Online Santal Resource Page: the Santals identity, clans, living places, culture,rituals, customs, using of herbal medicine, education, traditions ...etc and present status.

The Santal Resource Page: these are all online published sources

Santal Gãota reaḱ onolko ńam lạgit́ SRP khon thoṛ̣a gõṛ̃o ńamoḱa mente ińaḱ pạtiạu ar kạṭić kurumuṭu...

Monday, June 22, 2009


Santals, The an ethnic group in Bangladesh. Mainly living in the Himalayan sub-mountain region in different districts of Rajshahi division. Their principal home is in radha (in West Bengal), the forests of adjacent Bihar (Jhadkhand) and Orissa, and Chhota Nagpur. The British government assigned a special territory for their living and named it Santal Pargana. It is difficult to definitely say when and why they settled in the East Bengal region. But the census of 1881 shows that there were Santal settlements in the districts of pabna, jessore, khulna and even in chittagong. A survey of the Santal population of present Bangladesh area conducted in 1941 recorded their number as 829,025. The censuses organised after the Partition of Bengal (1947) did not count Santals as a separate group of people, and consequently, their exact number in East Pakistan could not be determined. According to an estimate made by Christian missionaries in the 1980s, the Santal population in northern Bangladesh was over one hundred thousand. According to the 1991 census, the Santal population was over two hundred thousand.

Santals are the descendants of Austric-speaking Proto-Australoid race. Their complexion is dark, height medium, hair black and curled, and lips heavy. mundas, oraons, paharias and some other ethnic groups have a good deal of similarity with the long-headed, broad-nosed Santals in physical features, language and culture. Similarity is also there in their village panchayet administration, in social values, and their characteristic love for dance, singing and music.

Santals and related aborigines are among the earliest settlers of the subcontinent and are acknowledged as the progenitors and maintainers of agricultural production system and agro-based culture. Although the chief god of Santals is the god of the sun (Sing Bonga, in their language), the god of mountain - Marang Budu is also dignified enough to have become a village-god. Santals believe that soul is immortal and that supernatural soul (Bonga) determines worldly good and evil. Bonga occupies an important place in their daily worship. Probably that is why house-deity Abe-Bonga is quite a mighty god. Influence of folk Hindu deities is also visible in their religious ceremonies. In fact, Santal men and women are animistic nature-worshippers, but again they acknowledge Thakurjiu as Creator. Idol-worship is not a part of their religious practices.

Santals are fond of festivities. Like Bangalis, they also have 'thirteen festivals in twelve months' ie, many festive occasions around the year. Their year starts with the month of Falgun (roughly, 15 February-15 March). Almost each month or season has a festival or fiesta celebrated with the pomp of dances, songs and music. The Shialsei festival of Santals takes place in the New Year month of Falgun, Bongabongi occurs in Chaitra, Home in Baishakh, Dibi in Ashwin, and Sohrai at the end of Paush. Sohrai is a kind of national festival for Santals celebrated with great pomp on the last day of Paush (around 16 January). To express gratitude to the god of crops is also a part of this festival. It turns splendid with dance, songs, music and pleasant beauty of flowers along with food and drinks. Probably its greatest attraction is the chorus dance of Santal girls. Another important ceremony of Santals is called Baha or the festival of blossoms. The purpose of this festival at the beginning of spring is to welcome and offer greetings to the beautiful blossoming of colourful flowers. It is also characterised with an overflow of dancing, singing and music.

Santals live a poor life. They are compelled to sell their labour at a very low price in tea gardens or elsewhere. Besides, they dig soil, carry loads, or engage themselves in similar works of day labourers. They are accustomed to hard work. Like their simple, plain and candid way of life, their dress is also very simple. Women wear short, coarse but colourful sari, fix flowers on their heads and hair-buns, and make themselves graceful with simple ornaments. Men wear dhutis or gamchhas (indigenous towels). Well-to-do and educated Santals wear modern dress. Skilful workers as they are, Santal women, especially young girls are by nature very beauty-conscious. Santal men and women wear tattoos on their bodies.

Principal food items of Santals are rice, fish and vegetables. They eat crabs, pork, chicken, beef and the meet of squirrels. Jute spinach (nalita) is one of their favourite food items. Eggs of ducks, chicken, birds, and turtles are delicacy in their menu. Liquor distilled from putrefied rice called hadia (or pachai) is their favourite drink. They are also accustomed to distill liquor at home from mahua or palmyra syrup. These drinks are indispensable in their festive ceremonies. Santal women are skilled in making different kinds of cakes.

The Spring Festival of Santals provide young men and women an opportunity to exchange hearts. The hub of such exchange of hearts or choosing one's partner is the akhra (sort of club) just as the dhumkadia of Oraons. In the Santal society, there is no bar against young couples' premarital free-mixing. But in their married life, breach of faith is indeed rare. Divorce is allowed in their community. Paying the bride a dowry is still in vogue but the amount is usually very small. Both widows and divorced women have the right to remarry.

Domination of the male is more prominent in the Santal society although, the role of women in the family is by no means insignificant. Santal women rather take a leading role in earning livelihood or in farming work. The houses of Santals are small but their yards are very clean. Artwork on earthen walls of the house is an evidence of Santal women's liking for beauty and of their artistic mind. furniture in the house is very simple reflecting their plain lifestyle.

The Santal society is still ruled by traditional Panchayet system and the village headman enjoys special dignity in the society. The community's division into twelve gotras (clans) is still found among Santals. In common practice, marriage between a man and a woman of the same gotra is prohibited. But these regulations are not so effective today.

The Santal language (Santali) belongs to the family of Austric languages. Santali has profound similarity with Kole and Mundari languages. Today most Santals of Bangladesh speak both Bangla and Santali. Also many Bangla words are now adopted in Santali. There is no written Santali literature, but the rich heritage of folk songs and folk tales of Santals is acknowledged by all. Just like the fact that Santals have a language but no alphabet, they have a religion but no canonical scripture. In the terribly poverty-stricken life of Santals, Christian missionary work of social welfare and, along with that, preaching of the message of spiritual peace accelerated their conversion to christianity. On the other hand, as a result of financial aid from NGOs, desire for receiving modern education is growing among Santals, but poverty is a great obstacle. The Santal community has not been able to free themselves from the rule and exploitation of landowners and moneylenders. Santals took active part in the tebhaga Movement that took place during the period between 1946 and 1950.

Santals cremate their dead bodies. But today, many of them bury the dead in graves. When an inhabitant of a village dies, the village headman's duty is to present himself at the place of the departed and arrange for the last rites with due respect. The custom of holding a sraddha (obsequies) ceremony later at a convenient time is also in practice in the Santal community.



The Santals Page as project



Santal Hul

Description of above Picture:
The painting is an expression of the liberation movement. The pattern is inspired from the “santal” tribal art. Santal are the indigenous people of India. Hul is a Santal tribe term. It means a movement for liberation.
Santal Hul [1855] was one of the fiercest battles in the history of Indian freedom struggles causing greatest number of loss of lives in any battles during that time. The number of causalities of Santal Hul was 20,000. It was an unsung heroic episode in India's prolonged struggle for freedom. It was, in all probability, the fiercest liberation movement in India next to Great First Mutiny in 1857.
With the capture of political power of India by the British East India Company, the natural habitats of the Adivasi (indigenous) people including the Santals began to shatter by the intruders like moneylenders. Traders and revenue farmers, who descended upon them in large numbers under the patronage of the Company.
Believe it or not, the rate of interest on loan to the poor and illiterate Santals varied from 50% to 500%. These loans however how 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 situation finally reached a flash point and, not surprisingly, a small episode that took place in July 1855 triggered one of the fiercest uprisings that the British administration ever faced in India.
On 30th June 1855, a large number of Santals assembled in a field and declared themselves as free and took oath to fight unto the last against the British rulers as well as their agents.
Militant mood of the Santals frightened the authority. A Police agent confronted them The angry crowd reacted violently and killed the Police agent and his companions. The event sparked off a series of confrontations with the Company's Army and subsequently reached the scale of a full-fledged war.
The Santals showed great bravery and incredible courage in the struggle against the military. the whole party would stand and allow themselves to be shot down.
The Santal Hul, however, did not come to an end in vain. It had a long-lasting impact. Santal Parganas Tenancy Act was the outcome of this struggle, which dished out some sort of protection to the indigenous people from the ruthless colonial exploitation.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Santals: The Oppressed Indigenous

By Sohana Khandoker

At this juncture of modernisation, we tend to forget that from the food on our table to the drugs that save our lives, are contribution of the forlorn Indigenous people. They even have a great influence on our culture and our language.

