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The Bhil Tribe

by K. L. Kamat
First Online: December 09, 2002
Page Last Updated: January 11, 2018

The Bhils are the third largest tribe in India after the Gonds and the Santhals. In the state of Madhya Pradesh, they are prominently found in the Dhar, Jhabua, and West Nimar regions. Anthropologists believe that the word Bhil is derived from the Dravidian word bil or vil, meaning a bow.

Over a period of time, the Bhils have given up hunting, and have taken to agriculture. They use very primitive tools, and even their agricultural style is very simplistic. Bhil villages are generally dispersed, and each village consists of thirty to forty families. They worship numerous Hindu deities, chiefly a deity by the name of Raja Pantha. Bhils also worship crops, fields, water, the forest, and the mountains.

The Bhil dialect consists of Rajsthani, Gujarati, Hindi, Marathi words, and also some unique words without any non-Sanskrit elements in it.

Sawang is a popular form of entertainment among the Bhil tribals that consists of story telling combined with dancing and music. In the 1940s Uday Shankar tried to expose the performing arts of this tribe to the outside world.


See Also:

The Tribals
Tribals of 
Madhya Pradesh

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