Found this very interesting album of old tribes and people of India while surfing on net (source on bottom). It’s amazing to see the diversity of people in India, which was considerably more just 100 years back. A lot of the tribes mentioned here have abandoned their old customs, way of living and have assimilated with modern world. Although it may have provided them a better life in some ways, the loss of this heritage is something which will be missed.
They have only been met with in Keonjhar, and they are found there in small communities widely separated. The man holds the only implement that they use in tillage. It is the origin of the plough ! The handle with the crook is all one piece of wood ; in the illustration the crook is made to appear as if it was fitted on to the handle, but this is incorrect, there is no joint, and there should have been no shade at the junction. The only use they ever make of cattle is to offer them as sacrifice to the gods. Thus we have in the Bendkars a people who in their agriculture use neither iron nor cattle.
A Bor Abor girl, belonging probably to some village near the great Dihong River in the Sub-Himalayan range. These ladies crop their hair all round as the least troublesome method of disposing of it. The illustration gives a capital representation of their strongly marked Mongolian features, and their coarse, good-tempered faces. This young girl’s costume and the ornaments are all apparently from the North ; the blue vitreous turquoise-like beads, which our glass manufacturers cannot imitate, and cornelian and agate pebbles.
A typical, but not a favourable specimen of a Chulikata, or crop-haired, Mishmi woman. This tribe occupies the hills north of Sadiya, but their country is so difficult of access, that very little is known about it. They trade between Tibet and Assam, when at peace ; but they are considered the most treacherous and aggressive of all the North-Eastern tribes, though more skilled in arts and manufactures than their neighbours, the Abors to the East, and the Mishmis to the West, They are called Chulikata, or crop-haired, from their having originated the modern fashion of cutting the hair straight across the forehead. The men cut theirs to the level of the rims of their wicker helmets as far as the back of the ear ; both sexes wear it long behind.
These are both good average specimens of the tribe. They are, as a rule, fairer and with softer features than the Abors, acquiring from their journeys across the snow a becoming ruddiness of complexion. The young women have generally pretty figures, which their costume shows to advantage. The frontlet, a thin plate of bright silver, is a picturesque and becoming ornament, worn on the forehead by all women who can afford it. They are a quiet, inoffensive people, occupying the hills and skirts of the hills between the Digaru and Dilli Rivers, two of the north hill-affluents of the Brahmaputra, and devoting themselves chiefly to trade.
The Andamanese represent a type found only in these islands, and have affinity with no other race on the Indian continent. They are probably a remnant of a Negrito people at one time inhabiting Burma or the Malay Peninsula. In ancient times the Andaman
Islands seem to have been connected with the Malay Peninsula, and thus migration became possible. As regards physical characteristics, the Andamanese are short in stature, the skin when dean is black, and the hair so excessively woolly, that when separated from the head, it is almost unrecognisable as human hair. They are nomadic, having, generally speak’ing, no fixed dwelling-places. Their numbers have considerably decreased owing to infertility, high infant mortality, an increase in the death-rate among adults, the last due to change of environment under the influence of civilisation, and to imported diseases.
The Doms are a semi-nomadic tribe found in Bihar and the adjoining districts of the United Provinces f Agra and Oudh. One group of them, known as Maghaiya, are habitual thieves and burglars. Other sections are more or less settled, and live mainly by making mats and baskets out of slips of bamboo. Their social status is very low, because they eat beef, pork, horse-flesh,’ field-rats, and even the flesh of animals which have died a natural death—all abominations to orthodox Hindus. They act as executioners, and at holy places lord it at the burningground, because they alone can supply fire to light the funeral pyre, and they must be heavily bribed before they will permit the corpse to be cremated.
The Kamars of Bihar are distinguished from the Lohars, the ordinary blacksmiths of Northern India, by not confining themselves to working in iron. They work in gold and silver also, and in Eastern Bengal make cooking vessels of brass and other similar alloys. Hence they hold a higher rank than the Lohars, and Brahmans will take water from their hand. They pride themselves on not allowing their women to wear noserings. Like other artizan castes, they worship Visvakarma, the divine architect of the Universe, who is often represented by the hammer, anvil, and other tools used in their handicraft.
