Tribals in Kerala

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A Tribal School in Nilambur

Tribals in Kerala (Adivasis of Kerala) are the indigenous population found in the southern Indian state of Kerala. Most of the tribal people of Kerala live in the forests and mountains of Western Ghats, bordering Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

According to the 2001 census of India, the Scheduled Tribe population in Kerala is 3,64,189 (lunas - 180,169 and felunas - 184,020). Wayanad has the highest number of tribals (1,36,062). [idukki- (50973) and Palakkad (39665) districts are the next two that make up the lion's share of the native tribal people groups in the state. The Paniya (Paniyar) are the largest of the 66 major tribes. There are other tribal communities in the Kasargod district in the state of Kerala known as Mavilan.

Primitive tribes[edit]

Tribal people groups who are food-gatherers (without any habit of agricultural practice), with diminishing population and very low or little literacy rates can be called as Primitive Tribes.Currently known as "Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTG). Cholanaikkans, Kurumbas, Kattunaikans, Kadars and Koragas are the five primitive tribal groups in Kerala. They constitute nearly 5% of the total tribal population in the State. Cholanaikkans can be said as the most primitive of them and found only in the Malappuram District. Only a handful of families are living in the Mancheri hills of Nilambur forest division. Kattunaikans, another lower-hill community related to Cholanaikkans, are mainly seen in Wayanad district and some in Malappuram and Kozhikode districts. Kadar population is found in Trisur and Palakkad districts. Kurumbas are living in the Attappady Block of Palakkad district. The Koraga habitat is in the plain areas of Kasaragod district. In kasargod district other than Koraga Mavilan is another tribal community

Major tribes[edit]

Tribals in Kerala are living on the hill ranges, mainly on the Western Ghat, bordering Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. As a natural border, the mountain has branches in Kerala as well as in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. The tribals on the Kerala hills are only listed here.

It is estimated that there are about 4 lakh tribal people living in Kerala and about half of this population has made the interiors of Wayanad their home. The tribals were the original inhabitants of Wayanad region. But once the British era opened roads to this region and commercial plantations began to sprout, there occurred a migration of settlers to this region and during the 1940s this migration enhanced tremendously displacing the aborigines or adivasis of the area. The tribes lost their land and dwindled in numbers and now they constitute only 20 percent of the total population of the district.

The native Adivasis of the district belong to various sects like Paniyas, Kurumas, Adiyars, Kurichyas, Ooralis, Kattunaikkans and Uraali Kurumas. They are mostly physically distinguishable with darker skin and stout built physique. They often live in houses made of thatched roof, mud, bamboo and brick houses set in swampy valleys and plateaus. Though many of them said to be primitive tribes, all of them have a story of migration to the hills. It is likely to believe that these tribes were living there for several centuries! "The story of tribes on the Western Ghat mountainous ranges have is less than 300 years", says Philipose Vaidyar who had visited and stayed with several of these tribal groups. Cholanaikkan is said to be the most primitive and a vanishing tribe. "Discussions with them, and the history during the British times, the capture of local kings and their fights have much to reveal about their migration from the valley to the hills" he says. Read more about Tippu Sulthan and Pazhassi King and learn how some people were lost in the deep forests. The Irular people of Idukki districts complaint about the heavy taxes they had to pay to the kings which resulted in their exodus from the Kochi kingdom to that of an animal kingdom. History of British period approves this.

Area Tribes
Kasaragod Koragar, Maradi
Wayanad Paniyar, Kurichyar, Kattunaikkar,
Mullukkurumar, Adiyar, Kanduvadiyar,
Thachanadar, Kanaladi
Attappadi Irular, Kurumbar, Mudugar
Nilambur Cholanaikkar, Aranadan, Kadar,
Alar, Paniyar
Parambikkulam Kadar,malasar,malamalasar
Idukki Malampadaram, Malappulayan, Malayarayar,
Urali, Muthuvan, Mannan
Nedumangad Kanikkar, Malandar