The largest tribe of South Asia, and one that constitutes 39% of the total population of Rajasthan, is the Bhil Tribe. The word ‘bhil’ comes from the word ‘bil’, which means ‘bow’. So ancient are the roots of this tribe that they find mention in Indian epics like the Mahabharata and the Ramyana. Legends state that when searching for Sita in the forest of Dhandaka, Rama was offered ber
(jujube) fruits by Bhil women.
Over the years, the Bhils stood up for the land they called their own, whether it was fighting for the princes of Mewar, being shikari
s for the Rajputs or warriors for the British. They are considered the most notable bowmen and take pride in this ancient art. With simple tools, they claim to have accurate aim for about a kilometer. However, most Bhil people are now earning their livelihoods from agriculture and poultry.
Though Bhil tribesmen now follow Hinduism, Islam and even Christianity, they worship their own deities, like Mogra Deo and Sitla Matta, and perform religious dances like ghoomar
. They do not build temples and consult badva
s (sorcerers). Village headsmen deal with all disputes that arise within this tightly-knit community. Both men and women can have multiple spouses.