Brief Details of Bhil

Bhil

Bhil is the second largest tribe in India. According to census 2001 the population of Bhil tribe was 3441945 out of them were 1749813 males and 1695132 were female. The Bhil tribal community mainly resides in Rajasthan, western Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and northern Maharashtra. Some families have migrated to other states like Tripura for job in tea gardens. In Bhil tribe, sub-tribes Bhil-Garasia and Dholi Bhil are included.

Bhil Tribe in Gujarat

In Gujarat the population of Bhil tribe in 2001 was 34,41,945-male 17,46,813 and female 16,95,132. They are 46% of total tribal population of the state. The population includes people of sub tribes like Bhil Garasia and Dholi Bhil. Bhil tribal community mainly live in Banaskantha, Sabarkantha, Panchmahal, Bharuch, Vadodara, Surat and Dang districts. Bhil tribe is the dominant tribe in Guajarat. In north Gujarat they are close to Rajasthan Bhil and their sub tribes. In Panchmahal, Vadodara and Bharuch districts Bhil tribe is in close contact with Rathava, Dhanaka, Patelia and Nayaka who live in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. In south Gujarat Bhil are in close contact with other tribes of the area and tribes of Maharashtra.

Bhil tribe divided into major groups are Bhil Garasia, Vasave Bhil, Pawra Bhil and Tadai Bhil. There are some minor groups.

History

Bhil tribes have a long history of their existence. Bhil love arrow and bow and it is believed that their name emerged from Dravid language word "billu" means bow and arrow. Their reference is in old literature Ramayana (in context of Shabri) and Mahabharata in context of Eklavya. In Sanskrit literature Bhil tribe occurs in Katha-Sarit-Sagar (600 A.D.). The mention of Bhil chief mounted on elephant and opposing with great force the progress of another king through the Vindhya Mountains.

It is also believed that in earlier times Bhils were having the political power but after defeat Bhils took refuge in jungles and hilly area. In Udaipur and nearby area the Rajput and then Muslims snatched their small states. Maratthas also looted their territory and harassed the tribe. Bhil are physically very strong and without their support it was not possible to keep the power with them so Rajput Rajas honored Bhil chiefs by putting their figure in their emblem. Bhil chiefs used to be invited at the time of coronation of Rajput Raja, to put his blood mark on king's forehead. This used to be important part of coronation ceremony. The Rajput recognized the tribal leaders as their allies and as the leaders-gameti of their respective communities. There were both commensally and connubial relationships between bhils and Rajput.

Bio-Anthropological Characteristics

The Bhil and sub tribes have been studied extensively for various bio-anthropological characteristics. These studies indicate that the Bhil in general are below medium or short-statured in height, tend to have a round head shape and have a round or oblong facial profile with a mesorrhine nose form. The ASO blood group system of this community shows a wide variability of gene (16-27 per cent) and gene B (20-35 per cent. They show a high incidence of gene M (57-64 per cent) and Hp2 (83 per cent) allele and a lower frequency of color-blindness. The Bhils of Gujarat show a moderate to high frequencies (14 to 24 per cent) of sickle cell trait. Bhils are generally black in body colour and some are whitish or Asian white. In Dangs the Bhils are mostly dark. People with a fair complexion are also seen among the Bhil Garasias of Sabarkantha and Banaskantha districts Prof. Majumdar (1944) conducted an anthropometric survey of the Bhils of Panch Mahals district and has come out with the following results.

CharactersMeanValues
Stature162.67.499
Max. Head Breadth137.48.339
Max. Head length181.87.430
Bizygomatic breadth131.32.335
Nasal Length84.60.241
Total facial length112.22.486
C.I.75.65.206
N.I.77.19.593
T.G.I.85.64.362

Bhils have stout body and hard worker generally of dark complexion.

Setting

Bhils live on mounds and hilly tracks where presence of mineral deposits of important minerals is available. Rich forest wild lives surround Bhil villages. In the area archaeological sites resulted in the unearthing of Mesolithic and Protohistoric civilizations. The rocks are part of the Aravali system.

Flora and Fauna

Among Bhil villages more common trees are Mango, Babul (Acasia Arabica) the bar (Ficus bengalensis), the dhak (Butea frondosa), the guler (Ficus glomerata), the Jamun (Eugenia jamocana), the khair (Acacia catechu), the Khajur (Phoenix Silvestris), the khejra (Prospis spicigera), the mahua (Bassia catifolia), the papal (Ficus religiosa), and the runjara (Acacia leubophloea). Some other trees are found less frequently is bahra (Terminalia bellerica), dhaman (Grewia oppositjolia), haldu (Adina cordifolia, sagvan Tectona grandis) salar (Beswellia tomentosa) and bamboo. Smaller shrubs include akra (Calotropis procera), anwala (Casia auriculata) karand (Caress carandas), Thor (Euphorlia nerrifolia) and sitaphal. In rainy season on slops are found variety of plants and grass. The climate is moderate free from the terrific cold and excessive heat.

