PANIYAN TRIBE OF NILGIRIS, TAMIL NADU
Any inquiry into Indian culture is definitely incomplete without a study of the country’s tribal communities. India boasts of the largest concentration of tribal population in the world, with tribal communities constituting 8.2% of India’s population. Tribal groups in India are characterized by a distinctive culture, exhibit primitive traits and usually live in geographical isolation in the hilly and forested areas. Their unique way of life is revealed in various ways – their appearance, language, attire, ornaments, habitat, food habits and belief systems. Tribal communities across India are at different stages of economic and social development. While some have adopted mainstream ways of living, others are still in transition and some others are yet to step away from their time-honored lifestyle. The Ministry of Tribal Affairs recognizes 75 tribal groups as Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PTGs), due to their pre-agricultural level of technology, stagnant population, low level of literacy and subsistence level of economy. The Paniyan tribes, identified as PTG in Tamil Nadu, are a small population of 5541 individuals. They are distributed mainly in Gudalur and Pandalur districts of the state.