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Regions with significant populations
Tamil Nadu
Vagriboli, Tamil
Related ethnic groups
Dravidian people

The Narikurava (IAST: Narikkuṟava) is an indigenous community from Indian state of Tamil Nadu.[1]

The main occupation of the people who originally belong to the indigenous tribes, is hunting. But as they were prohibited entry into the forests to pursue this livelihood, they were forced to take up other alternatives such as selling beaded ornaments to survive. Hence, they migrate from place to place to find a market for their beads. Children accompany the adults wherever they go, which means they never get to attend school.

During British rule in India they were placed under Criminal Tribes Act 1871, hence stigmatized for a long time, after Independence. However, they were denotified in 1952, though the stigma continues.[2]


The word "Narikurava" is a combination of the Tamil words "Nari" and "Kurava" meaning "jackal people"[3][4] or the "fox people".[5] This appellation has been bestowed upon them due to their adeptness in hunting and trapping jackals.[3]


As per a theory propounded by Werth in 1966 and Fraser, authorities on the gypsies of Europe, believes that the Domar are the ancestors of the Romani people and therefore, the Narikuravas are related to the Romani.[6] while Edgar Thurston feels that they are related to the Khonds of Orissa.[6]


The Narikuravas speak an Indo-Aryan language called Vagriboli.[3][7] SIL Ethnologue classifies it as a dialect of the Domari language.[citation needed]

Due to this reason, they are also known as Vagris or Vagrivalas.[7][8] Almost all Narikuravas are well-versed in Tamil. However, most of the Narikurava liturgical hymns and folk songs are in Vagriboli.


A Narikorava shop selling beads

Although all Kuravars come under one roof based on their common clan name kuravars they were broadly sub-divided into two sub-divisions: the[9] buffalo-sacrificers and Nandevala[9] or goat-sacrificers.[10] But they are Commonly classified based on the region they originate from. The Seliyos have only one sub-sect—the Vithiyo.[10]

Customs and practices[edit]

Each Narikurava clan has a bundle of clothes called sami-mootai meaning "God's bundle".[10] It is filled with blood of animals sacrificed by the Narikuravas and clothes dipped in them. The sami-mootai of one clan must not be touched by members of another clan. On the death of the head of the family, his eldest son inherits the sami-mootai.[10] The prestige a clan-leader holds depends on the antiquity of his sami-mootai.


Silambam is a stick fighting style that supposedly originated from the Kurinji hills some 5000 years ago, where the native Narikuravar used bamboo staves called Silambamboo to defend themselves against wild animals.[11]


The major issues which confront Narikuravas are poverty, illiteracy, diseases and discrimination.

There has been discrimination of Narikuravas since ancient times. Due to their consumption of animals tabooed by settled Hindu communities and other habits, they are considered untouchable and are excluded from streets inhabited by upper castes. This has led to protests and resentment from the community.[12] However, the Narikuravas are yet to be recognized as a scheduled tribe.

High crime rates and unemployment are other problems which afflict the Narikurava community. The proscription of fox-hunting as well as killing endangered species of birds and wildlife have depleted the Narikuravas of their traditional sources of livelihood. As a result, unemployed Narikurava youth are taking to crime and illegal activities. There have also been instances when Narikurava have been arrested for the possession of unregistered firearms as country rifles which are banned according to the Indian laws.[13]

On 1996, a social-welfare organization named Narikurava Seva Sangam was formed in order to educate Narikurava children and facilitate them to lead a settled life. Other social-welfare organizations, too, have poured in their efforts to improve the lives of the Narikuravas.[14] In May 2008, the creation of a Welfare Board for the Narikuravas headed by the Backward Classes Minister was authorized by the State Government.[15] Steady progress is being made in educating Narikuravas and assimilating them into society. The demand for the Welfare Board and remove them from the Backward Class list and include them into Scheduled Tribes.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ About the Narikurava Retrieved 29 September 2013
  2. ^ Meena Radhakrishna (2006-07-16). "Dishonoured by history". folio: Special issue with the Sunday Magazine. The Hindu. Archived from the original on 2011-04-24. Retrieved 2007-05-31.
  3. ^ a b c S. Theodore Baskeran (1989). "Introduction to Narikorava Studies, from Gift Siromoney's website". Retrieved 2008-07-26.
  4. ^ The Land Pirates of India, Pg 64
  5. ^ Viramma, p 287
  6. ^ a b Conservation and Mobile Indigenous Peoples, p 265
  7. ^ a b Indira Viswanathan Peterson (2002). "Peasants, nomadic hillwomen and birdcatchers: Landscape and environmental dialogues in early modern South Indian literature" (PDF). Mount Holyoke College. Retrieved 2008-07-26., Pg 48
  8. ^ Conservation and Mobile Indigenous Peoples, p 264
  9. ^ a b Conservation and Mobile Indigenous Peoples, p 271
  10. ^ a b c d J.P.Vijayathilakan (1977). "Some ceremonies of the Narikoravas". Studies on Vaagrivala. Retrieved 2008-07-26.
  11. ^ "Some basic facts about silambam". Retrieved 2008-07-28.
  12. ^ "Narikuravas running from pillar to post for ST status". The Hindu: Friday Review. 14 January 2005. Retrieved 2008-07-28.
  13. ^ "Narikoravas arrested". The Hindu: Vellore. 26 July 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-28.
  14. ^ "Narikuravar Education Welfare Society". Retrieved 2008-07-28.
  15. ^ "Welfare board for narikuravas created". The Hindu:Tamil Nadu. 23 May 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-28.


Further reading[edit]

  • Hatch, William John (1928). The Land Pirates of India. Seeley, Service & Co.
  • Vijayathilakan, J. P. (1977). Studies on Vaagrivala. Madras Christian College, Department of Statistics.
  • Sathyanandan, D. Theodore (2000). The Problems of Narikorava Community in Tamilnadu. Christian Literature Society.
  • Thurston, Edgar; K. Rangachari (1909). Castes and Tribes of Southern India Volume IV - K: Kuruvikkaran, Pg 181 to 187. Madras: Government Press.

External links[edit]