Identification. The name "Abor" is applied, in a general sense, to all of the hill tribes that live in the area surrounding the Assam Valley.


Although the Agaria are not a homogeneous group, it is believed they were originally a Dravidian-speaking branch of the Gond tribe. As a separate caste, however, they do distinguish themselves from others by their profession as iron smelters.


The Ahir are a caste of cowherds, milkers, and cattle breeders widely dispersed across the Gangetic Plain, especially in the more easternly part (Bihar, Bengal, and eastern Madhya Pradesh). The Ahir must number well over a million today: they numbered 750,000 in the Central Provinces and Berar in 1911, ranking as the sixth-largest caste in terms of numbers.

Anavil Brahman

Anavil Brahmans are grhastha or "homeowner" Brahmans, which means they cannot perform priestly functions. They are traditionally landowners.


Identification. The Andamanese are the indigenous tribes of Negrito hunters and gatherers of the Andaman Islands.


This term has been used in two distinct senses. Up to about 1900 it meant a British person (whether of English, Scottish, Irish or Welsh ancestry) who had been born in India ("country born") and resided there.



The term "Assamese" is often used to refer to those who are citizens of Assam: Mymensinghy settlers (from Bangladesh) and tea-garden laborers are thus included in its coverage. The term can also be used to describe the indigenous or longsettled inhabitants of this northeast Indian state.



Identification. The Baiga (who call themselves Bhumiaraja or Bhumijan) are a Munda or Kolarian people (part of the Bhuiya tribe) located in the central highlands of India.


Identification. The Baluchi are predominantly Sunni Muslim, seminomadic pastoralists, whose homelands straddle the Iran-Pakistan border as well as including a small portion of southern Afghanistan.



Bauls are a religious and cultural group of India, best known for their songs and poems to the god who dwells within. The term "Baul" is usually understood to mean "madman" or religious ecstatic, and Bauls often describe themselves as crazy for God.

Bene Israel

Identification. The Bene Israel Indian Jews lived in Bombay and in villages on the Konkan Coast, south of Bombay, in Maharashtra State.


Identification. The Bengali people speak the Bengali (Bangla) language and live in the Bengal region of the Indian subcontinent located in northeastern South Asia, and most follow either the Hindu or the Muslim faith.

Bengali Shakta

Shaktas are the worshipers of the goddess, called Shakti or Devi, in India. Popular Shaktism in Bengal is primarily an oral tradition, organized around living teachers (gurus) and sacred places (shakta pithas).

Bengali Vaishnava

Vaishnavas are worshipers of the Hindu god Vishnu, and different subgroups worship him in his various forms and incarnations (avatars). Often these forms are associated with places—he is worshiped as Jagannath at Puri, as Rama at Ayodhya, and as Vithoba at Pandarpur.


Identification. The Bhils are the third-largest (after the Gonds and Santals) and most widely distributed tribal group in India.


Identification. The Bhuiya are one of the most widespread tribes of India.


The name "Bhutan" is derived from the compound bhotente, the ente or "borderland" of Bhot. The Bhutanese know their country as "Druk-yul," the land (yul) of the thunder dragon (druk).


The name "Bihari" subsumes several hundreds of Hindu castes, inhabiting the state of Bihar in northeastern India. They number about 85 million (1991) and speak Bihari, which is an eastern dialect of Hindi.


The Bohra, who numbered 118,307 in 1901, are found today in large numbers in the Surat and Bharuch districts of Gujarat State, in Bombay city, and in all major trade centers of India. Their religious and political center is at Surat, where the high priest of the Daudi Bohra, the main section of the community, resides.


Identification. The Bondo are an Austroasiatic people who inhabit the area northwest of the Machkund River in the state of Orissa, India.


The Brahmans are a sacerdotal elite found everywhere in Hindu Asia, even as far east as Bali and Lombok in Indonesia. While in any one area they may be identified as the highest caste, there are in fact some hundreds of endogamous Brahman castes throughout South Asia; and so the Brahmans should more correctly be seen as a caste block, or in Sanskrit terms a varna.

Brahman and Chhetri of Nepal

Identification. Brahman and Chhetri are high Hindu Nepalese castes.


The Brahui are a group of tribes who live primarily in Baluchistan and Sind provinces of Pakistan. Their numbers have been placed at anywhere from 861,000 to 1.5 million in Pakistan with about 200,000 in Afghanistan and 10,000 in Iran.


