Infobox Ethnic group
group = Santal

pop = 6,156,260 [cite web | url =
title = Santali – A Language of India | accessdate = 2008-03-28 | last = | first = | work = Ethnologue | publisher = SIL International
region1 = flag|India
region2 = spaces|14West Bengal
pop2 = 2,410,509 [cite web
url =
title = West Bengal: Data Highlights the Scheduled Tribes| accessdate = 2008-03-06 | last = | first = | work = Census of India 2001 | publisher = Census Commission of India |format=PDF
region3 = spaces|14Jharkhand
pop3 = 2,280,540 [cite web
url =
title = West Bengal: Data Highlights the Scheduled Tribes| accessdate = 2008-03-06 | last = | first = | work = Census of India 2001 | publisher = Census Commission of India |format=PDF
languages = Santali language
religions = Traditional beliefs, Hinduism, Christianity
related = Mundas Hos Kols

The Santals (also spelled as Santhal; formerly also Sonthal) are the largest tribal community in India, found mainly in the states of West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Assam, and Orissa. There is also a significant Santal minority in neighboring Bangladesh.

antali language and anthropology

The Santali language is part of the Austro-Asiatic family, distantly related to Vietnamese and Khmer. A few of the Indian anthropologists also believe that humans first came to India about 65000-55000 years agoFacts|date=July 2008. The earliest of them were Proto-Australoids followed by the Proto-Dravidians. The Proto-Australoids can be identified with some facial characteristics such as low forehead, thick lips, wide jaw and wavy hair. Historians believe that they were the ancestors of the tribal community residing in the eastern part of India (excluding hilly portions). So the Santals, Kols and Mundas may be the descendants of them. But in those times their primary way of subsistence were hunting and food gathering. The agrarian way of living was brought by the Aryans who came about in the 1500 B.C. How the Mohenjo- Daro civilization annihilated is a big question whether there was an Aryan invasion or a major environmental change that wiped them out is still under research and every day new theories are coming out. Coming back to the history of tribals, the Proto Australoids their earliest ancestors started living in the forest in the eastern part of India .

"See Ol Chiki script"

The Santali script, or "Ol Chiki", is alphabetic, and does not share any of the syllabic properties of the other Indic scripts such as Devanagari. It uses 30 letters and five basic diacritics. It has 6 basic vowels and three additional vowels, generated using the "Gahla Tudag" [] .

The Santal script is a relatively recent innovation. Santali did not have a written language until the twentieth century and used Latin/Roman, Devnagri and Bangla writing systems.As none of the existing scripts were sufficient enough to correctly express the Santali language phonetically,a need for the separate script was felt by some visionary Santals,which resulted in the invention of new script called "Ol Chiki" by Pandit Raghunath Murmu in 1925.For his noble deed and contribution of the script "Ol Chiki" for the Santal society,he is revered among Santals. He wrote over 150 books covering a wide spectrum of subjects such as grammar, novels, drama, poetry, and short stories in Santali using "Ol Chiki" as part of his extensive programme for uplifting the Santal community. "Darege Dhan", "Sidhu-Kanhu", "Bidu Chandan" and "Kherwal Bir" are among the most acclaimed of his works. Pandit Raghunath Murmu is popularly known as Guru Gomke among the Santals, a title conferred on him by the Mayurbhanj Adibasi Mahasabh.

Beside Pandit Raghunath Murmu, very few Indian linguists worked seriously on the linguistic aspects of the language. One of them was Dr. Byomkes Chakrabarti (1923-1981). He was a Bengali research worker on ethnic languages. He was a renowned educationist and a poet too. His major contribution was in finding out some basic relationship between Santali language and Bengali language. He showed how the Bengali language has got some unique characteristics, which are absent in other Indian languages, under the influence of Santali language(in 'A Comparative Study of Santali and Bengali').His contribution was fundamental in nature in the origin and development of the Bengali and Santali language and provided scopes of research in newer fields in liguistics.

antali culture

The Santali culture has attracted many scholars and anthropologists for decades. The first attempt to study the Santali culture was done by the Christian missionaries. The most famous of them was the Norwegian-born Reverend Paul Olaf Bodding. Unlike many other tribal groups of the Indian subcontinent, the Santals are known for preserving their native language despite waves of migrations and invasions from Mughals, Europeans, and others.

Santali culture is depicted in the paintings and artworks in the walls of their houses. Local mythology includes the stories of the Santal ancestors Pilchu Haram and Pilchu Bhudi.