Indigenous people first cultivated many of the world's staple foods such as potatoes, peas, sugarcane, garlic and tomatoes. An estimated 75 per cent of the world's plant based pharmaceuticals, including aspirin and quinine have been derived from medicinal plants found in tribal areas. Indeed, the contribution of indigenous people to modern civilization is pervasive.

Bangladesh is quite rich in ethnic culture. There are about thirty-five ethnic communities living in different parts of the country. The major ethnic communities are Chakma, Murma, Garo, Santal, Hajong, Tipra, Khasi, Murang, Shendhu, Panko etc. They struggle to maintain their life style, culture and protect distinct religious beliefs from the influence of the dominant culture and religions. In the North and Northwestern belt of Bangladesh a number of ethnic communities live who still have to struggle hard to sustain their original culture and traditional heritage. The adivasis in this region comprises of several groups Santal, Oraon, Munda, Mahali, Mahato, Malpahara etc.

Among the ethnic people in the north and northwestern belt of Bangladesh Santals are largest in number. But there is no accurate and reliable statistics regarding their actual population. There is also a great difference between the official and unofficial figures and estimates.

According to the government census of 1991, the adivasi population was estimated 3,14,337 in 16 administrative district of the Rajshahi division. But as claimed by an indigenous community leader, Badla Oraon of Dinajpur Adivasi Academy, the number of indigenous people in Rajshai division was 3,222,000 way back in 1984. A survey report reveals that the total population of Santal is 143932 in Dinajpur, Rajshahi, Bogra, Pabna and some other areas of Bangladesh. According to the other sources, the total number of Santals are much higher than estimated. Most of the scholars also questioned the authenticity of the numerical data. In their opinion, the census takes language as the basis for identifying any person as Bengali or indigenous. They have also alleged that the existing policy is to show the number lower than the actual number.

This article is initiated to project light on the vulnerability, insecurity and existing struggle of Santals in Bangladesh.

The state that promises to be the protector of its people often acts dictatorial. Providing safety and security to the people is the precondition of democracy. Unfortunately, we see a different picture here. In certain cases the ethnic minorities have to leave their own country to save their lives. On the other hand, successive regimes in Bangladesh introduced such arbitrary changes in Constitution, which pushed these hapless group towards further marginalisation.

Santals is a cause for concern for two reasons. Firstly, because of the numbers of affected are still very high, secondly and most importantly the chain of exploitation is impeding the social and economic development of the country.

Anthropologists and Sociologists think that the ethnic people or the adivasis of the east central India came to ancient Bengal in search of work, land and food. These ethnic communities included Santal, Oraon, Munda, Mahali etc. According to certain section of Academicians, 'Santal are probably the first settlers of Barind tract.' The zaminders or feudal landowners have initially brought them here, from different areas of central India including Bihar, for clearing up forests.

During the British rule, the natural habitat of each of these tribes was given the status of a scheduled area so that each tribe could preserve its separate identity without being assimilated into the community.

During the last three decades, the former policy of segregation has been replaced. Ownership of land has been introduced in these areas. On the other hand, the ecological degradation of Barind tract has caused further sufferings to the people of this area. The Padma river was the main source of fishing among the Santals. This is now seriously threatened due to lack of water in the river. Most of the Santals have adopted wage laboring and share cropping. Most of them are living their livelihood on agriculture.

Constitution and Rights:

In part two, article 23, it is stated that:

"The state shall adopt measures to converse the cultural traditions and heritage of the people, and so to foster and improve the national language, literature and the arts that all sections of the people are afforded the opportunity to contribute towards and to participate in the enrichment of the national culture."

Further Article 28(1) of the constitution states that:

"The state shall not discriminate against any citizens on grounds of only religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth."

But the Eighth amendment to the constitution abandoned the secular principle by making Islam the state religion.

Thus, we see the constitution recognizes the presence of ethnic communities and they are provided with the right to follow their culture and rituals freely.

Unfortunately, reality is far different then the provisions articulated in the constitution. Violations of human rights are a common practice.

It is also significant to note that Bangladesh did not observe 1994 as the year of the indigenous people as declared by United Nations.

Land Disputes:

A recent research in North Bengal shows that the land belonging to the 30 percent total sample population had been appropriated, 15.5 percent of the sample adivasis were engaged in land disputes.

Markhan Majhi, 50, lives in abject poverty, in a remote village called Gurail in Tanore thana under Rajshahi district. But once he was an affluent farmer. He had four acres of land. The crops produced from his agricultural land were sufficient for Markhan's family.

In 1985, Markhan was informed that, his Bengali neighbor, Mohammad Ali Mollah has grabbed one and half acre of his land including his house through a false deed. He went to the court but that did not bring any fruitful solution to the matter. 'My family has been subjected to violence for going to the court. Now we are evacuees, losing the land which had been rightfully ours for generations.'

Suklal Saren once had 4 bighas of lands in Neyamatpur thana of Naogaon district under greater Rajshahi. In December 1996, few musclemen evicted his 10 families claiming the lands as Khas lands (land which belongs to the government) and these settlers had made a dwelling house little away from Suklal's home although the family has legal papers and has been using the land, since 1970. No action has been taken against the offenders. Rather, these musclemen have started residing in the illegally occupied land.

Radhaballav Barman of Nachole thana under Chapainawabganj district received 2 acres of khas land in 1972. A Bengali, Abdul Mannan made a forged deed. A case was filed against Abdul Mannan but he successfully managed to get away from the allegation. When the case was filed again, Abdul Mannan succeeded to get away in the same manner.

These are not stories only of Markhan, Sukhlal and Radhaballav but the very common stories of most of the ethnic minorities of Rajshahi. If we go through the locally published Santal journal name ULGULAN (revolution) we see that land encroachment, rape, murder are regular incidents in Santal majority areas. The adivasis also complain about the police brutality.

A recent study shows that lands are in possession of few powerful hands. Ethnic minorities are the one who have been the victim of illegal land encroachment. The Santal hardly has any knowledge about the legal provisions and documents relating to the landed property, therefore, they easily fall under the prey of the local elite, the cunning cheaters who often take their signature on blank paper and forge their document.

Discrimination in Labour Market:

It has been observed that discrimination in the labor market is prevalent. Bengali laborers have a fixed time to work whereas adivasi laborer works 2-4 hours more than the Bengalis. Though the type and the load of the work is same. They are paid fewer wages for their labor compared with the non-adivasi laborers.

Silent Discrimination in Education and Employment:

Literacy rate among the Santals is very low. A recent study conducted by Hossain and Sadeq in Deopara village under Deopara Union reveals that literacy rate among the Santals was 3-4 percent.

It has repeatedly urged in the writing of tribal intellectuals to introduce their mother tongue at the primary levels. The tribal children face language problems in the primary schools. The text books are in Bangla where as their mother tongue is not Bangla. A study conducted by Madaripur Legal Aid association discloses that the textbooks of IX and X don't even mention about the ethnic communities, their histories and cultural lives. The majority of Bangladeshi students graduating after ten years from school do not even learn the diverse culture existing in Bangladesh.

The Madaripur Legal Aid Association, in its report for the Sasakawa project, in September 1996 stated that only 2-3 people from the ethnic minority are taken in to Bangladesh civil service every year, although there is legal reservations for 5% jobs for ethnic minorities. The report explains that there may be a lack of qualified persons caused by high drop out rates in students from ethnic minorities. But a silent discriminatory policy remains in effect and as a result many members of the ethnic community seek jobs in NGOs and missionary schools. The report points out discrimination in the selection procedures in the armed forces and in Dhaka University.

