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Bhils or Bheel are primarily an Adivasi people of Central India. Bhils are also settled in the Tharparkar District of Sindh, Pakistan. They speak the Bhil languages, a subgroup of the Western Zone of the Indo-Aryan languages.
Bhils are listed as Adivasi residents of the states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan - all in the western Deccan regions and central India - as well as in Tripura in far-eastern India, on the border with Bangladesh. Bhils are divided into a number of endogamous territorial divisions, which in turn have a number of clans and lineages. Most Bhils now speak the language of the region they reside in, such as Marathi and Gujarati. They mostly speak a dialect of Hindi.
The Ghoomar dance is one well-known aspect of Bhil culture.
In feudal and colonial times, many Bhils were employed by the ruling Rajputs in various capacities, e.g. as Shikaris because of their knowledge of the terrain. Many had even become warriors in armies.Bhils respected their motherland and were ready to defend it if anybody tried to occupy it. They were in the Mewar army of Maharana Pratap and, like Shivaji, were experts in guerilla warfare which the Mughal Empire had so much trouble handling. Today, there is a Mewar Bhil Corps.'
In Hindu mythology, popular Bhil figures are Shabari, who offered Rama and Lakshmana half-eaten jujubes when they were searching for Sita in the forest. Matanga was a Bhil sage who became a Brahmana.
According to a Brahman parohit of the Ahirias at Hodal, the Baurias and Ahirias are descended from Goha, a Bhil who married a Thakur, and the children were Baurias and Ahirias where the Ahirias are very mixed and the pure unmixed Bhils are the Baurias.[dubious ]
In Gujarat and Maharashtra, the Bhil are now mainly a community of settled farmers, with a significant minority who are landless agricultural labourers. A significant subsidiary occupation remains hunting and gathering. The Bhil are now largely Hindu, with Nidhi and Tadvi Bhil following Islam, and few sub-groups in the Dangs following Christianity. They continue to worship tribal deities such as Mogra Deo and Sitla Matta.
The Bhil are classified as a Scheduled Tribe in Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Tripura under the Indian government's reservation program of positive discrimination.
The Bhil are divided into a number of endogamous territorial divisions, which in turn have a number of clans and lineages. The main divisions in Gujarat are the Barda, Dungri Garasia and Vasava. While in Maharashtra, the Bhil Mavchi and Kotwal are their main sub-groups.
Pithora is a highly ritualistic painting done on the walls by several tribes like Rathwas, Bhils, and Naykas, who live in the central Gujarat, ninety kilometers from Vadodara, in a village called Tejgadh. In several other villages around Tejgadh (even in Madhya Pradesh) and Chhota Udaipur taluka of Vadodara district, lives a large population of these tribes where we find Pithora paintings on three inter walls of the house. These paintings have significance in their lives and executing the Pithora paintings in their homes brings peace, prosperity and happiness. What is even more interesting is that there is never an attempt to imitate nature. A horse or a bull, which might be a vision of a God, impresses him with only one central quality. This central quality is worked upon and given a form. It might be crude but it is this crudity that adds to the beauty of this painting.
Pithora paintings are more of a ritual than an art form. These rituals are performed either to thank God or for a wish or a boon to be granted. The Badwa or the head priest of the tribe is summoned and the problems are narrated. These problems can vary from dying cattle, to unwell children in the family. The concerned person is given a solution and is asked, by the Badwa, to perform the ritual and the painting. The presence of Pithora Baba is considered as a solution to all the problems. A Pithora is always located at the threshold, or the Osari, outside the first front wall or inside on the walls of the first room as one enters a house. The painting usually floods the entire wall with figures. Three walls are prepared for the painting, the front wall and the two on either side of it. The front or central wall is very large, twice the size of each of the sidewalls. These walls are treated with two layers of cow dung paste and one layer of white chalk powder. Unmarried girls bring in these materials. This procedure is called Lipna. The main wall of the verandah that divides it from the kitchen is considered sacred to the Pithoro. The wall paintings related to the legends of creation and Pithoro, are done on this wall. The two sidewalls of the veranda are also painted with figures of minor deities, ghosts and ancestors.
Bhil tribal girls in Jhabua
- "Gujarat: Data Highlights the Scheduled Tribes". Census of India 2001. Census Commission of India. Retrieved 2008-03-31.
- "Madhya Pradesh: Data Highlights the Scheduled Tribes". Census of India 2001. Census Commission of India. Retrieved 2008-03-06.
- "Maharashtra: Data Highlights the Scheduled Tribes". Census of India 2001. Census Commission of India. Retrieved 2008-03-31.
- "Rajasthan: Data Highlights the Scheduled Tribes". Census of India 2001. Census Commission of India. Retrieved 2008-03-31.
- People of India Gujarat Volume XXII Part One edited by R.B Lal, S.V Padmanabham & A Mohideen page 214 to 251 Popular Prakashan
- "The Mewar Encyclopedia". Archived from the original on 2008-03-06. Retrieved 2008-03-20.
- P. 75, A glossary of the tribes and castes of the Punjab and North-West frontier By H.A. Rose
- People of India Gujarat Volume XXII Part One edited by R.B Lal, S.V Padmanabham & A Mohideen page 214 to 221 Popular Prakashan
- People of India Maharashtra Volume XXX Part One edited by B.V Bhanu, B.R Bhatnagar, D.K Bose, V.S Kulkarni and J Sreenath pages 280–286
- "List of notified Scheduled Tribes". Census India. Retrieved 15 December 2013.
- "List of Scheduled Tribes". Census of India: Government of India. 7 March 2007. Retrieved 27 November 2012.
|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Bhils.|
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