Language

They speak in Bhili, which belongs to the Indo-Aryan family of languages. As they do not have script so it is a dialect. Rajasthani, Gujarati, Marathi, Hindi and other regional languages, depending on the state to which the group is attached, influence bhili-dialect. According to census 1981, 4,293.314 persons were using Bhili language. But all are bilingual and use the regional language. In Gujarat Bhils also use Vaghari as a spoken language, which is cross of Mewari and Gujarati. As literacy among the Bhil tribe is not very high, only 44.3 % were literate by 2001, they read and write in Gujarati Language.

Habitat, Type of Villages

Traditionally Bhil communities are having their villages on mounds and hill slopes. The territorial grouping is a pal, consisting of a few falias. A pal is usually multi-clan in nature and as such pal endogamy poses no problem. Even when the pal is large, the Bhils within a pal perceive its social boundaries. They also adhere to concerned sanctions and taboos to uphold a higher order of integration and solidarity. Sudden exigencies are conveyed through the beating of drums, the tone, speed and style of which is understood, in terms of meaning, by people who readily respond to express their solidarity. Even outside the pal, the Bhils continue to recognize their social identity. There are many multi-ethnic villages where Bhil families live, they share the concerns of the village community but preserve their own identity. In villages there are cultural overlapping, the Bhils continue to remain out of caste order.

Clans

They have many clans traditional and newly emerged. Some traditional clans are-Ahir, Bhavare, Bhore Kole, Bijary, Baganda, Borshe, Gaikvad, Mali, Pawar, etc. In towns and cities many Bhil families are residing, but they try to share a common colony. For example in Ahmedabad city there is Bhil colony known as Bhil Vas. In rural settlements a small group of families live in a village sector known as Falia is planned with the guidance of senior members of families. They plan the falia designing it on availability of water, land for agriculture, availability of fire-wood and grassland for the cattle.

Clan members believe themselves to be the descendants of a common ancestor of the remote past, and are conscious of a sort of brotherhood. But for having common goddess and a common name for identification, the members of a clan have hardly any thing in common. Segments of numerous clans may be found distributed over many villages but more often in village members of one clan form the majority while those of other clans are in relatively smaller numbers. Members of a clan-Got are brothers and agnates, marriage in same clan is not possible, and people believe got is like a caste. The name of different clans emerged on the basis of different places from where the people have come.

Name of Clans:

Dress

Bhils of north Gujarat males wear Dhoti, Kurata and Safa-head gear and ornaments like ring and Tabij in neck. Women wear Ghagara, Choli and Odhani. Women like ornaments and wear rings in toes, rings in fingers of hands, Chudia in hands and various type of ornaments as given in the drawings. Old generation of Bhils of central and south Gujarat used to wear langota in waist, wear mundasa on head and cover body with cloth sheet. Women cover the waist with kachota or dark colored petticoat. Kanchuli is used to cover breasts and odhani ? in red or dark colour is used to cover head and body. With increase of availability and spread of Hat-bajjar modern dresses have reached to interiors in tribal areas. Generally senior people prefer Dhoti- Kurta and women like colourful saris. Though traditional ornaments are still in fashion but decorative plastic ornaments have been adopted as cheap and easily available items.

Food

Bhils are non vegetarian. They eat fish including fish including dry fish, crab, eggs, poultry birds; mutton, fowl and the Bhils of Dangs district also eat occasionally the meat of buffalo. In the forest areas the wild game are a delicacy to them.

Marriage

The groups among the Bhils are endogamous which are further divided into clans and lineages. Marriage alliances are not contracted within the kin group upon to five generations from both mother's and father's side, and usually not before attaining adulthood. Marriages are preferably arranged through negotiation, marriage by service, pre-marital courtship, elopement, intrusion, and some times court marriages are also accepted. Payment of bride price is the traditional custom but in urban areas dowry is also given. Bhils are monogamous. Toe ring are the symbol of marriage for a woman. Divorce and remarriage are permissible for either spouse but compensation has to be paid to the divorced person as decided by the caste council.

