The Bhil tribe makes up 39% of the total tribal population of Rajasthan and is the largest tribe in South Asia. Classifies in two groups, there are Eastern or Rajput Bhils and the central or pure Bhils. The former are found in the North-Eastern part of Tripura, whereas the latter are mostly found in the hilly tracts around Banswara, Chittaurgarh and Dungarpur in Rajasthan. A small population of the central category also lives in mountainous regions of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat.
The word Bhil means bow and the Bhils have therefore come to be known as the mountain tribals with a bow and arrow. The stories of their exceptional archery talent is recounted in the native narratives, with focus on Bhil warrior legends. The epic Mahabharata tells the story of Eklavya, who overshadows the skill of great Arjuna. The renowned poet Valmiki in Ramayana was a Bhil bandit named Vail before being blessed by the Goddess of Learning, Saraswati.
The primary language spoken by Bhils tribe in India is an Indo-Aryan language Bhili.
In the history of Rajasthan, Bhil people are depicted as important warriors and many Rajput rulers showed faith in them, including instances during battles with Marathas and the Mughals. However, as time passed by, they occupied themselves in small scale agriculture, labor, manufacturing and repairing machinery, leaving their famed profession of archery behind. The Bhils are also skilled wall painters and their paintings, known as Mandno, can be seen on the walls of their houses and temples.
An important festival celebrated by the Bhils is Baneshwar fair, dedicated to Baneshwar Mahadev, also known as Lord Shiva. The fair takes place in the month of January or February during Shivratri. During the festival, Bhils setup camp on the banks of Som and Mahi River, light bonfires and dance around it singing traditional folk songs. Acrobatics, sumptuous feasts, magic shows, animal shows and cultural shows are the centre of attraction at this fair.