Tribals in Kerala

Tribals in Kerala (Adivasis of Kerala) are the indigenous population found in the southern Indian state of Kerala. Most of the tribal people of Kerala live in the forests and mountains of Western Ghats, bordering Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

 

According to the 2001 census of India, the Scheduled Tribe population in Kerala is 3,64,189 (lunas – 180,169 and felunas – 184,020). Wayanad has the highest number of tribals (1,36,062). [idukki- (50973) and Palakkad (39665) districts are the next two that make the lion portion of the native tribal people groups in the state. The Paniya (Paniyar) are the largest of the 35 major tribes.

 

Tribal people groups who are food-gatherers, with diminishing population and very low or little literacy rates can be called as Primitive Tribes. Cholanaikkans, Kurumbas, Kattunaikans, Kadars and Koragas are the five primitive tribal groups in Kerala. They constitute nearly 5% of the total tribal population in the State. Cholanaikkans can be said as the most primitive of them and found only in the Malappuram District. Only a handful of families are living in the Mancheri hills of Nilambur forest division. Kattunaikans, another lower-hill community related to Cholanaikkans, are mainly seen in Wayanad district and some in Malappuram and Kozhikode districts. Kadar population is found in Trisur and Palakkad districts. Kurumbas are living in the Attappady Block of Palakkad district. The Koraga habitat is in the plain areas of Kasaragod district.

Major tribes

ADIYANS (Adiyars, Adigals) are inhabitants of the Wayanad District. They are found in Edappady, Cherur, Mottonkara, Kuppathode and Mudiramula, Bavali and in the low lying lands of Thaliparamba and North Waynad Taluks. They are also to be found in Mysore State. The word ADIYAN connotes......

ARANADANS are inhabitants of the Kozhikode District. Their name is the corruption of Eranadan, and connotes that they are a tribe of the Eranad Taluk. Their scattered settlements are in the low lying and undeveloped hill tracts of the Vazhikadavu, Karulai, Edakara, Shankerakulam and other......

CHOLANAIKKANS are inhabitants of the Malappuram District. Cholanaikkans are divided into ten territorial groups, each one having a particular area demarcated by natural boundaries. The territories are known as Karimpuzha, panapuzha, Kuppan maele, Pucappara, Thalipuzha, Korampuzha, Alakkal, Amblimaele, Olikkatodu and Manjakkadavu. They speak among themselves.......

ERAVALLANS are inhabitants of the Palghat District. They are seen settled in the Government Colony in the low lying lands adjoining the high mountains of the Moolathara village, Chittoor Taluk, and in the neighbouring Coimbatore District of the Madras State. They speak a poor dialect......

HILL PULAYAS are inhabitants of the Kottayam and Idukki District. They are seen at Kummithankuzhi, Thattikkad, Nachivayal, Malakkad,and Chavakkalam in the Chinnar and Marayoor villages of the Devikulam Taluk. This community have three sub groups, viz. Kurumba Pulaya, Karavazhi Pulaya and Pambu Pulaya. They are......

IRULARS are inhabitants of the Palghat District. They are seen at Pothupara, Mayamudi, Palakapandy and Kunapalam of the Nelliampathi hills, Chittoor Taluk, Koravan Kandi, Kavundikkal and Mattathukad of Agali Amsom, Attapady Valley, Perinthalmanna Taluk and in the Wayalar forests of the Palghat Taluk. The dialect......

KADARS are inhabitants of the Palghat, Trichur, Calicut and Kannur Districts. They are seen at Pooyamkutty, Orikombankutty, Muthirachal, pothupara and Kollengode forests of the Chittoor Taluk, Palghat District, and at Poringalkuthu, Ittiyani, Annakkayam and Chandanthode of the Mukunnapuram Taluk, Trichur District. Kuthirottom Kunnu and Vellamunda......

KANNIKARS (Kannikarans) are inhabitants of the Trivandrum and Kollam Districts. They are seen at Nalayadi, Ponmudi, Vithurai, Kalla, Nedumangad, Aryanad, Agastier Peak and Aruvikkara in the Nedumangad Taluk and at Kulathupuzha and Chitra in the Kollam District. They speak a dialect of Malayalam with an......

KARIMPALANS are inhabitants of the Kannur and Kozhikode Districts. They are seen at Kakur, Nanmanda, Chelanoor, Poonoor, Thamarasseri of the Kozhikode District, Thaliparamba, Alakode of the Kannur District and Wayanad District. Karimpalans speak a corrupt dialect of Malayalam with a few Tulu words and phrases.......

KATTUNAYAKANS are inhabitants of the Kozhikode and Kannur Districts. They are seen in the deep forests of high mountains of Kidaganad, Purakadi, Pulpalli, Noolpuzha, Maruthenkara, Tharuvana and Nallornad Amsoms of the Vythiri Taluk; Kattikulam Vemom, Chempara Peak and Nathapuram. They speak Malayalam and Tamil. Some......

