Ch – 7 Tribes, Nomads & Settled Communities

When the society was divided based on varnas, there were still some communities that did not follow the social rules prescribed by the Brahmins. Those communities were often called as Tribes.

Tribal Societies:

  • The members were united by kinship bonds.
  • They usually lived in forests, hills, and deserts.
  • They obtained their livelihood from agriculture, hunting-gathering or by herding.
  • They never kept written records, but they preserved their customs and oral traditions by passing on from one generation to another.
  • Tribal organisations are often based on kinship or clan loyalities.

TribesTheir Locations
Langahs, ArghunsMultan, Sind
BalochisNorth-west India
Nagas, AhomsNorth-east India
CheroBihar, Jharkhand
Mundas, SanthalsOrissa, Bengal
Kolis, BeradsMaharashtra, Karnataka
Koragas, Vetars, MaravarsSouth India
BhilsWestern & central India
GondsChhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharshtra, Andhra Pradesh
Some of the important tribes of India

How Nomads & Mobile People Lived:

  • Nomadic pastoralists moved with their animals and lived on milk and pastoral products.
  • The Banjaras were the most important trader-nomads.
  • They travelled in a caravan called tanda.
  • They were used by Mughal emperors to transport grains during military campaigns.
  • Many pastoral tribes reared and sold animals.

Changing Society: New Castes & Hierarchies:

  • With passage of time, new jatis emerged within varnas.
  • Specialised artisans, tribes and many other social groups were recognised as separate jatis.
  • Later, Jatis became the basis for organising society.
  • Many tribes also joined this new caste system with the support of Brahmanas.

The Gonds:

  • They lived in Gondwana or “country inhabited by Gonds”.
  • Gond tribe was divided into smaller clans.
  • Each clan had its own raja or rai.
  • The Gond kingdoms were divided into garhs.
  • This was further divided into units of 84 villages called chaurasi.
  • The chaurasi was further divided into groups of 12 villages known as barhots.
  • Eventually the Gond kingdoms became weaker and struggled against the stronger Bundelas and Marathas.

The Ahoms:

  • They migrated to Brahmaputra valley from Myanmar in the thirteenth century.
  • They suppressed the older political system of bhuijans (landlords) and created a new state for themselves.
  • They annexed kingdoms of Chhutiyas and Koch-Hajo during sixteenth century.
  • The Ahom kingdom was attacked by Mughals in 1662.
  • But the Mughal control could not last long in the Ahom kingdom.
  • The forced labour that worked for the state were called paiks.
  • It was required that each village should send paiks by rotation.
  • The Ahom kingdom was divided into clans or khels.
  • A khel often controlled several villages.
  • The peasants were given land by their village communities.
  • They worshipped their own gods.
  • However, during the reign of Sib Singh, Hinduism became prominent religion.
  • Many historical works known as buranjis were written in Ahom and Assamese language.

Published by Priya Prakash

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

7 thoughts on “Ch – 7 Tribes, Nomads & Settled Communities

    1. Wasn’t much aware about them… But after reading your comment, I searched about the Roma community. It was interesting to read about them and their Indian connection.
      Thanks to you.


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