People of North-East India

  • K. R. Dikshit
  • Jutta K. Dikshit
Part of the Advances in Asian Human-Environmental Research book series (AAHER)


The population of North-East India is formed of several racial stocks, principally, the Mongoloids, the Indo-Aryans, the Australoids or Austric and the Dravidians, the last being a very minor group represented by some immigrant population. While the original settlers were the Mongoloids, the Indo-Aryan and other groups arrived later. There is undoubtedly a dominance of Mongoloid element in the population of North-East India. Besides the racial differences, there is a tribal–nontribal duality recognised by the Constitution of India to secure certain benefits to the tribal community, to enable them to catch up with the rest of the society, in educational attainment and the level of living. Most of the tribes or tribal communities are concentrated in the hilly states of Arunachal Pradesh; Nagaland; Manipur; Mizoram, on Myanmar border; and Meghalaya, sandwiched between Assam and Bangladesh. While the tribes of Arunachal migrated to this region at a very early date, the arrival of the Nagas, Kukis and Mizos in their present habitat is relatively recent. Most of the indigenous people of North-East India have embraced Christianity, transforming the social ethos and cultural practices of the Nagas, the Mizos, the Khasi and the Garos. The Bodos, the largest tribal group of the region and largely confined to Assam, have adopted Hinduism and are known by different names like Bodos, Kacharis and Mechs. Some who came under the influence of the Royal Koch dynasty call themselves ‘Rajbanshis’, meaning people having royal lineage. The Kukis of Manipur and Tripurs of Tripura are other important tribal groups.

The nontribal component of the population, which constitutes over 70 % of the population of North-East India, is confined to Assam, Manipur and Tripura. In all these states nontribal population is more than percent; and in Assam, the most densely peopled state of North-East India, 88 % of the population falls in nontribal category. The Assamese society consists of people following different faiths, though a large majority follows Hinduisms. They speak Assamese, an Indo-Aryan language, which has its own script and a rich literature. The Assamese culture has syncretised a culture that has derived multiple elements from neighbouring societies or pre-existing cultures. The caste system is not universal as in other Hindu societies and, to that extent, Assamese are far more progressive.


Mother Tongue Tribal Community Tribal Population Tribal Group Schedule Caste 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Allen BC (1901) Census of India, vol VI, Assam, pt II, tables p 9 (for religious composition of Lushai Hills), ShillongGoogle Scholar
  2. Allen BC (1905) The gazetteer of Naga Hills and Manipur. Assam District Gazetteers, vol XI, ShillongGoogle Scholar
  3. Banerjee S (2004) Pnar social structure. In: Basu A, Dasgupta BK, Sarkar J (eds) Anthropology for North-East India: a reader. IAA, KolkataGoogle Scholar
  4. Banthia JK (ed) (2001) Census of India 2001. First report on religion. Government of IndiaGoogle Scholar
  5. Bareh H (1964) Khasi democracy. Don Bosco School, ShillongGoogle Scholar
  6. Bareh H (1967) History and culture of Khasi people. ShillongGoogle Scholar
  7. Barkataki S (1969) The tribes of Assam. NBT, DelhiGoogle Scholar
  8. Barpujari HK (1998) North East India: problems and prospects. Spectrum, DelhiGoogle Scholar
  9. Barua KL (Rai Bahadur) (1933) Early history of Kamarupa from the earliest times to the end of the 16th century. Shillong (published by the author), 2nd edition in 1966 published by Lawyers Book Depot, GuwahatiGoogle Scholar
  10. Barua BK (1951) A cultural history of Assam. Nowgong, Barooah, p 4Google Scholar
  11. Baruah TKM (1960) The Idu Mishmis: the people of NEFA (North-East Frontier Agency). Govt. of Assam, Shillong, 110 pGoogle Scholar
  12. Baruah AK (1991) Social tensions in Assam – middle class politics. Purbanchal Prakash, Guwahati, p 37Google Scholar
