4 Unknown and Uncontacted Tribes in India

A trip to India is a trip to a unique and different country. The Indian society surprises the traveler who decides to travel to India for the first time and traps completely in a kind of spell in which millions and millions of people are hopelessly trapped. India is not a half-way destination. Only on a trip to India can you discover if the magic of this place will conquer you forever.

Much of India is rural with many contrasts with the Himalayas to the north, a vast desert to the west, huge and subtropical beaches in the south and a marked tribal culture on the central and eastern borders. One of the most interesting aspects of these groups are their totemic beliefs. According to their religion it is forbidden to exert violence against totemic animals, which are respected with great veneration. They believe in the gods that inhabit nature so they also revere their mountains and forests.

Tribes are the traditional social division of any region. These inhabitants are often linked to each other by blood or religious ties. In India, tribes are mostly referred to as Adivasis which is a generic term. Generally they are not very advanced in terms of education, technology, living standards and facilities enjoyed.

In the Indian subcontinent, the nature of tribes and their way of living and adapting have changed considerably. In this modern era, the tribes have been reduced to a very small number. Their way of living has also changed significantly. Today, we don’t see the people who belong to a certain tribal ethnicity the way they lived some centuries ago.

The Constitution of India recognizes a lot of communities of tribes in Schedule 5. There are as many as 645 tribal communities in India, out of which, some are very popular.

Uncontacted Tribes in India

1. Nagas - A group of many tribes!

The Naga people are probably the most popular and widely-known tribal community in India. The Nagas group consists of a number of tribes such as Rengma, Sema, Angami, Sumi, Chang, Sangtam, and many more which collectively form the Naga Group. Each of these tribes has their own language and they are mostly derived from other ones, like Tibeto-Burman. They are basically the ethnic groups originating from the North-Eastern part of India, like Manipur, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, etc. These tribes are also spread in Myanmar, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.

Back in the 19th century, many Christian-Protestant communities succeeded in converting people from this community into Christianity. However, this conversion was not very widespread as the people had a sense of resistance towards foreign cultures and succeeded in maintaining their own.

2. Lambani Tribe - The most colorful people!

The Lambani is a tribal ethnicity from the western part of India, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh to be precise. However, it can be found in the northern parts of Karnataka as well. People from this tribal ethnicity speak a language which is familiar and said to have come from Rajasthan.

People of Lambani tribe of India can be distinctly recognised due to their clothing. Women wear clothes and fabrics that are overly decorated and have a lot of ornaments all over their body. These ornaments include bangles, bone-made rings, bracelets and necklaces.

On the other hand, men have a type of coarse turban-like headgear. The tight breeches that they wear extend up to the knee or a few inches below it.

Another significant thing about the Lambani tribe is that they keep travelling from place to place, earning their livelihood by sell clothes along the beaches or local markets.

3. Kalbelia Tribe - The Dancing Tribe

The Kalbelia tribe is known to have wandered from places to places all through the ancient and medieval ages. The traditional occupation that these tribal people do is catching snakes to trade their venom. And due to this, they are often referred to as saperas.

However, the recent enactments in law have forced the Kalbelia tribe to dive away from their traditional occupation and earn a livelihood with their art. In the present day, the Kalbelia people perform a specific type of dance, called the Kalbelia dance, in joyful occasions within their community.

4. Gaddi Tribe - The Nomad Tribe

The Gaddi is a generic term used for all the indigenous population of the Bharmour area of Chamba Dist. Bharmour is not only known for its scenic beauty but also for Gaddi tribe who are a semi-agriculture tribe and own large flocks of sheep and goats as the main source of wealth. They are better shepherds than farmers and one of the largest tribes of Himachal Pradesh.

Known for their simplicity and hard work, they keep to themselves. They are a pure tribe with Aryan features who are very firm with their faiths and beliefs, particularly for Shiva. Dhudu – the appellation of Shiva as they like to call. Dhudu played a distinct social role in the lives of Gaddis. Shiva was personalised into the beliefs and life of these pastoralists like nowhere else in South Asia.

The existence of each without the other was not conceivable. Their folk songs depicts the relationship of Dhudu with his chelas. Chola is worn as an upper garment made of white coloured ‘patti’ of soft and thin wood tied around the waist by a cord called Dora. It remains loose above the waist and can be used to carry the essentials like food, small lambs.

A Gaddi can carry up to 50 Kg load. Dora is tightened around the waist over Chola. It is a black coloured sturdy woollen cord up to 60 mts in length for man. It is an extraordinary part of Gaddis’ dress worn by men, women and kids which probably used to give support to the waist and also keeps the person warm.

Suthni is traditional woollen churidar pyjama worn by men as a lower garment. Woollen cap is worn as a headdress. It has flaps on two sides and a peak-like projection that represents the Kailash Parvat of Shiva. The front of the cap is adorned with dried flowers. Mochrus are laceless shoes made of crude leather. These are very sturdy which lasts for a long and can bear the rugged nomadic journeys of Gaddis.

Gaddi women are known for their rosy complexion, graceful sharp features and are considered to be the most beautiful among the Pahari women. They have a unique identity with their costumes that are developed from hand-woven cotton cloth with block printing.

Luanchari is an upper garment that is frock shaped full-length dress made out of 15-20 mts cotton cloth with contrast coloured yoke finished with frills, laces and bias bindings at the edges. Suthan - Cotton churidar pyjami loose at the thighs and fitted below the knee level and has some horizontal folds referred to as chooris at the ankle level, worn as a lower garment.

Ghundu or chadru is traditional dupatta draped over the head that falls over the shoulders and to the back. It is 2-2.5 mts long coloured muslin with finished edges with frills and laces. Gaddis are very fond of wearing ornaments. Silver is considered sacred by Gaddis, therefore their jewellery is mostly made of silver with mina work in specific designs and motifs.

Chak or Chonk is conical shaped silver jewellery which is worn in the centre over the top of the head. It is considered as a symbol of being married. Fulli is big sized round nose pin. Balu is a big nose ring made up of gold and has a diameter of 3-4 inches. The design has an elaborate network that is studded with semi-precious stones. It's worn on the left nostril by the brides and married women during festivals.

Chiri is worn as a ‘mangtika’ and is a big disc-shaped silver ornament with multicoloured mina work and has a no. of silver beads hanging around the disc. Chanderhar is heavy neck jewellery made up of silver with mina work and has a group of chains attached with a triangular piece. Gojru and Toke: Silver bracelets with narrow width worn as a pair.

Pari are also silver pyjabe that make loud sounds while walking making the presence of a newlywed in the house. Phullu are silver toe ornaments of different shapes and sizes. Dur are gold earrings worn by men. Traditionally, it is compulsory for the groom to wear "dur" at the time of marriage. Gaddi tribe is playing a significant role in preserving their heritage of festivals, costumes and ornaments. The clothing pattern of the Gaddi tribe is changing with the passage of time, yet Chola-Dora is being worn by the older and new generation in routine.

Kalyan Panja