khond, Hajong, Ho, Parhaiya, Rabha, Santhals, Savar.
Andaman and NicobarGreat Andamanese, Oraons, Onges, Sentinelese, Shompens.
Little AndamanJarawa
LakshadweepAminidivis, Koyas, Malmis, Melacheris.
North-EastAbhors, Chang, Galaong, Mishimi, Singpho, Wancho.

Most Famous Tribal Groups With Details

Jarawa Tribe
  • The Jarawas are an indigenous people of the Andaman Islands in India.
  • They live in parts of South Andaman and Middle Andaman Islands.

Great Andamanese Tribe

  • The tribe is based in the Strait Island of Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
  • The members speak Jeru dialect among themselves and their number stands at 51 as per the last study carried out by Andaman Adim Janjati Vikas Samiti in 2012.

Kurumba Tribe


  • This is a major tribe found in parts of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. 
  • They are one of the earliest settlers of the Western Ghats.
  • They lead a simplistic lifestyle depending on agriculture and gathering of honey and wax.
  • They are adept at formulating traditional herbal medicines.
  • They are well known in the region for their skills in witchcraft and magic.

Kanikaran Tribe


  • Kanikkaran are a tribal community found in the southern parts of Kerala and Tamil Nadu states in India.
  • Though they cultivate everything and make agriculture as the main profession, they have a special liking for fishing and hunting.
  • Kaanikkar Nritham is a form of group dance performed as a rural offering.
  • The Kanikkars are semi-nomadic, living in temporary huts of bamboo and reeds.
  • These are generally situated on hillsides.

Irular Tribe


  • The tribe inhabits areas of the Nilgiri mountain in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
  • They are the second-largest tribe in Kerala and are found mostly in the Palakkad region.
  • They are mainly farmers and dependent on the production of paddy, dhal, Raggi, chilies, turmeric, and plantains.
  • They are ritualistic, believe in their own Gods and are known for their skills in black magic.

Toda Tribe


  • The Todas are found in parts of the Nilgiris mountain in Tamil Nadu.
  • Their livelihood depends on cattle farming and dairy.
  • Their skill in architecture is reflected in the oval and tent-shaped bamboo houses with thatched roofs.
  • Toda embroidery work, Pukhoor, is well acclaimed.
  • Their most important festival is Modhweth.

Kodava Tribe


  • This tribe from Mysore, Karnataka is concentrated in Coorg.
  • Well known for their bravery, the tribe is a patrilineal tribe from Kodagu or Coorg.
  • They speak the Kodava language.
  • They are basically agriculturists.
  • The people of the tribe, both men and women, are very passionate about hockey.
  • Kodavas are the only people in India permitted to carry firearms without a license.

Siddis Tribe

  • This tribe of Karnataka is believed to have descended from the Bantu people of Southeast Africa.
  • History says that the people were brought in as slaves by the Portuguese.
  • They are found in various parts of Karnataka.
  • The majority of them are Christians while others follow Hinduism and Islamism.
  • They are fond of ritual practices, dance, and music.

Apatani Tribes (or Tanni)

  • Aaptani are a tribal group of people living in the Ziro valley in Arunachal Pradesh.
  • They speak a local language called Tani and worship the sun and the moon.
  • They follow a sustainable social forestry system.
  • They celebrate major festivals – Dree with prayers for a bumper harvest and prosperity of all humankind and Myoko to celebrate Friendship.
  • The Apatanis practice aquaculture along with rice farming on their plots.
  • Rice-fish culture in the valley is a unique practice in the state, where two crops of rice (Mipya and Emoh) and one crop of fish (Ngihi) are raised together.
  •  UNESCO has proposed the Apatani valley for inclusion as a World Heritage Site for its “extremely high productivity” and “unique” way of preserving the ecology.