This article is not exhaustive but it was aimed to focus on few issues, which effect the ethnic minorities of our country to grow, to develop, and to restrain them to be a citizen of Bangladesh. The exploitation is deep rooted in the society. The chain of exploitation begins by a Bengali villager and ends by the State. The questions often arise, "Are they treated as Bangladeshis?" "Are they enjoying their rights?" It is apparent that the essence of democracy and the concept of development remain an illusion for the Santal of Bangladesh.

Source: The Daily Star, Dhaka 16 April, 2000




The Santal

The Santals are known as one of the oldest and largest indigenous communities in the northwestern belt of Bangladesh. They have been living in the pristine natural surroundings of the area for thousands of years. They might be described as children of nature who are nurtured and reared by its bounty. Santals are largely seen in the northern districts of Dinajpur, Naogaon, Thakurgaon, Panchagar, etc.

The Santals are of ebony colour with little growth by way of beard, are generally of stocky build and capable of undertaking hard labour. Physically the Santals are not prepossessing. The face is round and softly contoured; the cheekbones moderately prominent; eyes full and straight, nose broad and depressed, mouth large and lips full, hair straight, black and coarse. They are long-headed and of medium height.

By nature, they are very peace loving, honest, industrious and trustworthy people. They always respect their social customs and are satisfied with what they earn and what they eat. They have profound respect for the land they live in, the soil they till and the community they live with.

They are not acquainted with hypocrisy, double-dealing, deception, fraudulent practices and tricks and artifices used to obtain things illegally. Their bravery, courage and righteousness are well known.

They have actively participated in the Tebhaga movement led by Ila Mitra in 1950, the Santal revolt, Birsa Munda Uprising, Kol revolt, Jitu Samur Rebellion, Pandu Raja Insurgency, Swadeshi Movement and the War of Liberation in 1971.

Santal women, especially young girls, are by nature very beauty-conscious. Santal women wear ornaments on their hands, feet, nose, ears and neck and also wear peculiarly shaped ornaments on their ankles. They fix flowers on their heads and hair-buns, and make themselves graceful with simple ornaments.

Like their simple, plain and carefree way of life, their dress is also very simple. Santal dresses are called panchi, panchatat and matha. The Santal women wear coarse homespun cotton sarees of bright colours that barely reach their knees, while the upper end is flung over the shoulders. Santal men and women wear tattoos on their bodies.

Most of their houses are usually neat and clean even though built of mud. Their homestead often includes a garden. The peculiarity of the houses is that they have small and low doors and almost no window. There is practically no furniture except a wooden bedstead and bamboo machang on which the people of the comparatively well-to-do class spread their beds.

The Nabanna ceremony is undoubtedly of great importance to the rural people, and is observed during the harvest time when delicious preparations from newly harvested food grains are made and friends and relatives are entertained.

Santals have their own language, culture and social patterns, which are clearly distinct from those of other tribes. They speak Bangla fluently and have adopted many Bangla words for their own language. Most Santals are Christians now but they still observe their old tribal rites.

Although the Santals used to lead a prosperous and peaceful life in the past, their economic and social conditions are now very backward. Agriculture is their main source of livelihood. Principal food items of Santals are rice, fish and vegetables. They also eat crabs, pork, chicken, beef and the meat of squirrels. Jute spinach (nalita) is one of their favourite food items. Eggs of ducks, chickens, birds and turtles are delicacies in their menu. Liquor distilled from putrefied rice called hadia or (pachai) is their favourite drink.

Santal women are skilled in making different kinds of cakes. Most of the Santals are animists. The main weapon used for hunting and self-protection is the bow and arrow made of locally available materials.

They are fond of flowers and music. Hunting and collecting food from the forest were their primitive economic activity. Santals are divided into twelve clans and all these clans are fond of festivities. They are very proficient in music and dance.

Like Bangalis, they also have 'thirteen festivals in twelve months' and many other festive occasions around the year. Their year starts with the month of Falgun (roughly, 15 February-15 March). Almost each month or season has a festival celebrated with dances, songs and music. In the spring, Santals celebrate holi when they drench each other with colours.

To express gratitude to the god of crops is also a part of this festival. It turns into a carnival with dances, songs, music and food and drinks. Probably its greatest attraction is the choral dance of Santal girls. Another important ceremony of Santals is called Baha or the festival of blossoms. The purpose of this festival at the beginning of spring is to welcome and offer greetings to the freshly blossoming flowers. It is also characterized by dancing, singing and music.

The Santals cremate their dead bodies. But nowadays, many of them bury the dead. When an inhabitant of a village dies, the village headman's duty is to present himself at the place of the departed and arrange for the last rites with due respect.





Tuesday, June 16, 2009



Identification. The Santal are the largest of the tribal populations in South Asia. Santals are found in the three adjoining Indian states of Bihar, West Bengal, and Orissa. Migrants work in the tea plantations of Assam, with smaller groups elsewhere in India. There are also Santal communities in northeastern Bangladesh and in the Nepal Terai. Traditionally mixed farmers with a recent past of hunting and gathering, Santals have found their way to employment in agriculture and industry all over eastern South Asia. "Santal" is the only term currently used by outsiders for the tribe. It is also recognized as an ethnic term by the Santals themselves. Hoṛ hopon ko (human children) and Hoṛ ko (men) are used by them in a more traditional or ritual context.

Location. The Santal heartland is the area known as the Chota Nagpur Plateau, a hilly area of crystalline Cambrian rocks, strewn with laterite and covered by deciduous forest. The area lies in northeastern India approximately between 22° and 24°30′ N and stretches from 84° to 87° E. Elevation ranges from 200 to 500 meters with mountains over 1,000 meters. Rainfall, concentrated in the July monsoon, totals about 100 to 130 centimeters. Mean temperatures range from 15° to 21° C in January to 26° to 29° C in July.

Demography. The Indian census counted 3,640,946 Santals in 1971 (but did not count tea workers in Assam), and today the total number of Santals must be somewhat more than four million. It is difficult to say much about their population history, except that they are the largest tribal group in South Asia. The regions of the core Santal area seem to have been settled by different clans. Further migration led to a subdivision of land among subclans, still unevenly distributed over the area. In practice, however, each region today contains a number of clans, possibly the result of an ongoing process of migration.

Linguistic Affiliation. The Santal language, Santali, belongs to the North Mundari Group of languages, itself part of the Austroasiatic Language Family. Writing was introduced by Norwegian missionaries in the late nineteenth century, and so Santali literature uses Roman characters. More Recently, Santali has been written in Devanāgari.







Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. The Santal pantheon includes about 150 spirit deities, generally called bo&NA;gas. These deities include a large number of separate classes, impossible to enumerate here. Some relate to the subclan, but even here we must distinguish between the bo&NA;ga of the place of origin of the clan and its ancestral bo&NA;ga. Each village has a sacred grove, where we find represented the bo&NA;gas common to the Santal tradition. They are generally benevolent. The forest bongas, however, are malevolent, and include the souls of people who died an unnatural death.

Hindu influence is particularly notable in the appearance of Hindu goddesses as tutelary deities of Santal ojhas. On the one hand, these goddesses patronize Santal witches and introduce disease; on the other hand, their patronage is necessary to combat the same evils. Hindu symbols, such as the trident, have become potent ritual paraphernalia of the Santal ojha.

Religious Practitioners. The village priest (naeke) is identified, with his wife, as representative of the original Santal couple. Their functions are mainly related to festivals and recurrent annual ceremonies. He consecrates the animals offered to the sacred grove deities. He often compares himself with the Brahman of the encompassing society.

The Santal ojha, a healer and diviner, has several functions. He drives away the malevolent deities, divines the causes of disease, administers remedies according to considerable medical knowledge, and expels pain from the body. He learns his basic magical formulas (mantras) from his master, but he also adds to them from his own experience. An important element in his repertoire is the sacrifice of his own blood (conceived as menstrual blood) to the bo&NA;gas, for which he receives a fee. In the rationalization of his practice he employs several Hindu concepts, yet remains fundamentally within the Santal cultural framework. This position between two Cultures enables him to interpret his own culture and society.

