Even as kingdoms rose and fell, new arts, crafts and production activities flourished in towns and villages. Though important political, social and economic developments had taken place over the centuries, still social change was not the same everywhere for the reason that different kinds of societies evolved differently. Understand how, and why, this happened. In large parts of the subcontinent, society was already divided according to the rules of varna, which was prescribed by the Brahmanas and accepted by the rulers of large kingdoms. The difference between the high and low, and between the rich and poor, increased. Under the Delhi Sultans and the Mughals, this hierarchy between social classes grew further. Meanwhile, there were other kinds of societies, as well. Students can learn more about Tribes, Nomads and Settled Communities from Chapter 7 of CBSE Class 7 History. Meanwhile, they can also revise the concepts by referring to the CBSE Notes Class 7 History Chapter 7-Tribes, Nomads and Settled Communities.
Click on the link provided below in this article to access the PDF version of the CBSE Class 7 Social Science History Notes of Chapter 7.
Download CBSE Notes Class 7 Social Science History Chapter 7-Tribes, Nomads and Settled Communities PDF
Beyond Big Cities: Tribal Societies
Societies in the subcontinent-not follow the social rules-nor rituals prescribed by the Brahmanas-not divided into numerous unequal classes-called tribes-Members of each tribe united by kinship bonds-tribes obtained their livelihood from agriculture-some were hunter-gatherers or herders- combined these activities to make full use of the natural resources of the area in which they lived-some were nomadic and moved from one place to another-tribal group controlled land and pastures jointly and divided these amongst households according to its own rules-Many large tribes thrived in different parts of the subcontinent- lived in forests, hills, deserts and places difficult to reach-clashed with the more powerful caste-based societies-tribes retained their freedom and preserved their separate culture- caste-based and tribal societies also depended on each other for their diverse needs.-relationship, of conflict and dependence caused both societies to change.
Who were Tribal People?
Contemporary historians and travellers give very scanty information about tribes-tribal people did not keep written records-they preserved rich customs and oral traditions-were passed down to each new generation- Present day historians use such oral traditions to write tribal histories- found in almost every region of the subcontinent-area and influence of a tribe varied at different points of time-powerful tribes controlled large territories-In Punjab, the Khokhar tribe very influential during the 13th and 14th centuries-Later, the Gakkhars became more important-chief, Kamal Khan Gakkhar was made a noble (mansabdar) by Emperor Akbar-In Multan and Sind, the Langahs and Arghuns dominated extensive regions- they were subdued by the Mughals-Balochis-large and powerful tribe in the north-west- divided into many smaller clans under different chiefs-In the western Himalaya lived the shepherd tribe of Gaddis-The distant north-eastern part of the subcontinent entirely dominated by tribes – the Nagas, Ahoms and many others. In many areas of present-day Bihar and Jharkhand, Chero chiefdoms emerged by the 12th century-Raja Man Singh, Akbar’s famous general, attacked and defeated the Cheros in 1591-large amount of booty taken from them, but were not entirely subdued-Under Aurangzeb, Mughal forces captured many Chero fortresses-subjugated the tribe-The Mundas and Santals among the other important tribes that lived in this region and also in Orissa and Bengal-Maharashtra highlands and Karnataka were home to Kolis, Berads and numerous others-Kolis lived in many areas of Gujarat-Further south there were large tribal populations of Koragas, Vetars, Maravars and many others- large tribe of Bhils was spread across western and central India-By the late 16th century, many of them had become settled agriculturists and some even zamindars-Many Bhil clans, nevertheless, remained hunter-gatherers-The Gonds were found in great numbers across the present-day states of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh.
How Nomads and Mobile People Lived
Nomadic pastoralists-moved long distances with their animals-lived on milk and other pastoral products-exchanged wool, ghee, etc., with settled agriculturists for grain, cloth, utensils and other products-bought and sold these goods as they moved from one place to another, transporting them on their animals-Banjaras the most important trader nomads-caravan was called tanda-Sultan Alauddin Khalji used the Banjaras to transport grain to the city markets-Emperor Jahangir wrote in his memoirs that the Banjaras carried grain on their bullocks from different areas and sold it in towns- transported food grain for the Mughal army during military campaigns-With a large army, there could be 100,000 bullocks carrying grain-pastoral tribes reared and sold animals, such as cattle and horses, to the prosperous people-Different castes of petty pedlars also travelled from village to village- made and sold wares such as ropes, reeds, straw matting and coarse sacks-mendicants acted as wandering merchants- were castes of entertainers who performed in different towns and villages for their livelihood.