The Burusho are a mountain people inhabiting a small number of rocky terraces in the independent Pakistani states of Hunza and Nagir. The region is mountainous and is characterized by deep valleys carved by the Hunza River.

Castes, Hindu

The caste system is a form of hierarchical, kin-based social organization of great antiquity found in South Asian societies. The term, from the Portuguese casta, is frequently contrasted with such other social categories as race, class, tribe, and Ethnic group.


Identification. The Chakma speak a dialect of Bengali or Bangla, live in southeastern Bangladesh, and are predominantly of the Buddhist faith.


The Chenchus of Andhra Pradesh (formerly Hyderabad) inhabit the hilly country north of the Kistna River, which forms the most northerly extension of the Nallamalai Hills and is generally known as the Amrabad Plateau. It lies between 16° and 16°30′ N and 78°30′ and 79° 15′ E.


ETHNONYMS: 'kKxou and related words; Mizo (same as Lushai), Zo, Zomi. Also regional and dialect group names: Chinbok, Chinbon, Dai, Kuku, Lai (same as Haka), Laizo (same as Falam), Mara (same as Lakher), Ngala (same as Matu), n'Men, etc.

Chinese of South Asia

This article refers not to Chinese soldiers, who for more than thirty years have patrolled the Tibetan border that forms the northern limit of South Asia, but rather to ethnic Chinese who have lived mainly in major South Asian cities for a century or more. In 1982 there were 700 Chinese in Bangladesh, 110,000 in India, 3,600 in Pakistan, and 3,000 in Sri Lanka.

Chitpavan Brahman

Identification. "Chitpavan," sometimes spelled "Chittapavan," may mean either "pure from the pyre" or "pure in heart." Another name for this Brahman caste of the Marathi-speaking area of western India is "Konkanastha," which means "being of the Konkan," the coastal strip between the Arabian Sea and the Western Ghats (mountains) south of the city of Bombay.

Cochin Jew

The Cochin Jews are one of the smallest Jewish communities in the world. They hail from the Malabar Coast in India and traditionally were divided into two castelike subgroups: "White" and "Black" Jews.


Coorg is a tiny, isolated, mountainous district in southwest India, bounded on the east by the high Mysore Plateau, averaging an elevation of 1,000 meters, and on the west by a mountainous frontier 30-50 kilometers from the western coast. Its greatest length, north to south, is about 100 kilometers, and its greatest breadth, east to west, is 65 kilometers.


Although this name appears in the anthropological Literature, it seems that there is no discrete cultural group identifiable as Dards. It is true that Pliny and Ptolemy in ancient times both referred to such a people inhabiting a tract of the upper Indus Valley in what is today Pakistan, and in that area people living on the left bank of the Indus were called Dards.


Identification. Divehis are those who speak Divehi, the language of the Republic of the Maldives.

Europeans in South Asia

French of India


Assam is an Indian state located between 26° and 28° N and 90° and 94° E. Muslim Assamese speakers number 2 Million out of a total Muslim population of about 5 million in Assam.


Identification. The Garos living in the East and West Garo Hills districts of Meghalaya in northeastern India speak the Garo dialect.


Identification. The Gonds are an important and Numerous tribe, residing at the present time mainly in Gondavana, "the Land of the Gonds," the easternmost districts of Madhya Pradesh, formerly the Central Provinces of India.


The term "Grasia" refers to the Rajput and other landholders in sections of Gujarat and Rajasth, where they hold lands given to them as garas (landlords) by the chieftains for maintenance. It is said that the term "Grasia" is derived from the native term for "landlords." The Grasias are the principal inhabitants of the Bhakkar section of Pakistani Punjab, and also of parts of Kachchh District, in Gujarat.


The Gujars are a historical caste who have lent their name to the Gujarat District and the town of Gujaranwala in the Punjab, the peninsula and state of Gujarat, and the area known as Gujargash in Gwalior. They numbered 56,000 Persons in 1911, of which the majority belonged to the Hoshangabad and Nimar districts.


Identification. Gujaratis are the inhabitants of Gujarat, one of the federal states of the Indian Republic.


"Gurkha" is not the name of an ethnic group but rather the name given those Nepalese nationals who serve in the British army. Gurkhas are drawn from a number of Nepalese ethnic groups including the Gurung (who contribute the greatest percentage of their population of all the groups), Magar, Tamang, Sunwar, Limbu, and Rai.


Identification. The Gurungs are a people inhabiting the foothills of the Himalayas in central Nepal.