Ceremonies. Life-cycle rituals, such as initiation, marriage, and burial are celebrated individually. But after burial, the final ceremony of gathering the bones and immersing them in water becomes a collective rite. Other collective rites are related to the agricultural cycle: sowing, transplanting, consecration of the crops, and harvest festivals, as well as the annual festival of the cattle. Another cycle concerns the old hunting and gathering traditions, notably the seasonal hunts. The most important, however, of the festivals related to the old hunting and gathering society is the flower festival, which is also the festival of the ancestors and related to the fertility of women. Rainmaking rituals, held in the spring, involve the ritual participation of the village priest, who has the power to produce rain.

Arts. Santal oral literature is rich and includes folktales, myths, riddles, and village stories, and much of it has been recorded or written. Publication began in 1870 with the work of the Norwegian missionaries, who also left large archives of texts written by the Santals themselves. There is also a certain amount of literature in Santali: newspapers, Christian books, and schoolbooks.

Traditional songs are many and various, including ritual texts, dances in homage to the bo&NA;gas, obscene songs sometimes related to hunting or the punishment of offenders, etc. They are classified according to tunes that in turn relate to content. Christian songs have been composed to the same pattern. Each type of song is accompanied by a particular type of traditional dance. The sexes dance separately except when love songs are performed.

More recently, a tradition of folk theater, often with Political overtones, has developed. The main plays have been written by cultural reformers like Ragunath Murmu, and together they present a message of modernization and tribal uplift for the Santal tribe as a whole. Among the visual arts, we may mention the designs decorating houses, the traditional wood carving, and the traditional jewelery, sometimes made of iron and silver.

Medicine. Traditional medicine is highly developed among the Santals and implies a surprising range of botanical and zoological knowledge; more than 300 species each of plants and of animals are identified and used in the pharmacopoeia. There is even, in the organization of botanical knowledge, a hierarchization based on the morphology of plants. The making of remedies implies again a considerable practical knowledge of chemistry.

This medical knowledge is described in a Santal text from the turn of the century, which establishes a complete pathology defining and ranking symptoms and disease according to consistent criteria. Recent fieldwork data corroborates the value of this work, though there is a tendency nowadays to replace such remedies by ritual invocations.

For the Santals, modern medicine sometimes provides an alternative for healing without in any way replacing or superseding traditional medicine.

Death and Afterlife. Santal souls become bo&NA;gas three generations after death, provided that the correct rituals have been performed. At cremation, some bones are collected by the main mourner (usually the eldest son) and kept for awhile under the rafters of the house. They are washed and fed ritually by female mourners with milk, rice beer, and sacred water. Thus, the mourning ritual displays the central Santal symbolism of flower and bone. The feeding of bones that are crowned by flowers expresses the complementarity of the principle of descent (bone) and the principle of affinity (flower = uterus). The chief mourner is possessed by and impersonates the dead and is questioned by the village priest. This dialogue aims at providing the deceased with the wherewithal of the other world. A year later, the bones are immersed in water, a ritual involving sacrifice of a goat. The dead now becomes an ancestor known by name; one month later the recitation of a ritual text releases him from identity to become a nameless ancestor. He now joins other ancestors in the ancestral room of the house and partakes in the offering of rice beer to the ancestors. Now his shadow, which was roaming between the worlds, goes to Hanapuri, the abode of the dead. Here Jom Raja, king of the dead, rules; the passage from there to the state of becoming a bo&NA;ga is never made explicit.

The land of the dead is conceptualized as a place where certain individuals acquire the source of magic powers, while others are simply rewarded according to the way they have acted during their life. While the yogi returns to the world and achieves immortality, simple men endure the justice of Jom Raja. The idea of afterlife shows both Hindu and Christian influence.





Sunday, June 14, 2009

Ethnopharmacology : Knowledge and Use of Medicine among
the Santhal of Jharkhand




Santals, The an ethnic group in Bangladesh. Mainly living in the Himalayan sub-mountain region in different districts of Rajshahi division. Their principal home is in radha (in West Bengal), the forests of adjacent Bihar (Jhadkhand) and Orissa, and Chhota Nagpur. The British government assigned a special territory for their living and named it Santal Pargana. It is difficult to definitely say when and why they settled in the East Bengal region. But the census of 1881 shows that there were Santal settlements in the districts of pabna, jessore, khulna and even in chittagong. A survey of the Santal population of present Bangladesh area conducted in 1941 recorded their number as 829,025. The censuses organised after the Partition of Bengal (1947) did not count Santals as a separate group of people, and consequently, their exact number in East Pakistan could not be determined. According to an estimate made by Christian missionaries in the 1980s, the Santal population in northern Bangladesh was over one hundred thousand. According to the 1991 census, the Santal population was over two hundred thousand.

Santals are the descendants of Austric-speaking Proto-Australoid race. Their complexion is dark, height medium, hair black and curled, and lips heavy. mundas, oraons, paharias and some other ethnic groups have a good deal of similarity with the long-headed, broad-nosed Santals in physical features, language and culture. Similarity is also there in their village panchayet administration, in social values, and their characteristic love for dance, singing and music.

Santals and related aborigines are among the earliest settlers of the subcontinent and are acknowledged as the progenitors and maintainers of agricultural production system and agro-based culture. Although the chief god of Santals is the god of the sun (Sing Bonga, in their language), the god of mountain - Marang Budu is also dignified enough to have become a village-god. Santals believe that soul is immortal and that supernatural soul (Bonga) determines worldly good and evil. Bonga occupies an important place in their daily worship. Probably that is why house-deity Abe-Bonga is quite a mighty god. Influence of folk Hindu deities is also visible in their religious ceremonies. In fact, Santal men and women are animistic nature-worshippers, but again they acknowledge Thakurjiu as Creator. Idol-worship is not a part of their religious practices.

Santals are fond of festivities. Like Bangalis, they also have 'thirteen festivals in twelve months' ie, many festive occasions around the year. Their year starts with the month of Falgun (roughly, 15 February-15 March). Almost each month or season has a festival or fiesta celebrated with the pomp of dances, songs and music. The Shialsei festival of Santals takes place in the New Year month of Falgun, Bongabongi occurs in Chaitra, Home in Baishakh, Dibi in Ashwin, and Sohrai at the end of Paush. Sohrai is a kind of national festival for Santals celebrated with great pomp on the last day of Paush (around 16 January). To express gratitude to the god of crops is also a part of this festival. It turns splendid with dance, songs, music and pleasant beauty of flowers along with food and drinks. Probably its greatest attraction is the chorus dance of Santal girls. Another important ceremony of Santals is called Baha or the festival of blossoms. The purpose of this festival at the beginning of spring is to welcome and offer greetings to the beautiful blossoming of colourful flowers. It is also characterised with an overflow of dancing, singing and music.

Santals live a poor life. They are compelled to sell their labour at a very low price in tea gardens or elsewhere. Besides, they dig soil, carry loads, or engage themselves in similar works of day labourers. They are accustomed to hard work. Like their simple, plain and candid way of life, their dress is also very simple. Women wear short, coarse but colourful sari, fix flowers on their heads and hair-buns, and make themselves graceful with simple ornaments. Men wear dhutis or gamchhas (indigenous towels). Well-to-do and educated Santals wear modern dress. Skilful workers as they are, Santal women, especially young girls are by nature very beauty-conscious. Santal men and women wear tattoos on their bodies.

Principal food items of Santals are rice, fish and vegetables. They eat crabs, pork, chicken, beef and the meet of squirrels. Jute spinach (nalita) is one of their favourite food items. Eggs of ducks, chicken, birds, and turtles are delicacy in their menu. Liquor distilled from putrefied rice called hadia (or pachai) is their favourite drink. They are also accustomed to distill liquor at home from mahua or palmyra syrup. These drinks are indispensable in their festive ceremonies. Santal women are skilled in making different kinds of cakes.

