Tribes Nomads and Settled Communities

A Closer Look – The Gonds

Here is an interesting fact for you. The Gond tribe was actually featured in the famous story of The Jungle Book by author Rudyard Kiping! One of the oldest tribes in India, the Gond tribe has a fascinating history. Let us learn a little bit more about the Gonds.

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The Gonds

The Gonds lived in a vast forested region known as Gondwana and they practised shifting cultivation. The large Gond tribe was divided into many other smaller clans and were built near a mountain or river which were later fortified with dense forests. Of each large Gond tribe was divided and had different raja or rai.

A few large Gond kingdoms were beginning to dominate the smaller Gond chiefs about the time when Delhi Sultans were declining.  Garha Katanha, a rich state with about 70,000 villages, was mentioned in Akbar Nama. It was the rich state that has earned huge amount of wealth by trapping and selling elephants. It had a large booty of precious coins.

The Gonds

Religious Beliefs

Like most other tribes in India, even the Gonds believe in a greater God or “Bhagawan”. They have a specific tribal name which is “Bara Deo”. But they rarely worship Him. Instead, there are other gods and goddesses in their belief system that represent natural features. So according to the Gonds, every hill, river, lake tree etc has a spirit.

The Gonds also have a lot of respect for the village priest. This village priest is appointed mostly according to heredity and done by the village council. He performs all the ceremonies and sacrifices in the village.

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Administrative System

The administrative system of these kingdoms was centrally centralised and was divided into various garhs. These were particularly controlled by Gond clan and was further divided into 84 villages known by chaurasi. These chaurasi were further divided into barhots made up of 12 villages each.

Gond Society

The Gond society was basically divided into equal societies that gradually got divided into unequal social classes with the emergence of large states. The Brahmanas received the land grants from the Gond rajas and further becoming more influential. The Gond chiefs now wished to be recognised as the Rajputs.  Aman Das, the Gond Raja of Garha Katanga, assumed the title of Sangram Shah. Rani Durgwati was very capable and started ruling on behalf of their fiver-year-old sun, Bir Narain, after her husband Dalpat’s death

Solved Question for You

Question 6: In what ways was the history of the Gonds different from that of the Ahoms? Were there any similarities?

Answer: The differences are as follows,

  • Gonds used to live in a vast forest region known as the Gondwana, however, the Ahoms migrated from present-day Myanmar to the Brahmaputra valley.
  • Gonds practised shifting cultivation, (is an agricultural system in which plots of land are cultivated temporarily, then abandoned and allowed to grow naturally while the cultivator moves on to another plot) while the Ahoms did not.
  • Gonds were fully annexed by the Mughal empire while the Ahoms were defeated by the Mughals. Also, the direct control over the region could not last long.

Similarities:

  • In both Gonds and Ahoms, the administration was centralised.
  • Both of them had smaller tribe who further grew annexed neighbouring small societies and got effective power.
  • Both the societies were further divided into clans or jatis.
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