This book is as much a tribute to my father, Ahmed Ali, for his exotic photographs that capture the spirit of tribal Bastar, as it is to the spirit of the ‘tribal heart of India’. I am sure that for those fascinated in rediscovering old Indian cultures, this coffee table book will be worthy to cherish. As you turn the pages, you cannot help but realize that Bastar was one of the very last frontiers in the country to maintain its distinct and proud identity in the face of the satellite-enabled cultural onslaught. Through his lens my father managed to capture the indomitable spirit of the land and its people.
I thank my elder sisters Anisa & Salima, my brother Niaz as well as my youngest sister Roshni for their immense support, without whose help I could never have told this story. My gratitude goes out to my children Armana, Pia and Ajit whom I continuously troubled to help edit this book and to my friend Rosaleen Mulji who researched tirelessly to put the book into its correct perspective.
In India, we have 623 tribes along with their sub groups, which amount to about 8 percent of India’s population. Their physical appearance indicates that some of them belong to the Proto-Australoid races. In India these primitive tribes are known as Shaharia. The literal translation of Shaharia is ‘Companion of the Tiger’; Sha means companion and Haria means tiger. The word Haria is taken from the Hindi word Sher or tiger. A Muslim ruler gifted them this name. Sher is also, in fact, the Persian name of the tiger.