Origin of the Tribes & Types of Tribes in North East India


North East India the most ethically and linguistically diverse regions in Asia. A place renowned for its magical beauty and bewildering diversity, North East India is the home for more than 166 separate tribes speaking a wide range of languages. Some groups have migrated over the centuries from places as far as South East Asia.

North East India comprises of seven states commonly known as the 'Seven Sisters'. They are Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura. Together these states have an area of 2,55,000 square kilometer.

The lushness of its landscape, the range of communities and geographical and ecological diversity makes the North East quite different from other parts of the subcontinent. The festivals and celebrations in the Northeastern states of India are a colourful reflection of the people and their lives.

Origin of the Tribes & Types of Tribes in North East India

Major Tribes of North East India

In this article, World_Polity decides to provide you the detail information about the Origin of the Tribes & Types of Tribes in North East India. A look at the oldest surviving tribes of North East india, specially 15 Major Tribes of North East India. 


The northern region, has been greatly influenced by the Indo-Tibetan culture. For many centuries, the Tibetan traders crossed the borders and traded in the region and many of them got settled in the valleys of the greater Himalayas. This accounts for the large Buddhist settlements in the Siang districts and the Buddhist impact is visible in the way of life of the people in the higher regions. The southern belt of the foothills has had similar contact with the plains of Assam. The results are manifested in the religion, language, clothing, food habits, and mode of agriculture. But the middle zone has remained comparatively backward. Both Tibetan and Assamese influences are visible in the ways of life of the people settled in this region. The tribes living in this region had very little contact with the outside world and even today they can be seen living in extremely primitive conditions.

In the early historical period (most of first millennium), Kamarupa, one of the historical kingdoms of Assam that existed from 350 to 1140 CE and was ruled by three dynasties included most of present-day Northeast India, besides Bhutan and Sylhet in Bangladesh. Xuanzang, a Chinese Buddhist monk, visited Kamarupa in the 7th century, described the people as 'short in stature and black-looking’. For many of the tribal people, their primary identification is with subtribes and villages, which have distinct dialects and cultures.

Different ethnic groups and tribal groups inhabit the region of North East India. They all have their own culture and tribal tradition and speak their own tribal languages. This has made North East India one of the most culturally diverse regions of the world. The cuisines and attires also different among the tribes. Each tribal community have their unique way of living.

Origin of the Tribes & Types of Tribes in North East

Origin of the Tribes

Tribes of North East India have originated from the ethnic groups of Tibeto-Burmese, proto Austrioloids and some groups of Indo Mongoloids. The trend can be seen in the looks, traditions that are visibly followed by these communities. They also show a cultural bridging with the neighbouring countries. India has till now provided them with a safe haven, compared to living in neighbouring communist nations of China and Burma.

Types of Tribes in North East

North East tribes constitute a major part of Indian tribal community. They are scattered all over the states of North East. Arunachal Pradesh consists of around 25 types of tribes. Nagaland has more than 16 major tribes. Some examples of prominent tribes are Garo, Khasi, Jaintia, Adi, Nyishi, Angami, Bhutia, Kuki, Rengma, Bodo and Deori. Some tribes are Christians and some follow Hinduism and Buddhism. The rest still have their indigenous beliefs and practice animism.

15 Major Tribes of North East India

Here are the 15 major tribes of North East India are as follows :


It is a vast tribe and constitutes a considerable part of Assamese population. The tribal people have also migrated to other parts of India as well as to neighbouring countries. It is believed that Bodo tribes have introduced rice cultivation, tea plantation, poultry farming, and silkworm rearing in the North Eastern parts of India.


They are located near the Barak valley. Their livelihood depends upon hunting and fishing and they speak Tibeto-Burmese language. Their culture and language is spread in the region of whole valley. The kings of these tribes were given the fictional names of kashatriya lineage. The area is referred as cachar.


They can be found all over the northeastern states. The language of the tribe varies but are all similar in a way, and can broadly be termed as the Kuki language. They prefer to live on hilltops. The tribe cultivates dwarf cotton and spun yarns.


This tribe has two divisions namely Bogums and Bomis. They are found in Arunachal Pradesh. This group is again divided into various small subtribes.


