Degree of incorporation into the Hindu society
Tribal and non-tribal communities in India have co-existed for centuries,
influencing each other in different ways in varying degrees. This was also another
way of classifying the tribal population of India based on the degree of incorporation into the non-tribal caste-based Hindu society. This could be studied
from the perspective of either the tribal society or the Hindu society.
The Tribal Welfare Committee constituted by the Indian Conference of Social
Work in 1952 classified the tribes of India into four main divisions which are the
I) Tribal communities
This category includes those tribal communities who confine themselves to their
original habitats and still maintain their distinct traditional pattern of life. For
example, the hunting and gathering tribes and hill cultivating tribes.
II) Semi-tribal communities
This category includes those tribal communities who have, more or less, settled
down in the rural areas taking to agriculture and other allied occupations. For
example, the agriculturist tribes.
III) Acculturated tribal communities
This category includes those tribal communities who have migrated to the urban
or semi-urban areas and are engaged in the industrial sector and have adopted
the cultural traits of the rest of the population, for example industrial labourers
like the Santhals and the Hos.
IV) Totally assimilated tribal communities
This category includes those tribal communities who have been totally assimilated
into the new social order such as the Bhumjis, the Majhis, the Raj Gonds, etc.
B.K.Roy Burman in 1971 divided the tribal population into those who are;
I) Fully incorporated into the Hindu social order such as, the Bhils who have
adopted the Hindu way of life including the ethos of the caste system and
can hardly be differentiated from the neighbouring Hindu peasantry.
II) Positively oriented towards the Hindu social order
This category includes tribes like the Santhals, Oraons, Mundas and the
Gonds who have not been incorporated totally into the caste structure but
have to a large extent adopted the symbols and world views of their Hindu
III) Negatively oriented towards the Hindu social order
This category includes tribes like the Mizos and the Nagas who are negatively
oriented towards the Hindu social order and reject the caste structure.
IV) Indifferent towards the Hindu social order
This category includes tribes like those of Arunachal Pradesh who are totally
indifferent to the Hindu order.
G.S. Ghurye in “The Scheduled Tribes” proposed a similar classification which
x Tribes who attain a high status within the Hindu society Partially Hinduised tribes
x Tribes inhabiting remote hill areas and who exhibited great resistance to
Hinduism as an alien culture
While combining the criteria of the level of incorporation and the level of
development, Verrier Elwin proposed a fourfold classification:
x Those who are primitive live in a joint communal life and cultivate with
axes. They are the purest as they live in the remotest areas and are least
influenced by Hinduism.
x Those who, though equally attached to their solitude and ancient traditions,
are more individualistic, face a decline of shared sense, are less occupied
with axe cultivation and are more used to outside life.
x Those who are under external influence and are on the way to lose their
tribal culture, religion and social organization. They are in a peculiar state
of transition. This group constitutes the largest section of the tribal population
which is about four-fifth of the same.
x Those who retain much of their original tribal life and tree of culture intact.