This is one of the wildest of the Kolarian tribes. They are found in the hills of the Sarguja and Jashpur States in the Province of Chutia Nagpur.
The Mochis or Muchis are a branch of the Chamar caste. The Mochis’ chief business is the making of the slipper-like shoes worn by their customers. They also, as in the illustration, manufacture drums. The covering is made of goat skins, while strips of cowhide are used for tightening the parchment. In all native drums, at one or both ends, black circles are inscribed with a paste of iron filings and rice in order to improve the pitch.
Besides ordinary work in wood, they carve conch-shells into bracelets, make images of the gods, and paint religious pictures. They are probably recruited from the non-Aryan or indigenous races. Their chief object of worship is Visvakarma, the divine architect of the Universe, sometimes represented as a white man with three eyes and bearing a club ; but more usually he is symbolised by the tools used by the householder, which are set up and decorated with flowers ; offerings are presented to them, and the god is besought to favour his votaries in their profession during the coming year.
The photographs of the young Juang man and girls were taken by the late Mr. Tosco Peppe at Gonasika in Keonjhar, one of the Cuttack Tributary States, the legendary cradle of the race. The young.man keeps his spare arrows hanging by the barbs from his matted black hair, as is also the custom of the Korwas. The beads or bugles forming the girdles worn by the girls are of fine earthenware made by themselves. The bracelets are of brass and the necklaces of glass beads or flowers. The rest of the attire is of leaves. Mr. Peppe had immense difficulty in inducing these wild timid creatures to pose before him, and it was not without many a tear that they resigned themselves to the ordeal. It is right to mention that they were brought in from the forest, where they had been searching for their daily bread, which chiefly consists of forest produce, and their leaves were not as neatly arranged as they would have been if the girls had had time to make a fresh toilette.
The Kadirs are a jungle tribe found in the Anaimalai or Elephant Hills of Madras and other ranges extending southwards into the State of Travancore. They are of short stature, with a dark skin and broad nose. They are a happy people, living on the produce of the forests where they reside. They are nomad in habit, building neat huts at places which they temporarily occupy ; good trackers and expert in the pursuit of game ; wonderfully clever in climbing high trees, their method of ascent closely resembling that of the Dayaks of Borneo. They have a horror of cattle, and will not touch the products of the cow. Their reticence in regard to the disposal of the dead has given rise to a legend that they eat the corpse. The remarkable custom of chipping the teeth ‘curiously resembles that of th^ Jakuns of the Malay Peninsula. The Kadirs chip all or some of the upper and lower incisors into the form of a sharp-pointed, but not serrated, cone. This is done by means of a chisel, bill-hook, and file. Both sexes undergo the operation; it is said that it makes an ugly man or woman handsome, and that a person who has not been improved in this way has teeth and eats like a cow.
The chief seat of the Khamtis, who are a branch of the Shan or Tai race, is in Bor Khamti, a Province of Burma, on the Upper Irrawady. Several colonies from thence have settled in Upper Assam on both banks of the Brahmaputra River, east of Sadiya. They are Buddhists in religion, and by far the most intelligent of the tribes of the North-Eastern Frontier. This is a very typical representation of a young Khamti woman. The elevation of the hair on the crown of the head indicates that she is married, and the style is recommended as dignified and becoming. Unmarried girls wear it in a roll low down on the occiput. They are exceedingly industrious, spin, weave, dye, and embroider, and can themselves make up all that they wear. The jacket is ordinarily of cotton, dyed blue ; the petticoat of the same material, and round the waist a coloured silk scarf as a sash. But the dress of the lady in the illustration is of richer material—black velvet bodice and silk skirt. The ear ornaments are of amber.
The Lepchas are found in Western Bhutan, Eastern Nepal, and in the small State between both, called Sikkim. They are well known at Darjeeling.
The very respectable-looking gentleman here represented and the richly bedizened old lady belong, I presume, to the upper class of Limbu society. The Limbus or Kirantis are represented by Mr. Hodgson and others as approximating in appearance to the darker Turanian race in colour and feature, but the old lady is apparently of light complexion, and has a very Mongolian type of face.