KORAGARS are inhabitants of the Kannur District. They are seen at Hosbettu, Mudibidri, Puttur, Uppiangandi, Narampadi, Perdol, Bela, Manjeshwar, Mangalapalli of the Kasargod Taluk. They speak Koraga dialect within the family kin group and with others they speak Tulu, Malayalam and Kannada languages. The major......

The KUDIYA inhabit the hills and foothills of Kasargod District and its adjoining areas South Karnataka. The Kudiya’s mother tongue is Tulu although school going children learn both Kannada and Malayalam. The major economic resources for the Kudiya’s are forest and land. Hunting and gathering......

KURICHIANS are inhabitants of the Kannur and Kozhikode District. The Kurichian are one of the Scheduled Tribes of Kerala and stand fourth in number of members. The Kurichian are segmented into four subdivisions, viz. Kurichian of Wayanad, Kunnam Kurichian of Kannavam forest, Anchilla Kurichian of......

The community is spelled as Mullu Kuruman, Mulla Kuruman, Mullu Kurumba or Mulla kurumar. KURUMANS are inhabitants of the Wayanad District and also the adjoining Gudalur Taluk of Tamilnadu. They speak a dialect of their own called Kurumaba which is an unintelligible dialect of Kannada......

KURUMBA live in the dense forests of Attappadi Valley, Palakkad District. They are popularly known as Kurumba Pulayans, Mala Pulayans, Hill Pulayans and Pamba Pulayans. The Kurumba have dialect of their own, locally called Kurumba Basha. The patios seem to be a debased form of......

MAHA MALASARS are habitants of the Palaghat district. They are seen at Sungam,Thekkadi and in the Parambikulam and adjoining forests of Coimbatore District of Tamilnadu. They speak a dialect of their own, and use a mixture of Tamil and Malayalam with others. The major natural......

MALA ARAYANS are inhabitants of the Peerumadu, Devikolam and Thodupuzha taluks of the Idukki District and Kanjirapally and Meenachil taluks of the Kottayam District. They speak and write in Malayalam among themselves and also with outsiders. The educated members are able to speak in English......

MALA KURAVANS are inhabitants of the Trivandrum, Kollam and Kottayam Districts. They are seen in Chittar, Kattachira and Rajampara in the Ranni range, Pathanamthitta taluk, Nottakal in the Pathanapuram Taluk, on the banks of the Pamba river and in the low lying undeveloped forest tracts......

The Malai Pandaram or otherwise termed as Hill Pandaram is a scheduled tribe. They are settled along the Pamba river, Achan koil river and in Pathanapuram and near Shencotta ranges in Kollam District. Some have migrated now to Srikrishnapuram in the Palakkad District. The reason......

MALA PANICKARS are habitants of the Kozhikode District. They are seen at Badavuram, Mambad Amsom, Ramachanpotti, Vambad Amsom, Vadapuram Desom, Vadakumpadam and Kaliara, Nilambur Amsom and Karikad near Manjeri in the Eranad Taluk. Land is the major natural resource of the Mala Panickar community and......

MALA VEDANS are habitants of the Kottayam and Quilon Districts. They are seen at Kadimeenchira, Narayanamuzhi, Kumarapuram and Katachira of Pathanamthitta taluk. Ottakkal, Orukunnu, Thenkashi, Thenmalai and Achankovil of Pathanapuram Taluk. The Mala Vedans speak a dialect of Tamil and Malayalam, which is unintelligible. The......

MALA VETTUVANS are habitants of the Kannur District. They are seen at Prapoyil, Thirumani, Thadikadavu and Padiyur, Vayakara Amsom of the Thaliparamba Taluk. The 2011 Census recorded their population as 17,869. They speak a very poor dialect of Malayalam with many Tulu words and idioms.......

MALASARS are habitants of the Palakkad and Thrissur District. They are seen in the Nelliampathi hills of the Nemmara Taluk, Thuthanpara and Pothumudi Villages, Kollengode private forests and Sungam in the Chittoor Taluk. The 2011 Census recorded their population as 3,195. They speak a poor......

MALAYANS are distributed in the Malabar region comprising Kozhikode, Kannur and Malappuram Districts. According to the 2011 census, their population can be estimated to be 5,917. Their mother tongue is Malayalam which is used as spoken and written language among themselves and with others. The......

The MANNANS are distributed throughout Kerala, in the plains and coastal regions. They speak a dialect of Tamil and Malayalam with a very peculiar acent and converse it is difficult to understand. The economy of Mannan is centered around cultivation. Land is the main natural......

The Marati are also called as Maratha or Marathi. The Marati is derived from the language that they converse. Marathi as a caste name, is somewhat open to confusion and it is probable that many people of various castes, who speak Marathi, are shown as......

MAVILANS are habitants of the Kannur district. They are seen in the Vayakara, Thadikadavu, Padyoor, Kalliat, Nidyanga and envessy Amsoms of Thaliparamba Taluk. They speak Tulu and have a good talking knowledge of Malayalam. The Mavilans are divided into two distinct groups known as Tulumans......