The Spring Festival of Santals provide young men and women an opportunity to exchange hearts. The hub of such exchange of hearts or choosing one's partner is the akhra (sort of club) just as the dhumkadia of Oraons. In the Santal society, there is no bar against young couples' premarital free-mixing. But in their married life, breach of faith is indeed rare. Divorce is allowed in their community. Paying the bride a dowry is still in vogue but the amount is usually very small. Both widows and divorced women have the right to remarry.

Domination of the male is more prominent in the Santal society although, the role of women in the family is by no means insignificant. Santal women rather take a leading role in earning livelihood or in farming work. The houses of Santals are small but their yards are very clean. Artwork on earthen walls of the house is an evidence of Santal women's liking for beauty and of their artistic mind. furniture in the house is very simple reflecting their plain lifestyle.

The Santal society is still ruled by traditional Panchayet system and the village headman enjoys special dignity in the society. The community's division into twelve gotras (clans) is still found among Santals. In common practice, marriage between a man and a woman of the same gotra is prohibited. But these regulations are not so effective today.

The Santal language (Santali) belongs to the family of Austric languages. Santali has profound similarity with Kole and Mundari languages. Today most Santals of Bangladesh speak both Bangla and Santali. Also many Bangla words are now adopted in Santali. There is no written Santali literature, but the rich heritage of folk songs and folk tales of Santals is acknowledged by all. Just like the fact that Santals have a language but no alphabet, they have a religion but no canonical scripture. In the terribly poverty-stricken life of Santals, Christian missionary work of social welfare and, along with that, preaching of the message of spiritual peace accelerated their conversion to christianity. On the other hand, as a result of financial aid from NGOs, desire for receiving modern education is growing among Santals, but poverty is a great obstacle. The Santal community has not been able to free themselves from the rule and exploitation of landowners and moneylenders. Santals took active part in the tebhaga Movement that took place during the period between 1946 and 1950.

Santals cremate their dead bodies. But today, many of them bury the dead in graves. When an inhabitant of a village dies, the village headman's duty is to present himself at the place of the departed and arrange for the last rites with due respect. The custom of holding a sraddha (obsequies) ceremony later at a convenient time is also in practice in the Santal community.



Santal Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. It is probable that Santals originally were hunters and gatherers, as their near relatives and neighbors, the Birhors, still are. Their knowledge of plants and animals is reflected in their pharmacopoeia (see below). In hunting technology, their past is evidenced by the use of some eighty varieties of traps. Later, their main economic base shifted to slash-and-burn agriculture and husbandry. Today, wet rice is grown in terraced fields; on the plains, irrigation by canals and ditches is used. Several varieties of rice are grown along with some sixteen varieties of millet. Leguminous vegetables, fruit, mustard, groundnut (in Orissa), cotton, and tobacco are important crops. The Santals keep cattle, goats, and poultry and are nonvegetarian. Fishing is important whenever they have access to rivers and ponds. The economy of the Santals is biased toward consumption, but they sell or barter (in Bihar) goats, poultry, fish, rice and rice beer, millet, groundnut, mustard seed, vegetables, and fruits when a surplus is available.

Migrant labor plays an important role; many Santals have migrated to work in plantations, mines, and industries. In Bengal, some are gardeners or domestic servants. A small educated elite includes politicians, lawyers, doctors, and engineers, while considerable numbers of Santal women work as nurses. Seasonal or temporary migration is particularly important for women, who are working in construction or mining.

Industrial Arts. Santals are expert at wood carving, but this craft, like ironwork, is declining both in quality and importance. Such products were mainly made for their own ceremonial use. Basketwork, weaving of mats, and manufacture of dishes and cups from sal leaves (Shorea robusta) are crafts still of commercial importance, as are rope making and the manufacture of string beds (charpay). Santal woodwork formerly included the building of impressive carts and advanced wooden utensils. They still make a large number of musical instruments. While industrial arts have declined, beautiful artifacts are still found, cherished as private heirlooms. Santal women also brew rice beer and alcohol, made from mohua flowers (Madhuca indica).

Trade. Santals sell their products for cash or barter at tribal markets; rice money was still in use in Bihar in the 1970s. Some trade is also done with Hindu villages and towns, mainly the marketing of agricultural and craft products. Women dominate this trade, while the main male preserve is the sale of goats and cattle.

Division of Labor. Hunting was always a male activity, gathering activities being dominated by women. In agriculture, men plow and sow, while women transplant and weed; division of labor by gender extends through most agricultural work. Boys and young men herd the cattle; women do the milking, collect the dung, and collect fuel in general. Poultry is tended by women, who also catch freshwater crabs, shrimps, etc. in the ponds; fishing by boat or with large land nets is done by the men. Women, as noted, dominate most trade. Ironwork, woodworking, and rope making are male activities; basketwork, weaving, and leafwork are done by women. Ritual specialists are traditionally male; women are formally excluded from such activities.

Land Tenure. Traditionally land was held by usufruct, for slash-and-burn agriculture. With the introduction of wet rice cultivation, local descent groups descended from the clans of the original settlers divided village lands between themselves. The village priest got an additional allotment. The British introduced individual holdings (ryotwari). Members of subclans, not represented among the village founders, were originally landless and are still accorded inferior status.



Thursday, June 11, 2009


Tribal Religions

Among the 68 million citizens of India who are members of tribal groups, the religious concepts, terminologies, and practices are as varied as the hundreds of tribes, but members of these groups have one thing in common: they are under constant pressure from the major organized religions. Some of this pressure is intentional, as outside missionaries work among tribal groups to gain converts. Most of the pressure, however, comes from the process of integration within a national political and economic system that brings tribes into increasing contact with other groups and different, prestigious belief systems. In general, those tribes that remain geographically isolated in desert, hill, and forest regions or on islands are able to retain their traditional cultures and religions longer. Those tribes that make the transition away from hunting and gathering and toward sedentary agriculture, usually as low-status laborers, find their ancient religious forms in decay and their place filled by practices of Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, or Buddhism.

One of the most studied tribal religions is that of the Santal of Orissa, Bihar, and West Bengal, one of the largest tribes in India, having a population estimated at 4.2 million. According to the 1991 census, however, only 23,645 people listed Santal as their religious belief.

According to the Santal religion, the supreme deity, who ultimately controls the entire universe, is Thakurji. The weight of belief, however, falls on a court of spirits (bonga ), who handle different aspects of the world and who must be placated with prayers and offerings in order to ward off evil influences. These spirits operate at the village, household, ancestor, and subclan level, along with evil spirits that cause disease, and can inhabit village boundaries, mountains, water, tigers, and the forest. A characteristic feature of the Santal village is a sacred grove on the edge of the settlement where many spirits live and where a series of annual festivals take place.

The most important spirit is Maran Buru (Great Mountain), who is invoked whenever offerings are made and who instructed the first Santals in sex and brewing of rice beer. Maran Buru's consort is the benevolent Jaher Era (Lady of the Grove).

A yearly round of rituals connected with the agricultural cycle, along with life-cycle rituals for birth, marriage and burial at death, involves petitions to the spirits and offerings that include the sacrifice of animals, usually birds. Religious leaders are male specialists in medical cures who practice divination and witchcraft. Similar beliefs are common among other tribes of northeast and central India such as the Kharia, Munda, and Oraon.

Smaller and more isolated tribes often demonstrate less articulated classification systems of the spiritual hierarchy, described as animism or a generalized worship of spiritual energies connected with locations, activities, and social groups. Religious concepts are intricately entwined with ideas about nature and interaction with local ecological systems. As in Santal religion, religious specialists are drawn from the village or family and serve a wide range of spiritual functions that focus on placating potentially dangerous spirits and coordinating rituals.

Unlike the Santal, who have a large population long accustomed to agriculture and a distinguished history of resistance to outsiders, many smaller tribal groups are quite sensitive to ecological degradation caused by modernization, and their unique religious beliefs are under constant threat. Even among the Santal, there are 300,000 Christians who are alienated from traditional festivals, although even among converts the belief in the spirits remains strong. Among the Munda and Oraon in Bihar, about 25 percent of the population are Christians. Among the Kharia of Bihar (population about 130,000), about 60 percent are Christians, but all are heavily influenced by Hindu concepts of major deities and the annual Hindu cycle of festivals. Tribal groups in the Himalayas were similarly affected by both Hinduism and Buddhism in the late twentieth century. Even the small hunting-and-gathering groups in the union territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands have been under severe pressure because of immigration to this area and the resulting reduction of their hunting area.


