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Location: Maharashtra
Tribal Groups: Bhil, Gond-Madia, Katkari, Koli, Oraon, Warli

The nomadic tribes of Maharashtra constitute about 73.18 lakhs of total population as per 1991 census and they are spread over large areas, mainly on hilltops. The major tribes found in Maharashtra are Bhil, Gond-Madia, Katkari, Koli, Oraon, Warli. A majority of the tribes still exhibit the primitive traits. They live in tribal groups moving and from place to place in caravans in search of livelihood.


Local Tribals of MaharashtraThese tribes have a rich heritage of culture that is distinctly different from other social groups and can be easily identified by their dress, dialect, folklore, customs and practices. They still practice old traditions like worship of nature in different forms, animal sacrifices during religious ceremonies, adorning head with horn, etc.

Their life style and the profession display these characteristics in every social encounter. From generation after generation, these tribes have had wandering traditions and they have hardly been integrated in the society.


These tribes have wandering traditions, which results in lack education, which makes their survival difficult, and this does not allow them to fit into the settled society they are forced to continue with this tradition of moving from place to place in search of work. Thousands of families belonging to these tribes wander from place to place and stay in temporary structures.

The Various Tribes

The Bhils are considered as the third largest and most widely distributed tribal groups in India. The Bhil tribes inhabit some of the most remote and inaccessible areas of India. There are two divisions of Bhil: the Central or "pure" Bhil, and the Eastern or part-Rajput Bhil. The Eastern Bhil lives in the mountains of central western India particularly in northern Gujarat, southern Rajasthan, and northern Maharashtra.

The name of the tribe "Bhil" was derived from the word billee, which means bow. For years, the bow has been a characteristic weapon of the tribe, and the men usually carry their bows and arrows with them. The people are experts in handling bows and arrows. They primarily work as peasant farmers, field labourers, and village watchmen.

They speak Bhili, which is an Indo-Aryan language. The Bhils are known to have fought against the Mughals, Marathas and the British. The people of this tribe marry within their own classes. If they do marry someone of another class, the Bhil of the lower class must convert to the higher, leaving behind all family ties. This custom is strictly enforced among the tribes. Each village is led by a headman and he deals with disputes. Dance, drama, festivals, and music are a large part of their culture, but unfortunately a lot of alcohol is consumed at these events. People sing and dance on all occasions expressing their robust spirit of the rich with legend, folklore and the eternal experiences of birth, sexual discovery, marriage, death and after-life.

Gond, ethnic group in central India is one of the most famous and creative tribe of India. The group is now divided among the states of Andhra Pradesh , Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh ; in Madhya Pradesh there was a small but powerful Gond kingdom until the 18th century.

The Gonds, predominantly Hindu, speak a Dravidian language and their local language is 'Madia' and 'Gondi'. The Gond was the most significant group of original Indian tribes. In the 1500's, several Gond dynasties were firmly incorporated by the Gond Rajas, or kings. They ruled like Hindu princes until Muslim armies overthrew them in 1592. In the 1700's, the Gond lost all power to the Maratha kings who forced their culture to retreat to the hills.

Lifestyles Of The Gond's
This tribe is classified as Primitive Tribe Category. They still lead primitive way of life. People belonging to this are mainly dependent for their day-to-day needs such as firewood, small timbers, grass etc. on the forest. They are mainly organised into small villages. A chief heads the tribe, and a committee of elders leads each village. The chief serves as the judge of all tribal disputes, while the elders have legal authority over their villages. Gond kingship is patriarchal and line of descent is traced patrilineally.

Gond survived by farming, hunting, and eating the fruits of the grove, but they also trade and sell cattle. Others hold wage-earning jobs. They do not make their own clothing or jewels but buy them from neighboring groups. The Gond does not marry within their own clans and cross-cousin marriages are preferred as are multiple spouses.

They have a typical painting style that cannot be seen else where in the country. Apart from painting on paper, people this tribe engage themselves in wall painting and floor paintings as well. These paintings serve the ritualistic purposes as well as keep the surroundings harmonious and pure.

They are located mainly in the states of Gujarat and Maharashtra. Their language is also known as "Katkari". They are mainly found in Pune, Raigad, Ratnagiri regoins.

Koli tribe is declared as the most ancient tribe of India. Historians and scholars find that Koli tribe, a ruling 'Kshtria' Caste, was spread far and wide all over India. Their heroic exploits and learned reputation and relationships with the most powerful of those times regarded them with awe and respect. The most ancient and revered sage Valmiki, the author of epic Ramayana belonged to this tribe.

Koli tribe is to be found from Kashmir to Kanya Kumari and are known by slightly different names according to the languages of the regions. The following are some of the major groups: "Koli Kshtria", "Koli Raja", "Koli Rajput", "Koli Suryavanshi", "Nagarkoli", "Gondakoli", "Koli Mahadev", "Koli Patel", "Koli Thakor", "Bavraya, Tharkarda", "Pathanvadia", "Mein Koli", "Koyeri", "Mandhata Patel", etc.

Oraon is one such tribal group, which is considered as the chief representative of the Dravidian races. This tribe is notified in Maharashtra list as Scheduled Tribe. They are also listed as tribal group in Bihar, Orissa. Madhya Pradesh and they get all benefits related to Scheduled Tribes in these States. The surrounding forest is the only means of livelihood and their association with the forest is very close and they become part of nature.

It has been noticed that some Oraon families have migrated and settled in Gadchlroli district of Maharashtra. It was noticed during 1971 census, they are mostly settled in Dhanora, Etapalli and Aheri Talukas of Gadchiroli district. In one village, which is called as Rupingatta near Pendhari in Dhanora Taluka, almost total population is Oraon tribe. Most of them are still illiterate and very poor. Some families are also located in Gyarapatti, Kotgul area.

The Oraon Folks
The people of this tribe are short-stature, narrow-headed and broad nosed, and one of the physical characteristics of Oraon women is sharp feature face. They decorate them selves in usual tribal style with flower and clip striking in their hair. The women are sturdy and work more than men. Like other tribal, groups Oraon men folk are also Idle and not take much interest in work. They mostly depend on their women for livelihood. In traditional system, Oraon girls are married at very early age.

The head of their village is called the Mahato, while the spiritual head is called the Pahan (village priest). Both these offices are usually hereditary. They worship Devi Ma (Shakti) and also believe in witchcraft, their most Important social institution, which has put them on the ethnographic map of the world.

Warli is the name of the largest tribe to be found in Thane district, on the northern outskirts of Bombay, in Western India. This tribal group is famous for Warli art. Warli Art is the vivid expression of daily and social events of the Warli tribe of Maharashtra. The origin of the Warlis is yet unknown and no records of this art are found, but many scholars and folklorists believe that it can be traced to as early as the 10th century AD.

The insularity of the Warlis may also be attributed to the invasions of their territory, 'Thane, Maharashtra'. Thane has in fact at different times been under the Rule of the Hindus, Muslims, Maratha, Portuguese and the English. All of whom were resisted by maintaining their unique nature, and can be seen in their Art.

Despite being in such close proximity of the largest metropolis in India, Warli tribesmen shun all influences of modern urbanisation. The Warlis live frugally, almost ascetically, barely using any of the contemporary inventions of technology. The Warlis never do anything without significance. They will not, for example, speak unless absolutely necessary, for words can make things come alive.

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