Chenchu Tribe

  • This tribe is indigenous to Andhra Pradesh and inhabits the forests of Nallamala Hills.
  • They are also present in the districts of Kurnool, Nalgonda, Guntur.
  • They hunt and trade in jungle products like honey, roots, gums, fruits, and tubers.
  • They speak the Chenchu language with a Telugu accent and are a very ritualistic lot.


  • Mahashivarathri is celebrated by them with great pomp especially in Amarbad tiger reserve Telangana.

Khonds/ Dongari Khond

  • Found In Odisha .
  • Their native language is Kui, a Dravidian language written with the Oriya script.
  • They are nature-worshipping forest dwellers.
  • Vedanta Resources, mining company, was set to destroy the forests, wildlife, and way of life of the Dongria Kondh people.
  • Their four-year-long protests finally paid off as the government has now banned Vedanta from mining in Niyamgiri Mountain and in their forests.
  • Practice shifting cultivation locally called Podu.

Warli Tribe

  • The tribe is found in the Maharashtra-Gujarat border and surrounding areas.
  • This tribe is well known for the Warli Art, where a mixture of cow dung and earth, rice paste, bamboo stick, red ochre are used to create art, paintings, and murals.
  • They conduct the Tarpa dance during the harvest season and the Warli Folk Art Dancing People Festival during March of every year.

Nyishi Tribe

  • This tribe inhabits the mountains of Arunachal Pradesh with the majority of them from districts of Kurung Kumey, Papum Pare, Upper, and Lower Subansiri.
  • Nishi is the language spoken by them.
  • A good majority of them have converted to Christianity.

Gaddis Tribe

  • Distribution: Himachal Pradesh
  • They mainly dwell around the Dhauladhar mountain range, Chamba, Bharmaur, and the areas near to Dharamshala
  • The main occupation is pastoralism and they make their livelihood by rearing and selling sheep, goats, mules, and horses.
  • Most of them are Hindus and a few Muslims.
  • They speak the Gaddi Language but for writing, they use Takri and Hindi.
  • Festivals: Shivarathri, Jatra.

Garo Tribe

  • Garo tribes are mainly found in the hills of Meghalaya and parts of Assam, Nagaland, and West Bengal.
  • The tribe is one of the few matrilineal societies in the world.
  • Garo architecture is quite unique.
  • Nokmong, Nokpante, Jamadaal and Jamsireng are some of them.
  • The tribal women wear a variety of traditional ornaments.
  • The men wear their traditional dress with a turban with feathers stuck in them.
  • The festival of Wangala is their celebration.

Bhils Tribe

  • The Bhils are a tribe found mostly in the mountain ranges of Udaipur and in some districts of Rajasthan.
  • The Bhils are the largest tribes in India.
  • Popularly known as the Bow men of Rajasthan
  • They speak the Bhili language.
  • Their celebrations are the Ghoomar dance, Bhagoria Mela during Holi, Than Gair-a dance drama, and the Baneshwar Fair during Shivaratri.

Gonds Tribe

  • Found in the Chhindwara district of Madhya Pradesh and in parts of Maharashtra, Orissa, and Andhra Pradesh
  • The Gonds are the second biggest tribe in India.
  • They are known for their valor and speak many Indian languages including the Dravidian Gondi language.
  • They have houses of mud walls and thatched roofs in the Gondi forests.
  • Agriculture is their main occupation.
  • Keslapur Jathra and Madai are their festivals.

Baiga Tribe

  • The Baiga (means sorcerers) is one of the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs).

Found In The India Following States  : 

  • They mainly live in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Odisha, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh.

Occupation : 

  • Traditionally, the Baiga lived a semi-nomadic life and practiced slash and burn cultivation. 
  • Now, they are mainly dependent on minor forest produce for their livelihood.
  • Bamboo is the primary resource.

Cultural Activities : 

  • Tattooing is an integral part of Baiga culture, every age and body part has a specific tattoo reserved for the occasion.

