According to the official Census held in 2011, Adivasis constitute 8.6 per cent of the nation’s total population – some 104. 3 million people. Unofficial figures vary significantly but represent a much higher proportion of India’s population. The tribal peoples are often referred to as “Adivasis,” which means “original inhabitants of a particular area.” Indigenous tribes constitute India’s poorest still relying on agriculture, fishing, or manual labour for survival. Each tribe has its own traditions, clothing, language, and jewellery.
Tribal jewellery can be described as eclectic, earthen, and funky, while ethnic jewellery can be described as arty, refined, and timeless. Even in the past, tribes wore a variety of jewellery, including traditional necklaces, bangles, and earrings, as well as more unusual pieces such as ear cuffs, lip rings, and toe rings. Most of the tribes’ raw materials were restricted to shells, claws, animal jaws, ivory, wood, and other natural products locally available.
India has a rich tribal culture that, through modernisation, has maintained its unique traditions and values. Tribal jewellery has a distinct earthy appeal. The rarity of ethnic jewellery, on the other hand, is prized by many because it differs from conventionally produced jewellery. Tribal jewellery reveals a lot about the wearer’s social standing, income and possessions, moral values, and even practical behaviours. Apart from portraying a traditionally idealised look, the ornaments often provide a brief insight into a group’s socio-cultural customs.
There are many accounts that the royals of ancient India employed brilliant craftsmen to create exquisite jewellery. Some of these gems have been passed down from generation to generation, retaining their unique identity and being an indelible part of family treasure. Tribal jewellery incorporates popular natural materials such as leaves, berries, feathers, fur, claws, flowers, and more into magnificent wearable works of art. Some of the factors that distinguish tribal jewellery of one group from that of another are the demographics of the area, the availability of resources, and the proposed functionality. Additionally, extreme poverty and a scarcity of precious metals haven’t stopped tribal artisans from making magnificent ornaments. In fact, tribes in some regions have been found to be scantily clad while also wearing a large amount of jewellery on their bodies.
Read as we take you through the various kinds of tribal jewellery across India.
I. Bastar, Madhya Pradesh
The tribes of Madhya Pradesh’s Bastar district, make jewellery out of grass and beads. Silver, wood, glass, peacock feathers, copper, and wildflower-inspired jewellery and artefacts are also well-known. They are also known to wear coin jewellery.
II. Banjara Tribes, Rajasthan
Rajasthan’s nomadic tribe is known for its bright, heavy jewellery. This tribe’s main jewellery artwork includes beautiful ornaments and belts embellished with shells, metal wire, coins, beads, and strings. Earring, bracelets, bangles, amulets, anklets, hairpins, and necklaces are all available from this tribe.
III. Khasi, Jaintia, and Garo Tribes, Meghalaya
The tribal people of the Khasi, Jaintia, and Garo regions have a sophisticated sense of jewellery design. The Khasi and Jaintia tribes’ thick red coral bead necklaces, as well as the Garo tribe’s thin fluted glass stems strung on fine thread, are both fascinating works of art.
IV. Bhutia, Sikkim
Sikkim-based Bhutia tribe is also known for creating enticing, intricate, and beautiful jewellery designs. Their jewellery is typically made of gold, silver, coral, and turquoise. Bhutia men and women share a cultural passion for gold, and apparently, only 24 karat gold is used to make Bhutia jewellery.
V. Santhal Tribes, Jharkhand
Santhal’s filigree motif earrings, Kardhanis (waistbands), and Chudha bangles are ethnic insignias. Their brightly jingling jhumkis are also well-known all over the world.
VI. Arunachal Pradesh
Rengami Nagas: Men from the Rengami Nagas tribe wear flower-based jewellery in their ears, with red blossoms being the most common.
Wacho Tribes: To decorate their jewels, this tribal group uses naturally available tools such as seeds, insects, feathers, bamboo, and cane.
Karka Gallong Tribes: To complement their metal embossed leather belts, the women of this tribe wear immaculately made coils of iron rings as earrings. In addition, their adornments are extensively beaded.
VII. Agami Tribe, Nagaland
Green ferns and foliage adorn the hair knots of this tribal group’s men. It has a rather natural appearance and demonstrates one’s proximity to nature and its surroundings.
VIII. Tribes of Chamba, Kangra, Mandi and Kullu, Himachal Pradesh
For their uniqueness, Himachali elliptical anklets, iron-headed bangles, and ornate daggers are very common all over the world. Pahari women in Himachal also wear traditional collar-like silver Hansalis, silver chokers called Kachs, and Shellac-filled silver bangles. Silver ornaments are believed by the Himachalis to shield the wearer from evil spirits, in addition to their aesthetic value.
IX. Moukhali Tribes, West Bengal
Bengali Tikli (forehead adornment), Kaan (traditional earrings), Chik (gold choker), Hunsuli, Mantasha, and Dokra are all well-known for their fine craftsmanship. These ornaments are exquisitely styled and made of gold, silver, precious stones, and wooden beads.
X. Hill Maria Tribes, Chattisgarh
Traditional Chhattisgarh tribal jewellers used fine-drawn copper wires, brass, and iron (now gold and silver) with natural seed, bone, and wood embellishments to create one-of-a-kind fillets, collars, laces, square-bar anklets, trinkets, rings, and much more. Hill Maria tribes’ conical twin-top earrings and nose rings are very common.
XI. Konda Kapus Tribe, Karnataka
The Konda Kapus tribes make incredible ornaments out of silver and copper coins. Antique collectors are still on the lookout for these ornaments, which are made from old Indian coins. The women of the community often wear necklaces made of 25 and 50 paisa coins.
XII. Tribes in Kerala
Beads from wild plants are used in ornaments made of palm leaves, wood, and by many tribal groups in Kerala. Earlobes made of rolled palm leaves, neck ornaments made of beads, and bangles made of grass are among the items they create and carry.
XIII. Tribes in Andhra Pradesh
For the tribal women of this state, ornaments are an integral part of their lives. Flowers, trees, creepers, and fruits, as well as metal and wood, are used by tribal women in their jewellery. They also wear a variety of exquisite shell, metal mesh, bead, and chain-encrusted ornaments and belts. Silver is abundant in this region, and all tribal women wear silver jewellery with pride. A unique style of Coin necklaces is also very famous here.
XIV. Tribes of Telangana
Telangana, despite being India’s newest state, has a 5000-year history. The state of Telangana has always been a symbol of the Deccan Plateau and its heritage. Telangana tribes wear a variety of necklaces, pendants, bracelets, earrings, and other forms of tribal jewellery that they handcraft.
XV. Todas, Badagas, and Kotas, Tamil Nadu
Silver and other metal jewellery is worn by Tamil Nadu tribes such as the Todas, Badagas, and Kotas of the Nilgiris district. Tall, heavy, and intricately carved ornaments. Toda’s jewellery is made of twisted wires and shells. Bead jewellery is worn by the Kadar tribe of the Annamalai hills.
XVI. Halba Tribes, Maharashtra
Beautiful Khosas (a beautiful lock of braid), Khinwas (for ear piercings), and Phuli are made by this group of tribes using metals such as gold, silver, brass, and aluminium (for nose piercings). In addition, tattoo jewellery is very common among this tribal group’s members.
Tribal jewellery in the present day has become very popular in hip hop culture. They have turned into a wardrobe staple. What once was a simple art form confined to the communities in which it was made, but today, all communities and people from all walks of life have welcomed this art with open arms.
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