population includes many tribals, who today constitute 12% of the state
population, nearly double the national average. The main tribes of
Rajasthan are the Bhils and the Minas that were the original inhabitants
of the area now called Rajasthan. But they were forced into the Aravalli
Range by the Aryan invasion. Smaller tribes include the Sahariyas,
Garasias and the Gaduliya lohars.
The tribes share common traits, which seem to link their past together but it is the differences in their costumes and jewellery, fair and festivals that set them apart from one another. Bhils
The Bhils compromise 39% of Rajasthan's tribal population. Their stronghold is Banswara. The generic term derives from Bhils, which describe their original talent and strength. The Bhils maintained their numbers by mingling with rebellious outcaste Rajputs.
According to legends, the Bhils were fine archers. Bhil bowmen are mentioned in both the Mahabarata and Ramayan. They were highly regarded as warriors and the Rajput rulers relied on them. Although originally food gatherers, the Bhils these days have taken up small-scale agriculture, city residence and employment.
The Baneshwar fair is a Bhil festival held near Dungarpur in January/February each year and large number of Bhils gather for several days for singing, dancing and worshipping. Holi is another important time for Bhils. Witchcraft magic and superstition are deeply rooted aspects of the Bhil culture.
The Minas are the second largest tribal group in the state after the Bhils and are the most widely spread. They may have been original inhabitants of the Indus Valley civilization. The Vedas and the Mahabharta mention them, and it was the Kachhawah Rajputs who finally dispersed them and forced them into the Aravallis. The Minas have a tall, athletic build with sharp features, large eyes, thick lips and a light brown complexion.
They live in the regions of Shekhawati and eastern Rajasthan. The name Minas is derived from 'men fish'. Originally they were a ruling tribe, but their slow downfall began with the Rajputs, and was completed when the British Government declared them a 'Criminal tribe' in 1924, mainly to stop them from trying to regain their territory from the Rajputs.
Just like the Bhils, the literacy rate among the Minas was very low, but is improving. Marriage, arranged by the parents is generally within the tribe and most marriages take place when the children are quite young.
The Gaduliya Lohars, named after their beautiful bullock carts ('gadis'), were originally a martial Rajput tribe, but nowadays they are nomadic blacksmiths. They are said to have wandered from their homeland of Mewar because of their promise to their 'lord' Maharana Pratap who was ousted from Chittaurgarh by Akbar. This clan of warring Rajputs vowed to re-enter the city only after the victory of Maharana Pratap who was, however, unfortunately killed in the battlefield.
They are a small Rajput tribe found along the Abu Road area of Southern Rajasthan. The Garasias have an interesting custom of marriage through elopement, which usually takes place at the annual Gaur Fair held during the full moon in March. After the elopement, which can be spontaneous or pre-arranged, a bride price is paid to the bride's father.
They are thought to be of Bhil origin and are found in the areas of Kota, Dungarpur and Sawai Madhopur in the south- east of the state. The Sahariyas are jungle dwellers, their name possibly deriving from the Persian 'Sehr'. The Sahariyas are regarded as the most backward tribe in Rajasthan and make out a living as shifting cultivators and by hunting and fishing.
The small tribal community of Damors probably migrated from their original home in Gujarat to settle in Dungarpur and Udaipur districts. They are mainly cultivators and manual labourers.
The Sidhis from the area bordering Gujarat are believed to have originally come from Africa in the 13th century. They retain some element of African dress and customs such as breaking coconuts with their heads and fire-walking.