The basic characteristics of tribal communities in India: Geographical isolation: They have usually a well- demarcated geographical territory. They live in clusters (called ‘padas’), which are generally located in remote forests and hilly areas. Today, however, many tribal people have migrated to rural villages and cities and in the course of time, they have mixed with non-tribal populations.
Economic life: They are engaged in varied occupations such as hunting, fishing, and food gathering of forest produce, basket making, weaving, iron-smith, etc. Besides, they also practice simple agriculture and shifting cultivation. Their economic activities are based on rudimentary technology, usually resulting in low productivity. They have a low level of literacy and poor health. In addition, their economic and infrastructural and marketing facilities are poor. Some tribes still depend on the barter system. These are among the few causes that leave them economically backward, at bare subsistence level, still leading a hand-to-mouth existence.
Sense of identity: Tribal folk nurture a sense of exclusive identity, which strongly binds them together as a community. This sense of identity is characterized by an awareness of territorial boundaries. The very existence of a tribe depends upon its sense of identity. Each tribe has a common name (e.g., Warli, Irula, Gond, Naga, Khasi) which adds to their sense of cohesion and solidarity.
Endogamous group: Tribal people generally do not marry outside their tribe. Marriage within the tribe is the usual norm. Marriage among tribals is based on the rule of tribal endogamy. It is viewed as a contract and usually, there are no taboos on divorce and remarriage. Recently, the increased mobility among the tribals has changed this condition and now, inter-tribal marriages are not uncommon.