Tribes of Parambikulam

Tribes of Parambikulam

The Parambikulam Tiger Reserve is the home for four different tribes of indigenous people, including Kadar, Malasar, Muthuvan and Malamalasar, settled in six colonies, each with their own cultural, socio-economic and spatial organisation.

Name of Settlement Tribe No. of Households Population
Earth Dam Colony Kadar 45 120
Kuriakutty Colony Kadar 58 283
Kaadas Colony Kadar 54 205
Sungam Colony Malasar  80 309
Poopara Colony Muthuvan  39 167
Anchaam Colony (Fifth colony) Malamalasar 14 55
Total   290 1,139


Kadar tribe is one of the communities in South India that has their existence since Vedic era. Kadar tribe has been acclaimed by majority of anthropologists in India. Their main occupation of these Kadar tribes of Kerala is food gathering and as well as to lead a life of nomad. Interestingly, this tribal community is regarded as one of the six food gatherers.


Quite a number of tribal communities thrive in nook and corner of the state of Kerala, Malasar tribe is one of the important amongst them. These Malasar tribes used to reside in small villages bordering the forest areas of the mountains. Malasar tribes converse with each other in a language, which is a blend of languages of Tamil and Malayalam.


The origin of the Muthuvan tribal societies has got a significant history behind. As part of the observation of many anthropologists if the Indian territory, the Muthuvan people tribes served as the obedient subjects of the royal dynasty of Madurai. In fact the popular legend is that when the dynasty was thrown out of power, these existing royal members immigrated to central part of the central Kerala like Travancore, and accomplished the famous dynasty of Poonjar.


Malamalasars tribes, also known as Mahamalasars and Malaimalasars were a nomadic tribe, who shift frequently within a small area. Tribals depend on forests for they day-to-day needs for food, shelter, clothing, water, fuel, oil, medicine, etc. Medicine is the second most essential requisite after food. For Medicine, they depend upon plants, which are the source of raw drugs. The knowledge is indigenous, which has been passed on orally from generation to generation with no written records.

Eco-Development Programmes

Parambikulam Tiger Reserve implements the Participatory Forest Management Scheme (PFMS). People from tribal colonies inside the reserve are engaged as guides for treks and safaris, and are provided employment through various eco-tourism initiatives. The tiger reserve hosts many capacity building training programmes conducted by Parambikulam Tiger Conservation Foundation in association with various organisations.

The eco-development programmes implemented in the past few years have given a new lease of life to the tribes living inside the sanctuary. The programmes aim at empowering communities dependent on forests and protecting biodiversity. The tribes were ensured of alternative employment. The forest produce collected by them is processed and made into value-added products such as honey, beeswax balm, handicrafts, paper bags and other souvenirs. These products are sold through Ecoshops in the sanctuary. The proceeds from the sale help perpetuating smiles on faces of the local tribes of Parambikulam Tiger Reserve.


The honey and the beeswax balm are prepared in a scientific manner by the tribes. The tribes traditionally depend on collection of honey for their livelihood. The honey collected used to be sold to the local traders through barter system. This used to leave the tribespeople in debt. So, an initiative to collect honey scientifically and process it in hygienic conditions was taken up. After filtering, bottling, labelling and sealing, the honey is sold through the Ecoshops.

The tailoring unit started for tribal women makes T-shirts, jackets, hats, caps, pens, key chains and so on.

An innovative programme is the Plastic Reduction Unit. Plastic waste was earlier collected at the sanctuary entrance and dumped outside. The Forest Development Agency has now come up with an innovative scheme under which the plastic is cleaned, washed, dried, segregated and shredded by the Eco-Development Committee (EDC) volunteers. It is then transported outside the park and recycled to make key chains in the shape of a pugmark and other designs that are sold through the Ecoshops.

The tribal community is also trained to make attractive and marketable products from bamboo.

‘Parambikulam paper bags’ made by the EDC of the Kadar tribe are yet another attraction at the Ecoshop. These bags are provided at the entrance and other key points where plastic bags are replaced by them. This helps control polythene and other garbage in the park.