The Garha-Mandla kingdom in the north extended control over most
of the upper Narmada valley and the adjacent forest areas.
The Deogarh-Nagpur kingdom dominated much of the upper Wainganga
valley, while Chanda-Sirpur in the south consisted of territory around Wardha and the
confluences of the Wainganga with
Jabalpur was one of the major centers of the Garha-Mandla kingdom
and like other major dynastic capitals had a large fort and palace. Temples and palaces with
extremely fine carvings and
erotic sculptures came up throughout the Gond kingdoms. The Gond ruling clans enjoyed close ties with the Chandella ruling
and both dynasties attempted to maintain their independence from Mughal rule through tactical alliances. Rani Durgavati
of Jabalpur (of Chandella-Gond heritage)
acquired a reputation of legendary proportions when she died in battle defending
against Mughal incursions. The city of Nagpur was founded by a Gond Raja
in the early 18th century.
Adivasis and the Freedom Movement
As soon as the British took over Eastern India tribal revolts broke
out to challenge alien rule. In the early years of colonization, no other community in India
offered such heroic resistance
to British rule or faced such tragic consequences as did the numerous Adivasi communities of now Jharkhand, Chhatisgarh,
and Bengal. In 1772, the Paharia revolt broke out which was followed by a five year uprising led by Tilka Manjhi who was hanged
in Bhagalpur in 1785.
The Tamar and Munda revolts followed. In the next two decades, revolts took place in Singhbhum,
Gumla, Birbhum, Bankura, Manbhoom and Palamau,
followed by the great Kol Risings of 1832 and the Khewar and Bhumij
revolts (1832-34). In 1855, the Santhals waged war against the permanent settlement of
Lord Cornwallis, and a year
later, numerous adivasi leaders played key roles in the 1857 war of independence.
But the defeat of 1858 only intensified British exploitation of
national wealth and resources. A forest regulation passed in 1865 empowered the British
government to declare any
land covered with trees or brushwood as government forest and to make rules to manage it under terms of it's own choosing.
made no provision regarding the rights of the Adivasi users. A more comprehensive Indian Forest Act was passed
in 1878, which imposed severe restrictions
upon Adivasi rights over forest land and produce in the protected and reserved
forests. The act radically changed the nature of the traditional common
property of the Adivasi communities and made
it state property.
As punishment for Adivasi resistance to British rule, "The Criminal
Tribes Act" was passed by the British Government in 1871 arbitrarily stigmatizing groups
such as the Adivasis (who were
perceived as most hostile to British interests) as congenital criminals.
Adivasi uprisings in the Jharkhand belt were quelled by the
British through massive deployment of troops across the region. The Kherwar uprising and the
Birsa Munda movement
were the most important of the late-18th century struggles against British rule and their local agents. The long struggle
led by Birsa
Munda was directed at British policies that allowed the zamindars (landowners) and money-lenders to harshly
exploit the Adivasis. In 1914 Jatra Oraon started
what is called the Tana Movement (which drew the participation of over
25,500 Adivasis). The Tana movement joined the nation-wide Satyagrah Movement in
1920 and stopped the payment of land-taxes
to the colonial Government.
During British rule, several revolts also took place in Orissa which
naturally drew participation from the Adivasis. The significant ones included the Paik
Rebellion of 1817, the Ghumsar
uprisings of 1836-1856, and the Sambhalpur revolt of 1857-1864.
In the hill tribal tracts of Andhra Pradesh a revolt broke
out in August 1922. Led by Alluri Ramachandra Raju (better known as Sitarama Raju), the Adivasis of
the Andhra hills
succeeded in drawing the British into a full-scale guerrilla war. Unable to cope, the British brought in the Malabar
Special Force to crush it and
only prevailed when Alluri Raju died.
As the freedom movement widened, it drew Adivasis into all aspects
of the struggle. Many landless and deeply oppressed Adivasis joined in with upper-caste
freedom fighters expecting that
the defeat of the British would usher in a new democratic era.
Unfortunately, even fifty years after independence, Dalits and Adivasis
have benefited least from the advent of freedom. Although independence has brought
widespread gains for the vast majority
of the Indian population, Dalits and Adivasis have often been left out, and new problems have arisen for the nation's
populations. With the tripling of the population since 1947, pressures on land resources, especially demands on forested tracks,
mines and water
resources have played havoc on the lives of the Adivasis. A disproportionate number of Adivasis have been
displaced from their traditional lands while many
have seen access to traditional resources undercut by forest mafias and
corrupt officials who have signed irregular commercial leases that conflict with rights
granted to the Adivasis by the
It remains to be seen if the the grant of statehood for Jharkhand
and Chhatisgarh ameliorates the conditions for India's Adivasis. However, it is imperative that
all Adivasi districts receive
special attention from the Central government in terms of investment in schools, research institutes, participatory forest
and preservation schemes, non-polluting industries, and opportunities for the Adivasi communities to document
and preserve their rich heritage. Adivasis must
have special access to educational, cultural and economic opportunities
so as to reverse the effects of colonization and earlier injustices experienced by the
At the same time, the country can learn much from the beauty of
Adivasi social practices, their culture of sharing and respect for all - their deep humility and
love of nature - and most
of all - their deep devotion to social equality and civic harmony.
1. What is Living and What is Dead in Indian Philosophy - Debiprasad
1b. Stcherbasky: Buddhist Logic (New York, 1962), Papers of Stcherbasky
- (Calcutta - 1969,71)
2. The Indian Historical Review, Vol. 16:1,2 Baidyanath Saraswati's
review of P.K Maity, Folk-Rituals of Eastern India
3. Bulletins of the ICHR (Indian Council of Historical Research)
4. Studies in the History of Science in India (Edited by Debiprasad
5. Adivasi: A symbiotic Bond - Mari and Stan Thekaekara (Hindu Folio,
July 16, 2000)