Kerala’s Scheduled Tribes

Total Scheduled Tribal population in Kerala composes 1.5 percent of the total population. (Census 2011) All India sex ratio of ST is 978 in (2001 Census) and 990 in (2011 Census) and in Kerala 1021 in (2000 Census) and 1035 in (2011 Census). Tribal population in Kerala distributed among all the districts with major concentration in Wayanad, Idukki, Palakkad and Kasergod districts. (Mathur P.R.G. 1977).

Out of forty eight tribal communities found in Kerala, thirty seven of them were categorised as scheduled tribes. Kerala has the population in its all districts. Wayanad, Idukki, and Palakkad districts constitute major tribal population in Kerala. Paniyas, Maratis, Malayarayans, Kuruvans, Kurichens and Erulas are the major tribal communities in Kerala. In Kerala Koraga, Cholanaikkans, Kurumba, Kadar and Kattunaikkans are the five indigenous tribal groups catagarised as PVTGs.

Source: Role of gender and social capital in sustainable livelihood promotion of Kadar tribe in Kerala (PhD thesis by Sujeesh, M.K, The Gandhigram Rural Institute, 2014, Introduction, p. 4)
Date visited: 30 May 2019

Empowering Women in Agriculture by M. S Swaminathan Research Foundation >>

The state of Kerala is globally acclaimed for its social development, especially its male to female sex ratio, high literacy rate, low birth rate, low maternal mortality, low infant mortality, high life expectancy and average age at marriage. According to Franke and Chasin (1994), the indicators of Kerala are close to those of the United Sates, despite the low gross state domestic product. However, this rosy picture of progress has been challenged by scholars, development practitioners and members of civil society organizations who have been working with the women, dalits, tribals and fishermen in the state, besides addressing environmental concerns. The concerns emerged during the mid-1980s, when it was found that in this glorified ‘Kerala model’ of development, there was clear evidence of oppression along the lines of class, caste, ethnicity (tribe) and gender. There were associated manifestations of violence against the marginalized people. Economic and social development are interrelated, and in any development discourse, it is of prime importance to consider the distribution of economic growth and equitable access and control over resources.

Source: Empowering Women in Agriculture: Paniya Adivasi Women’s Innovative Livelihood Development Endeavours in Farming
Date visited: 7 July 2019

Research the above issues with the help of Shodhganga: A reservoir of theses from universities all over India, made available under Open Access >>

In Kerala there are still 37 Scheduled Tribes out of 48 tribal communities; their number is only 1.26% of the state’s population.  What this figure indicates is that the rate of the assimilation of the aboriginals of Kerala has been extremely rapid.  In the past few years 11 tribal communities have been declassified on account of the social and cultural porgress they have made.

Among the Scheduled Tribes of Kerala the numerically dominant ones are the Pulayans, Paniyans, Maratis, Malayarayar, Kurumans, Kurichiyans, and Irulas.  The numerical strength of each remaining tribes is more or less 1,000.  I am happy to record that my anthropological, linguistic and folklonstic research has been primarily among the Kadar, Cholanayikkar, Mudugar, Irular, Pulayar, and Kurumbar.  I have also worked among the Santals of West Bengal.

Most of these tribes are forest-dwellers and food-gatherers.  Increasingly, they are found living on the fringes of the forests near the highways and the villages of the plainspeople, yet apart from them.  This frontier existence of the tribals is highly symbolic.  They are caught between two worlds.  Their forest home cannot support them any longer, for food in forests is getting scarce because of the state policy against deforestation.

There are fewer and fewer wild animals to hunt; there is also a legal ban on hunting.  For rice and clothes they have to depend on the plainspeople who continue to exploit the helplessness of the tribals.  The few tribesmen who go to towns looking for jobs soon find it difficult to cope with the demands of civilization and return home to jungles to live on the edge of culture and nature.

Source: Kerala – Gateway To Paradise (Kerala History, Kerala Society, Kerala Culture)
Address :
Date Visited: Sun Jul 10 2011 12:21:07 GMT+0200 (CEST)

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More references –

Ooralis Tribe
The Western Ghats as well as the coastal plains of Kerala are home to a number of tribes. The Ooralis are among the few tree-dwelling tribes of the nation, found around the famous Periyar Tiger Reserve. Not many trees are used to live in, yet they serve as watchtowers to keep a check on elephants and boars that stray into the fields. The Mananns, or expert fishermen, traditionally collect honey from heights usually abuzz with dangerous hill bees. These fishermen who usually climb at night to avoid being stung, scale the trees with the help of bamboo spikes that are hammered into these trees.

Dravidian Tribes
The Kadars, Paniyans, Muduvansand the Malayans belong to the early Dravidian race and could be found in the hilly tracts. These tribes, with their flat nose, short stature and dark skin, apparently belong to the Negrito race.

Irular Tribe
Among the Irular tribe of Palaghat District, ritual dance and music accompany death rites. The hill tribes try to appease Maladaivangal, the Hill God, through a number of rituals that include dancing and singing, lest they gets wiped out.

Hill Tribes
The hill tribes do not contribute to the economic mainstream as much as the Pulayans, Parayans, Nayadis and Ulattans– the agricultural labourers do. A lot of Christian converts are from the Pulaya tribe. Most of the tribes otherwise, belong to the lower castes of society, employed usually as agricultural or industrial labourers. The Mavilon, Velan and Koppalan are some of the other tribes of Kerala.

Source: Kerala Religion and Culture, Kerala Culture, Religion of Kerala India, Religion and Culture of Kerala India
Address :
Date Visited: Sun Jul 10 2011 12:40:49 GMT+0200 (CEST)

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