The tribes of Madhya Pradesh are the Scheduled tribes as per the prerequisite of the Constitution of India. The tribes of Madhya Pradesh have ranked in the top in terms of the tribal population. In addition, these tribes of Madhya Pradesh are subgroups in to numbers of castes, which too have got high proportion.
The tribes of Madhya Pradesh’s population constitute over 20% of the state population & are mainly concentrated in southern part of the state. The life style, culture & customs of this community mostly resemble the Hindu religion though they still strongly believe in orthodox traditions. The social customs prevalent among different types & castes vary more due to variation in their habitat & surroundings geographical conditions. For earnings they depend upon agriculture & forest produce & local craft. With improved communication & growth in the economy, the tribal’s way of living has changed from their original hunting & gathering existence to one near the mainstreams.
Gond is the best known tribe & forms the largest group in Madhya Pradesh. Gonds in Bastar linger perhaps the least in contact with the world outside due to the isolation and roughness of the terrain. The institution of Ghotul at Abujmarh- a dormitory for the unmarried teenagers to live together, select their mate and gain valuable experience to set up their own household-has attracted significant scholarly attention & Madai is their traditional dance to enjoy the happiness. The mainly inhabit areas on both sides of the Narmada in Mandla, Chhindwara, Betul & Seoni regions & the hilly terrains of the Vindhya & the Satpura region. Agaria, Pradan, Ojhan, Solahas are the descendants tribal groups originating from Gonds, with two subcastes – Rajgond & Datoliya.
Bhils, the second largest tribe are largely concentrated in the area around Jhabua, Khargone, Dhar & Ratlam. Regarded as warriors with fine inheritant guerilla tactis, their archery skills find mention in the hindi epics Mahabharata & Ramayana. They claim their descent from Lord Shiva. Locally brewed wine plays a significant role in their social & religious ceremonies. They have an interesting custom of marriage through the elopement. The Bhagoriya festival at the time of Holi, the festival of colours, in the Jhabua region cannot be compared with any other festivity. Bhil youths indulge in colourful frolic excited by the projection of meeting their future spouse. If some maiden strikes the prospective groom’s fancy, all he has to do is to offer a betel leaf to the girl. If she accepts, the two abscond in the time honored tradition to set up their house together.
Baigas believe themselves to be descendants of Dravid & As the name advocates, these are that society of the Gonds who fall in the priest class. It entails that they indulge into magical activities and boast about being knower about the evil spirits. Chiefly in the Mandla, there is a special settlement in the small tract of Baiga Chak. Besides practicing agriculture they are passionate woodsman and hunter. Some of the other small sects that too fall in this category are the Pradhans, Korkus and Kols. This backward tribe of Baigas is found in Mandla, balaghat, Shahdol & Sidhi District.
These aboriginals inhabit North West area mainly in the districts of Gwalior, Shivpuri, Bhind, Morena, Vidisha & Raisen. Most Saharia’s are cultivators & are worshippers of Goddess Durga. Saharia is an important tribe. Etymological point of view expresses that the word ‘Sahria’ is the combination of two independent words like “Sa’ (companion) and ‘Haria’ (tiger) which mean companion of tiger (Tiwari, 1984). Saharia are the members who belong to traditional society. Most of the Saharia are depended on ecology which plays an important role in forming their economic structure (Mandal, 1998). The post economic history implies that they traditionally practised shifting cultivation, hunting, gathering, pastoralism, etc. and sometimes also adopted nomadic life. They are very much addicted to drink local wine. Saharia are dominated by nuclear families.They generally practise negotiation and monogamy form of marriage at very early age.
As contrasted to the other tribes, they are exceptionally wild and eccentric. Most of the areas where they dwell are yet alienated due to intense forest covering, and as a result not much can be said about their habits. One thing that will surely magnetize anyone is their achromatic food habits. They are not at all atypical about their food habits as they can eat anything, Red Ant being their favorite dish, Rats too form a appetizing serving. Regarding their dressing culture, Women linger bare bosomed while men are known only to tie a loincloth around their waist. Festivals are perhaps the only time when they are seen to be a little less scantily dressed. About their conduct the Abujhmar tribes they are very primitive and wild in nature.
Bharia tribe has major concentration in Jabalpur & Chhindwara district of Madhya Pradesh. The place Patalkot in Chhindwara has almost 90% population constituted of Bharias. They work as agriculture laborers & work upon bamboo to create beautiful baskets & usage of medicinal plants to treat various diseases. As per the observation, the Bharia tribes are one of the indigenous tribes of the region & have set up their own system of treatment for all the health hazards and illness. Bharia tribes have maintained their originality without adapting to the traditions and practices of the modern day world. In other words, this Bharia tribe is one of those tribal communities of the Indian subcontinent who are totally inaccessible and cut out from the civilized world.
Korku tribal community is administered by the head of a panchayat (called Sarpanch), Certain important facts are being fearful about the lives of this Korku tribal community is that they settled down in the forest areas only. Unnecessary to mention, that these Korku tribes also adapt to food gathering. Particularly in the Bhainsdehi tahsil of Betul district, quite a few of these Korku tribal district people have started to practice the cultivation of potatoes and coffee. Interestingly, even though many social organizations and NGOs have tried to send various processed food materials to these Korku tribes but, these Korku tribes do not accept these food items from them. Instead these Korku tribes still attach to their age-old method of collecting food from the interiors of the impenetrable forests & usually they are found in Hoshangabad, Betul, Chhindwara, Harda & Khandwa districts of Madhya Pradesh.
Santia is a tribe of Malwawho believe themselves to be originally a martial Rajput tribe. They prefer to remain nomadic. This tribe normally doesn’t stick to one place for survival even they prefer wandering for their livelihood & for their survival. Regarding their food habits they are not very particular about it.
Kols are found in Rewa, Sidhi, Satna, Shahdol & Jabalpur districts. This caste finds mention even in the ancient puranas & the famous epic of Ramayana & Mahabharata. They are highly religious minded & staunch believers of the Hindu Mythology. Usually they involved in building palaces, forts, tanks and lakes but owing to their over-simplicity and tolerance they failed to retain their establishments. Towards the end of the eighteenth century they were found sprinkled into many tribes.
The Savaras are mostly inhabited in Sheopur (Morena district), Isagarh, Narval (Gwalior district) and Bhilsa. This group also combines Saharia and Sour. Usually, Savara settlement are located mostly on hill slopes cultivating dry lands & these peoples form a separate society & as per belongings this tribe usually fixes auspicious dates for conducting ceremonies & Rituals.
Banjaras are wandering tribes related to European gypsies, who probably migrated from India & known by different names such as Lamani, Lambadi, Bangala, Banjori, Banjuri etc. They speak Lamani language & their occupations are congregation of forest products and agriculture. Banjara women dress in a full length skirt with borders embroidered in mustard and green thread. They also carry pretty silver anklets. Silver, brass, gold, cowries, ivory, animal bone and even plastic are used in making a Banjara wardrobe. These tribes are experts in conventional embroidery with mirror works & they worship Lakshmi, the Goddess of prosperity.