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Adivasis of India

Adivasis are indigenous people and are believed to be the first inhabitants of India. Adivasis have distinct languages, religions and forms of self-government, together with a deep bond to their land and respect for nature.

Adivasis’ traditional homelands have been taken for industrialization; for coal, forest and mineral exploitation; for tourism developments; and for nature and wildlife parks. This ‘internal colonization’ has combined with the forces of globalization to forcibly displace Adivasis from their territories, and to ensure that while 85 per cent of Adivasis live in poverty, they receive little or none of the wealth extracted from their land.

  • 8 per cent of India’s population are Adivasis.
  • There are over 500 different Adivasi groups in India
  • Adivasis are mainly found in the following states….
  • Chhattisgarh,

  • Jharkhand,

  • Madhya Pradesh,

  • Orissa,

  • Gujarat,

  • Maharashtra,

  • Rajasthan,

  • Andhra Pradesh,

  • West Bengal

  • Arunachal Pradesh,

  • Assam,

  • Manipur,

  • Meghalaya,

  • Mizoram,

  • Nagaland

  • Tripura.

  • Orissa state has more than 60 different Adivasi groups

  • Characteristics of Adivasis
    Adivasi communities do not have any hierarchy among them. They are totally different from communities organised around principles of the caste system.
  • The religion of Adivasis is different from Islam, Hinduism or Christianity. The Adivasis worship their ancestral, village or nature spirits.
  • Ancestral spirits are worshipped at home.

  • The village spirits are worshipped at specific sacred groves within the village boundary

  • Natural spirits like ‘mountain-spirits’, ‘river-spirits’ and ‘animal-spirits’ are also worshipped.

  • Adivasis have also been influenced by different religions like Shasta, Buddhism, Vaishnavism, Bhakti and Christianity.

  • Adivasi religions in turn have influenced dominant religions of the Empires around them, for example, the Jagannatha cult of Orissa and Shakti and Tantric traditions in Bengal and Assam.

  • During the nineteenth century, substantial numbers of Adivasis converted to Christianity, which has emerged as a very important religion in modern Adivasi history.

  • Adivasis have their own languages which may be as old as Sanskrit

  • The Adivasi language has influenced the formation of Indian languages, like Bengali.

  • Santhali is a language spoken by the Santhals, a tribe living in Jharkhand, West Bengal and Orissa. Santhali is an Austro-Asiatic language; it has no script of its own. It is usually written in either Devanagari or Bengali Script. Recently, alphabets called 'Olchiki’ has been introduced in the language. Santhali is also spoken in some parts Bangladesh and Nepal.





Santhals are the third largest tribe in India. They are mostly found in the states of West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, Jharkhand and Assam.

Santhals belong to the Pre Aryan period. They were the great fighters during the British regime in India. They wagged war against the permanent settlement of Lord Cornwallis in 1855.

Santhals have long head and flat nose. Their complexion varies from dark brown to black in colour. Santhals usually have curly hair.

The livelihoods of the Santhals revolve around the forests they live in. They fulfil their basic needs from the trees and plants of the forests. Apart from this they are also engaged in the haunting, fishing and cultivation for their livelihood. Santhals possess the unique skills in making the musical equipments, mats and baskets out of the plants.

Santhals love dancing. Dance is the important part of the Santhals fairs and festivals.

Santhals have no temples of their own. They even do not worship any idols. Animal sacrifices to the Gods are a common practice among the Santhals.

Santhals mainly celebrate the Karam festival which falls in the month of September and October.


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