Normally, all communities have their characters, similar to certain business communities of India. Similarly, Tribal communities have their unique community characters. These tribal community characters encompass some community rights apart from the usual individual rights.
Defining community is a group of people sharing certain common attributes that strengthen their bonding. The common characteristics to define a community are community behaviour, belief system, value system, moral qualities, thoughts, community leadership and gathering pace, the distinct identity of the place of natural habitat and perception of communities.
Tribal communities are having certain unique characters distinct from others, and these characters, by and large, are universal and more specific to Indian groups. Depending on the geographical habitat, some groups prefer to stay deep inside the forest. Few are in the buffer zones of the forest and certainly some groups do not stay permanently in one palace like gipsies. Normally they do not intermingle with other communities and try to avoid the urban community. Tribes staying in deep forests will generally tend to be introvert in their basic nature. At the same time, it is important to note that as a community they were self-reliant on their traditional way of life. Their dependency was restricted to the community only.
Irrespective of these, the most important characteristics of a tribal community are their pride and honour. This character is applicable to both an individual and a community. They have always liked to live with pride in their area, never allowed others to rule them with any law and protecting the homeland (forest and its resources) while giving their lives was a prime goal. For example, great tribal leaders and martyrs like Talakkal Chandu of Vaynad, Kerala, Bhagwan Birsa Munda of Central India, Natram Negi of Northern part of India, U Titrot Singh of Kasi (North East) fought against British and Turkic invaders to protect their rights. Tribals were treated as criminals by British due to their proud feelings and their non-compromising characters. Even Samrat Ashoka conquered Kalinga and was the Samrat of Bharat and the Indian Ocean.
However, the Rock Edict XIII of Samrat reads that tribes of those times, called “Atavik “ or “Attavikas”, did not agree to his ruling in tribal areas and tested his patience. All the available history since BCE pointed out that the basic character of the tribal community is pride (Swabhiman) with the tribal majority, especially in India.
Upholder of Values
Beggars are not seen in tribal areas, and tribes, especially North Eastern Scheduled States, reinforce this fact. The tribal communities have high values, morals and social values. Due to this, communities have high interdependency, but outside interference is less. Decision-making, gender parity, and respect to elders and leaders are strong characteristics of tribes. Parallels of traditional community support systems like “Halma” (Bheel community) are visible in tribal communities across India.
The community takes over and shares the individual’s or family’s difficulty or grief. It helps promote positive thought in the community, and the mental health index of tribal communities is better than others. Nature and community teach them “how to live happily”. This is the general perception and thought of tribal communities, while urban communities are still searching for it. Community gathering and collective decision on common issues (Sahayog) is another exclusive characteristic of the tribal community.
Relevance of Traditional Weapons
All tribal community groups have their traditional weapons. These weapons are depending on their character of food choices like agriculture, hunting and fighting. Archery is common to most communities; some use only archery, but others use unique weapons as their identity. Even the ones that use the sword have different designs in different communities. These weapons have a prestigious position in their lives, poojas and ceremonial events. The usage of these traditional weapons (Shastras) is another uniqueness of tribal communities’ identification.
Swabhiman, Sahayog and Shastra are unique tribal characteristics. Tribal communities’ characters are developed and continued with their value system, which is rooted in their belief system and dependency on nature.
More studies are required on these topics by universities and other tribal research organisations apart from regular anthropological studies.