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Mina in the area land of Camels

Wild date palms and cacti stand defiantly on those dry hills under the scorching sun. Rocky mud paths coil around the valleys. Camels with their loads occasionally meander along. These are common scenes around Udaipur, the lake city of Rajasthan.

Both sides of the Udaipur-Ahamedabad highway are hill ranges. One of the main people groups on these hills is the Meena. According to the 2001 census, there are 3.8 million Meenas and most of them are in Rajasthan. They are known by the language they speak Meena.

After fifteen kilometres on the highway from the city, we turned on to a mud path. Though a camel is preferable on the rocky village road, my guide's Rajdoot motorbike seemed more able to beat the heat. The Meenas like to stay scattered unlike the south Indian tribes who like to stay in clusters. Most of the hills do not have more than two or three houses. Each of these houses has a single room and a single entrance. Since there are no windows, the door is the only access for light. It is ideal in this place of extreme climates.

My friend had a rented hut in one of those hills. As we entered and rested, I felt darkness was better. At mid day, the comparatively low tiled roof was emitting heat. Most of the houses here have roofs made of crude tiles. In summer when there is no agricultural activity, many of the men are involved in making tiles. Hand-made clay tiles are baked in the fire. Ladies make brooms and mats from palm branches. To beat boredom some will distil liquor. Country liquor made from the mova flower is the most common and favourite hot drink in the dry season.

In summer, water is very scarce. Some people even use sand to wash vessels! A few open and tube wells are found in some villages. We found an open well in Kodumudi village, more than thirty feet deep. We had to wait for someone to come to draw water. The woman had a big pot with mud and charcoal paste around it to be washed off. Her head-covering hid her face. Through the black and white viewfinder of my cam-corder I  watched her careful steps down to the bottom of the well via the crude steps projected from the wall. Washing the pot there and throwing the water a little farther, she dipped the pot with a cloth on its mouth to filter the water! Now climbing up is not easy. This kind of well is used by several villagers. Water is precious in most places and fetching it is hard work. Women walk quite a long away with several pots on their head; this is a common scene in Rajasthan.


How ignorance, illiteracy and lack of access to proper facilities keep the Meena vulnerable to sickness and disease…..
Ethnicity of the Meenas and how the poor sustain…
Marriage custom of marriage and strange practices after marriage….
Drums and dances at marriages and festivals and how dance becomes indecent…..
Death, funeral, and raised tombs…..
Beliefs in life after death and rebirth.
Offerings and chants to the spirits, 'Magarababji'……

Read the complete story of the travelogue  at A Peep into the Tribalscape
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