Baiga women in traditional dress
Total population
552,495[1][2] (2011, census)
Regions with significant populations
Madhya Pradesh414,526
Uttar Pradesh47,393
West Bengal13,423 [note 1]
Chhattisgarhi • Hindi • Regional languages
Hinduism • Islam  • Tribal religion

The Baiga are an ethnic group found in central India primarily in the state of Madhya Pradesh, and in smaller numbers in the surrounding states of Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. The largest number of Baiga is found in Baiga-chuk in Mandla district and Balaghat district of Madhya Pradesh. They have sub-castes: Bijhwar, Narotia, Bharotiya, Nahar, Rai maina and Kath maina. The name Baiga means "sorcerer-medicine man".


Distribution of Baiga tribe in India

The Baiga tribe is officially recognized as Scheduled Tribes in eight states: Madhya Pradesh (414,526), Chhattisgarh (89,744), Uttar Pradesh (30,006), West Bengal (13,423), Jharkhand (3,583), Bihar (544), Odisha (338), and Maharashtra (333). In Uttar Pradesh, the Baiga population totals 47,393. Among them, the Baigas of Sonbhadra district are recognized as Scheduled Tribes, numbering 30,006,[13] while in other districts of Uttar Pradesh, they are categorized as Scheduled Caste, with a population of 17,387.[14]


The Baiga do not plow the land, because they say it would be a sin to scratch the breast of their Mother, and they could never ask their Mother to produce food from the same patch of earth time and time again: she would have become weakened. The Baiga tribes practice shifting cultivation, called 'bewar' or 'dahiya'.[15]

Live-in relationships are common among the Baiga. If marriage does take place, the man compensates the woman's family for the loss of a working member. This reverse dowry either involves footing the bill of the marriage celebration or offering the woman's family mahua liquor. If divorced, the new husband must compensate the old one for the dowry amount. If the divorced couple have children, the wife has the first right, followed by the husband. If neither wants to raise the child, the community will allot a guardian to the child until age 15.

The Baiga tribe women tattooed entire body

The Baigas in Chhattisgarh are classified as Particularly vulnerable tribal group(PVTG) by Government due to their declining population and low level of literacy. The Government of India has notified 75 PVTG which reside in 18 states and one UT which are classified on the basis of five criteria and in Chhattisgarh Baigas along with Abhujmaria, Kamar, Pahadi Korwa and Birhor are included in this group. The women of these tribes were not provided reproductive rights like right to use contraceptives but in 2018 on a Public Interest Litigation Chhattisgarh High Court allowed them to have access to contraceptives. The Baigas were found to be highly focused on family planning.[16]



Baiga tribe women in India is known for their art of tattooing or Godna
Baiga leg tattoos

It is believed that the ancestors of the Baigas spoke an Austroasiatic language, however no trace of it is left now.[citation needed] Some Baigas (specifically those from the Mandla district) have mentioned "Baigani" as their mother tongue in the past: Baigani is now recognised as a variety of Chhattisgarhi influenced by Gondi.[17] Most Baigas speak Hindi, and some of them also know a few local languages such as Gondi and Marathi depending on the region where they live.[18]


Kodo millet, a primary food of the Baiga

Baiga cuisine primarily consists of coarse grains, such as kodo millet and kutki, and involves very little flour. Another staple food of the baiga is pej, a drink that can be made from ground macca or from the water left from boiling rice. They supplement this diet with food from the forest, including many fruits and vegetables. They hunt, primarily fish and small mammals.

Religion and mythology

The Baiga believe their mythical ancestors were Nanga Baiga, the male ancestor, and Nanga Baigin, the female ancestor.[19] They were born from the goddess Dharti Mata, and Nanga Baiga had "great" magic power.[19]

They helped Bhagavan create the world and serve as its guardians.[19]

Forced evictions

Since the 1960s, the Baiga have been the victims of forced evictions at the hands of the Indian authorities.[20] These are often carried out in the name of conservation, in an attempt to protect the tiger populations,[21] but have disastrous consequences for the displaced communities.[22]

Notable people


  1. ^ The Baiga population in West Bengal was almost negligible during the colonial era but has experienced substantial growth since independence, especially after removal of area restrictions by the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Orders (Amendment) Act, 1976. As census data indicates, there were 4 individuals in 1961,[3] 0 in 1971,[4] 1,606 in 1981,[5][6] 7,624 in 1991,[7] 11,681 in 2001,[8] and 13,423 in 2011.[9] According to the 1981, 1991, 2001 and 2011 district-specific census breakdown shows that the Baigas are predominantly concentrated in the undivided Paschim Medinipur district, with 987,[6] 6000,[7] 11205[8] and 12845[9] individuals respectively. This notable population increase is attributed to members of the Bagal community, who have been identifying themselves as Baiga in order to avail constitutional benefits as a Scheduled Tribe.[10][11][12]