The first Christians in India, according to tradition and legend, were converted by Saint Thomas the Apostle, who arrived on the Malabar Coast of India in A.D. 52. After evangelizing and performing miracles in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, he is believed to have been martyred in Madras and buried on the site of San Thomé Cathedral. Members of the Syro-Malabar Church, an eastern rite of the Roman Catholic Church, adopted the Syriac liturgy dating from fourth century Antioch. They practiced what is also known as the Malabar rite until the arrival of the Portuguese in the late fifteenth century. Soon thereafter, the Portuguese attempted to latinize the Malabar rite, an action which, by the mid-sixteenth century, led to charges of heresy against the Syro-Malabar Church and a lengthy round of political machinations. By the middle of the next century, a schism occurred when the adherents of the Malankar rite (or Syro-Malankara Church) broke away from the Syro-Malabar Church. Fragmentation continued within the Syro-Malabar Church up through the early twentieth century when a large contingent left to join the Nestorian Church, which had had its own roots in India since the sixth or seventh century. By 1887, however, the leaders of the Syro-Malabar Church had reconciled with Rome, which formally recognized the legitimacy of the Malabar rite. The Syro-Malankara Church was reconciled with Rome in 1930 and, while retaining the Syriac liturgy, adopted the Malayalam language instead of the ancient Syriac language.

Throughout this period, foreign missionaries made numerous converts to Christianity. Early Roman Catholic missionaries, particularly the Portuguese, led by the Jesuit Saint Francis Xavier (1506-52), expanded from their bases on the west coast making many converts, especially among lower castes and outcastes. The miraculously undecayed body of Saint Francis Xavier is still on public view in a glass coffin at the Basilica of Bom Jesus in Goa. Beginning in the eighteenth century, Protestant missionaries began to work throughout India, leading to the growth of Christian communities of many varieties.

The total number of Christians in India according to the 1991 census was 19.6 million, or 2.3 percent of the population. About 13.8 million of these Christians were Roman Catholics, including 300,000 members of the Syro-Malankara Church. The remainder of Roman Catholics were under the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India. In January 1993, after centuries of self-government, the 3.5-million-strong Latin-rite Syro-Malabar Church was raised to archepiscopate status as part of the Roman Catholic Church. In total, there were nineteen archbishops, 103 bishops, and about 15,000 priests in India in 1995.

Most Protestant denominations are represented in India, the result of missionary activities throughout the country, starting with the onset of British rule. Most denominations, however, are almost exclusively staffed by Indians, and the role of foreign missionaries is limited. The largest Protestant denomination in the country is the Church of South India, since 1947 a union of Presbyterian, Reformed, Congregational, Methodist, and Anglican congregations with approximately 2.2 million members. A similar Church of North India has 1 million members. There are 473,000 Methodists, 425,000 Baptists, and about 1.3 million Lutherans. Orthodox churches of the Malankara and Malabar rites total 2 million and 700,000 members, respectively.

All Christian churches have found the most fertile ground for expansion among Dalits, Scheduled Castes, and Scheduled Tribe groups (see Tribes, ch. 4). During the twentieth century, the fastest growing Christian communities have been located in the northeast, among the Khasis, Mizos, Nagas, and other hill tribes. Christianity offers a non-Hindu mode of acculturation during a period when the state and modern economy have been radically transforming the life-styles of the hill peoples. Missionaries have led the way in the development of written languages and literature for many tribal groups. Christian churches have provided a focus for unity among different ethnic groups and have brought with them a variety of charitable services.

Data as of September 1995



Race, origin, language

Following antropometric data, Santals are classified by some Authors as Pre-Dravidian, from others as ProtoAustraloids. But the opinions of the Authors are very discordant. The same must be said as far as it concerns their origin: while some consider them originated from Australia, others indicate them as aboriginal of the Northwest. Currently the Santals are spread, in addition of Bangladesh, in varied points of the Indian states of the Orissa, Tripura, Assam and West Bengala Occidentale, but mainly in the Santal Pargana, district of the indian state of the Bihar.

The santali is a munda language of the kherwar group, that belongs to the munda-mon-kmer or austro-Asian subfamily, belonging to the family of the austro-asiatic languages. But also on this there are different opinions.

The Santals acknowledge to belong to the group kherwar, to which, besides the Santals, belong the Mundas, the Mahalis, the Birhors, the Bhils, the Kurkus, the Hos, the Kharias, the Korawas and other small ethnic groups.

In Bangladesh are present the Santals, the Mundas and the Mahalis.Many are the interpretations given to the word santal, pacifically accepted by now also by them. According to Skrefsrud it is an alteration of the name Saontar, and it was used from the time when they were settled next to Saout, in the district of Midnapur. According to Bodding it would derive from Sant or Sat or Sar, a region of the district of Midnapur. To such name they are attributed varied derivations: according to Obert, sét would mean seven, number referred to the seven rivers of a region: Country of the seven rivers. The Santals however prefer to call themselves horko: men.

The Santals are primarily agriculturists. Hunting and fishing are considered by now occupations of secondary importance. The seminomadism, that half century ago characterized the santal life, is a phenomenon that is disappearing. The fact that the Santals of Bangladesh are constantly found today still on the way of departure can not be motivated only from necessity to find a piece of land to till. The principal reasons for their instability have to be found in the political instability of the Country, in the deceitful private persecution of the Moslems, in the raids of bandits without scruples, in the most prosperous villages.

Santals in Bangladesh

The Hinduism, from when it organized (1200 to. C.) to today has almost always ignored aboriginal people, i.e. the tribal people that was established in India thousand of years before the arrival of the Aryans. And when it has been forced to remember them, it has tried to do it in a way way to put them in bad light. Aboriginal people were submitted to the Aryans, or they accepted subsequently the Hinduism, they lost their own identity, or worse they became enslaved and out casted. Those, instead, that wanted to remain independent they were considered rebellious, assassins, cruel and ignorant people, pigs, cannibal or people without religion, that is bedin: term that has entered in the Christian dictionary to point out not Christians. When they were more useful as friends, they were considered khotriyos, that is warlike, but impoverished. This is still the history of today, even if the government says to give great prominence to the cultures of single aboriginal people or adivasi, both in India and in Bangladesh.

Only with Asoka (272-232 to. C.), the biggest emperor of the dynasty of the Mauryas, probably Buddhist, the tribals knew for a brief period of peace. In all the other periods the tribals not absorbed by the Hinduism continued to be oppressed, despised or unknown. The history is repeated, in Bangladesh, with the Moslems.

From how much time the Santals, shed a little bit anywhere in center eastern India, landed in the territory that today is Bangladesh, is not precisely known.

T. Murmu, basing on his studies, doesn't hesitate to affirm that the Kherwars reached the Bengala immediately after the first clashes with the invading Aryan (2500 B. C.). With every probability the Santals landed in Bengala after having acquired their actual ethnic identity, not after 1000 B. C. Often the Santals speak of the epic battles sustained against the hated fierce Turuks, and subsequently their ancestors retired in the forests of the actual Santal Pargana. It is probahile that the Santals scattered in the Bengala at the time of the Moslem invasion of this region, happened also in the last decades of the twelfth century and at the beginnings of thirteenth, retired progressively toward more calm regions, or where it was more easy to defend from the invaders, that is in the forests of the Bihar and also of the Assam.

