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Shubhyatra >> Goa Yatra >> Goa Tribes


Main Tribe : Gowdas, the most unique among them
Other Tribes : Kunbis, Velips and Dhangars
Main Deity : Malikkarjun (Lord Shiva )
Major Festival : Shigmotsav in February-March

Tribal People of Goa

Goa Tribes
Goa Tribes

A land with such a rich history has definitely encouraged people to come and inhabit its virgin land. As the chapters of history leafed by, many tuned them with the rhythm of modernity. But still there are a few who love to hold their ancient way of living and nomadic way of lifestyle. These are the people who attract hundreds of tourists round the year to this sea-kissed land. Yes, they are the tribal heritage of Goa. Standing firm to the backlash of time, they still amaze travellers with bizarre style quotients, esoteric phonetics and unbelievable deep rooted beliefs and strong taboos, that invariably take everyone to a different world of fantasy. Come over to Goa to experience a different lifestyle, one that you might have never encountered before.

There are four major tribes in Goa - the Gowdas, the Kunbis, the Velips and the Dhangars - who live in small groups in segregated villages. It is bewildering to see their unique lifestyle, customs, traditions, ceremonies, religious beliefs and superstitions, that have been freezed over the centuries. In many respects, their lifestyles could be termed 'primitive' and akin to the stone age. Yet, while we may call them primitive, in so many ways they are more civilised as all their habits, customs and traditions originate from the soil. They are basic and are untouched by the economic, technological and scientific changes that have taken place in the 'developed' world.

The Gowdas

There is no official record of where or from which direction the Gowdas may have migrated to Goa. However, legends float in the air and you can sniff many of those. Some scholars have linked them to the Gowda community of Bengal, because of many similar customs and traditions. Believed to derive their name from the Sanskrit word "Gaon" for village, they are said to be among the earliest inhabitants of Goa. The Gowdas are Hindus, with no specific hierarchial order and don't marry outside their community. You can find them consonant in many ways with the Velips, save the role and rights of women in their society. Women play a very active role in economic, social and political activities, but ironically are not allowed to participate in religious rituals, even in those related to the clan deity in the family house. The festivals of the Gowda tribe is an interesting thing to behold. By singing and dancing around Malikkarjun (Lord Shiva), the main deity, they indeed create a magnificent vista.

The Kunbis

Goa Tribal People
Goa Tribal People

Known to be very simple and hardworking people, the Kunbis are short in stature and very shy. Even today they continue to retain their simplicity and believe in adhering to their age-old customs and traditions. Plan a holiday trip to the interiors and you can witness an unique lifestyle breathing in the waves of antiquity. What a simple life they lead! Nurturing lush green fields and dwelling in small huts made of mud walls with bamboo roofs adorned with coconut palm leaves or straws. The Kunbis are an excellent example of a living community, blessed with strong links with relatives and others. They live together, clustered into several hamlets, known as 'kutumba', from the Sanskrit word 'kutumbakam' which means a family. Kunbis have a rich tradition of art and culture to which they attach particular importance. Listen to their songs, that are melodious, behold their dances, that are colourful. Participate during the spring festival of Shigmotsav in February-March, and you can have the pleasure to behold one of the grand ceremonies of tribal Goa. Applauded as a highly choreographed affair, this festival floats with different folk themes that make their way through the main streets.


Said to be one of the sub-castes of the Kunbis, interestingly they trace their pedigree to the stone age. Nestling at the stone-age site discovered recently at Kajur, they also practise a concept akin to that of the pre-historic period. Nevertheless, the Velips while having some commonality with the Kunbis, have their own very marked and distinguishing features, not only in regard to customs and rituals, but also racially. One of the features that you may find interesting, is their notion behind surnames. The name Velips refers to those whose ancestors settled in a Goan village are called 'Gaonkar' (Sanskrit, Gaon : village). The surname 'Zarkar' is derived from the word 'Zara' which means a fountain. 'Dahikar' is another surname derived from the word 'Dahi' (yoghurt). Unlike other tribes, joint family system is prevalant among the Velips and also, they are economically more stable.


The Dhangars in Goa are recognised as shepherds caressing a semi-nomadic lifestyle. Legend has it that they were created from the dust of Lord Shiva's body. You will find it easy to identify them because of their dressing and occupation which separates them from other communities in the region. When theytake their cattle grazing, they invariably carry a stick and are accompanied by one or two hunter dogs. Polygamy is a common practise, and the bride is normally purchased in exchange of cash and kind.

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Top 5 Highlights of Goa Tribes

Goa Tribes

With A Bygone Culture Preserved In Their Heart
Plan a holiday trip to Goa and you will be amazed to see many ancient tribal communities dwelling amidst the tracks of modernity, efficiently preserving their age-old culture, tradition and beliefs.

Gowdas - The Grandpa of Goan Tribes
Believed to derive their name from the Sanskrit word "Gaon" for village, they are said to be among the earliest inhabitants of Goa. Caressing an age-old heart of culture and tradition, they possess a modern bent of mind which is reflected in their participation in economic, social and political activities.

Kunbis - The Sons of Nature
The Kunbis tribe is known for their shy nature and hardworking attitude. Travel during the Shigmotsav festival and you can see them dancing and singing their hearts out around their presiding deity, Mallikarjun, an incarnation of Lord Shiva.

Velips - Known By Their Name
This is an unique tribal community dwelling in the dark interiors of Goa. Nestling at the stone-age site discovered recently at Kajur, they also practise a concept akin to that of the pre-historic period. Try to guess their profession from their names, which is quite apparant if you can hear them clearly.

Take A Tour
Take a memorable tour with the Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC) which includes a close rendezvous and mixing with the tribes, knowing their discreet lifestyles, customs and traditions

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