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Rural Mughal India had different forms of living which were more than sedentary agriculture. One of the most important community during the Mughal period were the forest dwellers who were often referred to as ‘jungli’ - but this term was not used in reference to them not having any civilization. Rather it referred to the fact that their source of livelihood was the forests along with hunting and shifting cultivation. They mostly engaged in specific seasonal activities –
• The Bhils collected forest produce during spring.
• Summer was for fishing while monsoon was for cultivation.
• The Bhils engaged in hunting during autumn and winter.
The royal elephants were often ones captured by the forest dwellers and offered as a ‘Peshkash’.
The spread of commercial agriculture allowed the forest dwellers to engage in exporting honey, gum, and wax to other countries during the 17th century. The best example of this is found among the Lohanis of Punjab who was engaged in trade relations between India and Afghanistan. Some of the leaders went on to become Zamindars and kings. A king would often demand military service from the tribesmen. The Ahom Kings for example gave land in exchange for military services.
Thus, rural India had hunter, gatherers, farmers and traders, all of who contributed towards a very vibrant social, economic and cultural life.
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