  13. Bhagabati AC (2003) Structure and change in Arunachalee society: some observations: In: Goswami P (ed) Insight: a collection of articles. XXIV Session. NEIHA, Gauhati University, Guwahati, pp 142–146Google Scholar
  14. Bhagabati AC (2004) The tribe as a social formation: the case of Tangsa of Arunachal Pradesh. In: Arabinda B et al (eds) Anthropology for North-East India: a reader. Indian National Confederation and Academy of Anthropologists, IAA, KolkataGoogle Scholar
  15. Bhattacharjee PN (1983) The Jamatiyas of Tripura. Government of India, AgartalaGoogle Scholar
  16. Bhaumik S (1996) Patterns of minority violence in North-East India. quoted from N Das (2002) Regionalism, ethnicity and nationalisation in North-East India. In: Joshua Thomas C (ed) Dimensions of displaced people in North-East India. Regency, DelhiGoogle Scholar
  17. Bose ML (1989) Social history of Assam. Concept, New DelhiGoogle Scholar
  18. Butler (Capt) J (1875) Rough notes on Angami Nagas. JASB 44(pt IV):307–346Google Scholar
  19. Cantlie A (1984) The Assamese. Centre of South Asian Studies, University of London, LondonGoogle Scholar
  20. Carey BS (1896) The Chin Hills: a history of people, British dealings with them, their customs and manners and a gazetteer of their country. Cultural, Delhi, Reprinted 1983Google Scholar
  21. Census of Assam (1881) The province of Assam under the jurisdiction of the Chief Commissioner (Chief Secretary C. J. Lyall) castes and tribes, Report. Supdt. Govt. Printing Press, Calcutta 1883, pp 63–64Google Scholar
  22. Census of India (1911) Bengal, Bihar, Orissa and Sikkim, vol V, pt I, Report, p 257, CalcuttaGoogle Scholar
  23. Census of India (1931) Assam, vol III, part II, tables, pp 261–270 (The 1931 Census of Assam also offers an explanatory note titled ‘On some castes and caste origin in Sylhet’ authored by Prof. K. M. Gupta of Murarichand College, Sylhet attached as appendix C, to part I-A), ShillongGoogle Scholar
  24. Census of India (1991) Language atlas of India, New DelhiGoogle Scholar
  25. Census of India (2001a) Assam, Series 19 – primary census abstract – Assam Tables A5, A6, A7, A8, A9, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Orders (Amendment) Act 1976, GuwahatiGoogle Scholar
  26. Census of India (2001b) State primary census abstract for individual tribe – 2001, A-11, New DelhiGoogle Scholar
  27. Census of India (2001c) Scheduled tribe atlas of India, New DelhiGoogle Scholar
  28. Census of India (2001d) India – languages, states and union territories, Series 1, table C/16, p 28, New DelhiGoogle Scholar
  29. Chatterjee SK (1950) Kirata Jana Kriti, the Indo-Mongoloids: their contribution to the history and culture of India. J R Asiat Soc Bengal 16(2):22, CalcuttaGoogle Scholar
  30. Chatterjee SK (1955) The place of Assam in the history of civilisation of India. Banikant a Kakati memorial lectures 1954. University of Gauhati, GuwahatiGoogle Scholar
  31. Chaudhuri NC (1965) The continent of Circe. Jaico Books, MumbaiGoogle Scholar
  32. Choudhury PC (1987) History of civilisation of the people of Assam to the 12th century A.D. Ph.D. thesis, London University, published subsequently, Spectrum, GuwahatiGoogle Scholar
  33. Dalton, ET (1872) Descriptive ethnology of Bengal. Asiatic Society of Bengal Press, Calcutta. Reprinted 1973 by Cosmo Publication, DelhiGoogle Scholar
  34. Damant GH (1880) Notes on the locality and population of the tribes dwelling between Brahmaputra and Ningthi rivers. JRAS 12:228–259Google Scholar
  35. Danda DG, Danda AK (2004) On Dimasa descent system. In: Basu A et al (eds) Anthropology for North-East India: a reader. Special Publication of the Indian National Confederation & Academy of Anthropologists, Kolkata, pp 140–151Google Scholar
  36. Das BM (1981) Microrevolution. Concept, DelhiGoogle Scholar
  37. Das BM (1987) The people of Assam. Gyan, DelhiGoogle Scholar
  38. Das G (2002) Immigration in North-East India: The security dimension. In: Joshua Thomas C (ed) Dimension of displaced people in North-East India. Regency, Delhi, p 80Google Scholar
  39. Das BM (2008) Ethnic elements in North-East India. In: Sengupta S (ed) Peoples of North-East India: anthropological perspectives. Gyan, New DelhiGoogle Scholar
