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Geography - Tribal Distribution in world | 12th Geography : Chapter 5 : Cultural and Political Geography

Chapter: 12th Geography : Chapter 5 : Cultural and Political Geography

Tribal Distribution in world

Some major tribal group of the world particularly who are living and struggling:

Tribal Distribution in world

Some major tribal group of the world particularly who are living and struggling

1. Equatorial Forest region: Pigmy, Semang, Sakai, Boro, Papuan, etc.

2. Grasslands: Masai, Kyrghizs, etc.

3. Tropical deserts: Bedowin, Bushman, Aborigines etc.

4. Mountainous region: Bhotia, gujjar, Naga etc.

5. Monsoon regions: Gonds, Santhals, Todas, Bhils, etc.

6. Arctic cold regions: Eskimo, Lapp, Alute, Chukchi etc.


The pigmies are Negroid people and are also called Negrillos. They are short stature, flat nosed, wooly haired, long headed and black people. The average height of men and women are found 150cm. So they are also called dwarf. The pigmies are those who live in scattered parts of tropical Central Africa. They are found in many sub-groups in the equatorial forest region of Africa mainly in Congo basin 3ºN and 3ºS latitudes along both sides of the equator. In addition some groups of Pigmies are also found in the forests of Philippines and New Guinea.


The Masai of east Africa belong to the pastoral society and are known as the best and most typical cattle herders not only of Africa but also of the world. Masai people are tall and slender with ling feet, hands and fingers. Their skin colour ranges from light chocolate to dark brown. They have high and long head, thin face and nose. Their lips are less thick than that of Negroid people. Masai occupy the interior plateau of the equatorial Africa. The territory of the Masai lies between 1ºN and 6ºS latitudes and covers all the rift valleys in this region.


In Arabic, Bedouin means desert dwellers. The Bedouins are most important among the tribal of South West-Asia and North Africa. They are pastoral nomads and keep camel, sheep, goats, horse etc. The Bedouins occupy the desert areas of the Arabian Peninsula including Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, Syria and Jordan. The Bedouins belongs to the mixture of Mediterranean and Armenian races. They are medium stature people with long narrow face, prominent nose, dark eyes and hair. Their complexion is wheatish to pale.


Bushman is the tribal people of Kalahari Desert in southern Africa who are still engaged in hunting and gathering economics. They are on constant run for both food and water. Their homeland Kalahari Desert lies in Botswana, Namibia and southern Angola. The bushman territory is a wide plateau about 2000 meters above the sea level with sub tropical climate. The bushman are included in the Negroid stock. They are very short in stature and have long head, short and flat ears, and yellowish brown complexion. On the whole the Negroid characteristics prevail among the Bushman.


Eskimos also called Inuits are tribes of tundra cold region in Canadian northland, Alaska, Greenland and north-eastern Siberian coastal region. The Eskimos are Mongoloid race. The main physical characteristics of the Eskimos are short stature, Flat narrow face, small snub nose, yellow –brown complexion and coarse straight black hair. Hunting and fishing are the main occupations of the Eskimos. They live in igloo and practice hunting way known as Maupak. The Eskimos wear clothes of caribous or reindeers skin and other furs.

Eskimos are migratory by nature and construct ice houses called Igloos. For travelling on ice shield the Eskimos use sledge which is usually built either of whale bone or of wood whichever is available. It is drawn by two or more dogs, caribous or rain deer.


Tribal in India

India is the home to large number of indigenous people, who are still untouched by the lifestyle of the modern world. With more than 84.4 million, India has the largest population of the tribal people in the world. These tribal people also known as the adivasis are the poorest in the country, which are still dependent on haunting, agriculture and fishing. Some of the major tribal groups in India include Gonds, Santhals, Khasis, Angamis, Bhils, Bhutias and Great Andamanese. All these tribal people have their own culture, tradition, language and lifestyle. There are more than 50 tribal groups in India. Most of the tribal belong basically to the Negroid , Australoid and Mongoloid racial stocks.


Bhils are popularly known as the bow men of Rajasthan. They are the most widely distributed tribal groups in India. They form the largest tribe of the whole South Asia. Bhils are mainly divided into two main groups the central or pure bills and eastern or Rajput Bhils.


The Gonds are the tribal community mostly found in the Gond forests of the central India. They are one of the largest tribal groups in the world. Gonds have been largely influenced by the Hindus and for the long time have been practicing the Hindus culture and traditions.


Santhals are the third largest tribe in India. They are mostly found in the states of West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha, Jharkhand and Assam. They belong to the pre- Aryan period and have been the great fighters from the time of the British.


