Soliga, also spelled Sholaga and Shōlaga, is an ethnic group of India. Its members inhabit the Biligiriranga Hills and associated ranges in southern Karnataka, mostly in the Chamarajanagar and Erode districts of Tamil Nadu. Many are also concentrated in and around the BR Hills in Yelandur and Kollegal Taluks of Chamarajanagar District, Karnataka. The Soliga speak Sholaga, which belongs to the Dravidian family. A scheduled tribe, they have a population of around 20,000 individuals.
The Soliga tribe trace their origin to Karayya, son of Lord Maleya Mahadeshwara, swamy of Maleya Mahadeshwara Hills, Karnataka. Legend says that on seeing Karayya's affinity towards wild animals, Lord Maleya Mahadeshwara swamy asked Karayya to reside in forests, whereas other fusiom son Biliyayya resided in plains and became the forefather of Lingayats.
The Soliga speak the Sholaga language (Soliganudi) as a mother tongue. A member of the Dravidian family, it is most closely related to Kannada with several Tamil influences.
There are five sub groups of Soligas:
Furthermore, these groups have several sub-groups.
Occupation and social status
The Soliga used to practice shifting cultivation, but have more or less given up this practice now. They grow Ragi (Finger millet, Eleusine coracana) for subsistence. Their main source of income is harvesting and sale of Non-timber Forest Produce (NTFP) like honey, nellikai (gooseberry, Emblica officinalis), bamboo, Paasi (Lichen),algae,wild turmeric,Indian blackberry, soapnut and nennari(wild root). They also make baskets using bamboo.
They are increasingly being brought to the "mainstream" with active Government and NGO initiative. Many have been given lands closer to 'civilised areas' and most of the forest-dwelling population have been brought together into clusters called Podus. Most of the forest area they stay comes under wild life protection area. The Biligiriranga Hills is a Wildlife Sanctuary under Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, the Malai Mahadeswara Hills is a Reserve Forest, and Bandipur is a National Park. Their rights on harvesting NTFP is being sought to be withdrawn citing conservation concerns, sparking a debate about the rights of indigenous people.
Soliga people follow naturism and animism along with following Hindu practices and their main deities are Madeshwara, Rangaswamy of Biligirirangana Hills (who is considered the brother-in-law of the clan), Karayya, Kyate Devaru and Jadeswamy. Other deities worshipped by them include Madeshwara, Basaveshwara and Nanjundeshwara and Sri Alamelu Ranganayaki smetha Sri ranganatha.