Modern Indian History-Events and Personalities

Hul Diwas: Remembering the Santhal Rebellion


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Hul Diwas, Santhal Revolt

Mains level: NA

hul divas santhal

Central Idea

  • Prime Minister commemorated Hul Diwas, honoring the sacrifice of Santhals in their fight against British colonial authorities.

What is Hul Divas?

  • The Santhal rebellion, known as the ‘Hul,’ was an organized war against colonialism led by the Santhals, who stood against various forms of oppression inflicted upon them by the British.
  • This article explores the significance of the Santhal rebellion, their identity, the reasons behind the Hul, its organization, and its lasting impact.

Santhals and their Migration

  • The Santhal people, or Santhalis, migrated from the Birbhum and Manbhum regions of Bengal to modern-day Santhal Pargana.
  • The British relocated the Santhals to the forested area of Damin-i-Koh, dislodging the indigenous Pahariya community, as part of their revenue collection strategy.
  • However, the Santhals faced severe colonial oppression, including exploitative moneylenders and the police.

Reasons behind the Hul

  • The Santhals rebelled against the British due to extortions, oppressive extractions, dispossession of property, false measurements, and other illegalities.
  • Tribal councils and meetings discussed the possibility of rebellion, leading to a massive assembly of over 6,000 Santhals on June 30, 1855, marking the beginning of the rebellion.
  • Led by Sidhu and Kanhu, the Santhals rose against the British, attacking symbols of colonial rule and executing moneylenders and zamindars.

Organization of the Hul

  • Contrary to popular belief, the Hul was a well-planned and organized political war.
  • Evidence from documents and historical accounts reveals preparations such as guerrilla formations, military teams, detectives, secret bases, logistics, and a network of message carriers for coordination.
  • Non-Adivasi Hindu castes also participated in the rebellion, highlighting the diverse nature of the movement.

Lesser-Known Facts about the Hul

  • The rebellion saw participation from 32 communities, both tribals and non-tribals, challenging the notion that it was solely a Santhal rebellion.
  • Phulo-Jhano, two sisters, led an army of 1,000 women, playing crucial roles in providing food supply, gathering information, and attacking British camps.
  • The East India Company’s army was defeated twice during the rebellion, debunking the belief that they were invincible.

British Narratives and Accounts

  • British reports and personal narratives provide insights into the causes of the Santhal rebellion, including excessive taxation, falsehood, and negligence of British officials, extortion by moneylenders, corruption, and oppression.
  • The sufferings inflicted by moneylenders or ‘mahajans’ on the Santhals were a primary cause of the uprising.

Accounts from Prisoners and Divine Intervention

  • Similar to other tribal uprisings, accounts exist of deities appearing in dreams or before the rebels.
  • Judicial proceedings of captured Santhals revealed instances where deities instructed rebellion leaders to fight against the British and oppressors.

Lasting Impact of the Hul

  • The Santhal rebellion did not end with its suppression in 1855; it continued to inspire future uprisings, such as the Santhal involvement in the 1857 mutiny.
  • The Hul rebellion symbolized resistance against British colonialism and laid the foundation for subsequent movements in Jharkhand.

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