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By Swami Harshananda

Sometimes transliterated as: Adivasis, AdivAsIs, AAdivaasis

Ādivāsīs literally means ‘Original inhabitants’.

The population of the Ādivāsīs in India exceed thirty million. They are primarily to be found in north-east India, Bihar, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and parts of Maharashtra, Deccan and South India. It is unknown how many have come as migrants vs how many are actually ‘original’ inhabitants. The various tribes of Adivāsis largely inhabiting the mountain and jungle areas, differ widely from one another with regard to racial characteristics, language, food habits, modes of dress, means of occupation as also their cult and culture.

Their religious beliefs and observances include the worship of nature and totems as also their ancestors and spirits. They have many taboos and bloody sacrifices are common. Priests typically have a tight grip over the community. Modern education, wherever it has percolated, is resulting in changing their their life style.


  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore