Bhil people

Bhils or Bheels are an Indo-Aryan speaking ethnic group in West India. They speak the Bhil languages, a subgroup of the Western Zone of the Indo-Aryan languages. As of 2013, Bhils were the largest tribal group in India.[3]

Bhils are listed as indigenous people of the states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan—all in the western Deccan regions and central India—as well as in Tripura in far-eastern India, on the border with Bangladesh. Bhils are divided into a number of endogamous territorial divisions, which in turn have a number of clans and lineages. Most Bhils now speak the language of the region they reside in, such as Marathi, Gujarati or a Hindustani dialect.

The Bhils of what is now the state of Gujurat rebelled on several occasions during the British colonial era, notably in 1846, 1857-58 and 1868.[4]

The Bhils are inhabitants of Dhar, Jhabua, Khargone and Ratlam districts of Madhya Pradesh. A large number of Bhils live in the neighbouring States of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan. They constitute the third largest tribe of India; the first two being Gonds and Santhals [5]

The Bhil are classified as a Scheduled Tribe in Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Tripura under the Indian government's reservation program of positive discrimination.[2]

The Bhil are divided into a number of endogamous territorial divisions, which in turn have a number of clans and lineages. In Rajasthan, they exist as Meena, Bhil Garasia, Dholi Bhil, Dungri Bhil, Dungri Garasia, Mewasi Bhil, Rawal Bhil, Tadvi Bhil, Bhagalia, Bhilala, Pawra, Vasava and Vasave.[6][a]

Madhya Pradesh has the largest Tribal population of all the states. Agariya, Andh, Baiga, Bhaina, Bharia, Bhumia, Bhuinhar, Bhumiya, Bharia, Pando, Bhattra, Bhil, Bhilala, Barela, Patelia, Bhil, Mina. Gond, Arakh, Arrakh, Agaria, Asur, Badi Maria, Bada Maria, Bhatola, Bhimma, Bhuta, Koilabuta, Koliabhuti, Bhar, Bisonhorn Maria, Chota Maria, Dandami Maria, Dhuru, Dhurwa, Dhoba, Dhulia, Dorla, Gaiki, Gatta, Gatti, Gaita, Gond, Gowari, Hill Maria, Kandra, Karariya, Kararia, Karari, Karria, Kalanga, Khatola, Koitar, Koya, Khirwar, khirwara, kucha, Maria, Madia, Maria, Mana, Mannewar, Moghya, Mogia Monghya, Mudia, Muria [7][8]

The language commonly spoken by Bhils throughout their geographic distribution is Bhili.[9] Bhili has about up to 36 identified dialects and pronunciation differs by region.[9][10] Bhili is based on Gujarati, but dialects of Bhili gradually merge into more widely spoken languages such as Marathi in the southeast and Rajasthani in the northwest.[11]

Estimates of individuals speaking the language are often inaccurate as speakers of minor languages like Bhili have sometimes been treated as having major languages (such as Marathi or Gujarati) as their mother tongue.[12]

Bhils have rich and unique culture. The Bhilala sub-division is known for its Pithora painting.[13] Ghoomar is a traditional folk dance of Bhil tribe.[14][15] Ghoomar is the symbol of womanhood. Young girls take part in this dance and declare that they are stepping into the shoes of women.

Bhil painting is characterised by the use of multi-coloured dots as in-filling. Bhuri Bai was the first Bhil artist to paint using readymade colours and paper. Other known Bhil artists include Lado Bai, Sher Singh, Ram Singh and Dubu Bariya.[16]

Main foods of Bhils are maize, onion, garlic and chili which they cultivate in their small fields. They collect fruits and vegetables from the local forests. Wheat and rice are used at time of festivals and other special occasions only. They keep self-made bows and arrows, swords, knives, axes etc with them as weapons for self-defense and hunting the wild fauna which also form the major part of their diet. They profusely use alcohol distilled by them from the flower of Mahua (Madhuca longifolia). On festive occasions, various special preparation from the dish rich, i.e. maize, wheat, barley, malt and rice. Bhils are traditionally non-vegetarian.[17]

The traditional dresses of men are Pagri, Angarkha, Dhoti and Gamchha. Traditionally women wear Sari and Ghagra Choli.

There are many traditional ornaments of Bhils. Men wear Kada, Bajuband, Chain, ear rings, Kardhani. Women wear variety of ornaments including hansli, ring, Zele-zumke, earring, narniyan[what language is this?] (bangle), nathni (nose-jewel) etc. Tattooing is traditional custom among them. Women folks do tattooing generally before marriage.[17]

Every village has its own local deity (Gramdev) and families too have their Jatidev, Kuldev and Kuldevi (house hold deity) which is symbolised by stones. 'Bhati dev' and 'Bhilat dev' are their serpent-god. 'Baba dev' is their village god. Karkulia dev is their crop god, Gopal dev is their pastoral god, Bag dev is their Lion god, Bhairav dev is their dog god. Some of their other gods are Indel dev, Bada dev, Mahadevel, Tejaji, Lotha mai, Techma, Orka Chichma and Kajal dev.

They have extreme and staunch faith in superstitious beliefs and Bhopas for their physical, mental and psychological treatments.[17]

There are a number of festivals, viz. Rakhi, Navratri, Dashera, Diwali, Holi which are celebrated by the Bhils. They also celebrate some traditional festivals viz. Akhatij, Navmi, Howan Mata ki Chalavani, Sawan Mata ki jatar, Diwasa, Nawai, Bhagoria, Gal, Gar, Dhobi, Sanja, Indel, Doha etc. with ceremonious zeal and enthusiasm.

During some festivals there are a number of tribal fairs held at different places of districts. Navratri mela, Bhagoria mela (during Holi festival) etc.[17] Bhil community of Udaipur celebrate Gavari festival each year after Holi.[18]

The chief means of their recreation is folk songs and dances. Women dance at birth celebrations, marriage functions t on a few festivals in traditional Bhili style accompanied by a drum beat. Their dances include the Lathi (staff) dance, Dhol dance, marriage dance, Holi dance, Battle dance, Bhagoria dance, Deepawal dance and hunting dance. Musical instruments include the Harmonium, Sarangi, Kundi, Bansuri, Apang, Khajria, Tabla, Jhanjh, Mandal and Thali. They are usually made from local products.[17]

Traditional Bhil villages are led by a headman (gameti). The gameti has authority and decision-making powers over most local disputes or issues.[19]