Neonatal care practices have been shown to vary across tribal communities. This cross-sectional study was conducted in tribal block in Nabarangpur district of Odisha, India, to measure perinatal and antenatal practices by qualitative inquiries of 55 mothers who had babies aged <60 days and from 11 traditional birth attendants. Reasons for home deliveries were cited as easy availability of traditional birth attendants and family preferences. Application of indigenously made substances on umbilical stump and skin of the baby, bathing baby immediately after birth, late initiation of breast-feeding and 'Budu practices' were common. Cultural issues, decision of family members and traditional beliefs still play a crucial role in shaping neonatal care practice in tribal communities. Awareness on child care, ethnographic understanding of health-seeking behavior of tribal community and mobilization of community by health workers can be useful in improving health status of mothers and newborn babies in tribal population.