The forest dwellers were the people living in forests or jungles. The Contemporary writings use the word ‘Jungli’ for those who live in the forest. But being savage did not mean that they were uncivilised. In those days, this word was used for such people who were subsisting on forest products, hunting and shifting cultivation. These works were done in a certain order according to the season. Moving from one place to another was an important feature of the tribes living in the forests.
Changes in the Lives of Forest Dwellers
The changes in the lives of the forest dwellers took place due to the intervention of external forces in the forest which are briefly explained below under following points –
External forces entered the forest in various ways; For example, the state needed elephants for the army. That’s why elephants were often included in the gifts taken from the forest dwellers. In Mughal political ideology, hunting expeditions were a means for the state to provide justice to all, including the poor and the rich.
According to the court historians, the emperor used to visit every corner of his vast empire in the name of campaign. Thus he was able to personally attend to the problems and grievances of the people of different regions.
Many hunting scenes are depicted in the paintings of court artists. In these pictures, the painters often used to put such a small scene which indicated the goodwill of the government.
Spread of Commercial Farming
The spread of commercial farming was one such external factor which also affected the lives of the forest dwellers. Wild products like honey, wax and lac were in great demand. Some items such as lac were the main items of export by sea from India in the 17th century. Elephants were also caught and sold. Goods were also exchanged in trade.
Some tribes, such as the Lohani tribes of Punjab, were engaged in overland trade between India and Afghanistan. They also participated in trade between the villages and cities of Punjab.
Influence of Social Factors
Social factors also brought changes in the lives of the forest dwellers. Like the “Old men” of the rural community, the barbarian tribes also had chieftains. The chieftains of many tribes gradually became Zamindars Or Landlords. Some even became Kings.
In such a situation, he needed to prepare an army. So, they recruited their own family members in the army or demanded military service from their own brothers and sisters. There were 6000 horsemen and 7000 foot soldiers in the tribal armies of Sindh region.
In Assam, the Ahom kings had their own “Paikas”. These were the people from whom military service was taken in exchange for land. The Ahom kings had declared a monopoly on catching wild elephants.
The expansion of new cultural influences also began in the forested areas. Some historians have also suggested that Sufi saints (pirs) played a major role in the gradual adoption of Islam by agricultural communities in the newly settled areas.