An arranged marriage is negotiated by the parents or guardians of the boy and the girl. The initiative is generally taken by the boy's family. Before marriage the boy’s parents inquire about the girl-about her looks and nature. The most important thing to be considered is whether there is already a claimant to the girl.

Some times young persons start their conjugal life without referring, or taking permission from parents. Having affair among adult boys and girls is normal behaviour. After betrothal with the help of middleman the marriage date is fixed. Before marriage the bride price is fixed and it may be paid at the time of betrothal or marriage. When marriage date is decided, the boy's party sets out for the girl's village. On reaching to girl's village her father comes out to receive in-laws and marriage party. There are three important ceremonies prior to marriage. Worshipping the clan goddesses, invoked through a ritual ceremony is done. Gugri collection is the ceremony in which all the heads of extended families assemble and give contribution to the marriage feast. The groom and his party march to bride’s house and the groom holds the sword, after the arty by the mother of bride, groom touches the toran with his sword. The groom and bride enter the room of the clan goddess and worship. After other rituals the groom and his party return to their village with the bride. Marriage marked by six processions these are known as vano. The first vano is Pity, when a mixture of turmeric and flour is applied to the boy and girl. The second one is to pay respect to the streets and lanes; the third is in honor of Bharwa who controls evils spirits. The fourth is to venerate the ancestral deities with offerings. The fifth is to worship the papal tree, when a miniature court is offered to the tree. The sixth is to pay homage to the manure deities. Music and songs are important at the marriage celebration one example is :

Go bena, go you must, why tarry and take time?
You are married, go you must.
Friends will go as far as the fields; brothers will go as far as the stream:
Go bena, go you must. Why tarry and take time?
When the party moves a mock attack is done with dust and pebbles.

Then the groom's party sings:
The bride weeps, and weeps the bride's brother.
You can't help it; you must take her with you.
The bride weeps, and weeps the bride's mother.
What's that to you, you must take her with you.
All sons inherit parental property equally but the
eldest son has the right to succeed to his father's authority.

Gol Gadhedo

After Holi the festival of Gol Gadhedo is celebrated. This is a specific ritual through which matured boys and girls select their marriage partners. The ceremony is organized as a fair part of the festival. In an open field a long bamboo is put and on its top a coconut is tied. The matured girls sing and dance around the pole. The keep sticks in their hands to prevent boys to reach to the pole for collecting the coconut. Boys interested in winning a girl, of his choice try to reach to the coconut. This process goes on and boys try to reach to pole by entering the barrier created by girls. Who so ever able to pick the coconut from the pole has the right to select the girl for marriage. In this ceremony girls and boys support each other for selection. This ceremony gives opportunity to matured boys and girls for selecting partners for marriage in the large fair. Bhil girls do not have parda system and have freedom to select partners. Marriage is celebrated with rituals and songs. The marriage is marked with six processions, each are called one.

Status of Woman

Women are traditionally considered inferior; they are prohibited from visiting the village shrines and offering worship to deities. Though their Kuldevi is woman and without her worship no ritual is complete. Generally only men attend the caste council and take decisions for the community and individuals. The Bhil woman is consulted in all domestic and household matters by her husband. The woman contributes to the family economy. Now there are nearly 50% sarpanch in Bhil villages are woman.

Occupation

According to the 1981 census, 37.84 per cent of Bhils in Gujarat are returned as workers. Of them 50.18 per cent are cultivators, 39.36 per cent, are agricultural laborers, and the remaining 8.11 per cent are in various other occupations. Most of the workers are masons and assist to masons. In the process they learn how to construct buildings. Bhils have adopted various occupations like road constructers, helpers, small traders, guards, domestic workers, query workers, stone cutters, labor work at shops and tractors.

Government has provided hand pumps for safe drinking water, primary schools, pucca roads connecting the falia to main roads, milk buying and distributing centers (dairy booths), many areas have electricity and pumping sets. Weekly markets provide dress, dress material, cooking utensils, pans and pots, ornaments, and dressing material.

Agriculture

Agriculture is the main occupation of Bhil community. On arrival of monsoon in second or third week of June the ploughing of fields begins. The first shower is welcome and Bhil farmers start ploughing their fields. People start work in early hours of the day till the sunset. Many farmers use tractors for ploughing, those who do not have tractors give contract to tractor owners. Small farms are ploughed with traditional wooden plough having a piece of iron at the end of plough to till the land. The plough cuts the land 4 to 5 inches deep. It is man ploughs the land and wife or woman closely follow, and plant seeds. Division of labor among sexes is based on the general principle that heavier tasks are for man and the lighter for the woman. Now 20 per cent farmers in Bhil area use tractor for ploughing but thrasher is used by lager number of farmers. Rich farmers and having large farms use the machine in their agriculture activities.

