Aborigines are the original inhabitants or members of indigenous groups of people of a country. In India, the term aboriginal is usually applied to the tribal population to indicate their being the earliest among the present inhabitants of this country or region.
Not all of them are in the same stage of culture or speak the same language or are racially homogeneous. They differ in these respects in a very marked manner.
Speaking very broadly, they may be divided into following groups according to their distribution, namely,
- The tribes living in the Northern and North-Eastern zone in the mountain valleys and Eastern frontiers of India.
- There is a second group which occupies the Central belt of the older hills and plateaus along the dividing line between Peninsular India and the Indo-Gangetic plains.
- In addition, there are tribes scattered over the extreme corners of South-Western India, in the hills and the converging lines of the Ghats.
In India there are various tribes such as Gurung (Tamu people), Mikir, Todas, Kachari, Singpho, Garo, Khasi, Naga, Limbu, Lepcha, Chakma, Oraon, Kharia, Birhor, Bagaras, Kotas, Juang, Santhal, Munda, Savara, Gond, Baiga, Kurumba, Chenchu, Malayan, Muthuvan, Kadar, Urali, and more.
These groups are distinguished from one another in language, culture and physical characteristics although within each group there are affinities in these respects to a large extent. The existence of cultural and regional divisions of these tribes is due to the nature, source and chronological differences in their migrations into this country.
Excepting the Todas, Badagas and Kotas of the Nilgiri Hills, who form a separate and closely knit economic unit, the basis of life of these aborigines of India revolves round hunting and food gathering as they have not yet developed a settled community life, but wander from one place to another in quest of food. With the simple implements in their possession, namely, a digging stick and a bill-hook, they collect edible roots, tubers, honey and fruit of the chase, such as birds and small animals, which constitute their chief means of subsistence. Fire was made by friction or by a drill and until, lately their wearing apparel consisted only of an apron made of leaves or a grass skirt.