India, along with Africa, has the largest tribal population in the world. The statistics are quite astonishing: the 533 different tribes, made up of more than 80 million tribals, represents almost 10% of India's population. The lives of the tribes in India are closely tied to nature, and they inhabit some of the most pristine and picturesque environments in the country. Largely unaffected by the modern world, they're very simple and often curious people, who have retained their rituals and customs. Here are five of the best places to tour tribal India, and get an unforgettable insight into their existence.
The largest number of tribes, 62, can be found in Orissa. These ancient people with mystical ancient ways dwell in Orissa's remote, deep forests and hilly interiors.
Most of them are in the southwest part of the state. You'll need to go on an organized tour to visit the tribes in Orissa as some tribal areas are quite inaccessible and require permits, and language is also a barrier. Puri is the best place to arrange tribal tours.
Around 15% of Rajasthan's population is tribal. The Bhil tribe, the predominant group, were amongst the original inhabitants of Rajasthan.
They're mostly located in southern Rajasthan, and certain cities are named after their Kings who once ruled there. Don't miss the five day Baneshwar tribal fair, held every January/February in Dungarpur.
You can also celebrate the Holi festival in traditional style in Banswara with the Bhils.
Bordering Orissa, the small but cultural state of Chhattisgarh used to be part of Madhya Pradesh. Over a third of its population is tribal, with most of them living in the thickly forested areas of the Bastar region.
The tribes, which are predominantly Gonds, are known for producing beautiful arts and crafts, music and dance, and unorthodox marriage practices.