Identification. Hijras are a social group, part religious cult and part caste, who live mainly in north India.

Hill Pandaram

Identification. The Malapantāram (hereafter anglicized as the Hill Pandaram) are a Scheduled Tribe of the state of Kerala in south India and inhabit the forested hills of the Western Ghats between Lake Periyar and the town of Tenmali, about 9° N.

Hill Tribes

This inexact term was long applied by British and American travelers and colonial authorities to the indigenous inhabitants of upland areas in South and Southeast Asia (and sometimes in other parts of the world). Although it would seem clear enough what a "hill tribe" is, the term finds little favor among modern anthropologists.


While Hinduism is undoubtedly one of the world's major religions, whether gauged in terms of its ethical and metaphysical complexities or simply in terms of the numbers of adherents (estimated at 760 million in 1991), it defies easy description. It had no founding figure, like Jesus; it has no one sacred book, like the Quran, but many; it has no central doctrines; worship can be conducted anywhere; there is no principal spiritual leader, like a pope; and there is no hierarchy of priests analogous to a church.

Indian Christian

Indian Christians are believers in the divinity of Jesus Christ. Despite the persisting idea in South Asia that Christianity is the "white man's religion," it has a massive following today in the subcontinent.



Possibly the oldest ascetic religious tradition on Earth, Jainism is followed today by about 3.5 million people, especially in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Karnataka. Along with Buddhism, Jainism was one of several renunciatory movements—the Sramana schools—that grew up in modern-day Bihar and southern Nepal in the sixth century B.C.


Identification and Location. Primarily endogamous communities calling themselves and known as Jat live predominantly in large parts of northern and northwestern India and in southern and eastern Pakistan, as sedentary farmers and/or mobile pastoralists.



The Kalasha are a tribe of about 4,000, found in the Chitral District in North-West Frontier Province, on the western edge of Pakistan. They are unique among the tribes of the Hindu Kush in one respect: to this day they have resisted conversion to Islam.


These are some 66 percent of the inhabitants of Karnataka, in south-central India, who speak the Kannada language. In 1991 they numbered about 31 million speakers (four percent of the national population).


The Kanbi are a large endogamous caste living in the Kheda District of Gujarat State, India. They are the most numerous of the high castes (e.g., Brahman, Bania, and Patidar) in this district.


Identification. Kanjar are an ancient, widely dispersed, and endogamous population of nomadic artisans and entertainers spread throughout Southwest Asia.


The Kashmiris are the Hindu and Muslim inhabitants of India's most northerly state, Jammu and Kashmir, and of that fragment of land that is controlled by Pakistan and called Azad Kashmir (Gilgit, Baltistan, and four other districts, all thinly populated). The entire area is one of beautiful Mountain ranges, high grazing valleys, and a large, central agricultural valley called the Vale of Kashmir, where Srinigar, the Indian state capital, is located.



The Khojas are an ethnic group in India and Pakistan, formerly a Hindu trading caste, founded in the fourteenth century by a famous saint, and followers of the Agha Khan, the spiritual leader of the Ismaili sect. They live in the Punjab, in Sind, Kachchh, Kathiawar, and down the western coast of India; in Zanzibar and elsewhere on the east coast of Africa; and in scattered groups under the name of Mawalis in the Hindu Kush region and the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan, in Afghanistan, in the Khanates of central Asia, in the hilly districts of eastern Persia, and in the Persian Gulf area.


The Kirantis are composed of two distinct ethnic groups, the Rai and the Limbu, and number about 500,000 in eastern Nepal.


Kohistan is a mountainous area lying between the Indus River and the Durand Line that forms the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan; it stretches northward from 35° N and the former kingdom of Swat as far as Gilgit. The Kohistanis have also been called Dards because they speak four languages of the small Dardic branch of the Indo-Aryan Subfamily: Torwali, Gawri, Eastern and Western Kohistani (but not Kashmiri, the most important language of this branch).


Identification. The word "Kol" appears to have been derived from the Mundari word ko, meaning "they," or from horo, hara, har, ho, or koro—"the men"—by which the Kols identify themselves.


The name "Koli" (from which is derived the English word coolie) is explained in a dozen ways, among which the most plausible is that it comes from the Sanskrit word kula, meaning "clan." The Koli numbered only 336,000 persons in 1911, but their numbers were estimated at 1.5 million in Bombay State alone in 1969. The Koli constitute a tribe with many branches and two main subdivisions: the Hill Kolis; and the Sea Kolis or Son Kolis.