These are admirable illustrations of one of the Naga tribes, who are found in the hills south of the Nowgong district, between the Doyang and Kopili Rivers, in the Assam Province. There is nothing that I know of except the name to connect these clans with the tribes east of the Doyang. Their features are harsher, more decidedly Mongolian ; and their language, which is quite different, associates them with the Manipuri and Kuki tribes and their cognates.
The Gurkhas, the ruhng race of Nepal, who defeated the indigenous Newars and occupied the country in 1769 A.D., are the result of a mixture of fugitives of Rajputs and other high-caste people of the Plains, who escaped to the hills during the Muhammadan invasion of the 1 2th century, and on their arrival in Nepal formed alliances with the Newars. The remarkable skirt worn by the Maharani in the illustration has been described in a lively fashion by Lady Dufferin :” The first view of her was that of a mass of light. gauze above and a pair of legs clothed in white trousers below. The thin pink and yellow striped material was not a petticoat, and I am quite at a loss to imagine how it was put on, or how many hundred yards were in it. It looked just as if a great piece had been unrolled, and unrolled, and then picked up and half wound round and half carried by the wearer.
The above are Mundas of villages close to Ranchi, the capital of the Province of Chutia Nagpur, who living with Oraons have adopted their style of decoration. They are good typical representatives of the race, though not handsome specimens. They show the breadth of face and obliquity of eye, which affirm the north-eastern origin ascribed to them.
These are very fair specimens of the great Oraon tribe who have been sometimes called the ‘ navvies’ of India. The nijcleus of the tribe is in Chutia Nagpur proper, from whence they have spread as settlers to all the surrounding districts, and as labourers to Assam, Kachar, Mauritius, the West Indies, and other British and. French Colonies.
This is a fine picture of the old-fashioned, learned Brahman of Northern India, whose life is devoted to the study of Sanskrit literature and the observance of an intricate form of ritual. He has been little influenced by Western culture. He wears wooden clogs, held between his toes by a brass peg, because the touch of leather is a source of ceremonial pollution. He carries a rosary, by the help of which he mutters prayers or holy texts, and recites the names of the Deity whom he worships. He is in many ways like the Nambutiri Brahman of Malabar, the most primitive type of Brahman. But the latter have preserved their isolation more successfully than their Northern brethren, who have lived for centuries under foreign Governments. His title Vidyapat implies that he is a master of learning.
The Sholagas are a jungle tribe inhabiting the British District of Coimbatore and the adjoining parts of the Mysore State. They live on millet paste and yams, supplemented by sundry jungle animals and birds,but they will not eat parroquets, which they say are their children. Their main occupation is the collection of various jungle fruits, roots, bark, and honey from cavities in the rocks. They bury their dead, and after the funeral erect in the burial-ground of the sept to which the dead man belonged a memorial stone to serve as an abode for the spirit. They are excellent trackers of game, and some of them have recently begun to do a little rude cultivation. Those of the better class have a simple form of marriage ceremony;but the poorer members merely elope with their brides to a distant jungle, and return home only after a child has been born.
This is a good typical representation of a young Singhbhum Ho or Kol of the clan, or Kili, Koadadah. In his right hand he grasps the national weapon called ‘tangi.’ This division of the Kols, called also the Larka, or warlike Kols, are found only in Singhbhum.
The Baloch are believed to have entered their present territory from the west in the 14th and 15th centuries A.D. They are a fine, manly race, expert horsemen, and fight well under officers whom they know and trust. The ordinary tribesman usually carries a sword, knife, and shield, and rides to combat, but fights on foot. In physical characteristics they present a contrast to their Afghan neighbours, being shorter in build, more spare and wiry. The hair is usually worn long, in oily curls, and cleanliness is considered a mark of effeminacy. They have a bold bearing, frank manner, and are fairly truthful. Courage is the highest virtue, and hospitality a sacred duty. Owing to their custom of admitting outsiders into their septs, they are heterogeneous in origin. Their adherence to Islam is little more than a veneer over their primitive Animism, but, unlike the Afghan, they are seldom fanatical.