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Updated on July 7, 2013

Wayanad District of Kerala State, India is located in the southern tip of Deccan Plateau lying close to Western Ghats. It is the least populated district of Kerala but holds largest number of tribal population. Wayanad is famous for its rich tribal heritage. Approximately four lakh tribes living in Kerala state but half of this population is from Wayanad only. It is believed that these tribes were the original inhabitants of this area.

During the British period , They opened roads to the Wayanad plateau and start cash corps plantations as a part of their colonialisation policy. Cheap rate of land and labour attracted large number of people to start cash corps plantation in Wayanad . The tribes lost their land and compelled to work in plantations as slaves, because they are illiterate and do not have any documentary proof to claim their land. They dwindled in numbers and now represent less than 20 percentage of the total population of Wayanad.

The tribes of Wayand knows indigenous streams of holistic herbal medicines and rich legacy of arts and crafts.The tribes of the district categorized to various sects like Paniyas, Kurichyas, Kattunayakan, Adiyars, Uraali Kurumas etc. They are physically distinguishable with stout built physique. They often live in houses made of thatched roof, mud, bamboo and brick houses set in swampy valleys. All the tribes of wayanad belongs to Hindu community, primitive forms of worship still prevail among them. Ancestral worship and offerings to propitiate the spirits of ancestors are still prevalent among them.

Paniyan. Paniyan tribes are the major tribal community of Kerala. They resides in hilly and forest areas of Kerala and Karnataka. The word panian means woker in the regional language Malayalam. Ancient period Paniyan tribe are amongst those tribal people who have worked as bonded laborers by the land lords. Majority of Paniyan tribes lives in the northern part of the Western Ghat. Curly hair, thick lips and dark complexion (like Negros) are the physical appearance of these people. The main occupation of these tribes is to work in the field of land owners. They worked as slaves in the ancient period. Most of the people of this community engaged with agricultural works but some of them engaged in Tea and Coffee estates and constructional works. Paniyan tribes live together in colionies, their settlement comprises of rows of small huts constructed with bamboo with thatched roofs. Paniyan tribes of wayanad district speaks Paniyan lauguage, it is a complexion of Malayalam and Kannada but some of the words are independent. They choose their life partners from their tribe only. The Paniyan marriage is usually arranged by parents of bride and groom. The priest is called Chemmi . During the marriage ceremony as part of the ritual, 16 coins and new dresses are given to the bride. Monogamy is common practice among them. The Paniyan tribes have a lot of religious practices . They worshiped Banyan tree, Kuli, Kadu Bhagavadi with great reverence . They also believes in spirits.

Kurichyas. Kurichyas of Wayanad has a great martial tradition, They were expert in archery . They constituted the army of Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja , The king of Kottayam ,who fought against the British East India Company in several battles. The descendants of those warriors are still expert archers. They were the first migrants into the plateau and start farming. Kurichiya raise several cash crops like pepper. They eat meat in addition to the crops they grow. The Kurichiya tribes claims themselves superior to all other Hindu tribes. They choose their life partners from their tribe only. We can not see any beggars among them. They lives in family groups. They always purified themselves by bath before enter to their house, when they come back from journey. They will never take food from other castes except Bharamin and Nair. The head of the family is called Pittan.

Kattunayakan . They are also called Cholanaickan, lives in the interior forests of Wayanad. The Word Kattunayakan means The king of Jungle in the regional language. They were also known as Tean Kurumars. Tean means Honey in local laugJungle. They collect honey from the forest and sell to others. They choose their life partners from their tribe only. They worships ancestors, animals, rock, snakes and trees. Kattunayakan is the tribe community who had been the real inhabitants of forest. They are completely dependent upon forest and forest products.

Adiya. The Adiya tribe is also one of the slave tribe sect in wayanad . These tribes known as 'Ravulayar' traditionally. The word Adiya means slave in local language Malayalam. Gadhika is a kind of traditional dance performed by them. They choose their life partners from their tribe only and as per customs Bride price is given to the parents of the bride by groom on the occasion of their marriage. Poligamy and Divorce is practiced among them . If the women commit any mistakes (sex offender) , they have to undergo a purification ceremony called Kalachu Veypu to join the family back. Head of the community is called Commikaran or Perman. Adiya community is divided in 20 classes (Mandu). The head of these 20 classes ie Mandu is called. Chommikkaran or peruman.

Uralikurumas. Uralikurumas are artisans. They play flute and drum during their festivals. The "Uch-alkali" is played in the month of February by them. They dance, play drums and flute on every special occasion. Old man of their settlement will performs rites to their deity 'Bettu Chikkamma'. Ladies not allowed to participate in these ceremonies. They made baskets and craft items with bamboo. They choose life partners from their community only. Uralikurumas believes, when a person die the soul of good become god and bad become devils.They worships deities as 'Bettu Chikkamma' and 'Bamadu' and their ancestral spirits.

Wayanad is an ideal picnic spot for those people who respect the the traditions and indigenous culture of tribes . Thanks


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    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 

      4 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      It is a wonderful post. The tribes are one of the unique features of Wayanad. The district has great place in the tourism map and needs more promotion to invite people to this spectacular green land. Keep on writing more about Wayanad. All the best.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      NICE HUB

    • travelholidays profile image


      5 years ago from India

      Wow !!! Amazing hub. Now only heard these tribe names in Kerala. Thanks for sharing:)


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