Bhil people

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Bhils or Bheel
Children in Raisen district, MP, India.jpg
Bhil children in Madhya Pradesh
Regions with significant populations
        Madhya Pradesh5,993,921[2]
        Andhra Pradesh604[2]
Pakistan (Sindh)382,000[citation needed]
Bhil languages, Marathi, Gujarati, Sindhi, Hindustani
Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, indigenous religions[3]
Related ethnic groups
Indo-Aryan peoples, Gonds, Tamil

Bhils or Bheels are primarily an ethnic group of people in West 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. As of 2013, Bhils were the largest tribal group in India.[4]

Bhils are listed as indigenous people 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, Gujarati or a Hindustani dialect.

Present circumstances[edit]

In Azamgarh and Jaunpur, 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 traditionally Hindu, with Nirdhi following Islam, and few sub-groups in the Dangs following Christianity. They continue to worship tribal deities such as Dev Mogra Mata and Sitla Mata.[5][6]

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.[1]


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.[5]

In Rajasthan, they exist as Bhil Garasia, Dholi Bhil, Dungri Bhil, Dungri Garasia, Mewasi Bhil, Rawal Bhil, Tadvi Bhil, Bhagalia, Bhilala, Pawra, Vasava and Vasave.[7][a]


Partial specimen of the Bhili language

The language commonly spoken by Bhils throughout their geographic distribution is Bhili.[8] Bhili has about up to 36 identified dialects and pronunciation differs by region.[8][9] Bhili is based on Gujarati, but dialects of Bhili gradually merge into more widely-spoken languages such as Marathi in the southeast and Rajasthani in the northwest.[10]

Estimates of individuals speaking the language are often inaccurate as speakers of minor languages like Bhili have sometimes been treated as having major languages (such as Marathi or Gujarati) as their mother tongue.[11]


Bhils have rich and unique culture. The Bhilala sub-division is known for its Pithora painting.[12] Ghoomar is a traditional folk dance of Bhil tribe.[13][14]


Main foods of Bhils are maize, onion, garlic and Chilli which they cultivate in their small fields. The vegitables and fruits collected by them from forests. Wheat and rice are used at time of festivals and other special occasions only. They keep self-made bows and arrow, sword, Knife, axe etc with them as weapon for self-protection and hunting the wild fauna which also form the major part of their diet. They profusely use alcohol distilled by them from the flower of Mahua(Madhuca longifolia). On festive occasions various special preparation from the dish rich, i.e Makka, genhu, lapsi, kasar and chawal etc. Bhils are traditionally non-vegetarian. They eat the meat of Goat, Chicken, Fish, Bull, Deer etc.[15]

Faith and worship[edit]

Every village has its own local deity (Gramdev) and families too have their Jatidev, Kuldev and Kuldevi(house hold deity) which is symbolised by stones. 'Bhati dev' and 'Bhilat dev' are their serpent-god. 'Baba dev' is their village god. Karkulia dev is their crop god, Gopal dev is their pastoral god, Bag dev is their Lion god, Bhairav dev is their dog god. Some of their other gods are Indel dev, Bada dev, Mahadevel, Tejaji, Lotha mai, Techma, Orka Chichma and Kajal dev.

They have much faith in magico-religious beliefs and Bhopas for their physical, mental and psycological treatements. [16]


There are a number of festivals, viz. Rakhi, Navratri, Dashera, Diwali, Holi which celebrated by the Bhils. They also celebrate some traditional festivals viz. Akhatij, Navmi, Howan Mata ki Chalavani, Sawan Mata ki jatar, Diwasa, Nawai, Bhagoria, Gal, Gar, Dhobi, Sanja, Indel, Doha etc with ceremonious zeal and ethusiasm.

During some festivals there are a number of tribal fairs held at different places of districts. Navratri mela, Bhagoria mela(during Holi festival) etc.[17]

Communal dance and festivities[edit]

The chief means of their recreation is folk songs and dances. Women dance at birth celebrations, marriage functions and on a few festivals in traditional Bhili style accompanied by a drum beat. Their dances include the Lathi dance, Dhol dance, marriage dance, Holi dance, Battle dance, Bhagoria dance, Deepawal dance and hunting dance. Musical instruments include the Harmonium, Sarangi, kundi, Bansuri, apang, khajria, Tabla, jhanjh, Mandal and Thali. They are usually made from local products.[18]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ The Vasava and Vasave in Rajasthan may be alternate transliterations of the name for a single community. The sources are unclear regarding this.


  1. ^ a b "List of notified Scheduled Tribes" (PDF). Census India. Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 November 2013. Retrieved 15 December 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i "A-11 Individual Scheduled Tribe Primary Census Abstract Data and its Appendix". Census of India 2011. Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner,used India. Retrieved 2017-03-24.
  3. ^ 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
  4. ^ Statistical Profile of Scheduled Tribes in India (PDF). New Delhi: Ministry of Tribal Affairs. 2013. p. 10.
  5. ^ a b People of India Gujarat Volume XXII Part One edited by R.B Lal, S.V Padmanabham & A Mohideen page 214 to 221 Popular Prakashan
  6. ^ 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
  7. ^ "List of Scheduled Tribes". Census of India: Government of India. 7 March 2007. Archived from the original on 5 June 2010. Retrieved 27 November 2012.
  8. ^ a b Mehta, Sonu (2004). "Bhils - I". In Mehta, Prakash Chandra. Ethnographic Atlas of Indian Tribes. New Delhi: Discovery Publishing House. p. 191.
  9. ^ Phillips, Maxwell P. (2012). Dialect Continuum in the Bhil Tribal Belt: Grammatical Aspects. University of London. p. 23.
  10. ^ Ratnagar, Shereen (2010). Being Tribal. Delhi: Primus Books.
  11. ^ "Paper No. I - Languages". Census of India 1951. 1954. p. 61.
  12. ^ Pachauri, Swasti (26 June 2014). "Pithora art depicts different hues of tribal life". Indian Express. Retrieved 13 February 2015.
  13. ^ Kumar, Ashok Kiran (2014). Inquisitive Social Sciences. Republic of India: S. Chand Publishing. p. 93. ISBN 9789352831098.
  14. ^ Danver, Steven L. (June 28, 2014). Native People of The World. United States of America: Routledge. p. 522. ISBN 076568294X.
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