Ch – 7 Tribes, Nomads And Settled Communities

  • In earlier times, the society was divided was divided on the basis of varnas.
  • The societies which were neither divided by varnas nor did they follow the rituals prescribed by Brahmanas. Such societies are often referred as “tribes”.
  • Members of tribes were united by kinship bonds.
  • They earned their livelihood through agriculture, hunting-gathering or herding.
  • They usually lived in forests, hills, deserts and places difficult to reach.
  • Tribal people preserved their rich customs and oral traditions, but didn’t keep a written record.
  • The list of some powerful tribes who controlled large territories:
  • Punjab – Khokhar tribe ( thirteenth and fourteenth centuries ).
  • Punjab – Gakkhars ( later became more powerful )
  • Multan and Sind – Langahs and Arghuns
  • North-west – Balochis
  • Western Himalaya – Gaddis.
  • North-eastern of subcontinent – the Nagas, Ahoms and many others.
  • Bihar and Jharkhand – Chero ( twelfth century ).
  • Orissa and Bengal – Mundas and Santals
  • Maharashtra highlands and Karnataka – Kolis, Berads and numerous others.
  • South – Koragas, Vetars, Maravars and many others.
  • Western and central India – Bhils
  • Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh – Gonds
  • Itinerant group consists of craftspersons, pedlars and entertainers.
  • Nomads are those people who wander from place to place.
  • Banjaras were the most important trader-nomads and their caravan was called tanda. They transported grains for Mughal army during military campaigns.
  • Pastotal tribes earned their livelihood by rearing and selling cattle and horses.
  • As the times changed, new jatis or smaller castes emerged within varnas.
  • Eg: Among the Kshatriyas, new Rajput clans became powerful during eleventh and twelfth centuries.
  • The Gonds
  • The Gonds lived in a vast forested region called Gondwana – or “country inhabited by Gonds”.
  • They practiced shifting cultivation.
  • The tribe was divided into clans, and each clan had its own raja or rai.        
  • The Gond kingdom was divided into garhs, and each garh was controlled by a particular clan.
  • Garh was further divided into units of 84 villages called chaurasi.
  • Chaurasi was further divided into barhots which were made up of 12 villages each.
  • Gradually, they became more powerful and Gond chiefs wished to be recognised as Rajputs.
  • So, Aman Das, the Gond raja of Garha Katanga, assumed the title of Sangram Shah. His son, Dalpat, married princess Durgawati, the daughter of Salbahan, the Chandel Rajput raja of Mahoba.
  • After the death of Dalpat, Durgavati ruled the kingdom. She died waging a war against Mughal forces led by Asaf Khan in 1565.
  • Despite the fall of Garha Katanga, the Gond kingdoms survived for some time. However, they became much weaker and later struggled unsuccessfully against the stronger Bundelas and Marathas.
  • The Ahoms
  • The Ahoms migrated to the Brahmaputra valley from present-day Myanmar in the thirteenth century, and created their own state by suppressing bhuijans.
  • During the sixteenth century, they annexed the kingdoms of the Chhutiyas (1523) and of Koch-Hajo (1581) and subjugated many other tribes.
  • In 1662, the Mughals under Mir Jumla attacked the Ahom kingdom. Despite their brave defence, the Ahoms were defeated.
  • The people who were forced to work for state were known as paiks.
  • Each village had to send a number of paiks by rotation.
  • Almost all adult males served in the army during war. At other times, they were engaged in building dams, irrigation systems and other public works.
  • The Ahoms also introduced new methods of rice cultivation.
  • Ahom society was divided into clans or khels.
  • A khel often controlled several villages.
  • Initially, Ahoms worshipped their own tribal gods but as presence of Brahamanas increased in their state, Hinduism became the predominant religion.
  • Historical works, known as buranjis, were also written – first in the Ahom language and then in Assamese.
  • Ahom society was very sophisticated where theatre, scholars and poets were encouraged.

Published by Priya Prakash

In the midst of winter, i found there was within me an invincible summer ~ Albert Camus

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