Changing Society: New Castes and Hierarchies
Economy and the needs of society grew-people with new skills were required-Smaller castes, or jatis, emerged within varnas-new castes appeared amongst the Brahmanas- many tribes and social groups were taken into caste-based society and given the status of jatis-Specialised artisans (smiths, carpenters and masons) were recognised as separate jatis by the Brahmanas-Jatis, rather than varna, became the basis for organising society- Among the Kshatriyas, new Rajput clans became powerful by the 11th and 12th centuries-belonged to different lineages, such as Hunas, Chandelas, Chalukyas and others-Many of these clans regarded as Rajputs- gradually replaced the older rulers, especially in agricultural areas-a developed society was emerging-rulers used their wealth to create powerful states-rise of Rajput clans to the position of rulers set an example for the tribal people to follow- with the support of the Brahmanas, many tribes became part of the caste system-only the leading tribal families could join the ruling class-large majority joined the lower jatis of caste society-many dominant tribes of Punjab, Sind and the North-West Frontier had adopted Islam quite early-continued to reject the caste system-unequal social order, prescribed by orthodox Hinduism not widely accepted in this areas-emergence of states closely related to social change amongst tribal people.
A Closer Look
The Gonds-vast forested region called Gondwana–or “country inhabited by Gonds”-practised shifting cultivation-tribe was further divided into much smaller clans-Each clan had its own raja or rai-when the power of the Delhi Sultans was declining, a few large Gond kingdoms began to dominate the smaller Gond chiefs-The Akbar Nama, a history of Akbar’s reign mentions the Gond kingdom of Garha Katanga that had 70,000 villages-administrative systems of these kingdoms became centralised- kingdom divided into garhs-Each garh controlled by a particular Gond clan-further divided into units of 84 villages called chaurasi-chaurasi was subdivided into barhots made up of 12 villages each-emergence of large states changed the nature of Gond society-basically equal society gradually got divided into unequal social classes-Brahmanas received land grants from the Gond rajas-became more influential-The 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-Dalpat died early- Rani Durgawati was capable-started ruling on behalf of her 5-year-old son, Bir Narain-Under her, the kingdom became even more extensive-In 1565, the Mughal forces under Asaf Khan attacked Garha Katanga- Strong resistance was put up by Rani Durgawati-She was defeated-preferred to die rather than surrender-Her son, too, died fighting.
Garha Katanga a rich state-earned much wealth by trapping and exporting wild elephants to other kingdoms-When the Mughals defeated the Gonds, they captured a huge booty of precious coins and elephants-annexed part of the kingdom-granted the rest to Chandra Shah, an uncle of Bir Narain-Despite the fall of Garha Katanga, Gond kingdoms survived for some time-they became much weaker-later struggled unsuccessfully against the stronger Bundelas and Marathas.
Ahoms -migrated to the Brahmaputra valley from present-day Myanmar in the 13th century-created a new state by suppressing the older political system of the bhuiyans (landlords)-During the 16th century annexed the kingdoms of the Chhutiyas (1523) and of Koch-Hajo (1581)-subjugated many other tribes-built a large state, and for this, they used firearms as early as the 1530s-By the 1660s they could even make high-quality gunpowder and cannons-the Ahoms faced many invasions from the south-west-In 1662, the Mughals under Mir Jumla attacked the Ahom kingdom-Despite their brave defence, were defeated-direct Mughal control over the region could not last long-Ahom state depended upon forced labour-Those forced to work for the state were called paiks- census of the population taken-Each village had to send a number of paiks by rotation-People from heavily populated areas shifted to less populated places-Ahom clans were thus broken up-By the first half of the 17th century, administration became quite centralised-all adult males served in the army during the war-they were also engaged in building dams, irrigation systems and other public works-also introduced new methods of rice cultivation-Ahom society divided into clans or khels-very few castes of artisans, so artisans in the Ahom areas came from the adjoining kingdoms- A khel controlled several villages-The peasant was given land by his village community-Even the king could not take it away without the community’s consent-Originally, the Ahoms worshipped their own tribal gods-During the first half of the 17th century the influence of Brahmanas increased-Temples and Brahmanas granted land by the king-In the reign of Sib Singh (1714-1744), Hinduism became the predominant religion-Ahom kings did not completely give up their traditional beliefs after adopting Hinduism- society was very sophisticated-Poets and scholars were given land grants-Theatre encouraged-Important works of Sanskrit translated into the local language- Historical works, known as buranjis, were written – first in the Ahom language and then in Assamese.