Ans. Contemporary historians and travellers give very scanty information about tribes. A few exceptions apart, tribal people did not keep written records. But they preserved rich customs and oral traditions. These were passed down to each new generation. Present day historians have started using such oral traditions to write tribal histories.
Ans. The Ahoms migrated to the Brahmaputra valley from present-day Myanmar in the thirteenth century. They created a new state by suppressing the older political system of the bhuiyans (landlords). During the sixteenth century, they annexed the kingdoms of the Chhutiyas (1523) and of Koch-Hajo (1581) and subjugated many other tribes.
Ans. Nomadic pastoralists moved over long distances with their animals.
They lived on milk and other pastoral products. They also exchanged wool, ghee, etc., with settled agriculturists for grain, cloth, utensils and other products. They bought and sold these goods as they moved from one place to another, transporting them on their animals.
Ans. Smaller castes, or jatis, emerged within varnas. For example, new castes appeared amongst the Brahmanas. On the other hand, many tribes and social groups were taken into caste-based society and given the status of jatis. Specialised artisans – smiths, carpenters and masons – were also recognised as separate jatis by the Brahmanas. Jatis, rather than varna, became the basis for organising society.
Ans. Originally, the Ahoms worshipped their own tribal gods. During the first half of the seventeenth century, however, the influence of Brahmanas increased. Temples and Brahmanas were granted land by the king. In the reign of Sib Singh (1714-1744), Hinduism became the predominant religion. But the Ahom kings did not completely give up their traditional beliefs after adopting Hinduism.
Ans. Many tribes obtained their livelihood from agriculture. Others were hunter-gatherers or herders. Most often they combined these activities to make full use of the natural resources of the area in which they lived. Some tribes were nomadic and moved from one place to another. A tribal group controlled land and pastures jointly, and divided these amongst households according to its own rules.
Ans. The Banjaras were the most important trader nomads. Their 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. They transported food grain for the Mughal army during military campaigns. With a large army there could be 100,000 bullocks carrying grain.
Ans. The emergence of large states changed the nature of Gond society.
i. Their basically equal society gradually got divided into unequal social classes.
ii. Brahmanas received land grants from the Gond rajas and became more influential.
iii. The Gond chiefs now wished to be recognised as Rajputs. They began forming marital relation with Rajputs.
Ans. Administration of the Ahom state
i. The Ahom state depended upon forced labour. Those forced to work for the state were called paiks.
ii. A census of the population was taken. Each village had to send a number of paiks by rotation.
iii. People from heavily populated areas were shifted to less populated places. Ahom clans were thus broken up.
iv. By the first half of the seventeenth century the administration became quite centralised.
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