  1. ^ "Statistical profile of scheduled tribes in India 2013" (PDF). Minister of tribal affairs: statistics division, Govt of India.
  2. ^ "A-11 Individual Scheduled Tribe Primary Census Abstract Data and its Appendix". Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India. Retrieved 18 November 2017.
  3. ^ Gupta, J. Datta (1967). Tables on Scheduled Tribes, Part V-A (ii), Vol-XVI, West Bengal & Sikkim - Census 1961 (PDF).
    Note: The Baigas were Scheduled only in the Purulia district and the territories transferred from the Purnea district of Bihar as per The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes lists (Modification) Order, 1956 and their population was only 4.
  4. ^ Bulletin of the Cultural Research Institute. Special series (22–24). Tribal Welfare Department, Government of West Bengal. 1978. p. 28. In this connection it may be mentioned that as Birjia and Chik Baraik had no population in 1961 and Birhor and Baiga in 1971, ..((cite book)): CS1 maint: others (link)
  5. ^ Singh, K. S. (1994). The Scheduled Tribes. Vol. III. Oxford University Press in collaboration with the Anthropological Survey of India. p. 81. ISBN 978-0-19-563255-2.
  6. ^ a b "Census of India 1981, Series-23, West Bengal" (PDF). Special Tables For Scheduled Tribes, Part IX- (iii). Directorate of Census Operations, West Bengal. 1981.((cite web)): CS1 maint: others (link)
  7. ^ a b Census of India 1991, Series – 26, West Bengal (PDF). Vol. V. Part– VII(II), Special tables on Scheduled Tribes. Directorate of Census Operations, West Bengal. 1901. Archived (PDF) from the original on 15 June 2023.((cite book)): CS1 maint: others (link)
  8. ^ a b "PCA-IND (ST): Primary Census Abstract (PCA) - Individual Scheduled Tribe [2001]".
  9. ^ a b "A-11 Appendix: District wise scheduled tribe population (Appendix) [2011]".
  10. ^ Bhadra, Ranjit K; Mondal, S. R, eds. (1991). "Ethnicity, Ethnic groups and Survival Strategy". Stratification, hierarchy, and ethnicity in North-east India. Delhi: Daya Pub. House. p. 19. ISBN 978-81-7035-086-6. OCLC 26858289. In West Bengal, there is a group of people who are popularly known as Bagal, which means 'cattle herding'. [...] this group have greater tribal attributes in them. But they do not belong to Scheduled Caste or tribe. As a result, they are trying to rename themselves as 'Baiga', because the Baigas are Scheduled tribe and are getting all Constitutional benefits.
  11. ^ "Annual Administrative Report 2011–12". Scribd. Backward Classes Welfare Department, Government of West Bengal. p. 66. Retrieved 24 June 2022.
  12. ^ Cultural Research Institute Meeting report - 2019. Backward Classes Welfare Department, Government of West Bengal
  13. ^ "State wise Scheduled Tribes — Uttar Pradesh" (PDF). Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 November 2016. Retrieved 4 February 2017.
  14. ^ "A-10 Individual Scheduled Caste Primary Census Abstract Data and its Appendix - Uttar Pradesh". Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India. Retrieved 4 February 2017.
  15. ^ "Baiga tribals become India's first community to get habitat rights". Retrieved 12 March 2018.
  16. ^ Bhuyan, Anoo. "Tribal Women in Chhattisgarh Win Right to Access Contraception". The wire. Retrieved 1 September 2020.
  17. ^ Linguistic survey of India, Volume 6 by George Abraham Grierson. Page 241.
  18. ^ "The Tribune...Sunday Reading". Retrieved 12 March 2018.
  19. ^ a b c Wilkinson, Philip; Carroll, Georgie; Faulkner, Mark; Field, Jacob F.; Haywood, John; Kerrigan, Michael; Philip, Neil; Pumphrey, Nicholaus; Tocino-Smith, Juliette (2018). "The Origins of the Baiga". The Mythology Book (First American ed.). New York: DK. ISBN 978-1-4654-7337-0.
  20. ^, 'the village Bhanpur Khera was relocated from inside the Khana National Park (a critical tiger habitat) way back in 1968.'
  21. ^ International, Survival. "Tiger Reserves, India". Retrieved 13 July 2018.
  22. ^ Menon, Meena (1 August 2012). "Relocation plan to nowhere land". The Hindu. Retrieved 21 April 2018 – via
  23. ^ "Baiga tribal labourer debuts as international painter in Milan, Paris". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 28 July 2023.



Further reading