Mali is spoken in tribal areas of Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram and Srikakulam districts of Andhra Pradesh in India. According to 2001 census the Mali population numbers just under 30,000 and is divided into seven sub-groups: Khandya Mali, Pondra Mali, Thagoor Mali, Kosalya Mali, Pannavi Mali, Sorukava Mali and Donguradiya Mali.
The Mali tribe is divided into two sub-groups, the Bodo Malis and the Sano Malis. The Bodo Malis are considered the superior sect and both men and women in this group wear sacred threads, whereas in the other subdivision only men wear sacred threads. The traditional dormitories known as kuppus were once popular in this community.
Their Mali script design is based on the tribe’s traditional occupation: growing vegetables and flowers for local weekly markets, and growing jasmine for local shrines, where on festival days the statues of deities are decked with jasmine garlands. The common design element in their script, then, is a flower bud.