Munda Tribe 

  • This tribe is found in Jharkhand and parts of Chattisgarh, Bihar, Odisha, and West Bengal.
  • Their life is simple and basic.
  • They speak the Mundari language. 
  • The Mundas were hunters in the past but now are laborers in farms.
  • They follow the Sarna religion owing allegiance to a God called Singbonga which means the Sun God.
  • Their language is Killi and Nupur dance is the main entertainment.
  • The Munda tribes celebrate the Mage, Karam, Sarhaul, and Phagu festivals.

Santhal Tribes

  • The Santhal tribes are a major tribe of West Bengal.
  • They are also seen in parts of Bihar, Odisha, and Assam and are the largest tribe in Jharkhand.
  • First tribe to offer resistance to British during 1855 Santhal rebellion which resulted in the creation of separate Santhal Paragans district.
  • They depend on agriculture and livestock for their living and are great hunters.
  • They have no temples of their own.
  • They even do not worship any idols. Santhals follow the Sarna religion.
  • In addition to traditional festivals like Karam and Sahrai, Santhali dance and music is a major attraction.

Toto Tribe

  • Totapara village in the Alipurdoar district of West Bengal is home to the Toto tribe.
  • Their language has no script and is influenced by Nepali and Bengali.
  • They trade vegetables and fruits to maintain their simple life.
  • They believe in God Ishpa and Goddess Cheima, though they proclaim to be Hindus.

Bodo Tribe

  • The Bodo tribe is found in Assam and parts of West Bengal and Nagaland.
  • They are believed to be the early indigenous settlers of Assam.
  • They belong to Indo-Mongoloid family.
  • They speak a Tibetan-Burmese language, the Bodo.
  • The weaving of handloom products is an intrinsic part of their culture.
  • They celebrate the Baishagu festival in spring, dedicated to Lord Shiva, Hapsa hatarani, Domashi.

Rengmas Tribe

  • Distribution: Nagaland
  • They are one of the seventeen major Naga Tribes.
  • They follow patriarchal system.
  • Originally they were animist.
  • They believed in various gods and goddess.
  • Christianity is also present among the tribe.
  • Agriculture is the main occupation.
  • They practice Jhumming.
  • Women are expert weavers.

Koyank Tribe

  • Distribution: Nagaland
  • They are the largest out of 17 officially recognized tribes in Nagaland.
  • They are known as ‘those violent headhunters with tattooed faces.
  • One of the last headhunters, they now practice agriculture and hunt seasonally.
  • More than 95% of them follow Christianity.
  • The men wear earrings made out of deer horn, necklace made out of boar tusks, and brass heads.
  • Festivals: Aoling to welcome spring, ‘Lao Ong Mo’ harvest festival

Bhutia Tribe

  • The Bhutias are mainly found in Sikkim and parts of West Bengal and Tripura.
  • They are of Tibetan ancestry and speak Lhopo or Sikkimese language.
  • They are known for their art and cuisine.
  • The steamed meat dumplings called momos are their staple food.
  • Thukpa, noodles in a broth, is another of their dishes.
  • Losar and Loosong are the festivals celebrated.

Lepcha Tribe

  • Lepcha is a tribe of the Himalayan range lives at the North-East corner of India.
  • They largely resides at Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Bhutan, Sikkim, and Darjeeling.
  • Lepchas are Mongoloid tribe.
  • Their language is an admixture of Nepalese and Sikkims languages, which is very familiar with the Indo-Chinese language.
  • They themselves call “Rong”.
  • Lepchas live on rearing a large number of cattle and milch cows besides cultivation of Agricultural and Horticultural crops.
  • Originally Lepchas were the nature worshiper and had beliefs in witch-craftship and spirits.
  • But in due course, they embarrassed Buddhism.
  • In Tripura, they are known as Nepalese and their social and community relationship also bounded with Nepalese.


Source – Laxmikanth , Cenrus Of India And Ministry of tribal Affairs 

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