7 unique indigenous tribes of South Asia

Written By: WION Edge WION
Delhi, India Published: Sep 19, 2016, 01:42 PM(IST)

Nagas engaged in headhunting, preserving the heads of their enemies Photograph:( Twitter )

Natives of the world have their own way of living, distant from the rest. These are some 7 indigenous tribes from South Asia that are almost near- extinction:   

  • Veddas
‘The Forest People’ or Veddas are indigenous to Sri Lanka. Their language Vedda, is now extinct and the tribe speaks Sinhala and Tamil. They practise the religion of animism, worshipping the spirit of nature. The area’s last cave dwellers worship dead ancestors, called Nae Yaku. The hunt gatherers also have a peculiar deity unique to them named Kande Yakka, spirit of the mountain or rock. 

Veddas, Sri Lanka


  • Jarawa
One of the Adivasi indigenous peoples of the Andaman Islands in India, Jarawas are considered to be one of the most isolated natives in the world. Away from prying eyes earlier, they used to stay naked at all times with some adornments in the form of accessories made of palm leaves and sea shells. Currently, they are just 250-400 in number. 

Jarawa, India

  • Kalash
Indo-Aryan indigenous people of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan, can easily be clubbed under the country’s smallest religion. A unique group, the Kalash people are polytheists who lay emphasis on nature and offer sacrifices as a part of their culture. Their mythology and folklore has been compared by researchers to that of ancient Greece but are closer to Indo-Iranian traditions. They also have their own, distinct language. 

Kalash, Pakistan

  • Naga
A collection of several tribes, Nagas are native to north-eastern India and north-western Myanmar. They speak some 89 distinct languages, all part of Tibeto-Burman family. Nagas are expert craftsmen and each tribe has a unique way of constructing their house. Till 1969, Nagas also used to engage in headhunting, preserving the heads of their enemies as trophies.

Naga, India

  • Lhop
A small tribe of southwest Bhutan, The Lhop or Doya people are said to be the aboriginal inhabitants of the country. They trace their descent matrilineally and marry their cross cousins. Currently 2,500 in number, the tribe speaks Tibeto-Burmese language. Their religion is Tibetan Buddhism mixed with animism and they embalm their deceased who are then placed in a foetal position in a circular adorned coffin, above the ground. 


  • Bodo
Indigenous to Nepal and north-eastern India, Bodos are a silkworm rearing tribe. All families have their own silkworms and girls learn how to spin silk at a young age. Weaving also forms an integral part of their culture. The Bodos are a strong-knit community and practice a form of forefather worship called Obonglaoree. 

Bodo tribal dance, Nepal

  • Giraavaru
Native to Giraavaru Island in Maldives, the same named tribe were essentially those considered to be of lower caste than the others. Consequently due to isolation, they developed a series of heritable genetic disorders. The tribe is strictly monogamous and prohibits divorce. It is usually seen to be headed by a woman called Foolhuma-Dhaitha. They also wear unique necklaces of tiny blue beads, not seen on any other tribe. 

Maldives dance

Every South Asian country has various indigenous tribes of its own making it rich in cultures and traditions. 

(Contributed by: Zeba Khan)
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