Assam became the settling ground for many civilizations who came here through different routes as it was connected by land to many states and country. Negritos, Dravidians, Alpines, Tibeto Burmese and Aryans were the major races that made a settlement in Assam. They made Assam there home and came to be known as Asamese. The largest population in Assam is of the Tibeto Burmese origin like the Bodo tribe and Mishing tribe. Major tribes of Assam earn their livelihood through agriculture and by selling their handicrafts. Different types of tribes are famous for variety of handicrafts. Some are famous for handloom and some have mastered in metal of pottery works. Their languages too differ according to their place of origin.
Major tribes of Assam have their own rich cultural identity. And because of geographic unity and acceptability to change and mix, they added quintessence to Assamese folk music, thus forming the soul of it. Mahapurux Sakardeva formally blended the more formal Indian Classical music, but while doing so, he maintained the traditional ingredients of the region. Gurujona’s influence is even visible in some tribal folk music. All tribes has their own music hence, indigenous musical instruments, used in different festivals.
Some of the tribes in Assam
Bodo People were one of the earliest tribes to move to Assam. Today they constitute a large part of Assam population accounting to around 5.3%. They are not restricted to any specific area and are found in almost all parts of Assam. The speak Bodo language that is derived Tibeto Burmese family of language. Most of them are engaged in rice cultivation, tea plantation and poultry farming. Bodo Women engage themselves in weaving which has become a known culture of Bodo Tribe. Bodos were earlier known to worship their forefathers, however in recent times they have started practicing Hinduism and Bathouism.
Karbi tribe generally reside in hilly areas of Assam and form the major portion of population of Karbi Anglong district. They also inhabit places in North Cachar Hills, Nagaon and Sonitpur districts of Assam. They are mentioned as Mikir in the constitution of India.
The Mishing Tribe belonging to Tibeto Burmese group have agriculture as their occupation. They inhabit districts of Tinsukia, Sibsagar, Sonitpur, Jorhat and Golaghat. Mishing people found the most fertile land on the banks of River Brahmaputra and settled on sides of the river. Though their production was great, frequent floods prevented them from climbing the economic ladder. The main festival of Mishing tribe is Ali-Lye-Ligangin the month of February which is the harvest festival. They speak language known as Mishing language.
Residing in Dirugarh and Tinsukia district of Assam, along Dihing river. They are said to have come here from Thailand in the late 18th century. They speak Assamese language as well as Phake language. These group is also known as Phakial and are a follower of Theravada Buddhism.
According to the 2001 census, the Scheduled Tribes population as in percentage of the total population of Assam was 12.4 percent. The Assam Tribune reported in 2009 that the tribal communities of Assam now officially account for 15.64 percent of the total population.
The Constitution of India categorizes the tribes of Assam into two groups: Scheduled Tribes (Hills) and Scheduled Tribes (Plains). Since hills tribes living in the plains and plains tribes living in the hills in large numbers are not recognised as scheduled tribes in the respective places, the census data may not reflect the correct figures. The Assam Tribune has claimed that if these categories of tribes are counted the actual population. Assamese language is used as the lingua franca by most of the tribes.