Kerala’s Scheduled Tribes

In Kerala there are still 37 Scheduled Tribes out of 48 tribal communities; their number is only 1.26% of the state’s population.  What this figure indicates is that the rate of the assimilation of the aboriginals of Kerala has been extremely rapid.  In the past few years 11 tribal communities have been declassified on account of the social and cultural porgress they have made.

Among the Scheduled Tribes of Kerala the numerically dominant ones are the Pulayans, Paniyans, Maratis, Malayarayar, Kurumans, Kurichiyans, and Irulas.  The numerical strength of each remaining tribes is more or less 1,000.  I am happy to record that my anthropological, linguistic and folklonstic research has been primarily among the Kadar, Cholanayikkar, Mudugar, Irular, Pulayar, and Kurumbar.  I have also worked among the Santals of West Bengal.

Most of these tribes are forest-dwellers and food-gatherers.  Increasingly, they are found living on the fringes of the forests near the highways and the villages of the plainspeople, yet apart from them.  This frontier existence of the tribals is highly symbolic.  They are caught between two worlds.  Their forest home cannot support them any longer, for food in forests is getting scarce because of the state policy against deforestation.

There are fewer and fewer wild animals to hunt; there is also a legal ban on hunting.  For rice and clothes they have to depend on the plainspeople who continue to exploit the helplessness of the tribals.  The few tribesmen who go to towns looking for jobs soon find it difficult to cope with the demands of civilization and return home to jungles to live on the edge of culture and nature.

Source: Kerala – Gateway To Paradise (Kerala History, Kerala Society, Kerala Culture)
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Date Visited: Sun Jul 10 2011 12:21:07 GMT+0200 (CEST)

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Other references –

Ooralis Tribe
The Western Ghats as well as the coastal plains of Kerala are home to a number of tribes. The Ooralis are among the few tree-dwelling tribes of the nation, found around the famous Periyar Tiger Reserve. Not many trees are used to live in, yet they serve as watchtowers to keep a check on elephants and boars that stray into the fields. The Mananns, or expert fishermen, traditionally collect honey from heights usually abuzz with dangerous hill bees. These fishermen who usually climb at night to avoid being stung, scale the trees with the help of bamboo spikes that are hammered into these trees.

Dravidian Tribes
The Kadars, Paniyans, Muduvansand the Malayans belong to the early Dravidian race and could be found in the hilly tracts. These tribes, with their flat nose, short stature and dark skin, apparently belong to the Negrito race.

Irular Tribe
Among the Irular tribe of Palaghat District, ritual dance and music accompany death rites. The hill tribes try to appease Maladaivangal, the Hill God, through a number of rituals that include dancing and singing, lest they gets wiped out.

Hill Tribes
The hill tribes do not contribute to the economic mainstream as much as the Pulayans, Parayans, Nayadis and Ulattans– the agricultural labourers do. A lot of Christian converts are from the Pulaya tribe. Most of the tribes otherwise, belong to the lower castes of society, employed usually as agricultural or industrial labourers. The Mavilon, Velan and Koppalan are some of the other tribes of Kerala.

Source: Kerala Religion and Culture, Kerala Culture, Religion of Kerala India, Religion and Culture of Kerala India
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Date Visited: Sun Jul 10 2011 12:40:49 GMT+0200 (CEST)

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