- India has the second-largest population of tribal people worldwide. Scheduled tribes make up 8.6 percent of India’s population, according to the 2011 Census.
- They are autochthonous (being indigenous rather than being migrants or re-settlers) to the land. This qualifies them to be the earliest owners of the land.
Evolution of Tribal Culture in India
- The evidence of the earliest tribal culture comes from India’s Upper Palaeolithic period, when a variety of tools show that this culture was alive but still developing. During the Upper Palaeolithic era, artistic attempts sprouted.
- Twelve years before the discovery of Altamira in Spain – the location of the oldest rock paintings in the world – the first known discovery of rock paintings was made in India in 1867–1868 by archeologist Archibald Carlleyle at Sohagihat in the Mirzapur district of Uttar Pradesh.
- Bhimbetka, Jogimara in Madhya Pradesh, Lakhudiyar in Uttarakhand, Tekkalkotta in Karnataka and Kupgallu in Telangana, among other places, are some examples of early rock painting sites.
- A stick-like representation of a human was in use. The primary animal motifs in the early paintings include a fox, a multi-legged lizard, and a creature with a long nose (later many other animals were drawn).
- There are also wavy lines, filled rectangular geometric patterns, and a cluster of dots. Paintings are superimposed, starting with Black, moving on to Red, and finishing with White colour.
- The subjects of paintings evolved during the late historic, early historic, and Neolithic periods, and creatures like bulls, elephants, sambars, gazelles, sheep, horses, styled humans, tridents, and occasionally vegetal motifs started to appear.
- The Mesolithic period, which came after, is the one with the greatest concentration of paintings, the majority of which feature hunting scenes. In some of the images, men are being pursued by animals, while in others, hunter-men brandishing arrows and barbed spears are doing the chasing.
- A common theme is presented by community dances.
- Then came the copper and bronze ages. The Indus Valley Civilisation (IVC) coincided with this era. The civilisation placed great importance on art and culture.
- A red sandstone figure of a man’s torso and a soapstone bust of a bearded man are two excellent illustrations of how to handle three dimensional volumes.
- Steatite seals and tablets with beautiful animal figures, including unicorns, bulls, rhinoceroses, tigers, elephants, bisons, goats, and buffalos, are also occasionally made of agate, chert, copper, faience, and terracotta.
- Perforated pottery was probably used to strain liquids. From bone and baked clay to gold and semi-precious stones, beads and ornaments are made from every imaginable material.
Popular Tribal Art Forms Across India
- There are numerous tribal painting styles, each with its own set of colours and themes. The Bhil are India’s largest tribal group, according to the 2011 Census. Bhil culture places a high value on art. Bhil paintings are characterised by large, un-lifelike shapes of everyday characters that are filled in with earthy, yet bold colours before being covered with an overlay of uniform dots in a diverse array of colours and patterns that stand out against the background.
- Warli Painting is yet another popular tribal form. Warli is a traditional Maharashtra art form that traces its origins back to the 10th century A.D. Basic geometric shapes such as circles, triangles, and squares dominate these paintings. The paintings’ central themes are scenes depicting hunting, fishing, farming, and festivals, with dances, trees, and animals used to surround the central theme.
- Another tribe, the Saura, has a unique culture. States like Odisha, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, and Maharashtra are home to them. Nature’s splendour is celebrated in Saura art. The ‘Tree of Life’, which has human and animal inhabitants on its branches and symbolises the harmonious coexistence of humans and animals, is the basis for the majority of paintings.
- The eastern Indian states of West Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand, and Chhattisgarh are home to the ancient folk-art tradition known as dhokra. Dhokra craft objects are made using the lost wax-casting technique, which is one of the earliest and most advanced methods of metal casting known to human civilisation.
Tribal Dance Forms
- In 2010, UNESCO inscribed Kalbelia, a folk dance of Rajasthan, on the Representative List of Humanity’s Intangible Cultural Heritage. Women in flowing black skirts dance and swirl, mimicking serpent movements, while men accompany them on the khanjari instrument and the poongi, a woodwind instrument traditionally used to catch snakes.
- People from the Kashmiri tribe Rauf perform the Dumhal dance. Drums are used to accompany the music as dancers sing in chorus.
- Hojagiri is a popular tribal dance in India performed by the Riang community of Tripura. The performers are not permitted to move their upper torsos or arms.
- In Dadra and Nagar Haveli, the Kokna tribesmen perform the Bhavada tribal dance, which features masks and colourful costumes. Summer nights are chosen for the performance.
- Gussadi, another ancient tribal dance form, is performed by the Raj Gonds in Telangana. It lasts a fortnight and is also presented by Dandari troupes during the festival.
- There are tribal dances that are gender specific, just like in Kalbelia. Mudiyattam is a type of tribal group dance that is frequently performed by women in Kerala.
Tribal Music of India
- Karnataka’s Dollu Kunitha is a drum dance performed to singing. Most of the men in the Kuruba community – a group of shepherds – perform this style of dance.
- The Tarphaor Pavri, a wind instrument made of dried gourd, is used to accompany Kokna tribal dance in the hilly regions of northwest India. As a result, the Kokna dance is also known as Trapha Nach or Pavri Nach.
- Art is vast, and so is culture. Culture encompasses more than just performing and visual arts. Religion, language, cuisine, and social customs are all included under the broader term of culture. In a sense, culture subsumes within its scope the ‘way of life’ of communities.