Bodos primarily undertake tea plantation activities. They work in tea estates in Assam and it is a major source of earning for them. Sericulture is another occupation they pursue. They enjoy silk rearing and know a lot about quality silk. Bodos also undertake pig and poultry farming.
Traditionally, Bodos used to worship their forefathers. Today, they have accepted Hinduism as their primary religion and they practice Bathouism. They worship the Siju plant as a Bathou symbol.
2. The Khasis of Meghalaya:
The Khasis or the Hynniew Trep resides in the north eastern part of India, comprising 50 per cent of the population in Meghalaya. They reside in the Khasi Hills, Syntengs Hills, Pnars Hills and Jaintia Hills.The Wars, Khynriams, Pnars and Bhois are a subdivision of the Khasi tribe and maintain a different social and cultural identity.
The Khasis take the identity of their mother (and not their father) and the mother inherits the children and property. Khasis are also strong believers of educating their girls. Khasis belong to the Mon-Khmer clan of the East Asian origin.
The primary occupation of the Khasis is jhum or shifting cultivation. The Kacharis have a peasant based economy. Jhum cultivation happens purely in nature, without any modern means of cultivation. One of their most popular crops is the production of betel leaves.
Khasi men and women wear colourful bamboo hats while farming. This is a strong cultural symbol of the tribe. They are followers of a number of religions Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, and Hinduism castes. The traditional dress of the Khasi men is Jymphong, while the women have several plates of clothing and they wear a golden crown with feathers.
3. The Bhils of Rajasthan:
The Bhils of Rajasthan belong to the Mewar region of the state. Bhil means bow and the Bhil tribes are archers by profession. A primary occupation of the Bhil tribes in ancient times was safeguarding the royal families and acted as huntsmen.
Bhils also reside in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Tripura, as well as in Bangladesh. The Bhils have a traditional dance form known as the ghoomar. For a long time, polygamy was very common among the Bhils. But the trend has come down over the recent years.
Bhils depend on agriculture for all their economic needs. They undertake the slash and burn cultivation, whereby they burn forests to clear them for cultivation. They also gather forest produce and undertake fishing and hunting of wild beasts.
Bhils used to live on isolated hilltops for quite some time. They would always be in temporary settlements. While some Bhils have moved to brick and mortar houses, a lot of them still live in huts, vacating them only if a disease strikes. The Bhil men wear turbans and waistcoats, whereas women wear saris. The Bhils worship the Lion or Mother Nature. Bhils are also known for their practice of adopting children.
4. The Bishnois of Rajasthan:
After an acute famine and drought that occurred in the Barmer district of Rajasthan in 1471, a saint guru Jambaji preached the wisdom of understanding the environment. The people realized that since they had felled a great number of trees, they had invited drought and famine to their land. Guru Jambaji laid down twenty-nine doctrines which the people should follow.
All these doctrines preached to live in harmony with nature. His followers came to be called ‘Bishnois’ meaning ‘followers of bees (twenty)’ and ‘not (nine)’ principles. These principles laid a strict ban on cutting a green tree and killing any animal or bird. Soon the region became green and natural ecosystems got restored.
Later, the ruler of Jodhpur wanted a part of the forest cleared to build a palace. The Bishnois prevented the soldiers from cutting down the trees, and thus many of them got killed. The ruler was overwhelmed on hearing of the devotion of the Bishnois to the trees. After that, all wishes of Bishnois were respected in the area.
Till today, Bishnois protect the trees and wildlife of the area. The Black Buck, which is an endangered species, is found in Bishnoi villages, because it is held sacred by the community.