Bharata Bharati

Gond Women Madhya Pradesh
Prof Michel DaninoWas there … a “mainstream vs. marginal” duality in ancient India? The caste system … built its own categories, but tribals were not regarded as sharply separate from “mainstream” society. Interestingly, there is no word for “tribe” in Sanskrit or, so far as I know, in any Indian language; there are terms equivalent to “forest dwellers” or “mountain dwellers”, but not “tribe”. – Prof Michel Danino

The previous article (“India’s Own Sacred Ecology”) in this series made a passing mention of Bishnois, Bhils, Warlis, Santhals or Todas, in whom the reader will have recognized some of India’s better-known tribes. This land has the privilege—it is one, although few Indians realize that—of having hundreds of tribal communities, most of them struggling with modernity and “civilization” in a losing battle to preserve a semblance of their identity.

But what is a tribe? It used to be defined as a group…

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