THE BHEEL TRIBE
Bheel or Bhil is derived from a word in the Dravidian language meaning ‘bow’ and Bheels are the largest of all tribal groups in India. It is one of the only tribes that is spread distributively over the Indian subcontinent, inhabiting spaces such as Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Uttarakhand. Historically, the language Bheels used for the purpose of communication was Bhili. But, because they went on to being distributed over the country, they tended to adapt completely to the place they inhabited and hence, begun to speak in the same language as the place of their living.
The first mention to the Bheel tribe is in the Hindu epic Ramayana where a Bhil woman named Shabri feeds ber (jujube) to Lord Ram while he is in search of his wife Sita. The Bheel tribe also forms a part of another Indian epic, the Mahabharata. Historically, the tribe is considered to belong to the race of pre-Aryans–the belief springs out of the fact that they have a dark, earthy skin colour, different from that of the Aryans. Because it finds a mention in two of the most important Indian epics, this tribe is considered to be one of the most historic and aged of all tribes that exist till the present day in the Indian subcontinent. The Bheel tribe originally practiced hunting but with the advent of time, in order to sustain themselves, they took to agriculture and farming. Because they were hunters, the tribe traditionally is one that is non-vegetarian and continues to have that as their primary intake.
Bheels still celebrate traditionally and carry forward their culture. The festivals they celebrate are extensive with active participation by men and women of the tribe in the form of Lathi Dance. The women are famous for performing the Ghoomar, which is one of the most famous folk dance forms of India. The culture reflects explicitly in the traditional clothes they wear; the men wear turbans and dhoti kurta while the women wear Ghaghra Choli with some elaborate jewellery. Bheels are a true embodiment of their culture and they believe in holding firmly to their roots, no matter where they are. They are a testimony of history going hand in hand with the current times. It has always been about the roots–roots that birth crops that they sow and reap.