While the world evolves with the help of technological advancements and makes progress, there are certain sections of our society which continue to live life like their forefathers lived. Due to social isolation or beliefs, somehow they have not moved forward with the rest of the world and continue to live a tribal lifestyle in the hinterlands. Here is a list of 10 most endangered tribes in India that will face extinction in the near future.
Jarawa, Onge and Sentinelese – Andaman & Nicobar Islands
These 3 tribes of Andaman Islands have been living in peace with the Indian Ocean since past 50,000 years. Today, only a few of them are left owing to the flourishing travel and tourism industry on the Islands. They face threats like the destruction of their forest reserve, vulnerability to diseases that they are not immune to and coercion to integrate with the mainstream society from the modern civilization. Only 250 members of Jarawa, 100 of Onge and 40 of Sentinelese tribe are estimated to be residing in the forest reserves as of now; fighting for survival each day.
Rabari – Gujarat, Punjab, Rajasthan
These nomadic tribals are camel herders and shepherds that live in northwest India. “Rabari” means ‘outsiders’ – which describe their state in Indian society. The women of the tribe are involved in embroidering textiles with designs from mythology and desert surroundings. Today only 1-2% of tribals practice the entirely nomadic lifestyle and they are losing their traditions, culture, and language due to external influences.
Toda – Tamil Nadu
With a current population of around 1000 members, Toda tribals are the most ancient tribes of Nilgiri Hills. They herd cows, buffaloes, and sheep and earn their livelihood by producing milk products. The women are involved in embroidery work and the region has recently gained Geographical Indication owing to the unique embroidery. Forced interaction by outsiders and introduction with technology has changed the lifestyles of the Toda tribes and today very few remain who speak original Toda language and follow the culture.
Raji – Uttarakhand
On the brink of survival, this tribe speaking Raji language is declared as a vulnerable tribal group owing to their dwindling numbers, low literacy rate, and unequal development. Raji tribes are supposed to have deep traditional knowledge of medicinal plants which is dying with their numbers. Many among the tribe have already accepted modernization and have started living in harmony with the Indian society not valuing their customs anymore. Those still following the culture eat wild fruits and roots, wear large and heavy jewelry and dress in their customary tribal way and spend time carving artistic woodwork.
Birhor – Jharkhand, Chhatisgarh
Bir meaning ‘Jungle’ and Hor meaning ‘Men’, the members of this tribe are also named as Jungle people. Birhors are nomadic tribals who hunt animals, collect and sell honey and make fiber ropes. Due to government interventions, many from this tribe have adopted settled agricultural economy. Due to globalization factors that are imposed upon them by the neighboring society, their numbers are constantly dwindling and so is their indigenous knowledge of the forest reserve.
Sahariya – Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh
These are one of the most backward tribe of the country. They are expert woodsmen, cultivators, and forest product gatherers. The members of this tribe were once confident that forests, which they respect and protect, would never leave them hungry. However, the forests have been exploited by others to the tilt and due to extreme poverty and no literacy, the tribe is today forced to surrender to bonded labour and meagre daily wages. Very few remain who still depend on the forest and its resources as a source of their livelihood.
Kurumba – Kerala
These are the earliest known occupants of the Western Ghats in India. Kurumbas worship trees and animals and their livelihood depend on forest produce like wax and honey. They are believed to be involved in black magic and are feared by the nearby tribes. The tribes live in extreme poverty and are subject to social, cultural and economic exploitation. With increasing Indian population and deforestation, the Kurumbas have been forced out of the deep forests to the plateaus and earn their living by working in tea and coffee plantations.
Sora – Odisha
This dwindling jungle tribe resides in the southern part of Odisha. They practice shifting cultivation, planting millet and pulses. They are also called as Lanjia Saoras as their attire includes a loincloth hanging from behind which looks like a tail. The weddings in the tribe are done by bride capture and elopement. They are believed to practice shamanic culture – the ones who communicate with the dead. Saora paintings made by the tribes are however sought after by the art lovers.
Toto – West Bengal
The Toto tribe belongs to the Indo-Burman family and live on the edges of the forests. They live in self-constructed elevated bamboo huts. Totos make their own food from millet and drink a fermented liquor named Eu. They grow their own vegetables and fruits and try to remain isolated from the outside world. To preserve their ethnicity they marry within the tribe only – which has led to major thalassemia because of which the tribe has lost a lot of their members.
Koraga – Karnataka
Koragas are basket-makers and labourers. They are regarded as untouchables and are involved in manual scavenging for decades. They are believed to be capable of using witchcraft and black magic. Hence, being considered as a low caste community, they are feared by the upper class. Exploitation by the outside world, access to easy education and inter-caste marriages have led to a decline in the Koraga population.