The Konds are a Dravidian people traditionally inhabiting the hill country of the Eastern Ghats of India. In Phulbani District, central Orissa State, they occupy an area lying Between 19° and 20° N and 83° and 84° E.


The Korku are a tribe of 275,654 (in 1971). The Korku language, which is often called the Kolarian language, belongs to the Munda Family of languages.


[Editor's Note: In this article the established spellings of Kota words have been retained, along with diacritical marks, to facilitate reference to M. B.


Identification. The Koyas are a subdivision of the Gond tribes of central India.


The Kshatriyas are a large block of Hindu castes, mainly located in the northern half of India. The Sanskrit term Kshatrā means "warrior, ruler," and identifies the second varna, ranking immediately below the Brahmans.



Labbai are one of the four Muslim groups in Tamil Nadu State. The Ravuttan, Marakkayar, and Kayalan form the rest of the Islamic community.


Identification. The Lakher are a Kuki tribe located in the Lushai Hills of Mizoram (north of the Arakan Hills), in India.


The Lepcha inhabit the southern and eastern slopes of Mount Kanchenjunga in the Himalayas, a land located in the districts of Sikkim and Darjeeling, India, lying between 27° and 28° N and 88° and 89° E. Their population in 1987 was estimated at 65,000 by the United Bible Societies, with 23,706 in Sikkim (1982), 1,272 in Nepal (1961), and 24,200 in Bhutan (1987), and others in India.


The Limbu, one of the largest tribal aggregates in Nepal, live in the most easterly part of Nepal between the Arun River and the border of Sikkim District, India. The Limbu are of Mongolian descent and speak a Tibeto-Burman dialect.


Identification. The Lingayats speak Kannada, one of the four major Dravidian languages spoken in the south of India.


[Editor's Note: This entry is much longer and more detailed than others to provide a sense of the social, religious, economic, and interpersonal details that are typical of daily life in many Hindu village societies throughout South Asia.



ETHNONYMS: Keralite, Malabari (in north Kerala), Malayalee, Travancorean (in south Kerala).


The Mappila are Muslims who live along the Malabar Coast (now known as Malappuram District) of Kerala State in southwestern India. They now number about 6 million.


Identification. Marathas are a Marathi-speaking people found on the Deccan Plateau throughout the present state of Maharashtra and nearby areas.



Representing the largest part of the Muslim population in Rajasthan, the Meos number approximately 600,000 (according to 1984 data). They are crowded into the Alwar and Bharatpur districts in the northeastern part of the state, as well as in the Gurgaon District of the adjacent state of Haryana.


Identification. The Mikirs are one of the more numerous of the Tibeto-Burman peoples inhabiting the Indian state of Assam.


Identification. "Mizo," meaning "people of the high land, " is a generic term for the related peoples who speak the Duhlian dialect and live mainly in Mizoram, Manipur, and Tripura states of India.


Although the last Mogul emperor died in 1857, the Mogul people have not disappeared from India and Pakistan (especially the Punjab states). In 1911 there were some 60,000 Moguls.

Moor of Sri Lanka

A consensus on the name for Sri Lanka Muslims has not been arrived at. The appellation "Moor" (from the Portuguese) is not used by the population to identify themselves.


Identification. Munda refers primarily to a group of Languages, but the tribes that speak those languages have collectively become known to scholarship by the same name.


Three countries in South Asia are among the largest Muslim nations: Bangladesh has about 98 million Muslims, India about 95 million, and Pakistan about 107 million. The entire subcontinental total can be estimated in 1989 as Including about 301 million Muslims.


Identification. The designation "Naga" is applied to the numerous Indo-Mongoloid tribes living in the hill country at the convergence of the borders of India and Myanmar (Burma).

Nambudiri Brahman

The Nambudiri Brahmans are one of a number of caste groups living in Kerala State, India. Most of the description given in this article refers to Nambudiri society as it existed circa 1900.



Identification. The Nayars are one of a number of caste groups living in Kerala State, India.


A central axiom of the religious history of South Asia is that Buddhism, which arose there in the sixth century B.C. and spread to become a world faith of inestimable influence, virtually died out in India, the land of its birth, many centuries ago.


Identification. The term "Nepali" refers to any person born within the borders of the kingdom of Nepal or from a group considered historically or territorially indigenous to the kingdom.


Identification. Most likely, the word "Newar," in use since the seventeenth century, is derived from the word "Nepal" and originally denoted the residents of the Kathmandu (or Nepal) Valley without regard to their ethnic affiliation.


