Indian tribes are one of the oldest inhabitants of the sub-continent. The word tribes were introduced in the colonial era. For administrative convenience, the British colonists in India used a single term ‘tribe’ for a diverse set of communities. This article will throw light on the Indian tribes.
Who is termed Tribal Communities in India?
- The Indian tribes did not practise any religion.
- The Indian tribes did not follow any written text.
- Many of the Indian tribes worshipped nature. Although this is similar to Hinduism which gives importance to worshipping nature, the Indian tribes were not Hindus.
- The Indian tribes did not have a political form of the normal kind.
- The Indian tribes did not have a state of the normal kind.
- The Indian tribes did not have class division.
- The Indian tribes were not peasants.
- The Indian tribes did not have any caste system.
Classification of Indian Tribes
The Indian tribes are classified as per their two traits. These two traits are known as “acquired traits” and “permanent traits”.
Based on two criteria Indian tribes are classified as per acquired traits. The two criteria used for this classification are given below:
- The extent of incorporation into Hindu society
- Mode of livelihood.
Based on livelihood, tribes can be categorised as plantation and industrial workers, peasants, shifting cultivators, hunters, food gatherers, and fishermen. However, the dominant classification of tribes in public affairs, politics, and academic sociology is based on the degree of assimilation into Hindu society.
The permanent traits which are used for the classification of tribal societies are ecological habitat, language, region, and physical characteristics.
The Concentration of Tribal Population
- Approximately 85% of the total tribal population is concentrated in middle India.
- The tribal population stretches from Odisha and West Bengal in the east to Gujarat and Rajasthan in the west.
- A majority of the tribal population is concentrated in the states of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, parts of Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.
- The remaining 11% of the total tribal population is located in the Northeastern states of India.
- 3% of the total tribal population lives in other parts of the country.
- The concentration of the tribal population as a percentage of the total population of a state is extremely high in many Northeastern states of India except Assam.
- In the states of Nagaland, Mizoram, Meghalaya, and Arunachal Pradesh, the concentration of tribal population ranges from 60% to 95%.
- In the rest of the states, the tribal population is less than 12% of the total population, with the exception of Madhya Pradesh and Odisha.
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