Baiga tribe

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Regions with significant populations
Madhya Pradesh414,526[1]
Uttar Pradesh47,393
Chhattisgarhi • Hindi • Regional languages
Traditional religion, Sarnaism
Related ethnic groups
Mundas, Ho, Santhal and other Mon-Khmer people

The Baiga are an ethnic group found in central India primarily in the state of Madhya Pradesh, and in smaller numbers in the surrounding states of Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. The largest number of Baiga is found in Baiga-chuk in Mandla district and Balaghat district of Madhya Pradesh. They have sub-castes: Bijhwar, Narotia, Bharotiya, Nahar, Rai Bhain and Kadh Bhaina.


The Baiga are designated as a Scheduled Caste in much of Uttar Pradesh. The 2011 Census of India for that state showed those so classified as numbering 17,387.[2] They are, however, designated as a Scheduled Tribe in Sonbhadra district.[3]


The Baiga do not plow the land, because they say it would be a sin to scratch the breast of their Mother, and they could never ask their Mother to produce food from the same patch of earth time and time again: she would have become weakened. The Baiga tribes practice shifting cultivation, called 'bewar' or 'dahiya'.[4]



It is believed that the ancestors of the Baigas spoke an Austroasiatic language, however no trace of it is left now.[citation needed] Some Baigas (specifically those from the Mandla district) have mentioned "Baigani" as their mother tongue in the past: Baigani is now recognised as a variety of Chhattisgarhi influenced by Gondi.[5] Most Baigas communicate with outsiders in Hindi, and some of them also know a few local languages such as Gondi and Marathi depending on the region where they live.


Baiga tattoos

Tattooing is an integral part of their lifestyle. This tribe inhabits the dense hilly forests in the eastern part of the Satpuras, in Shahdol, Bilaspur, Rajnandgaon, Mandla and Balaghat districts.[6]

It is believed that this tribe is an offshoot of the Bhuiya tribe of Chhota Nagpur. A distinguishing feature of the Baiga tribe is that their women are famous for sporting tattoos of various kinds on almost all parts of their body. The women who work as tattooing artists belong to the Ojha, Badni and Dewar tribes of Madhya Pradesh are called Godharins. They are extremely knowledgeable about the different types of tattoos preferred by various tribes. Their mothers traditionally pass on this knowledge to them. Tattooing amongst the tribals commences with the approach of winter and continues until summer.[6]


Kodo millet, a primary food of the Baiga

Baiga cuisine primarily consists of coarse grains, such as kodo millet and kutki, and involves very little flour. Another staple food of the baiga is pej, a drink that can be made from ground macca or from the water left from boiling rice. They supplement this diet with food from the forest, including many fruits and vegetables. They hunt, primarily fish and small mammals.

Forced evictions[edit]

Since the 1960s, the Baiga have been the victims of forced evictions at the hands of the Indian authorities.[7] These are often carried out in the name of conservation, in an attempt to protect the tiger populations,[8] but have disastrous consequences for the displaced communities.[9]


  1. ^ "A-11 Individual Scheduled Tribe Primary Census Abstract Data and its Appendix". Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India. Retrieved 2017-11-18.
  2. ^ "A-10 Individual Scheduled Caste Primary Census Abstract Data and its Appendix - Uttar Pradesh". Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India. Retrieved 2017-02-04.
  3. ^ "State wise Scheduled Tribes — Uttar Pradesh" (PDF). Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-11-23. Retrieved 2017-02-04.
  4. ^ "Baiga tribals become India's first community to get habitat rights". Retrieved 2018-03-12.
  5. ^ Linguistic survey of India, Volume 6 by George Abraham Grierson. Page 241.
  6. ^ a b "The Tribune...Sunday Reading". Retrieved 2018-03-12.
  7. ^, 'the village Bhanpur Khera was relocated from inside the Khana National Park (a critical tiger habitat) way back in 1968.'
  8. ^ International, Survival. "Tiger Reserves, India". Retrieved 2018-07-13.
  9. ^ Menon, Meena; Menon, Meena (1 August 2012). "Relocation plan to nowhere land". Retrieved 21 April 2018 – via

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