The Andhras are originally believed to be
Dravidians. However, some theories suggest that they were Aryans by
origin, who moved south of the Vindhyas, and eventually mixed with the
non-Aryans. Andhra Pradesh is home of a diverse range of tribes present in
large numbers. The Lambadies ('Banjaras'), the 'Koyas', the 'Bagatas', the
'Yenadis', the 'Chenchus', the 'Gadabas' and the 'Yerukalas' are the
well-known tribes of the state.
The Simple & Sober Lifestyle
The most striking feature of tribal life is their simplicity. Their demands are few; the forest is able to provide them with everything. Professionally they are food-gatherers, hunters, small farmers and nomads.
The tribals worship nature. Each tribe has its totem. It may be a tree or animal. The object of worship could simply be a wooden pole or a stone or a group of stones arranged in a circle. Music, dance and craft are important pastimes. Crafts involve making of useful items like basket weaving or making terracotta pots.
Inhabited by many large tribes, Andhra Pradesh presents a rich wealth of traditional folk and tribal dances. 'Dhimsa', 'Lambadi', 'Bathakamma', 'Mathuri', 'Dhamal', 'Dappu' are a few famous tribal dances. Liquor, fermented toddy juice or fermented rice or garlands made from the flowers of the 'Mohua' tree are offered to everyone visiting a family in the tribal village. It is considered offensive to refuse it. During every ritual and festival liquor flows like water.
The Koyas: The Koyas are supposed to have migrated from Bastar in Madhya Pradesh and form the bulk of the aboriginal population of Adilabad, Warangal, East Godavari and Krishna districts. They are nomadic by nature and practice shifting cultivation. They are divided into two sections, the Langadaris and the Gonus. The Koyas of East Godavari district are well built.
The Lambadies (Banjaras): Also known as 'Sugalis', Lambadies are found in Rayalaseema, Warangal and Mahaboobnagar districts. They collect firewood and other minor products from the forest and sell it in towns and villages. It is said that formerly they worked as carriers, transporting goods and merchandise on bullock backs, but they have now taken to cultivation.
Hill Tribes: The hill tribes live mostly in the agency areas. They have many castes, and some of them apparently have come over from the Orissa side of the frontier, because their language is Oriya. The 'Mokadorlu', however, are distinct from the rest. So are the 'Bhagatas' and 'Ranas' who wear the sacred thread. So also are the 'Jatapus' and the 'Jatapu Doras'.
The 'Parojas' are the most numerous among the Oriya speaking tribes. There are seven different types of them. The 'Gadabas' are palanquin-bearers as well as cultivators. The 'Savaras' are divided into 'primitive' who live in the hill areas of 'Gunupur' in Orissa, and the ' civilised' ones who inhabit the Palakonda hills in Srikakulam district.
Their chief centre of habitation is the 6,000 square miles of mountainous territory in the East Godavari and Vishakhapatnam districts. About 20 tribes live in them speaking Dravidian and 'Mudari' dialects. Leading a primitive, and in many ways precarious existence, they are a happy-go-lucky folk, picturesque in their costumes, and greatly addicted to dance and music.
'Savaras' are the most notable among them. Their homes are the lofty hills and deep mountain valleys. They are ingenious people who have built bunds on mountain streams to water their fields, and even their villages show systematic designs. The huts are in parallel rows indicating their sense of orderliness.
The Chenchus: The Chenchus live in the Nallamalai hills of Kurnool district. They are very peaceful and inoffensive people who acquire a livelihood on roots, wild game and fish, and only occasionally cultivate millets in small patches of fields. This tribe is badly off, and unless they take to full time cultivation there is no hope for them. And yet, it is difficult to wean them from their habit of wandering off into jungles in search of minor forest produce such as honey, wild berries and tubers that they sell in the villages and towns in an effort to eke out a livelihood.
The popular legend is that when Lord Narayana took on Narasimhavatara, the Goddess Lakshmi was born in the Chenchu tribe, and both were living here happily. This love of Lord Narasimha with Goddess Lakshmi as 'Chencheta', a Chenchu bride, is famous in many folk songs of the place.
The Yenadis: Considered partly tribal, their origin is obscure. Their men are tall, dark, lanky, their muscles soft and flabby, and their cheekbones prominent. They are good 'shikaris' (hunters) and specialise in trapping hares, rats, cobras and leopards.
The Yerukalas are semi-tribal people who had been reluctantly granted status as 'Shudras'. They are basket weavers who often live in separate villages and speak a dialect different from that of Telugu.