The Santal people love music and dance. Like other Indian people groups, their culture has been influenced by mainstream Indian culture and by Western culture, but traditional music and dance still remain. Santal music differs from Hindustani classical music in significant ways. Onkar Prasad has done the most recent work on the music of the Santal but others preceded his work. The Santal traditionally accompany many of their dances with two drums: the Tamak' and the Tundak'. The flute (tiriao) was considered the most important Santal traditional instrument and still evokes feelings of nostalgia for many Santal. Santal dance and music traditionally revolved around Santal religious celebrations. This is still true to a degree although traditional religious beliefs have been significantly altered by Hindu belief and Christian mission work. However, Santal music and dance both retain connections to traditional celebrations. The names of many Santal tunes are derived from the traditional ritual with which they were once associated. Sohrae tunes, for example, were those sung at the Sohrae festival.

The Santal community is devoid of any caste system and there is no distinction made on the basis of birth. They believe in supernatural beings and ancestral spirits. Santali rituals are mainly comprised of sacrificial offerings and invocations to the spirits, or "bongas". It is believed by some scholars that Bonga means the same as Bhaga (or Bhagavan). [ P. 292 "The Cult of Brahmā" By Tārāpada Bhaṭṭācāryyeṇa, Tarapada Bhattacharyya ] The Santal system of governance, known as Manjhi–Paragana, may be compared to what is often called Local Self Governance. This body is responsible for making decisions to ameliorate the village's socioeconomic condition.

Background of the Rebellion

The insurrection of the Santals was mainly against the corrupt moneylenders, zamindars and their operatives. Before the advents of the British in India they resided peacefully in the hilly districts of Cuttack, Dhalbhum, Manbhum, Barabhum, Chhotanagpur, Palamau, Hazaribagh, Midnapur, Bankura and Birbhum.They started their agrarian way of life by clearing the forest and also engaged themselves in hunting for subsistence.But as the agents of the new colonial rule claimed their rights on the lands of the Santals they peacefully went to reside in the hills of Rajamahal.After a brief period of peace the British operatives with their native counterparts jointly started claiming their rights in this new land as well.The simple and honest Santals were cheated and turned into slaves by the zaminadrs and the money lenders who first appeared to them as business man and allured them first by goods lent to them on loans.These loans however hard a santal tried to repay never ended in fact through corrupt measures of the money lenders it multiplied to an amount for which a generation of the santal family had to work as slaves.Furthermore the santali women who worked under labour contractors were disgraced and used . This loss of freedom that once which they enjoyed turned them into rebels and finally they took oath to launch an attack on these axis of evil.

The Santal Rebellion

On 30 June 1855, two Santal rebel leaders, Sidhu and Kanhu Murmu, mobilized ten thousand Santals and declared a rebellion against British colonists. The Santals initially gained some success but soon the British found out a new way to tackle these rebels. As the legend goes that the Santals so skilled in archery could throw arrows extremely accurate and with great power. The British soon understood that there was no point fighting them in the forest but to force them come out of the forest So in a conclusive battle which followed the British equipped with modern firearms and war elephants stationed themselves at the foot of the hill. When the battle began the British officer ordered fire without bullet as the santals could not trace this trap set by the much experienced [British] war strategy charged with full potential. This step proved to be disastrous for them since as soon as they neared the foot of the hill the British army attacked with full power and this time using bullet. Thereafter attacking every village of the santals and making sure that the last drop of revolutionary spirit was annihilated. Although the revolution was brutally suppressed, it marked a great change in the colonial rule and policy. The day is still celebrated among the Santal community with great respect and spirit for the thousands of the Santal martyrs who sacrificed their lives along with their two celebrated leaders to win freedom from the rule of the Jamindars and the British operatives.


