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Tribes, Nomads and Settled Communities- Class 7 History

Last Updated : 02 Aug, 2023
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Tribes, nomads, and settled communities are three different types of human societies that have existed throughout history. 

In ancient times, society in India followed a very rigid system of caste and people had been marginalized by this system and decided to live outside it. Tribes and nomads lived and also flourished in their own communities.

Tribes of India

Tribes of India

Tribes, Nomads, and Settled Communities

Tribes are small, relatively self-sufficient communities that are typically organized around a common culture, language, or ancestry. They are often based on kinship ties and have a strong sense of communal identity. In many cases, tribes are nomadic, meaning that they move from place to place in search of resources.

Nomads are people who do not have a fixed home and instead move from place to place in search of resources. Nomadic communities are often small and are typically organized around a common culture, language, or ancestry. Nomads may rely on a variety of resources, including animals, plants, and other natural resources, to sustain themselves.

Settled communities, on the other hand, are societies in which people live in one place for an extended period of time. They may be based in cities, towns, or villages and often rely on agriculture, trade, and other forms of economic activity to sustain themselves. Settled communities may be organized around a variety of factors, including religion, ethnicity, and political systems. Each of these types of societies has its own unique characteristics and ways of life. However, they have all played important roles in the development of human societies throughout history.

Location of Major tribes in India

Major Tribes in India

Beyond Big Cities: Tribal Societies

In many parts of the country, society had already been divided according to the rules and regulations of the varna system; and under the Delhi Sultans and Mughals; this hierarchy between classes had even expanded.

There were other societies that existed other than the ones demarcated and did not follow the social rules and rituals of Brahmans and these societies were called tribes. They were united to the tribe by kingship bonds and many of them obtained livelihood from agriculture while others were hunter-gatherers or herders.

Some tribes were nomadic. A tribal group usually controlled lands and pastures together and divided them amongst the households according to the rules set by them. Tribes usually lived in forests, hills, deserts, and places that had difficult terrain and were not easy to reach. The tribes retained their freedom and often preserved separate cultures. But at the same time, caste-based and tribal societies depended on each other for diverse needs; which was often a relationship of conflict and dependences, which had gradually caused changes.

Who were the Tribal People?

Tribal people often did not keep written records but preserved their culture through oral traditions and customs. Tribal people were found in all regions of the country. Their area and also influence varied at many different points in time. Some of the powerful ones controlled large territories; like in the case of Punjab, the Khokhar tribe was influential and later Gakkhars became more powerful.

In the case of Multan and Sind, Langahs and Arghuns dominated. Balochis were a powerful tribe in the northwest. In the western Himalayas lived the shepherd tribe of Gaddis and in the north-eastern part- the Nagas, Ahoms, and many others. In Bihar and Jharkhand, Chero chiefdoms were important. Mundas and Santals were among other important tribes in Orissa and Bengal.

Maharashtra Highlands and Karnataka were homes to Kolis, Berads, and others. Further South, large tribal societies of Koragas, Vetars, Maravars, and so forth. Bhils were another important tribe spread in Western and Central India and Gonds across Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Andhra Pradesh.

How Nomads and Mobile Pople Lived

Nomadic pastoralists moved over long distances and places, carrying their animals and living on milk and other pastoral products. They used to exchange pastoral products with the settled population. They brought and also sold these goods as they kept moving.

The Banjaras are skilled traders and are known for their expertise in buying and selling goods, including textiles, grains, and livestock. They have a strong sense of community and follow traditional customs and practices. The Banjaras were important to the trader-nomads and their caravans were called tanda. Banjaras were used by Alauddin Khalji to transport grain to city markets. They also transported food grains for the Mughal army during their military campaigns.

Different castes of small pedlars also moved from village to village and made and sold wares like ropes, and reeds and also acted as mediators between merchants.

Changing Society: New Castes and Hierarchies

Smaller castes or jatis emerged within varnas as the economy expanded and so did the needs of society. Also, many tribes and social groups were taken inside the caste system and given the status of jatis, and specialized artisans were also recognized as separate jatis, and jatis became the important base for the organization of the society.

The Rajput clans became powerful in the 11th and 12th centuries the Kshatriyas and belonged to different lineages like Chandelas, Chalukyas, and many others. And they gradually replaced the older rulers and here developed societies were emerging and rulers had used their wealth to create big powerful states.

A large majority of castes joined the lower jatis and other dominant tribes of Punjab, North-West Frontier had adopted Islam and continued to reject the caste system.

The Gonds

They lived in a big forested area of Gondwana and practiced shifting cultivation and were further divided into smaller clans and each of the clans had its own raja. Akbar Nama mentions the Gond Kingdom of the Garha Katanga which had around 70,000 villages.

The administrative system was becoming centralized and divided into parts and each garh was controlled by the Gond clan this was divided further into 84 villages of Chaurasi and that was subdivided into bar hosts. With the advancement of large states, their equal society also gradually got divided into unequal social classes. Brahmans got land grants from Gond Rajas and became more influential. Despite the fall of Garha Katanga, Gond kingdoms survived for some time but they became weaker and later struggled unsuccessfully against Bundelas and Marathas.

The Ahoms

From Myanmar in the 13th century, Ahoms migrated to the Brahmaputra valley and created a new state by suppressing previous Bhuiyans. In the 16th century, they expanded further and captured kingdoms of Chhutiyas and Koch-Hajo and subjugated many other smaller tribes by the 1660s they could also make high-quality gunpowder.

Many invasions were faced by them from the South-west and in 1662 Mir Jumla of Mughals attacked the Ahom Kingdom. Ahoms depended on the system of Paiks. Paiks were forced labor and each village had to send a number of paiks in rotation. By the 17th century, their administration became more centralized. All adult males served in the army and other times engaged in building infrastructure and Ahoms also introduced new methods of cultivation of rice.

Ahom society was divided into clans or khels and khel often controlled several villages. Peasants were given land by their village community and even the king could not take it away without the consent of the community. Originally, Ahoms worshipped their own tribal gods but by the first half of the 17th century, the influence of Brahmans increased and Hinduism became dominant. Ahom society was sophisticated and historical works called Buranjis were written, first in the language of Ahom and later in Assamese.


Much social change had taken place in the subcontinent and interaction between Varna-based society and tribal people increased and this caused adapt and changes. Many tribal groups over a period of time merged with caste-based systems and others rejected orthodox caste-based societies. Some tribal kingdoms established big states and became politically powerful and complex.

Table of Tribe, Nomad, & Settled Community

Type of Society Pattern of Settlement Economic System Social Organization
Tribe Nomadic or semi-nomadic Subsistence agriculture or pastoralism Kinship ties
Nomad Nomadic Pastoralism or hunting and gathering Patrilineal or matrilineal descent
Settled Community Sedentary Agriculture, trade, or other economic activity Variety of social and political systems

Frequently Asked Questions

Q 1. Who are nomadic tribes?


Nomads are group of communities who moved from a place to other for their livelihood.

Q 2. What are the types of nomadic?


Nomadic hunters and gatherers, pastoral nomads and trader nomads.

Q 3. Where did tribes live in India?


Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra are some important areas.

Q 4. Which is the largest tribe in India?



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