(Last Updated on : 25/06/2011)
Santhal Tribe dates back to the pre- Aryan period. Santhals are among the most backward of the ethnic groups of India`s neighbouring country Nepal. This tribal community dwells in the Jhapa, Sunsari and Morang districts. A significant minority of Santhals is also there in Bangladesh. The people of this community also address themselves as Hor. Arrows and bow are the traditional weapons of the Santhals and the most favoured meat of these people is pork.
History of Santhals
The Santhals were well-known fighters in the time of the British rule in India. People of this community waged war versus Lord Cornwallis
` Permanent Settlement in the year 1855. During the later parts of 1850, one of the tribal heroes named Sidhu was able to gather about ten thousand Santhals in order to run a parallel government against the British. The first Santhal leader was Baba Tilka Majhi who raised weapons in the year 1789 against the British.
Population of Santhals
The Jhapa district in Nepal has the highest population of Santhals and Morang district has slightly less. The population of Santhals as per the 2001 Census was 49,000. The southern region of the state of Bihar
is known as `Santhal Praganas` due to the Santhal tribe`s density in this area. These tribes have multiplied from proto-Australoid origin. It is also believed that they had come from the Districts of `Santha` and that is why they are called as `Santan` or men of Santha state.
Language of Santhals
The Santhali language
is part of the Austro-Asiatic family, distantly related to Vietnamese and Khmer. Santhals have their script called Olchiki. It was developed by Dr. Raghunath Murmu in1925. Apart from santhali they also speak Bengali, Oriya and Hindi. Olchiki, is alphabetic, and does not share any of the syllabic properties of the other Indian scripts like Devanagari. This Santhali script uses five basic diacritics and 30 letters. This script possesses 6 vowels and 3 additional vowels, generated by the use of Gahla Tudag.
Santhals did not have a written language until the twentieth century. Pandit Murmu wrote more than 150 books addressing a wide range of subjects. Darege Dhan, Bidu Chandan, Sidhu-Kanhu and Kherwal Bir are some of the most acclaimed works of Pandit Raghunath Murmu.
Economic status of Santhals
The day-to-day life of the Santhals encircle around the area of the forests in which they live. The Santhals fulfil their basic requirements from plants and trees in the forests. They also engage themselves in fishing, haunting and cultivation in order to sustain their livelihood. People of this tribal community have the unique skills in constructing musical equipments, baskets and mats from plants and this quality is passed safely from a generation to other.
Religion of Santhals
The Santhals do believe in supernatural beings and ancestral spirits. Santhals do not possess any temple and they worship no idols. These tribes follow the religion called Sarna. Thakurjiu is their ancestral deity. Goddess and Gods of Santhals are Jaheraera, Marangburu and Manjhi. They give respect to the spirits and ghosts like Lakchera, Kal Sing, Beudarang, etc. Santhals have village priests called the Shaman Ujha and Naiki.
Culture of Santhals
Dancing is very much loved by the Santhalis. It is the most prominent component of the Santhals` festivals and fairs. After a day long work, Santhals take rest by enjoying very light music along with dance. The women of this tribal community dress themselves with a white saree with red borders and they dance in the sequence of a line. The Santhals play music very well by using an open chest, Tirio, hotok, Dhodro banam , Phet banam, Tamak, Tumdak, Junko and Singa.
Festivals of Santhals
The Santhal tribes generally celebrate the Karam festival which comes every year in September and October. This festival is celebrated to please the God to bless them with more wealth and decrease their enemies. Some of the other major festivals observed by the Santhals include Baba Bonga, Sahrai, Maghe, Ero, Namah and Asaria. Santhals also enjoy the haunting festival known as Disum Sendra on Baishakhi Purnima.
Traditionally, the Santhals possessed an organized system of judiciary in order to manage and get solution of several problems inside the community. The Santhal community`s head is known as Manjhi Hadam. He is considered to be the chief of the judicial, executive and various other functions in the society. Manjhi Hadam is helped by other office bearers including Jagmanjhi, Jagparanik, Paranik, Naike, Gudit, etc, who work according to their fields in order to solve diverse problems
The people of this tribal community generally prefer to live in concentrated settlements close to forests and rivers and are segregated into twelve groups known as Thars.