Exotic tribes of ancient India

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The classic Indian epics, such as the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, and the Puranas, refer to diverse kinds of beings, describing them as superhuman or subhuman and other worldly extraterrestrials came to inhabit the living world. Many of these tribes have a strong historical basis, while the supernatural and fantastic aspects are considered literary speculation. These groups include Gandharvas, Yakshas, Kinnaras, Kimpurushas, Rakshasas, Nagas, Suparnas, Vanaras, Vidyadharas, Valakilyas, Pisachas, Rudras, Adityas, Danavas, Maruts, Nivatakavachas, Daityas, Kalakeyas and Vasus .


Main articles: Gandharva Kingdom and Gandharva

Gandharvas are described as fierce warriors who could challenge even the great Kshatriya warriors. They were also skilled in art, music and dance. Some Gandharva tribes were allied with the Devas and sometimes with Yakshas.


Main articles: Yaksha Kingdom and Yaksha
Kubera - Lord of Wealth & King of Yakshas

The Yakshas were a kind of beings whose king, Vaisravana or Kuvera, was a worshipper of Shiva. He is regarded in Hinduism as the Lord of all wealth.

According to Ramayan Kubera established or rebuilt the kingdom of Lanka (now known as Sri Lanka) and inhabited with Yaksa people. Later on Kuber's step brother Ravana (they had same father Vishrava) took over Sri Lanka, upon their father's request Kuber moved to the region near Kailasa mountain in Himalayas.


The Kinnaras are a tribe often spoken of along with the Gandharvas and Yakshas. Puranas mention about an Asura with a horse head, who was known as Hayagrīva (which in Sanskrit means the horse headed one; Haya = horse and grīva = Neck) This Asura was killed by an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, who took the similar form of a horse headed human figure.


Main article: Kimpurusha Kingdom

Kimpurushas were described to be lion faced beings. They were often mentioned along with the Kinnaras and the other exotic tribes. Some Puranas consider Kinnaras and Kimpurushas as same while Mahabharata contains passages where Kinnaras and Kimpurushas were considered as two separate groups.


Ravi Varma-Ravana Sita Jathayu

Rakshasas were cannibal and barbarian demons who roamed in the forests on earth, preying on humans and innocent creatures. Not all Rakshasas were evil.

According to the Ramayana Uttara Kanda, the first Rakshasas rose from the primordial waters along with the Yakshas. Hoti amd Prahoti were the first rulers of the Rakshasas. From the line of Hoti was born the Rakshasa Sumali. Hoti's most legendary descendant was Ravana.

Ravana was the most famous Rakshasa in Ancient India, who ruled from the Trikuta mountains of Lanka. He rose to the status of an emperor who exerted his direct control from Sri Lanka up to the south of Vindhya ranges in India, and indirectly the kingdoms beyond. Ghatotkacha was a Rakshasa born of the Pandava Bhima and the Rakshasa woman Hidimba. Rakshasa Ghatotkacha's kingdom was in Himalaya between Gangotri and Kailasa.

The famous Rakshasa kingdoms in India were

  1. Lanka Kingdom, ruled by Rakshasa emperor Ravana
  2. Danda Kingdom ruled by Khara, Ravana's general
  3. Rakshasa Ghatotkacha's kingdom in the Himalayas


Main articles: Naga Kingdom and Nāga
Battle between Arjuna's son Babhruvahana and the Nagas Razmnama, c. 1598

Nagas were a group of people spread throughout India during the period of the epic Mahabharata. The demi-god tribe called Suparnas (in which Garuda belonged) were arch-rivals of the Nagas.


Vishnu swoops down from heaven on an eagle named Garuda, who has four arms in this image, two of which hold vessels that probably contain the nectar of immortality.

The Suparnas (also known as Garudas) were probably the Falcon worshipping or falcon rearing tribes who conquered the Naga territories of north west India. They were arch-rivals of the Nagas. Garuda was a famous Suparna. They had the ability to fly in air without using an aircraft. Some literature tells that they had wings like that of Angels. Some believe that they were birds like the hawk or eagle. Some think that they were a race of intelligent Dragons in the family of Dinosaurs, that became extinct during the dawn of human civilizations. Yet another view is that Nagas and Garudas were the two rival factions of the same tribe. Mahabharata also support this view since it describes the two races originating from two mothers who were sisters, Nagas from Kadru & Garuda & Arun from Vinata.


Main articles: Vanara Kingdom and Vanara
Sampati meeting with Vanaras painted by Balasaheb Pandit Pant Pratinidhi

Vanaras were a tribe who dwelled within dense forests. During the time of Ramayana, the central part of Indian peninsula was covered by a dense forest by the name Dandaka Forest. Some of the Vanaras lived in this dense forest. Kishkindha was their stronghold, that had sway among the whole of the Vanara tribes spread all over the Indian Subcontinent. It was situated in this forest, located now near the Tungabhadra river in Karnataka state of India. Some literature describes them as monkeys, some as apes.

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