(Gotipua_Dancevillage_Puri_India Photo by Ingetje Tadros)
And as this popular adage in Hindi goes –
“Every two miles the water doth change, and every four the dialect”.
As per the census, tribal people make up about 8.2 percent of the nation’s total population. This diversity extends to languages as well. A survey done by passionate linguistics has established that there exist about 1635 native languages (of which about 197 are classified as between endangered and vulnerable by UNESCO). Yes! This might be unbelievable to some but the vastness this country holds make others believe in it.
Noam Chomsky, the world renowned linguist once said, “A Language is the Mirror of the Mind”. It is only in a language that we find our lives, our stories, our ancestors and our future too. Tribal Languages, therefore are universally significant and are languages of the earth containing ecological, geographical, and climatic information.
When come to think of different dialects prevalent in India, we can easily divide them into five major language families starting from the first civilization of Indo-Aryan, Dravidian, Tibeto-Burman, Andamanese, and Austro-Asiatic. However, for a better understanding of the tribal region segregation, it is best to have a look at the regions where tribal population inhabits. Therefore, a quick glance at the Indian map will divide the nation into five major belts namely –
- The Himalayan Belt: This region consists of states that are nick-named as seven sisters (North Eastern States–Assam, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, and Tripura) along with Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh.
- Central Indian Belt: Over half of the population lives in this belt and states that come into this region are Bihar, Odisha (Orissa), West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh.
- Western Indian Belt: This region consists of Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Goa, Gujarat, and Dadra & Nagar Haveli.
- The Dravidian Belt: Primarily, it’s the South Indian region and it starts from Karnataka to Kerala from one end and from Andhra Pradesh to Tamil Nadu at the other.
- The Islands: Lakshadweep and Andaman & Nicobar Islands.
Words will fall short if I start covering each tribal language separately. So, below find the names of various languages spoken by different Indian tribes as per their family –