* Archer, W. G. The Hill of Flutes: Life, Love, and Poetry in Tribal India: A Portrait of the Santals. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1974.
* Bodding, P. O. Santal Folk Tales. Cambridge, Mass.: H. Aschehoug; Harvard University Press, 1925.
* Bodding, P. O. Santal Riddles and Witchcraft among the Santals. Oslo: A. W. Brøggers, 1940.
* Bodding, P. O. A Santal Dictionary.(5 volumes), 1933-36 Oslo: J. Dybwad, 1929.
* Bodding, P. O. Materials for a Santali Grammar I, Dumka 1922
* Bodding, P. O. Studies in Santal Medicine and Connected Folklore (3 volumes), 1925-40
* Bompas, Cecil Henry, and Bodding, P. O. Folklore of the Santal Parganas. London: D. Nutt, 1909. [ Full text at Project Gutenberg] .
* Chakrabarti, Dr. Byomkes, A Comparative Study of Santali and Bengali, KP Bagchi, Calcutta, 1994
* Chaudhuri, A. B. State Formation among Tribals: A Quest for Santal Identity. New Delhi: Gyan Pub. House, 1993.
* Culshaw, W. J. Tribal Heritage; a Study of the Santals. London: Lutterworth Press, 1949.
* Duyker, E. Tribal Guerrillas: The Santals of West Bengal and the Naxalite Movement, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1987, pp. 201, SBN 19 561938 2.
* Hembrom, T. The Santals: Anthropological-Theological Reflections on Santali & Biblical Creation Traditions. 1st ed. Calcutta: Punthi Pustak, 1996.
* Orans, Martin. "The Santal; a Tribe in Search of a Great Tradition." Based on thesis, University of Chicago., Wayne State University Press, 1965.
* Prasad, Onkar. Santal Music: A Study in Pattern and Process of Cultural Persistence, Tribal Studies of India Series; T 115. New Delhi: Inter-India Publications, 1985.
* Roy Chaudhury, Indu. Folk Tales of the Santals. 1st ed. Folk Tales of India Series, 13. New Delhi: Sterling Publishers, 1973.
* Troisi, J. The Santals: A Classified and Annotated Bibliography. New Delhi: Manohar Book Service, 1976.
* ———. Tribal Religion: Religious Beliefs and Practices among the Santals. New Delhi: Manohar, 2000.


External links

* [ All India Santal Culture and Welfare Society]
* [ Santal Arts]
* [ A Portal for Santals]
* [ Santal Dance]
* [ Edward Duyker Tribal Guerrillas: The Santals of West Bengal and the Naxalite Movement]

See also

* Santhal rebellion

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Santals — (d.h. Bewohner des Niederlandes), einheimischer Volksstamm in Ostindien, welcher hauptsächlich den District Bhagulpore (Provinz Bahar in der Präsidentschaft Bengalen) bewohnt u. wesentlich von den Hindus verschieden ist. Die S. sind klein, aber… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Santals — Santals, dekanisches Volk in der engl. ostind. Präsidentschaft Madras, empörte sich 1855, wurde aber ohne Mühe wieder unterworfen …   Herders Conversations-Lexikon

  • Santals — Les Santals forment un peuple aborigène de l Inde principalement mais aussi du Bangladesh. En Inde, ils sont répartis majoritairement dans les états du Jharkhand, du Bengale Occidental, de l Orissa, et du Bihar. Portail de l’Inde …   Wikipédia en Français

  • santals — ● santal, santals nom masculin (grec santalon, de l arabe sanḍal) Arbre hémiparasite (santalacée) d Inde, de Malaisie et d Australie, aux feuilles réduites, au bois très recherché, contenant une essence terpénique odoriférante, d usage religieux …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • SANTALS —    one of the aboriginal tribes of India, inhabiting a district in the province of Bengal, which stretches southward from the Ganges; they are chiefly hunters, but also agriculturists; dwell by the forest edges, are fond of music, and are sun… …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • Santhal rebellion — The Santhal rebellion (sometimes referred to as the Sonthal rebellion) was a native rebellion in what is now Jharkhand, in eastern India against both the British colonial authority and corrupt upper caste zamindari system by the Santal people. It …   Wikipedia

  • Santal music — The Santal people love music and dance. Like other Indian people groups, their culture has been influenced by mainstream Indian culture and by Western culture, but traditional music and dance still remain. Santal music differs from Hindustani… …   Wikipedia

  • Ho people — Infobox Ethnic group group = Ho pop = 1,000,000+ region1 = flag|India region2 = spaces|14Jharkhand pop2 = 700,000 region3 = spaces|13 Orissa pop3 = 200,000 languages = Ho language religions = Traditional beliefs related = Mundas • Santals •… …   Wikipedia

  • Ol Chiki — ( [ɔl ˈciki] Schreibsymbol, Schreibschrift), manchmal auch Ol Chemet’ ( [ɔl cemet̚] schreiben lernen) genannt, ist eine Schrift, die zum Schreiben der in Indien gesprochenen Munda Sprache Santali dient. Die Schrift ist rechtsläufig. Während alle… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Aborigènes de l'Inde — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Aborigène. Une femme Adivasi du groupe tribal Kondhs dans l Orissa. Les Ādivāsī (आदिवासी, de racines sanskrites ā …   Wikipédia en Français

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.