Currently the first available official data on the Santals, are of 1881. According to the census of that year, the Santals resulted present in the district of Khulna, Jessore, Pabna and Chittagong. It is out doubt that also today in those districts, as in others, for instance Dhaka there are some Santals; but they are a negligible entity. The districts in which currently the greatest number of Santal is gathered, from the south to the north are: Rajshahi, Bogra, Rangpur and Dinajpur. Those that are in the Sylhet, are recently transferred from the above-mentioned districts for job reasons. The Santals of the actual Bangladesh are almost all deriving from those emigrated from the Santal Pargana, and nothing distinguishes them from those that are still living there, with the exception, perhaps of the use of bangla words santalized. A calculation suggested by Sattar brings the number of the Santals in Bangladesh to around a million. But it is also difficult to make an approximate calculation basing on data of the past, especially if these go up to 1941, and such are the data of Sattar, before the division between India and Pakistan. In fact part of the district of Dinajpur, where more numerous they were the Santals, passed to India. Besides in the 1947 numerous Santal also ran away in India from the other districts. In 1964 there was another exodus from the district of Rajshahi. In both the cases we do not have data on the number of the Santals that they did return to the villages abandoned behind the push of the fear. After the 23 March of the 1971 hundreds of villages were abandoned in mass from the Santals of East Pakistan to shelter in India. In July of that year, during a trip to India I met in the refugee camps, disseminated in the districts of Malda and Jalpaiguri, thousand of Santal and other aboriginals run away from East Pakistan. During their permanence in India the cholera made numerous victims, but the najority was able to return in the free Bangladesh, and in the reconstructed villages life started again. But it is not possible to say how many Santals are really today in Bangladesh.

Although, in my years of permanence in the East Pakistan (1954-1965) and in actual Bangladesh (1972-1976), I have come in contact with numerous Santals of the four districts already mentioned, my researhe developed with the Santals of the districts of Rangpur and Dinajpur.

The Santals, animist people

Between the Santals it is very important the cult of the spirits, although if they do not exclude the Supreme Being. In the cult of the spirits it is included, but not confused, the cult for the corpses and particularly for the Ancestors; however it is not evident and very present in daily life, as it is between the Oraons. The spirits are called with the generic name of bonga, and they can be met anywhere. I will speak of the most common ones. It is of interest for me to mention to the sun, to the moon and the stars, divinity borrowed by Hindu mythology but that the Santals call neither divinity nor spirits. They call only with a term, cando, the sun and the moon. To distinguish they use to say sin cando and ninda cando, that we could translate: star of the day and star of the night. Often they use to say cando baba and cando ayo, dad sun and mama moon. The stars are said generally ipilko and only a few have a proper name as bhurka and sukar that correspond to the star of the morning and the star of the evening respectively, Venus, thought from the Santals as two separate stars (the Santals) they don't know how to make distinction between stars and planets. Soren, and more commonly Sorenko are the Pleiadis. Speaking with some Santals about the moon and the stars, it can clearly understood that they don't consider them bonga. Using the bangla word indicating divinity, they say that perhaps they are debota. The Santals don't offer bloody sacrifices to the stars and to the moon and they don't even make other offers.

As far as it concerns the sun.. it is another matter! It is clear that indicates the Supreme Being, the God of the creation, and it replaces the word Thakur used always to mention God; not only, but currently many of them really consider it God. I refer only to a significant fact on the subject. A santal priest uses to conclude its letters with this expression: Cando baba apeye borapema, that wants to say in his intention: God Father blesses you. But such way of expression has aroused some polemics between the educated catechists. One of them told me: You see, Father, such expression confuses the simple minds of our Christians and also those of our pagan brothers, who say that we adore Cando baba like them. I have questioned personally some of them, between the most educated, and they have answered to me: Our ancestors didn't think that the sun was God, but then some started to think it, seeing it beautiful and bright, giver of life, and they began to call it Cando baba. Many now think that the sun is really God.

However it is out of doubt that people, when speaks of Sin cando or Cando baba as God, refers this name to the sun that he sees and of whose heat he takes advantage. It is to Cando baba that the good Santals offer, at least sometimes in their life, a sacrifice.

As I said, the Santals during the centuries opposed to the absorption of the Hinduism, even if certainly some defections happened. The Santals of the Rangpur and Dinajpur districts, and probably also the others, since 1920 were submitted to many pressures from Hindus, to be free from all that uses and customs in open contrast with the pure Hinduism: breeding of hens, pigs, bloody sacrifices, alcoholic drinks. Immediately after the division of the Indian subcontinent into India and Pakistan (1947), in the districts where more numerous they were the Santals, started to actively work between them an Hindu organization called Setho Sibon (friends of Siva?), that was cooperating with other hindu movements, which were interested in the hinduization of other aboriginal people. To direct these movements in the varied districts are always the Hindus of high caste, very often integralist bramins. And the Hindus of Hindu-Mahasaba and the Arya Samaj are believed to help them. The movement of the hinduist absorption continued during the formation of Bangladesh. A lot of political movements of Marxist inspiration have also proliferated, and they make everything possible to attract the Santals and the aboriginals.

In Dinajpur and Rangpur districts, the passage of the Santals to the Islam is practically void. A few isolated individuals become Moslems, mainly women. From the first years of the century to today it has been verified a notable movement to Christianity, with intervals of stasis caused by particular political and religious situations.

Despite these conversions to the Hinduism and Christianity, the Santals continue to be a people in the majority animist, bonga horko.

The santal village

When in June of 1954 I reached for the first time the village of Dhanjuri in the district of Dinajpur, verdant island that emerges from a flooded zone, there was a dense forest of sal (Shorea robusta). This forest still existed to a large extent when I left Dhanjuri in 1965. It had completely disappeared when I returned in the October of 1972.

Twenty years ago it was usual, in the mean of a small or great forest, to find a santal village. In these last four years I have noticed the progressive disappearing of the forest to give place to the jungle or also to cultivated zones. Today, with little exceptions, what was the typical village of the forest has become the village of the jungle, were the jungle has remained. Yet the village santal almost preserves anywhere some particular characteristics: a road that crosses it in all his length, well tidy houses, the manjhi than, symbol of the authority of the village leader and at the same time altar above which the offers to the spirit of the head founder of the village are done and the jaher than or sacred grove where the offers are done to particular spirits.

In these last years I have never had notice of the foundation of a new village. And, in the districts of Rangpur and Dinajpur, I had no news that someone has followed the traditional rules for the foundation of a village after the freedom of Bangladesh, for the reconstruction hundreds and hundreds of villages. And this can be explained, due the situation of urgency in which such villages were reconstructed, almost always in the place where they were already existing.

Today some village can also disappear, while others are expanding. It is normal the move of houses within the same village: move justified sometimes from fears of presence of a bad spirit. Presence that appears through illnesses or sudden deaths, misfortunes and so on. Some times, to recommend the move, looking for a surest place are the repeated assaults of the bandits. In the June of 1976 I have gone to visit a big village in the district of Rangpur. At the beginning of the village I noticed six houses deprived of roof with intact walls and the porches sustained by very nice columns. Untill the previous month those houses constituted the residence of the village leader. After having been stolen and maltreated twice, in the space of a few months, he was retired to the center of the village, waiting to build a new house in a surest place. This is not an isolated case. The Santals always live in group: the smallest village is constituted at least from three or four families, but sometimes of a grouping of sixty and more families. If outisedrs as Kamar, blacksmiths, for job reasons are settled in the village, they live separated by the santal community.

The house

It always concerns naturally a house-hut. The houses are generally in nice order along an ample road. At times it concerns an house placed side by side from a shelter of leafy branches for the animals, mainly goats. Other times at the side of the house it rises a stall to roofing for cattle, that is also a closet for agricultural tools. Often four or more constructions delimit a square or rectangular courtyard: they are the residences of the joined families, enough frequent between the Santals. When the wall of the constructions is not enough to delimit the courtyard, at times they erect a wall of beaten earth and they cover it of straw. If it is necessary, they make an opening for the entry.

The walls of the huts are generally of beaten mud, so the floors and the porches and, when they are there, the half meter walls around the house. At times the walls of the hut are built with branches of tree woven and plastered of mud. The roof and the porch are straw touches or of a special grass called sauri ghas (Heteropogon contortus). The use of one or also two windows for the house is now enough common in Bangladesh, contrarily to forty years ago. More times I had occasion to see in the inside of some houses the ceiling of bamboo protected from a notable layer of earth, sure defence from the fires, the cold and the heat.