Munda tribe mainly inhabit in the region of Jharkhand, although they are well spread in the states of West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Bihar. Munda generally means headman of the village. Hunting is the main occupation of the Mundas tribe.


Khasi tribe is mainly found in the Khasi Jaintia hills in Meghalaya and in the states of Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Manipur, West Bengal and Jammu and Kashmir. They form the large part of the population in the state of Meghalaya.


Angami tribe belongs to the extreme north eastern part of the country, in the state of Nagaland. The total population of the Angamis is around 12 million. They are quite popular for their woodcraft and artwork. Sekrenyi is the main festival celebrated among the Angamis in Nagaland


Bhutia tribes are of the Tibetan origin. They migrated to Sikkim around 16th century. In the northern part of the Sikkim they are known as the Lachenpass and Lachungpass.

Bhutias forms 14% of the total population of Sikkim. Losar and Losoong are the main festivals celebrated among the Bhutia tribes.


Chenchu inhabit in the Nallamalai hills, which have been the part of the Nagarjuna Sagar Tiger Sanctuary for centuries in Andhra Pradesh, India. They are mainly found in the districts of Mahabubnagar, Nalgonda, Praksham, Guntur, and Kurnool.

Great Andamanese

Great Andamanese is the Negroid tribe inhabitant in the Andaman group of Islands. They form the largest population among the other tribes found in these islands. According to the census the population of Great Andamanese is now limited to few individuals.



The Sentinelese tribe, the most dangerous tribe in the world!

Located far into Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the Bay of Bengal in the Indian Ocean, North Sentinel Island is one of the most isolated places on earth. This remote island is home to the Sentinelese tribe, the most dangerous tribe in the world. The Sentinelese are hunter-gatherers, as agriculture is not known to them. Their diet consists mainly of coconuts and fish that can be found in the shallow waters around their shores. The Sentinelese would be described as Stone Age people. The women wear fibre strings tied around their waists, necks and heads. The men also wear necklaces and headbands, but with a thicker waist belt. The men carry spears, bows and arrows. Sometimes the Sentinelese appeared to make friendly gestures at others they would take the gifts into the forest and then fire arrows at the contact party. The population of North Sentinel Island is estimated at 250 individuals. The Sentinelese do not want help from outsiders.


Tribals in Tamilnadu

Tribes of Tamil Nadu are concentrated mainly in the district of Nilgiris. Of all the distinct tribes, the Kodas, the Thodas, the Irulas, the Kurumbas and the Badagas form the larger groups, who mainly had a pastoral existence. Other tribes include, Kattunayakan and Paliyan.

According to census 2011, tribal population in Tamil Nadu is 7, 94,697. There are around 38 tribes and sub-tribes group in Tamil Nadu. The tribal people are predominantly farmers and they are much dependant on the forest lands.

Toda: Men from the family of the tribes are occupied in milking and grazing their large herds of buffaloes. Their settlements are known as ‘Munds’. They do not worship any god and their consciousness is cosmic. They live in Nilgiris. Today, there are about a thousand Todas left.

Badaga: The Badagas belong to the backward class and are not classified as tribal. They are an agricultural community, dwelling in the higher plateau of the Nilgiris district in the state of Tamil Nadu. They are engaged in tea cultivation and potato growing. They form the largest group of tribes and boast a rich oral tradition of Folk tales, songs and poetry. These tribes are Hindu and belong to the shiva sect.

Kota: The Kotas are mainly concentrated in the Tiruchigadi area in the Nilagiri hills. They are distinguished by their colourful Folk dances and are basically musicians, who play at Badaa funerals. They are mainly engaged in producing handicrafts. These tribes of Tamil Nadu are expert iron smiths, potters and carpenters. In order to maintain distance and status in society, the Kotas implement elaborate tattoos.

Kurumbas: The Kurumbas tribes of this state inhabit the intermediate valleys and forests in Villages and were known for their black magic and witchcraft in the past. Their way of living today has changed from their original gathering and hunting existence to working in Coffee and Tea plantations as labourers. Kurumbas are perhaps the only main caste in southern India that has a specialized and distinctive Kurumbas Language.

Irula: The Irula tribes of Tamil Nadu occupy the lower slopes and forests at the base of the Nilgiri Hills. They constitute the second largest group of tribes after the Badagas and are similar to the Kurumbas in many ways. This tribe produces honey, fruits, herbs, roots, gum, dyes etc., and trades them with the people in the plains. In the recent times the Irulas help in catching snakes and collect the snake venom.