The Nicobarese are the majority ethnic and linguistic group living in the Nicobar Island group, a district of India's Andaman and Nicobar Union Territory in the Bay of Bengal. Located between 6°50′ and 9°10′N and 92°10′ and 93°55′ E, the Nicobar group comprises 2,022 square kilometers of surface area, strung along a 262-kilometer NNW-SSE line.


Identification. The Nyinba are one of many small, largely endogamous groups positioned along the northern border-lands of Nepal that can be identified as ethnically Tibetan by their language, by the Tibetan Buddhist religion, and other features of culture and social structure.


The Okkaligas are the dominant landowning and cultivating caste in the multicaste population of southern Karnataka State in southwestern peninsular India. Among the hundreds of villages in which Okkaligas live is Rampura (population 1,523, 735 of whom are Okkaligas, ca.



Identification. In Orissa State in India, the Oriya constitute the regional ethnic group, speaking the Oriya language and professing the Hindu religion, to be distinguished from an Oriya-speaking agricultural caste called Odia found in central coastal Orissa.


Identification. "Pahari" can refer to any mountain-dwelling people, but in north India it generally designates the Indo-European-speaking peoples of the Himalayas who, however, generally prefer regional ethnic designations.

Pandit of Kashmir

Identification. The Pandits are natives of the Kashmir Valley in north India.


The word "Paniyan" means "laborer." They are among an unfortunate group of people who traditionally were bonded laborers. "Bonded labor" results from a social agreement Between a debtor and creditor that stipulates that the debtor has a lifelong obligation to work for the creditor.


Identification. The Parsis are an immigrant community, possibly coming from Fars, Persia, and now located in Bombay, western India.


Identification. The Pathan inhabit southern and eastern Afghanistan and western Pakistan.


Identification. The term "peripatetic" refers to spatially mobile groups who are largely nonprimary producers or extractors and whose principal economic resource is other people.


Identification. The term "Punjabi" signifies both an inhabitant of the Punjab and a speaker of the predominant Language of that region, Punjabi.


Identification. The Purum are an Old Kuki tribe occupying the Manipur Hills area of India and Myanmar (Burma).


Identification. Qalandar (pronounced like the English word "colander") are a widely dispersed, endogamous population of nomadic entertainers found throughout South Asia.


Along with the Limbu, the Rai form the two subgroups of the Kiranti. The largest Tibeto-Nepalese group in eastern Nepal, the Rai are also found in India, Sikkim, and Bhutan.


People who identity themselves as Rajputs are found across northwestern India, the Ganges plains, Madhya Pradesh, and Himalayan valleys. Following Indian independence, the twenty-three Rajput states that formed what was called Rajputana were consolidated into the modern state of Rajasthan.


Refugees in South Asia

While refugees in South Asian countries nowhere constitute a cohesive social group (with the possible exception of some groups from Afghanistan in western Pakistan), they are so numerous at the present time (1991) that an outline of their demography is appropriate in this volume. Three South Asian countries hold a total of about 4,085,800 refugees today, of whom only 293,000 are native to the region.



Identification. The Santal are the largest of the tribal populations in South Asia.


The Sayyids are descendants of Ali, the son-in-law of Mohammed by Fatima, Mohammed's daughter; and those found in South Asia today are the representatives of the Sayyids who, during the Muslim supremacy, flocked to India as religious teachers, soldiers, and adventurers, from Turkey, Arabia, and central Asia.

Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes

The Indian constitution (1949) created broad categories of underprivileged groups in the Republic of India that were to be the object of special administrative and welfare efforts. Three categories were named, though not clearly defined: Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and other Backward Classes.


The Sheikhs are Sunni Muslims, widespread in northern and central India as well as Pakistan and all of Bangladesh. Of the four main Muslim groups in South Asia, the Sheikhs rank second, below the Sayyids but above the Pathans and Moguls.


Identification. The Sherpas are one of the Bhotia, the Tibetan-related ethnic groups inhabiting several high valleys in northeastern Nepal.


The Sidi, who are also known as Habshi, are descendants of Africans originally coming from the hinterlands of the East African coast. The term "Sidi" is supposed to derive from Sayyid, "Habshi" from the Arabic term for Abyssinia, "Habash." In the past, Black slaves stemming from the coastal strip from Ethiopia to Mozambique were carried by Arab slave traders to different parts of the Muslim world, Including India.