MUDUGARS are habitants of the Palghat District. They are seen at Agali and Pudur Amsoms, Attapady Valley, Perinthalmanna Taluk and in the Walayar forests of the Palghat Taluk. According to the 2011 census, their population can be estimated to be 23,746. They speak muduga bhasha......

In Malayalam, the word Muthuvan means those who carry something on their back. It is said that they carried their children and belongings on their back during their migration to the Western Ghats, hence they were called Muthuvan. The Muthuvan are distributed in Idukki districts......

PALLIYARS are habitants of the Kottayam district. They are seen in tribal settlements at Kumali, Periyar range, Chekupalam and Anakara of the Vendemedu Range in the udumbinshola Taluk. They are not now seen in their original settlements at sinnamala, Periyamala and Sinnasundam. Those in Kerala......

PANIYANS are habitants of Palakkad, Kozhikode and Kannur districts. They are also seen at Manantody and Vythiri taluks. They speak a very corrupt dialect of Malayalam with an admixture of Tamil and Tulu words and phrases which is difficult to understand. According to the 2011......

Thachanadens are habitants of the Kozhikode District. They are seen at Meppadi, Rippon, Ambalakunnu, Kallumala, Rotakolli, Idinzhkolli and Kaniyambetta in Vythiri Taluk of Wayanad district. The Thachanad Muppan are immigrants from Nilambur inn Malappuram district. The name is reported to have originated from their place......

In the Southern parts of Travancore, the Ulladan are also known as Nayadi and colloquially ass Nadi. The Ulladan perceive their distribution mainly in Palakkad, Thrissur, Ernakulam, Kottayam, Alappuzha, Kollam and Thiruvananthapuram districts.According to the 2011 census, their population can be estimated to be 16,230.......

The word Uraly means the ruler of a village. The Uraly were formerly employed as soldiers, who eventually spread into the adjoining districts of Madurai. They are inhabitants of Idukki District. According to the 2011 census, their population can be estimated to be 11,179. They......

VEETA KURUMANS otherwise known as Urali Kuruman. They are seen at Purakadi, Kalpetta, Kuppathode, Noolpuzha and Kidagad Amsoms of Vythiri Taluk of Kozhikode District, Attapady valley of the Palakkad District and the reserve forest areas of the Kannur District. According to the 2011 census, their......

The community name known as Kadars, are also known as Wayanad Kadar. The term ‘Kadar’ in Malayalam means one who lives in the forest – by implication, uncivilised. The Wayanad Kadar are found only in the Wayanad District of Kerala. They do not have synonyms,......

Major tribes

Tribals in Kerala are living on the hill ranges, mainly on the Western Ghat, bordering Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. As a natural border, the mountain has branches in Kerala as well as in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. The tribals on the Kerala hills are only listed here.

 

It is estimated that there are about 4 lakh tribal people living in Kerala and about half of this population has made the interiors of Wayanad their home. The tribals were the original inhabitants of Wayanad region. But once the British era opened roads to this region and commercial plantations began to sprout, there occurred a migration of settlers to this region and during the 1940s this migration enhanced tremendously displacing the aborigines or adivasis of the area. The tribes lost their land and dwindled in numbers and now they constitute only 20 percent of the total population of the district.

The native Adivasis of the district belong to various sects like Paniyas, Kurumas, Adiyars, Kurichyas, Ooralis, Kattunaikkans and Uraali Kurumas. They are mostly physically distinguishable with darker skin and stout built physique. They often live in houses made of thatched roof, mud, bamboo and brick houses set in swampy valleys and plateaus. Though many of them said to be primitive tribes, all of them have a story of migration to the hills. It is likely to believe that these tribes were living there for several centuries! “The story of tribes on the Western Ghat mountainous ranges have is less than 300 years”, says Philipose Vaidyar who had visited and stayed with several of these tribal groups. Cholanaikkan is said to be the most primitive and a vanishing tribe. “Discussions with them, and the history during the British times, the capture of local kings and their fights have much to reveal about their migration from the valley to the hills” he says. Read more about Tippu Sulthan and Pazhassi King and learn how some people were lost in the deep forests. The Irular people of Idukki districts complaint about the heavy taxes they had to pay to the kings which resulted in their exodus from the Kochi kingdom to that of an animal kingdom. History of British period approves this.

Area Tribes
Kasaragod Koragar, Maradi
Wayanad Paniyar, Kurichyar, Kattunaikkar,
Mullukkurumar, Adiyar, Kanduvadiyar,
Thachanadar, Kanaladi
Attappadi Irular, Kurumbar, Mudugar
Nilambur Cholanaikkar, Aranadan, Kadar,
Alar, Paniyar
Parambikkulam Kadar,malasar,malamalasar
Idukki Malampadaram, Malappulayan, Malayarayar,
Urali, Muthuvan, Mannan
Nedumangad Kanikkar, Malandar