In rainy season Maize and Urad- pulses are shown. In winter wheat, gram and some varieties of pulses are grown as a main crop. In both seasons some vegetables are also grown in a small quantity. The vegetables include ladies-finger, onions, garlic, ginger, potato sweet potato, carrot, radish, gourd and cucumber. Many Bhil agriculturists work as share croppers and adopted other occupations.

It is believed that deities will protect the crop and cattle. The deity Khetlo or Khetarpal who looks after the farm is worshipped time to time. The colored thread, coconut and chicken or he-goat are offered to Khetarpal-the deity of the farm.

The land in the area can be classified as follows :

Sr. No.Classification of landUse of Land
1HillsForest-wood collection, Stones
2Barren landBushes or barren
3Permanent PasturePasture-land for cattle
4Agricultural Barren landSown occasionally
5One crop landSown only in rainy season
6Two Crop landSown in rainy season and Winter
7Irrigated landIrrigated with canal water
8Non irrigated cultivated land-
9Forest landUnder the forest Department

Farmers have wells for irrigation and use bullocks to draw water for irrigating the farms. Where the electricity has reached they use the motor to draw water. People know the importance of irrigation, fertilizer and pesticides for crops. As most of farmers live on hilly tracks the hard rocky land, undulating land surface and hilly terrain make the task of irrigation difficult and expensive.

Cattle, Poultry and Other Animals

As settled agriculturists Bhil families keep cattle. Though Tractors have arrived in Bhil area but 80% farmers keep bullock for plugging and irrigation purpose. Cow, buffalo and goat are milk-giving animals: their dung is also greatly valued as manure and may be used as fuel. On Diwali festival cattle are painted and a ritual thread is tied around their neck. Ghee-purified butter is prepared and used for family-consummation or sold in the market. Goat's milk being poor in fat content is consumed and is considered particularly for children. He-Goats and he-buffalos are offered to family and village deities the flesh is eaten with great relish.Fowls are often sacrificed on different rituals. Animals are bought and sold at animal fairs.Bhils being largely settled agriculturists keep cattle for agricultural activities and milk.

Other Occupations : Distillation

Though liquor is banned in Gujarat state but it is generally consumed in Tribal communities. It has important place in the way of life of Bhils. On each social occasion the drinking is done, it is offered to guests and friends. Erskine wrote in 1908, "The principal failing of the tribe is in ordinate thirst for liquor, which is very much in evidence on all occasions, such as births, betrothals, deaths, festivals and panchayata. Their quarrels begin and end in drinking bouts, no feud can be stanched, no crime forgiven but at a general feast" (1908: 231).

Liquor is made from Mahua flowers, which are collected by boys and girls in large numbers during the summers. Distillation of liquor is done secretly. It is, customary to have one’s own distilling plant. They spend considerable amount of their earning on liquor.

House-Construction of House

The couple decides to have their own house, consults family members and senior people for deciding the place for constructing the house. The start collecting the material required for its construction such has wooden poles, stones, tiles, bamboo and clay for preparing the mud. In this his brothers and relatives help. Earlier wooden and bamboos were available from the forest but now forest rules prevent them so the have to buy from market. The person planning to have the house consults the priest- shaman for the auspicious day to start building the house. On the appointed day the builder of the house reach to place with certain offerings, such as vermilion, rise, jaggery, coconut, colored thread and a coin. On this occasion the members of his family and neighborhood. We offerings are put in the foundation and the priest draw the outline of the house. The stone is put by be shaman and people pray that the construction will be fruitful. In construction the couple and the family members help and some times a skilled mason is given part contract. The roof is constructed under the guidance of skilled wood worker. On completion of the house on auspicious day the family moves in to the new house generally on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. First thing will witch family moves in to the new house is a basketful of mage or wheat. The wife brings water in a pitcher on her head.

New means of Communication

Bhil tribal families subscribe newspaper; hear radio and most of the villages have T.V. Thus modern means of communication has created a wide spread impact on consciousness of Bhil youths. In all tribal districts there are colleges and some have well known Universities. The mobile phone has increased contacts and united the tribe. Mobile phone is used for many purposes-giving information, getting information, finding jobs, finding husband/wife, information about illness, place of treatment, about accidents, collection of relatives, caste people, and for crime/criminal strategy.

Population Data

Details of population data of Bhil
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