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Indian Tribal Markets

Updated on March 12, 2014

In the Indian tribal economy, markets play a very vital role. These markets can be weekly or bi-weekly. They are generally called as Bazar, Hat, Pathia, Shandy etc. Sachidananda, vidyarthi and Oraon have studied the structure and functioning of tribal markets in Chota Nagpur, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh. Each market has a core area and the peripheral area.

The peripheral area is a zone where tribals barter their goods. It is a zone of non-exploitation. Here money does not play any role. Rather, goods are exchanged for goods, i.e barter system play a vital role. The goods generally available in here are the products that are produced locally, earthenware, iron tools and a few others.

On the other hand, the central zone is the inner zone. It is a zone of barter and trade. The tribals pay money and purchase goods such as daily necessities. Modern goods produced in the non-tribal areas are also traded in here by the traders who are the non-tribals. Here, tribals may also exchange their goods for goods. The traders not only under-weigh their goods but also quote high prices for their products. This zone can be considered as a zone of exploitation. It is a zone of negative reciprocity.

Economic, Social and Cultural Functions of Tribal Markets

  • The tribal markets serve not only economic but also social and cultural functions. These markets bring tribals together from within a radius of ten kilometers and facilitate the exchange of local goods and purchase of non-tribal goods.
  • Tribal markets serve as the most powerful channels of communication within a tribal region. Every market attracts the tribals from the villages. Every tribal makes himself or herself sure to attend the market. So, market becomes the best meeting place for the people. Local leaders make arrangements of community interests in the market place in order to get them relayed all over the region immediately.
  • Local administrations, social workers, etc choose the market places to convey their messages, hold their meetings and plan their programs.
  • The tribal market maintains a network of socio-cultural ties among the people of its land and gives them a common base for regional ethnology. Discussion and settlement of disputes of tribal villages and marriage negotiations are done in the tribal markets. It also serves as a center of re-distribution of resources and material goods of occupationally reverse communities in the region.
  • The markets serve as centers of recreation like screening of films, etc. They also serve as centers for selling the local liquors, and as centers for obtaining the services of palmists, astrologers etc.

The tribal markets are undergoing certain reversible changes. Till now the mode of economic transaction in general was barter for native goods and cash for all non-native goods, but these markets are in danger with the involvement of business enterprises.


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