Effects of Colonial Rule


With the arrival of British rule in India, the nomads were badly affected. They were restricted from moving from one place to another and they were denied the use of forest products. The nomads and Pastorals were not allowed to let their animals in protected forests. The only source of their livelihood which was cattle was badly impacted due to these new laws.

Colonialism in 1898

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There are various records which depict the movements of these Pastoral tribes across the Indian subcontinent and all of these were affected by the arrival of colonial powers. Apart from imposing restrictions on entering forests they also restricted tribes from moving from one territory to another.

The man-made borders and fences restricted their movement and affected their centuries-old patterns. These tribes had a very rough lifestyle where men would graze the cattle and go to forests for weeks and collect the forest resources, and women went to markets every morning with baskets on their heads. They sold animal products like Milk, Ghee, Butter and many more animal-based products. Britishers imposed taxes on these products which harmed their livelihood.

Pastoralists in The Modern World

  • There are many pastoral tribes currently living in India, the Gujjar Bakarwals of Kashmir are one of the pastoral tribes in India.

  • In winter, the tribes living on high mountains come down to low mountains, where they find the dry scrub forests for their cattle.

  • In summer they move to valleys which provide them with fresh water and vegetation for cattle and themselves. This cycle continues for the pastoral tribes.

  • Gaddi shepherds from Himachal Pradesh move from one place to another based on the season.

  • In Gharwal and Kumaon regions, the Gujjar cattle herders follow the same pattern of moving up and down hills based on the season.

  • Some pastorals are also found in Plains, Deserts and Plateaus.

  • Dhangar, a pastoral community lives in the central plateau of Maharashtra.

  • Banjaras are one of the most known nomads in northern India. They move from one place to another with their cattle and they sell the animal product on their way.

  • Raikas of Rajasthan move from their native place after the end of the monsoon in search of water and food for cattle and again return to their place when rain arrives.

Colonial Rule and Pastoral Life

  • Colonial rule brought some drastic changes in the lives of pastorals, their movement pattern changed and they had to pay more taxes.

  • Colonial power wanted to change all grazing land into cultivable land because agriculture was the biggest source of tax and more cultivable land would bring more taxes.

  • These grazing lands were marked as wasteland and they were distributed to big farmers and zamindars to make that land cultivable. The pastorals were rejected from those lands.

  • In the 19th century, many forest acts came into power, which restricted the entry of pastorals into the forests and it drastically affected their livelihood as they could not get fodder for their cattle.

  • British officials did not trust these nomadic tribes and were always sceptical towards them. In 1871 they also passed the criminal tribes act.

  • The Britishers wanted more and more revenue so they imposed taxes on everything, land, water and food. The Pastoral tribes had to pay taxes on each cattle they own. This tax was called the grazing tax.

How Changes Affected the Lives of Pastorals ?

  • Changes in policies and rules like Forest acts and increased taxes had a huge impact on Pastoral lives.

  • The Grazing lands were declared as wastelands and were given to zamindars for cultivation. This brought shortages of grazing land for pastorals.

  • The forest act restricted the pastorals from entering the forest so they could not freely pasture their cattle in the forest.

  • Due to low pasture land, the pressure on remaining grazing land increased and due to extensive use of the same grazing land, the quality of pasture decreased.

  • Animals could not get the proper amount of food and cattle started dying out of scarcity and famine.

How Did Pastoralists Cope With These Changes?

  • Due to decreasing Grazing land, some Pastoralists decreased their livestock.

  • Some Pastorals started looking for new Grazing fields and they stopped their movement and tried to settle in one place.

  • The movement of many pastoralists like Raikas of Rajasthan stopped due to the formation of the border between India and Pakistan, so they had to look for other places in India for feeding their cattle.

  • Rich Pastorals bought lands and settled there and became farmers, Traders and left their old occupations.

  • Poor Pastorals took loans from moneylenders to survive and when they could not pay them back, they had to sell their cattle and work as farmers and labourers.

  • After all the hardships and changes, there are still many pastoral tribes residing in India, though they may have reduced their flock and restricted their movements, they are following their centuries-old tradition.


The Pastoral tribes are a community which depended on cattle for their livelihood. They move from one place to another with their cattle. They sold animal products and went to places where they could get enough pasture for their cattle. With the arrival of colonial power, their livelihood was adversely affected. The Britishers were solely focused on gaining more taxes from India. They declared pasture land as wasteland and distributed such land among individuals for cultivation. They adopted many policies which completely transformed pastoral lives. Some Pastorals left their old occupation and settled as farmers but some kept following the tradition and still many pastoral communities are residing in India.


Q1. Who are the Pastorals?

Ans. Patorlas are a tribal community, which are nomadic. They move from one place to another with their cattle and they are dependent on their cattle. They sell animal products as their livelihood.

Q2. What was the effect of colonial rule on Pastoral tribes?

Ans. The colonial power was only interested in making profits and that is why they imposed heavy taxes on the cattle. The Pastorals had to pay tax for each cattle they own. The Grazing lands were decreased and Pastorals were restricted from entering forests. So, they all were adversely affected by colonial rule.

Q3. How did Pastorals cope with the effect of colonial power?

Ans. Many pastorals reduced the size of their flocks and some restricted movement. Big Pastorals bought land and settled as farmers and traders. The small and poor Pastorals sold their flock and started working as tenet and labourers.

Q4. What was the grazing tax?

Ans. It was a tax imposed by Britishers. The pastorals had to pay a certain amount based on the number of cattle they possessed. When the Pastorals wanted to take his cattle to Pasture, he had to show the Pass and Pay Tax.

Q5. What were reserved forests?

Ans. These were forests where Britishers had restricted the entry of common people and tries. They used these forests to produce timber to be used in Railways and to export.