(Last Updated on : 28/11/2012)
Ralph Linton the legendary and respected anthropologist of mid-20th century has given a definition of the term `Tribe`. According to him a `tribe is group of bands occupying a contiguous territory or territories having a feeling of unity deriving from numerous similarities in culture, frequent contacts and a certain community of interests`. Others refer to the tribal society of India as an imperfect segment of the Hindus. Indian tribal society can be underlined as a social group with strict territorial affiliation, possessing characteristics of endogamy, with no specialisation of functions ruled by tribal officers hereditary or otherwise, united in language or dialect recognising social distance with other tribes.
History of Indian Tribal Society
India is not only a multilingual and multiracial country, but is also multi-cultural. Peaceful coexistence of fundamentally varied culture typos and styles of living has always been a characteristic feature of the Indian stage which has often seen the arrival of new immigrants with paradigm shifts. However, their life style hardly caused the disappearance of earlier and materially less advanced ethnic groups. The old and the new co-existed. This does not mean, however, that none of the tribes ever became incorporated in the systems of hierarchically ranked castes. As economic requirement or encroachment of their habitant by progressive communities led to systematic inter-action between tribes and Hindus, cultural distinctions were blurred, and what had once been self-contained and more or less independent tribes eventually acquired the status of castes. This influx prevailed as long as interaction thrived to be of a plain and casual temperament. Though looked upon as strange and dangerous by the tinted Eurocentric vision, they were taken for granted as part of the world of hills and forests, and a more or less frictionless co-existence was possible, owing to the lack of population pressure, or the imposing acts of the cultured civilization to incorporate the tribes to the mainstream.
Even Muslim era noticed the similar condition. Military campaign extending for a sudden exploration into the wilderness of tribal sectors would account the inhabitants temporarily to the detection of princes and chroniclers, but that was all. However, British Imperialism that confiscated the Indian empire penned down a different fate for these tribes. The extension of a centralized administration over areas, which were outside the borders previously now were, included thus leading to the deprivation of many aboriginal tribes of their autonomy. The colonial lords hardly nourished any desire to interfere with tribesmen`s rights and traditional manner of living, the very process of establishment of law and order in outlying areas exposed the tribes to the pressure of more advanced populations.
Education in Indian Tribal Society
When it comes to India, mainstream tribes live under poverty line. Their inherent occupation consists of civilization`s archetypal occupations such as hunting, gathering, and agriculture without the hope of any surplus or agrarian profit. Hence their per capita income is meagre as compared to the so called cultured. Often amidst uncountable debt in the hands of local moneylenders and Zamindars, poverty is their only companion. In order to repay the debt they often mortgage or sell their land to the moneylenders. Indebtedness is almost inevitable since heavy interest is to be paid to these moneylenders.
Educationally the tribal population is next to illiterate and more often thus a prey to the cunning snares of the capitalistic money lenders. This permanent settlement has witnessed some reformatory changes owing to the steps taken by the government, as for example the reservation policy. Religious bigotries and grey horizon of orthodox mythical faiths has been a barricading fence to their quest for education. Formal education is rarely considered to discharge their social obligations. Moreover it is the evil of poverty that makes them include their off springs in their struggle for existence as helping hands. Again, most of the tribes are located in interior and remote areas where teachers would not like to go from outside.
Occupation of Indian Tribes
An enormous section of Indian tribal societal population depends on agriculture as their sole way for survival. Some of the agricultural tribes are: Oraons, Mundas, Bhil tribe
, Santhal tribe
, Baigas, and Hos. The Toda tribe serve as a fabulous illustration of pastoral economy whose social and economic organisation almost always revolves around buffaloes. They obtain their living through exchange or barter system. In some parts of India tribal people are engaged in shifting cultivation. It is known by different names, like, Nagas refer to it as Jhum, Bhuiyas call it Dahi and Koman, Maria of Bastar refer to it as Penda, Khond refer to it as Podu and Saiga call it Bewar. Many auxiliary occupations, like handicrafts are undertaken in various tribal societies of India. These include basket-making, spinning and weaving. For example, the Tharu tribe
depends upon furniture making, manufacturing musical instruments, weapons, ropes and mats. The Korw and Agaria tribes
are well known iron-smelters producing tools for local use.
Indian tribal society possesses their own set of languages, which are unwritten. Hence the degree of communication both in time and space is predictably narrow. At the same time tribal societies demonstrate an outstanding economy of design and have a compactness and self-sufficiency surprisingly lacking in modern city society. Members of a tribe possess an awareness of mutual unity speaking a common language. The continual amalgamation with other tribes, the tribal culture is undergoing a revolutionary change. Influence of the Christian missionaries has administered the growing problem of bilingualism which has developed progressively leading to indifference towards tribal language. The tribal people are imitating western culture in different aspects of their social life and leaving their own culture. It has led to degeneration of tribal life and tribal arts such as dance, music and different types of craft. According to Indian aboriginal traditions, the tribal societies inhabit and remain within a definitive and common topography. These members generally marry within their own group, but now due to heightened contact with outsiders there are instances of tribal tying the knot outside as well. A typical Indian tribal societal group believe in ties of blood relationship amongst its members. They have faith in their having descended from a common, real or mythical, forerunner and thus believe in blood relationships with other members. Tribes follow their own political organisation which preserves eternal harmony. Religion is of supreme importance in an Indian tribal society. A tribal political and social organisation is always based upon religion, because they are granted religious sanctity and appreciation. When speaking of Indian tribal society, their variety and usage of novelty in every dance they perform is absolutely one of ecstasy, one of bliss.