  40. Debbarma K (2002) Internationally displaced persons in Tripura. In: Joshua Thomas C (ed) Dimension of displaced people in North-East India. Regency, DelhiGoogle Scholar
  41. Dixon RB (1922) The Khasis and the racial history of Assam. Man in India 2:1–11Google Scholar
  42. Dubey SM (1972) Education, social change and political consciousness among the tribes in North-East India. In: Singh KS (ed) The tribal situation in India. IIAS, Shimla, pp 280–293Google Scholar
  43. Dunn EW (1886) Gazetteer of Manipur. Manas, Delhi, Reprinted 1992Google Scholar
  44. Dutt KN (1979) Assam district gazetteer: Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hills. Govt. of Assam, GuwahatiGoogle Scholar
  45. Dutt KN, Dutta NC (eds) (1976) Gazetteer of Lakhimpur and Dibrugarh. Assam State Gazetteers, Govt. of Assam, GauhatiGoogle Scholar
  46. Elwin V (1964) The tribal world of Verrier Elwin: an autobiography. Oxford University Press, New York/BombayGoogle Scholar
  47. Endle, S (rev) (1961) The Kacharis. Macmillan, London. Reprinted by Cosmo PublicationGoogle Scholar
  48. Gait EA (1906) A history of Assam. Thacker, Spink & Co., Calcutta. Reprinted 2006, LBS, GuwahatiGoogle Scholar
  49. Godden GM (1897) Nagas and the frontier tribes of North-East India. J R Anthropol Inst 26:161–201Google Scholar
  50. Gopalakrishnan R (1995) Meghalaya: land and its people. Osmons, DelhiGoogle Scholar
  51. Goswami PC (1984) The migration of Bengali Muslims. In: Abbi BL (ed) Northeast region: problem and prospects of development. CRRID, ChandigarhGoogle Scholar
  52. Goswami MC, Majumdar DN (2004) Clan organization among the Garos of Assam. In: Arbinda B, Dasgupta BK, Jayanta S (eds) Anthropology for North-East India: a reader. IAA, Kolkata, pp 129–139Google Scholar
  53. Grierson GA (1903) Linguistic survey of India. Tibeto-Burman Family, Bodo, Naga and Kachari Groups, vol III, pts. 1, 2 and 3. Reprinted 1967, Motilal Banarsidass, DelhiGoogle Scholar
  54. Grierson GA (1905) Linguistic Survey of India. Mon Khmer family vol II, 1. Reprinted 1967, Motilal Banarsidass, DelhiGoogle Scholar
  55. Gundevia YD (1975) War and peace in Nagaland. Palit & Palit, DehradunGoogle Scholar
  56. Gurdon (Lt. Col.) PTR (1914) The Khasis. Macmillan, LondonGoogle Scholar
  57. Hodgson B (1847) First essay on the Kocch, Bodo and Dimal Tribes. Baptist Mission Press, CalcuttaGoogle Scholar
  58. Hunter WW (1881) Imperial Gazetteer of India, vol IV. Trubner & Co., LondonGoogle Scholar
  59. Hutton JH (1921a) The Angami Nagas with some notes on neighbouring tribes. Macmillan & Co., London, Reprinted OUPGoogle Scholar
  60. Hutton JH (1921b) The Sema Nagas. Macmillan, LondonGoogle Scholar
  61. Kar KK, Barua G (1979) Tea labour: preliminary appraisal of common identity in multi-ethnic community in Assam. Man in India 59(1):33–42Google Scholar
  62. Karna MN (2005) Meghalaya. In: Mayumi Murazava, Kyoko Inoue and Sanjoy Hazarika (eds) Subregional relations in the Eastern South Asia with special Focus on India’s North-Eastern Region, Tokyo, pp 243–276Google Scholar
  63. Kuhn E (1889) Beiträge zur Sprachenkunde Hinterindiens. Sitzungsberichte d. k. bayr. Akademie d. Wissenschaften, pilosoph. philol. Cl. part 2 190–236, MunichGoogle Scholar
  64. Kyndiah PR (1990) Meghalaya: yesterday and today. Har-Anand, New DelhiGoogle Scholar
  65. Kyndiah PR (1994) Mizo freedom fighters. Sanchar, DelhiGoogle Scholar
  66. Lalkhama (2006) A Mizo civil servant’s random reflections. Express Print House, Ghaziabad, 368 ppGoogle Scholar
  67. Lyall C (1908) The Mikirs, from the papers of the late Edward Stack, IES (edited, arranged and supplemented). D. Nutt, London. Reprinted, United Publishers, GuwahatiGoogle Scholar
  68. Mandal H, Mukherjee S, Datta A (2002) India: an illustrated atlas of tribal world. Anthropological Survey of India, KolkataGoogle Scholar
  69. Mankekar DR (1967) On the slippery slopes of Nagaland. Manaktales, BombayGoogle Scholar
  70. Menon KD (1975) Tripura district gazetteer. Government of India, AgartalaGoogle Scholar
  71. Mukerji B, Singh KS (1982) Tribal movement in Tripura. In: Singh KS (ed) Tribal movement in India, vol I. Manohar, DelhiGoogle Scholar
