Tribal history & society in India is by far the least understood, surely it doesn’t merit much popular attention.
I’ll surely try construct a compendium on this vast topic, first dealing with origin & then coming onto history of tribes.
The tribes of Jharkhand consist of vastly different groups & by no means represent a monolithic block as is often believed. There are agriculturists: Munda, hunter- gatheres: Birhor,Korwa,Kharia & artisans :Mahli (classification by Lalita Prasad Vidyarthi, Anthropologist). Now, the exact origins of aboriginal populace is tough to ascertain. Many believe them to be the first settlers of India & descendants of Negritos, who first dared to cross Africa & then went to populate S.E. Asia & Australia.
The harsh & thick woods of Jharkhand were always a ‘no attraction’ for people of plains. Above all, the lands of Jharkhand were of little use for agriculture (the centre of economy in antiquity & medieval ages), to be specific this region was a perennial drain on coffers of every ruler. The vices of caste & class would push people at the nether end of social strata into places as such where they could at least maintain liberty & many a times a separate existence. Mundas & later others would continue maintain their sovereignty giving rise to a culture strikingly dissimilar from that of the plains. Animistic traditions would continue to be entrenched here whereas at other places they were completely routed by Vedic faith. Later, in the medieval period, Jharkand would turn a vassal to rulers of Delhi every time the imperial regime was strong.
Finally at the Battle of Plassey (1757), where Robert Clive decisively defeated Siraj-ud-Daula & the Company’s coffers ran deep with rich treasuries of Bengal, the Company finally chose to subdue Jharkhand (1757).
At this juncture Jharkhand surely wasn’t a wasteland, industrialization across Europe would imply economy was no more centred around agriculture & hence, minerals (coal in particular) became extremely important, certainly an impetus for rail- road development across S.Asia in the following century.
Tribals & their inalienable right on land & forest was finally terminated. Systematic persecution of tribes would continue . It was in fact most severe & least documented. This might be reason why Tribals were the first who rose against the British Raj, some of the famous tribal revolts were:
1.Paharia Revolt (1772-1780).
2.Tamar Revolt (1795-1800).
3.Munda Revolt (1820) & many more.
Note: I’ll end it here although more could be added, most importantly : Jharkhand Mukti Struggle of 20th Century ( a vast topic in itself would surely require a separate discussion).
(Originally written on Quora)