The Rathwa tribe constitutes the group and sub-groups of aboriginal people native to Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh. The tribe gets its name from the ancient Dravidian term ‘rathbistar’ standing for the hilly and forested region in the above states. The original inhabitants of the aforementioned regions came to be known as rathwas. A sub-group who claim their ancestry to the rathwas is called the Rathwa Koli community. Rathwas presently inhabit the talukas of Nasvadi, Jabugam, and Chhota Udaipur that lie in the Baroda district. Rathwas have remained endogamous by and large and speak in Rathvi-pidgin Gujarati and farming continues to be their chief occupation.
History of the Tribe
Madhya Pradesh is believed to be the original homeland of the Rathwas. It is from the heartland of India that the Rathwas migrated to the surrounding and neighboring regions in the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat. As per the 2001 census, there were a total of 5, 35, 284 Rathwa individuals of which there were 2, 61,988 females and 2, 73, 796 males.
The Rathwas speak in Hindi with people who don’t belong to their tribe but communicate in a local dialect within their community. They marry within their community but interfamily, matriarchic or patriarchic marriages are strictly prohibited. Wedding customs and rites have a striking resemblance to the practices followed by Hindus.
They’ve traditionally been non-vegetarian and consume both alcoholic (locally brewed) and non-alcoholic beverages. Rule of primogeniture is strictly followed when it comes to inheritance and so it is the eldest male member who takes over following the death of his father. Following the death of a tribal member, the individual is cremated and a 13-day penance is observed after cremation.
Where Do They Belong To
As mentioned above, the Rathwas live in villages in the talukas of Nasvadi, Jabugam, and Chhota Udaipur in the district of Baroda and also in some talukas of Panchmahal district in eastern Gujarat.
Ideal Visiting Time
The Rathwas follow religious practices that are very similar to the ones practiced by Hindus and celebrate the chief Hindu festivals of Holi, Dusshera, and Diwali with gaiety. They also have their own tribal ceremonies like Pithora and Ujani. Pithora is celebrated during January-February when animal sacrifices are made, folk-songs are crooned, and several other time-honored rituals are carried out. So, the best time to socialize with the Rathwas is during these months.