Tribes in News

Tribes in news: Santhal Tribe


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Santhal Tribe, Rebellion

Mains level: Tribal progress and successfull upliftement

The Santhal community is in the spotlight after a political alliance nominated one of its leaders for the Presidential election, Droupadi Murmu, for the election to the highest Constitutional post of India.

Santhal Tribe

  • Santhal, also spelt as Santal, literally means a calm, peaceful man. Santha means calm, and ala means man in the Santhali (also spelt as Santali) language.
  • Santhals are the third largest Scheduled Tribe community in India after Gonds and Bhils.
  • The Santhali population is mostly distributed in Jharkhand, Odisha and West Bengal.

Historical background

  • The Santhals were a nomadic stock before they chose to settle in the Chotanagpur plateau.
  • By the end of the 18th century, they had concentrated in the Santhal Parganas of Jharkhand (earlier Bihar).
  • From there, they migrated to Odisha and West Bengal.

Demographic details

  • Tribal communities, outside the Northeast, generally have lower levels of literacy.
  • But the Santhals have higher – a result of a pro-school education awareness since at least the 1960s – literacy rate compared to other tribes in Odisha, Jharkhand and West Bengal.
  • Many of the community have entered the creamy layer of Indian society.
  • For example, Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren is a Santhal.
  • The incumbent Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAGI) Girsh Chandra Murmu, who was the first Lt Governor of the UT of Jammu and Kashmir, is also a Santhal.

Cultural features of Santhals

(1) Religion

  • Despite their social upliftment, the Santhals are usually connected to their roots.
  • They are nature worshippers and could be seen paying obeisance at Jaher (sacred groves) in their villages.
  • River Damodar holds a special place in the religious life cycle of a Santhal.
  • When a Santhal dies, his or her ashes and bones are immersed in the Damodar for a peaceful afterlife.
  • Their traditional dress includes dhoti and gamuchha for men and a short-check saree, usually blue and green, for women, who generally put on tattoos.

 (2) Society

  • Various forms of marriage are accepted in the Santhal society – including elopement, widow remarriage, levirate, forced (rare) and the one in which a man is made to marry the woman he has impregnated.
  • Divorce is not a taboo in the Santhal society. Either of the couple could divorce the other.

(3) Artforms

  • Santhals are fond of their folk song and dance that they perform at all community events and celebrations.
  • They play musical instruments like kamak, dhol, sarangi and flutes.
  • Most Santhals are agriculturists, depending on their farmlands or forests.
  • Their homes, called Olah, have a particular three-colour pattern on the outer walls.
  • The bottom portion is painted with black soil, the middle with white and the upper with red.

(4) Language

  • Their tribal language is called Santhali, which is written in a script called Ol chiki, developed by Santhal scholar Pandit Raghunath Murmu.
  • Santhali language belongs to the Munda group.
  • Santhali written in OI-Chiki script is recognised as one of the scheduled languages in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution.

Back2Basics: Santhal Rebellion

  • The Santhal rebellion also known as Santhal Hool was a revolt by the Santhal in present-day Jharkhand, India, against the British East India Company and the Zamindari System.
  • It began on June 30, 1855, and the East India Company declared martial law on November 10, 1855, which lasted until January 3, 1856, when martial law was lifted.
  • The insurrection was put down by the Presidency soldiers.
  • The four Murmu Brothers – Sidhu, Kanhu, Chand, and Bhairav – spearheaded the revolt.


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1 year ago

so much of knowledge in a single article.


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