One of the perks of traveling to less known places is to meet some intriguing indigenous tribes, where you will get to hear interesting stories and learn some of the unique cultures. Asia-the land of the many civilizations holds around 60% of the world’s population, including some indigenous people who still live in the remotest places. Get ready to find out more about some of the fascinating tribes of Asia below:
Dongria Kondh Tribe- Odisha, India
Protector of the streams, the fearless adivasi (indigenous people) of Odisha-Dongria Kondh is among the less known indigenous tribes living in the Niyamgiri Hills of the eastern part of India. This hill range is sprawled over 250 kilometres square in the districts of Kalahandi and Rayagada in the southwestern part of Odisha. The hill range is known for its pristine and dense forests, deep lush green gorges and incredible streams which turn into gushing rivers during the monsoon seasons. The Dongria Kondh tribe has similar philosophy as the Native Americans. They revered nature as their holy spirits, especially the mountains as their Gods. The tribe relies on the Niyamgiri forests where they practice horticulture and shifting cultivation on the fertile slopes. There are about 8000-plus Dongria Kondh who live in this area protecting their culture and environment. Unfortunately, they were threatened by the mining company Vedanta Resources which was planning to extract bauxite (the raw material for aluminium) worth $ 2 billion, lying under the surface of the hills. Despite, being vulnerable these indigenous people fought back to resist the exploitation.
Tagin Tribe-Arunachal Pradesh, India
The culturally rich Tagin Tribe of Arunachal Pradesh is a fascinating tribe living in the northeastern part of India. Arunachal Pradesh is bestowed with a rich biodiversity consisting of incredible wildlife especially the big cats like snow and clouded leopards, and tigers. The place is known as the “land of the rising sun” where the first morning sun rays touch down upon India. It is indeed a well-kept place for amazing indigenous tribes, where you can find over 25 different group of indigenous population living in the hill state.
The Tagin indigenous people are the descendants of the Abu Tani who came from Tibet in the ancient times to settle in the Subansiri valley. These people are very proud of their culture and believe in the simple living. They are adorned with vivid colors of tribal clothes along with colorful gemstone pendants.
The locals lead a rural life and mostly depend on the available resources of the surrounding forests. They also have great knowledge of medicinal plants that are grown in their nearby forests to cure common illness in their community.
The tribe has great respect towards their environment and as such venerates the earth (si) and the sun (donyi). They pay them tribute during the Si-Donyi festival which is celebrated with much pomp every year.
Kalash Tribe-Hindu Kush, Pakistan
Secretly hidden in the impressive snow-capped Hindu Kush mountain range in the isolated northwest region of Pakistan, the Kalash tribe is renowned for their beauty and colorful crafts. The Kalash women are known to have glowing complexion and flawless skin who are seen in long black dresses adorned with fine and colorful embroideries which to some extent are similar to the ladakhis way of dressing.
These Dardic indigenous people are scattered across Rumbur, Bumburet and Birir valleys in the Chitral district where they once ruled. The Kalash tribe speaks the Kalasha language which is from the Dardic family of the Indo-Aryan branch. As per census report, the tribe consists of around 5000 individuals who represent a unique minority among the peoples of Pakistan. According to journalist Frud Bezhan the Kalash tribe practice ‘a form of ancient Hinduism infused with old pagan and animist beliefs.’ It was noted that there are many similarities between the Kalash deities and ancient Vedic Gods like Lord Indra. The Kalash tribe gives importance to their religious traditions and as such perform sacrifices and celebrate many festivals.
According to speculations, the Kalash tribe is believed to be descendant of Alexander-The Great or came from Afghanistan (Nuristan). However, as per the Foundation Jean Dausset’s Human Genome Diversity Project and Centre d’Etude du Polymorphisme Humain (HGDP-CEPH) which collected DNA samples of the Kalash people claimed that they ‘share genetic drift with Paleolithic Siberian Hunter-Gatherers. Kalash was the first population to split from the other Central and South Asian cluster around 11,800 (95% CI = 10,600−12,600) years ago. They also have predominantly western Eurasian mitochondrial lineages and no genetic affiliation with East Asians.’The study has confirmed that the tribe’s DNA does not show any connection with the Alexander theory.
Besides their glorious celebrations and exceptional beauty, the tribe is fighting back to preserve their culture and land, however, they are still vulnerable to religious conversion, and extreme weather conditions like floods.
The Tsaatan Tribe-Khövsgöl Aimag, Mongolia
One of the interesting Asian tribes is the Tsaatan or Dukha indigenous people who live in the remotest northern region of Mongolia. The tribe who has been surviving the very cold weather condition was once around 200 families but today there are only 40 families left with their 1000 reindeers.
This nomadic reindeer herders depend enormously on their reindeers for survival. They move every seven to ten weeks from pasture to pasture where the climate is ideal for their reindeers. The reindeers do not only have an economic importance but also have a cultural and spiritual significance in the Tsaatan culture. Interestingly, the word Tsaatan means ‘those who have reindeer’ in the Mongolian language, and the tribe believes their culture will die if their reindeers disappear. What is particular about the Tsaatan people is the fact that they do not use their animals for meat which is quite rare among herding communities.
Unfortunately, the community is slowly declining because of modernisation, and extreme weather conditions. Due to the rise of gold mining in the area, the government has put mobility restriction on the Tsaatan’s hunting ground, thus exacerbating the situation.
Southeast Chinese Tribes
The panoramic southeast China unveils its beauty and charm through its surreal landscapes and its diverse ethnic cultures. One of its gems is the Miao tribe which consists of Hmong, Xong, Hmub and A-Hmao people. These indigenous people mainly live in the provinces of Guizhou, Yunnan, Sichuan, Hubei, Hunan, Guangxi, Guangdong, and Hainan. Some of the Hmong have migrated to neighbouring countries like Burma, Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand.
The gorgeous Miao women who live in the Daluo village of Leishan County wear some really stunning silver headdresses and jewelries on special occasions. These ornaments are part of their culture and traditions, similarly to their lusheng music instrument which they have been using for years.
Another sub-ethnic group of the Miao tribe is the Suojia (Long Horn) people who live in the Guizhou province. This ethnic group is known for their huge headdresses wore by their women. The headdress materials which consist of wrapping wool, linen, a wooden clip or a pair of animal horns and a white ribbon are believed to be passed down from generation to generation.