The Paharias and the Santhals, two indigenous communities in India, had distinct livelihoods primarily due to their different environmental adaptations and cultural practices.
The Paharias, traditionally known as hill dwellers, primarily resided in the Rajmahal Hills of eastern India. Their livelihood was mainly based on shifting cultivation, also known as ‘jhoom’ cultivation, along with hunting and gathering. This form of agriculture involved clearing forest patches for cultivation and then moving on to a new area, allowing the old one to regenerate. Their economy was largely subsistence-based, relying on the forest and its resources.
On the other hand, the Santhals, who lived in the plains surrounding the Rajmahal Hills, had a more settled form of agriculture. They cultivated a variety of crops and were more engaged in plough agriculture. This difference in agricultural practice was due to the more fertile land available in the plains compared to the hilly terrain of the Rajmahal Hills. Additionally, the Santhals had a more integrated relationship with the local markets and were involved in trade, unlike the Paharias who were relatively isolated.
Thus, the key differences in their livelihoods were shaped by the differing geographies they inhabited, with the Paharias adapting to hill and forest-based living, and the Santhals to more intensive and market-oriented agriculture in the plains.