  72. Mullan MA (1931) Caste, tribe, race and nationality. Census of India, vol 3, Assam, pt. I, Report, Appendix to Chapt. XII, p 201, ShillongGoogle Scholar
  73. Nayak DK, Patra A (2003) Ethnic conflict and forced migration in the area of Bodo concentration in Assam, India. TIIG 25:30–48Google Scholar
  74. Nisar A, Ali I (1979) Hindu–Muslim relations in Assam. Man in India 59(4):361–382Google Scholar
  75. O’Donnel CJD (1893) Lower provinces of Bengal and their feudatories, Census of India 1891, vol IV, Administrative Table, caste tables, p 12, CalcuttaGoogle Scholar
  76. O’Malley LSS (1911) Bengal, Bihar, Orissa and Sikkim, Census of India, vol V, pt I, Report p 117, CalcuttaGoogle Scholar
  77. Olivier G (1958) Physical anthropology of the Nagas of Assam. Man in India 38(2):105–110Google Scholar
  78. Pachuau L (1991) Population structure and settlement patterns in Mizoram. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, NEHU, ShillongGoogle Scholar
  79. Playfair A (1909) The Garos. David Nutt, LondonGoogle Scholar
  80. Pudaite LT (2005) Mizoram. In: Murayava M, Inoue K, Hazarika S (eds) Sub-regional relations in the Eastern South Asia with special focus on India’s north-eastern region, IDE-JETRO, Joint Research Program Series No. 133, Institute of Developing Economies, Chiba, pp 155–242Google Scholar
  81. Rongumuthu DS (1960) The epic lore of the Garos. Department of Tribal Culture and Folklore Research, University of Gauhati, GuwahatiGoogle Scholar
  82. Roy Burman BK (2004) Christianity and development among the hill tribes of North-East India. In: Basu A et al (eds) Anthropology for North-East India: a reader. Spl. Publ., IAA, Kolkata, pp 73–87Google Scholar
  83. Saha RK (2004) Ecology in Time and space: structural transformation among the Meiteis of Manipur Valley. In: Basu A et al (eds) Anthropology for North-East India: a reader. IAA, KolkataGoogle Scholar
  84. Saha A (2005) Tripura: In: Murayava M et al (eds) Subregional relations in the eastern South Asia with special focus on India’s north-eastern region. IDE-JETRO, pp 301–320, TokyoGoogle Scholar
  85. Sarma SN (1981) Social changes in Assam – 1750 to 1950. J Univ Gauhati 28–29:109–121Google Scholar
  86. Shakespear (Col.) LW (1914) History of upper Assam, upper Burma and north-eastern frontier. Macmillan, LondonGoogle Scholar
  87. Singh KS (1978) Bio-anthropological study of three populations in Manipur valley. Ph.D. thesis, Pune UniversityGoogle Scholar
  88. Singh KS (ed) (1998) People of India. National series, vol VI, Indian communities. ASI, KolkataGoogle Scholar
  89. Singh KS (1994 onward) The scheduled tribes of India. National series, vol III. ASI, Kolkata; Oxford University Press, New DelhiGoogle Scholar
  90. Sinha R (1962) The Akas. Research Department, Adviser’s Secretariat, ShillongGoogle Scholar
  91. Sinha R (1977) Religion and culture of North-East India. Abhinav, New DelhiGoogle Scholar
  92. Stack E (1908) The Mikirs (edited, arranged and supplemented by Sir Charles Lyall) from the Papers of late Edward Stack. United, GuwahatiGoogle Scholar
  93. Suri R (1985) Physical anthropology of Angami Naga. A tribe of North-East India. Ph.D. dissertation, Gauhati UniversityGoogle Scholar
  94. Thane GD (1882) On some Naga skulls. J R Anthropol Inst 11:215–18Google Scholar
  95. Thompson WH (1923) Census of India 1921, Bengal, pt I, Report Ben. Sec. Bk. Depot, Calcutta, p 162Google Scholar
  96. von Fürer-Haimendorf C (1946) Agriculture and land tenure among the Apatanis. Man in India 26(1):20–49Google Scholar
  97. Waddell LA (1900) The tribes of the Brahmaputra Valley. JASB 69(3):1–127Google Scholar
  98. Wangshimenla (2002) Environmental ethics, social norms and land use practices in Ao region, Nagaland. Ph.D. dissertation, Nagaland University, LumaniGoogle Scholar
  99. Woodthorpe (Lt Col) RG (1882) Notes on the wild tribes inhabiting the so-called Naga Hills on our North-East frontier of India. J R Anthropol Inst 11(Pt I): 56–74; Pt II:196Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • K. R. Dikshit
    • 1
  • Jutta K. Dikshit
    • 1
  1. 1.University of PunePuneIndia

Personalised recommendations