Paliyan: They are of the food gathering communities of Tamil Nadu. It is believed that the Paliyan originally belonged to the Palani hills. They are distributed in the districts of Madurai, Tanjavour, Pudukkottai, Tirunelveli and Coimbatore.



Language is an identification mark for different cultures. Because language is essential to communication, it strongly influences the sort of political, social and economic we create. As a result, economic and religious system frequently follows patterns of language distribution and political borders quite often parallel linguistic boundaries. In modern times linguistic diffusion has been facilitated by trade, tourism, media and international organizations. It has helped in the development of the linguistic pluralism. The greatest linguistic diversity is attributed to heterogeneous societies.

Tamil is one of the longest- surviving classical languages in the world. The earliest period of Tamil literature, Sangam literature, is dated from 300 BC (BCE) – AD (CE) 300. It has the oldest extant literature among Dravidian languages.


Major linguistic Families of the World

The classification of languages by origin and historical development is known as a genetic classification. The languages which are the descendants of common ancestral language are called proto – language

G.L. Trage has classified the languages of the world into 7 linguistic phylum and 30 linguistic families. Linguistic families are further classified in to sub families of languages, which denote major languages.

1. Indo-European - a. Indo-Iranian, b. Latin or Romantic, c. Germanic, d. Balto –Slavic, e. Celtic, f. Hellenic

2. Sino-Tibetan - a. Chinese, b. Tibetan, c. Burman

3. Afro-Asiatic – a. Semitic, b. Egyptian, c. Cushitic, d. Chadic

4. African – a. Niger – Congo (Atlantic, Voltaic, Benu-Nagar)

b. Sudanic (Chari-Nile, Saharan,) c. Click Languages (Khoisan)

5. Ural-Altaic - a. Finno-Igric, b. Turkic, c. Mangolic, d. Tunguzic

6. Dravidian- malayo – Polynesian-a. Dravidian, b. Malayan, c. Melanesian,

d. Micronesian, e. Polynesian, f. Austro-Asiatic.

7. Palaeo Asiatic- a.Yukaghir

As many as half of the world’s 7,000 languages are expected to be extinct by the end of this century; it is estimated that one language dies out every 14 days.


Major Languages of India

India has a rich Linguistic heritage and has heterogeneous ethnic and social groups, which have their own languages and dialects. According to census of India 1961, there were 187 languages spoken by various sections of Indian society. 23 major languages were spoken by about 97 percent population of the country. 22 languages excluding English are mentioned in the eighth schedule of the constitution of India as follows; Kashmiri, Punjabi, Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, Assamese, Guajarati, Marathi, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Sindhi, Sanskrit, Oriya, Nepali, Kongani, Manipuri, Bodo, Dogri, Maithili and Santali of these languages, 14 were initially included in the Constitution. Subsequently, Sindhi was added in 1967 by 21st constitutional amendment act; Konkani, Manipuri and Nepali were added in 1992 by 71st Constitutional Amendment Act; and Bodo, Dogri, Maithili and Santali were added in 2003 by 92nd Constitutional Amendment Act. Indian Languages belong mainly to four linguistic families

1. Austric – Munda, Mon-Khmer

2. Dravidan – Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Gondi, kurukh, orean, etc.

3. Sino- Tibetan- Bodo, Karen, Manipuri, etc.

4. Indo - Aryan – Hindi, Urdu, Sans.



A distinct linguistic form peculiar to a region or social group but which nevertheless, can be understood by speakers of other forms of the same language. The two main types of dialects are the geographic dialect, spoken by the people of the same area or locality, and the social dialect used by people of the same social class, educational level or occupational group.

Major dialects in India

More than 40 languages or dialects in India are considered to be endangered and are believed to be heading towards extinction as only a few thousand people speak them officials said.

According to a report of the census Directorate, there are 22 scheduled languages and 100 non –scheduled languages in India. The scheduled languages are 11 from Andaman and Nicobar, Seven from Manipur and Four from Himachal Pradesh. There are 42 languages spoken by less than 10,000 people. Some other languages also are in endangered position in India.

Major dialects in Tamil Nadu

Tamil is an interesting language with a range of native dialects. The language has several charming improvisations in different regions of the state. Many people are familiar with the old and familiar dialects of Tamil such as Chennai, Coimbatore, Madurai and Tirunelveli.


Fact File

UNESCO’S five levels of language risk:

Safe: Widely spoken

Vulnerable: Not spoken by children outside the home (600 languages)

Definitely endangered: Children not speaking (646 languages)

Severely endangered: Only spoken by oldest generations (527 languages)

Critically endangered: Spoken by only a few members of the oldest generation, often semi-speakers (577 languages)

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