This tribe has originated from the Indo-Mongoloid stock. They mainly inhabit the lower region of the Subansiri district in Arunachal Pradesh and are considered a large tribe based on the area and population of Arunachal Pradesh. They speak a language that is quite different from the other tribes of the Tibeto-Burman language


This is one of the major tribal communities of Nagaland. Angami tribe is also found in Manipur and has a total population of 12 million. The tribal community believes in Christianity and speaks Tenyidie. They cultivate rice and grains on the hilly areas.


They are a Naga tribal community, and are found in both Nagaland and Assam. The community is further divided into two categories, Eastern and Western Rengmas, and are considered experts in terrace cultivation.


This tribe is a prominent tribal community of Sikkim and have migrated from Tibet. They are mostly found in the Lachen and Lachung areas of North Sikkim. They speak Bhutia (a dialect of Tibetan language). They are considered one of the most developed tribes and earns their livelihood through agriculture, government jobs and local business.


They are the second largest tribal community of Meghalaya. They constitute 1/3rd of the total state population and mainly reside in the Garo hills of Meghalaya, some districts of Assam and West Bengal. Their traditional religion was Songserak and later changed to Christianity.


Khasi Tribe are one of the major tribal communities and occupies almost half of the total population of Meghalaya. They reside in the Khasi and Jaintia hills of Meghalaya and follow the matriarchal society. Their language is Mon-Khmer which belongs to the Austro-Asiatic family.


Historically, the Deoris have been known to live in the upper plains of the Brahmaputra Valley. The Deoris belong to the Sino-Tibetan family of Mongoloid stock. In the ancient times of Ahom and Sutiya kingdoms, the Deoris used to serve as priests in the temples of their kingdoms and therefore the origin of the name ‘Deori’ – that means ‘Priest’ in the local dialect. The Deori Tribal people of Assam have maintained their racial traits, languages, religion and folk tales, beliefs through centuries.

The word 'Deori’ comes from the word ‘Deu’ meaning Great, Wise and O and R meaning Male and Female respectively. The term ‘Deori’ thus refers to a ‘Great’ or ‘Wise’ male/female human being. The Deori people are expert craftsmen who make exclusive bamboo handicrafts and their handlooms are well renowned across the State of Assam in North East India.


One of the most distinctive tribes in the northeast is the Apatani tribe. The Apatanis live in the Ziro valley in the Lower Subansiri district of Arunachal Pradesh in India and speak Apatani, English and Hindi languages. Their wet rice cultivation and agriculture systems are quite impressive. In fact, UNESCO has proposed to include the Apatani valley as a Heritage Site for its "extremely high productivity" and "unique" way of preserving the ecology. You’ll be able to recognise the Apatani women with their distinctive nose piercings and ornaments, and the men with their tattoos.

Must Read : Tai Phake Tribe in Assam   


Sumi Tribe, counted among major ethnic groups, the Sumis belong to the Zunheboto district and Dimapur district in Nagaland. Sumis used to be one of Nagaland's headhunting tribes before the arrival of the Christian missionaries. Very few of them practice animism. The tribe has two prime festivals, Tuluni (July 8) and Ahuna (November 14).


They are known to be the original inhabitants of Sikkim and earlier believed in Bone or Mune faith. Then they adopted for Buddhism or Christianity. The Lepcha population is concentrated in the central part of Sikkim and its folklore is rich with stories. The male lepcha wear a striped cotton dress called pagi, and the female lepcha wears a two piece. The language lepcha though is not very well developed but is rich in vocabulary related to flora and fauna. The polyandry marriages are permitted in this culture. These people are also good at archery.


They are settled in Manipur since 1872. They are recognised under the Constitution of India as Scheduled Tribe. They originated in South-West China and their ancestors belong to Chinese Dynasty. They follow the patriarchy system in their community. Their houses are located in the top of the hills with four chambers in the house. They performshift cultivation and make medicinal products and forest products.

Well the North East Indian tribes are undoubtedly one of the most colourful and culturally rich communities of India. They represent a totally unique trend and living among the Indian tribal community. 

Now World_Polity is on every platform you can connect with us by just clicking the below social media links. Thank You. 

• Subscribe our Youtube channel

• Join our Facebook Page

• Join our telegram Channel

* Recent Top Most Searches :

* History of Medieval Assam from Sukaphaa to Purandar Singha 

* Cultural History of Ahom Kingdom 

Well if you like the article on Origin of the Tribes & Types of Tribes in North East India : 15 Major Tribes of North East India do comment & show your support by sharing it to the other readers and if there is any query you are welcome to ask.

Post a Comment