The approximately 18,000,000 Sikhs who reside in the Punjab and in scattered communities across the world share a reverence for "the ten gurus" (from Guru Nanak to Guru Gobind Singh) and the teachings of their scripture, the Adi Granth or Guru Granth Sahib. Worship is central for all devotees of Sikhism, India's youngest monotheistic religion, either in the form of daily observances at home or in corporate worship at the gurdwara, a building designated for congregational ceremonies and social events such as communal kitchens (langar) providing free food.


The Sikkimese live in the Himalayan kingdom of Sikkim, with a population of 316,385 in 1981. Tibet, Nepal, India, and Bhutan all touch the borders of this kingdom.


Sind is a province in southeast Pakistan. It is bordered by the provinces of Baluchistan on the west and north, Punjab on the northeast, the Indian states of Rajasthan and Gujarat to the east, and the Arabian Sea to the south.


Identification. The Sinhalese speak the Sinhala language, live in the southwestern portion of Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) , and are predominantly of the Theravada Buddhist faith.


Identification. The Sora are a "tribal" people living historically on the margins between shifting political centers in Central India.


The Sudras are the lowest-ranking of the four varnas into which Indian society was traditionally divided; but they are definitely higher in rank than the Untouchables or Panchamas, a category so demeaned in status that it is not even referred to in the classical varna model. Sudras are essentially rural laborers: the classical lawgiver Manu (c.


The Sunwar are a group of some 20,000 people located primarily in eastern Nepal. The Sunwar have frequent Contact with the Gurung and Magar and are evidently culturally similar to these larger groups.

Syrian Christian of Kerala

Identification. Syrian Christians live in Kerala State in the southwest corner of India and speak Malayalam, one of the four major Dravidian languages of south India.


The Tamang, numbering some 500,000 in 1985, occupy mountainous regions and the hills surrounding the Kathmandu Valley in midwestern Nepal. The Tamang are composed of patrilineal exogamous clans that are classified into two endogamous status groups: those whose members have intermarried only with Tamangs or Sherpas and those whose members have intermarried with Magars, Gurungs, or Newars.


Identification. Indian Tamils are those who speak Tamil.

Tamil of Sri Lanka

Identification. Linguistically and culturally related to the Tamiland Malayalam-speaking peoples of southern India, Sri Lankan Tamils have long resided in their traditional homelands (the northern and eastern cultural regions of Sri Lanka), and interacted with the neighboring Sinhalese.


Identification. Speakers of the Telugu language inhabit Andhra Pradesh State in south India as well as border areas of the neighboring states of Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu.


The Thadou are a Kuki people located chiefly in the hill country adjacent to the Imphal Valley in the northeastern Indian state of Manipur. This area encompasses some 26,000 square kilometers.


Identification. Thakali territory is called Thakhola or Thak-Satsae, in Jomson District in central Nepal.


The most contemporary of the remaining group of Thakurs can be found in at least the five districts of Pune, Ahmadnagar, Nashik, Thane, and Greater Bombay, in the state of Maharashtra. However, different people in different states of India are denoted by the term "Thakur." Coming from the Sanskrit thakkura, meaning "idol, deity," it has been used as a title of respect, especially for Rajput nobles.


The Tharus are the largest and most important of the various tribal groups occupying the Tarai zone of Nepal. (The Tarai is the lowest [300 to 800 meters above sea level] of the four ecological zones that run across the country from west to east.) In 1985 the Tharus numbered about 500,000 in Nepal, with a considerably smaller population in Uttar Pradesh, India (67,994 in 1971).



Identification. The Toda, a small, traditionally pastoral community of the Nilgiri Mountains in south India, call themselves O.l (long rounded vowel, plus voiceless retroflex l), meaning simply "the men." Their Badaga neighbors call them Todava, while Tamil speakers call them Tutavar.



The Vaisyas are the third-highest of the four varnas or categories into which Hindu society is traditionally divided, ranking above the Sudras. Vaisya includes a large number of distinct castes of similar ranking, traditionally traders, moneylenders, or farmers.


Identification. The Veddas are a small group of people living in the center of Sri Lanka, an island off the southern tip of India.


Identification. The Vellala are a major agricultural caste who live in Tamil Nadu, a state of southern India.


Zamindars are from the Muslim Rajput castes who settled in rural areas of the Indo-Gangetic Plain, from Pakistan to Bangladesh. Horsemen of these lineages were of higher status, while the foot troopers were from the lower castes.