If toward the end of the season of the rains the houses santal can have a very poor aspect, clogs and walls scraped in more parts, porches and battered roof, with the beginning of the beautiful season (November-December) they take back their coquettish aspect. Even if the roof can not be immediately mended for the lack of the proper material, the walls are renewed, plastered, adorned of decorations and drawings. Almost all the villages have a decent aspect for the Sohrae Festival. In the January of 1976, I was in Pargaon in the immediate proximities of Dinajpur for Sohrae Festival, I found all the inhabited houses in order, even if some abandoned ones defaced the aspect of the village. Almost all the external walls were decorated and painted with simple, but attractive sketches. On one of the walls of the house where I was guested I noticed numerous writings in three languages: santal, bengalese and English; in a lawn, in which they pastured goats, oxen and buffalos I detached a series of six airplanes; a little far it was a peacock and other birds between plants and painted flowers with ochre, mortar, coal and other colors drawn probably by juices of grasses. It was evident that a lot of hands had cooperated to the work.

The village road

Kulhi is said the road that crosses the village. Stright or with ample curves it is the pulsating artery of the santal village. Along the road, under a plant or exposed to the sun, in the morning the animals are tied for the cleaning of the stalls, before they leave for the pasture or the fields job. In the road the whole day the children play when they are not hocked in the fields to the pasture or to the school.

On the occasion of marriages, where the road enters in the village the bridegroom and its companions are received with big signs of party; and on the road the bridegroom is introduced to the mother of the bride, who washes him and anoints the feet. Then the bridegroom and its page are brought triumphally from the damsels of honor along the road up to the first house of the village. With similar honors important visitors are received on the road to the beginning of the village, and then accompanied processionally along the whole road, to the sound of the drums, up to the place of destination.

It is to the end of the road that the corpse is deposed for the last farewell from those that cannot accompany him to the place of the cremation or to the tomb.

And it is on the road, from one side to the other, that it is developed the frantic dance of the Sohrae therefore called kulhi daran, (walking on the road). This dance practically lasts all the night, with brief intervals of standstill and change of dancers, during the whole period of the Festival, and at times it is also continues along the day.

From the road every assembly held by the Council of the village takes the name, kulhi durup', that wants literally to say session on the road. In fact, although for varied motives this can not always happen, the village leader with his assistants and the heads of the families are assembled in a comforting place gladly along the road to discuss matters concerning the village, at times even to utter and to perform sentences. Personally, only once I have taken part to one of these assemblies along the road at the shade of a magnificent bangla fig tree, at the presence of all the men of the village.

Finally it is on the road, in front of the house of the village leader, that the manjhi than is erected, where during some parties they offer sacrifices to the Manjhi haram, the spirit of the head founder of the village according to some or, according to others, the spirit of the first village leader in absolute sense.

The sacred grove

The sacred grove, said jaher than, is an essential part of the village. After every foundation of the village they proceed to the installation of the spirits, jaher bonga rakap'. After having found a group of trees, suitable to the purpose, three or four men are choosen, they must have taken possession from the spirits and to act in their name. They are the rumok's horko or occasional sciamans. At the presence of the inhabitants of the village the leader pours water in the basins that he offers to the select the men. They wash arms and legs, then they scatter water on the head. Seated one close to the other, a bamboo sieve, hatak' is offered to them, with above it a handful of adwa caote, rice dried at the sun and husked without boiling. in order that the spirits can take possession of them, they rub rice on the sieve with the right hand. The magnates address with sustained voice to the spirits that must be installed in the sacred grove and to the spirit of the Manjhi haram: Oh spirits, Moréko, Jaher era, Pargana, Maran buru, Gosae era and Manjhi haram, we invoke you. In the meantime the sciamans start to rotate more and more whirlingly the head uttering a characteristic sound, evident sign of the possession (sahak). It follows a series of questions and ritual answers between the people of the village and the sciamans. After the magnates have asked to the spirits where they can prepare their abode, the possessed ones go to take some stones, they choose three trees of sal, in line, and they depose one stone at the feet of every tree, and exactly one for Jaher era, another for the Morékos and third for Maran buru. They go then to pick up other stones and they depose one of it to the feet of a tree of matkom (Bassia latifolia) for Gosde era, another for the spirit of the Pargana at the feet of any other tree; and the third one on the road of the village in the place where the manjhi than will be erected. All return to take a seat where started the ceremony, and the magnates ask to the spirits from what hands they desire to receive the sacrifices and they beg them to choose the naeke, that is the priest. In front of the sciamans a bronze vase with water is presented, they get up and who is going to represent Jaher era takes the vase of water, goes in the middle of the presents and pours it on the head of the man that he chooses. The new priest, followed by the presents, goes to the sacred grove to put the stones under every plant: free a small space from the grasses, smears it of bovine dung diluted with water and in mean of it put the stone after having it greased with the sindur (vermilion).

In order that the spirits can retire from the sciamans, the priest sets in their hands the rice of the sieve. They beg the Spirits to leave them, and to one after the other they return the rice to the priest. The magnates unite to their prayers and the possessed ones can finally return to their normal state. They recover the rice and with all the other they reenter in the village; the leader invites them to his house and offers them a modest banquet.

The village now has its sacred grove where, in particular occasions, the priest will offer some sacrifices to the spirits that have been established there.

Social structure of the village

The authorities of the village are the manjhi and his four assistants: jog manjhi, paranik, jog paranik and godet. Besides it is present a village council, called "The five" or also "The ten", that is the mor horko or dos jon.

Manjhi: he is the village leader and the title is hereditary. But it is always possible to elect another leader when the actual one or, after his death, his child is not an able or pleasant person. He is the leader of the social life, and he can also act as occasional priest; he is also the president of the magnates. In the case that for particular reasons the village leader is of another race, a santal leader said handi manjhi, is elected to perform all the social-religious activities linked to the position of village leader, during the festivities and the ceremonies of the life of village. The election of the village leader is always notified to the local administrative authorities.

Paranik: he is the principal assistant of the village leader. He can not act indipendently, but only if required from the same manjhi during his temporary absence. It is up to the inhabitants of the village to choose and to discharge the paranik. In the case that the manjhi leaves the village or dies without successors, the paranik can inherit the position.

Jog manjhi: he is the guardian of morality. It is up to him to watch over on the young people and on the girls that nothing bad or immoral happens. But it is no more the time when who created some problem was punished severely. He presides to all the ceremonies of the janam chatiar (purification of the birth) and of the caco chatiar (initiation) and of the marriage. And he also drives the young people in all the ceremonies of the parties and assists to their dances. Nowadays he has become in practice a master of ceremonies in the civil and religious parties, a dummy deprived of authority.

Jog paranik: he is the delegate of the jog manjhi and work with him or in his place, when he is absent. And his assignment to guard with the jog manjhi the youth during the party of the Sohrae.

Godet: he is the messenger of the village leader and he always belongs to the magnates. His assignment is to have the people assembled timely, to pick up rice and chickens for the sacrifices. It is up to the godet to bring letters or objects from the proper village to that nearest.

Moré hor: "The five" form the Council of the village that must be constituted by not less than five family heads. Often this suggestion is also called dos or dos jona (jon) or, more simply, dosjon in bangla word, but without reference to the number. We can call them very well magnates. The family leaders and those having some personal influence in the village take part to it. The manjhi is always their chairman or rather their president. Also in the case in which the council of another village had to intervene for some decisions, it is always under the authority of the manjhi that the village assembles.

Pargana. At confederation of villages level they have another authority, the pargana; and pargana is also called this confederation of villages, whose number varies from place to place. He is head of all the manjhis of the zone to him entrusted. It doesn't exist in Bangladesh the desmanjhi, the assistant of the pargana, who acts with him or in his behalf. It is also unknown in practice the dihri, the civil and religious supreme authority, during the annual big hunting, the president of the Supreme santal court, whose meeting was held in the forest, during the big annual hunting. It is ended for the Santals of Bangladesh the possibility of big hunting, because of the destruction of the forests. But even in the whole period in which Pakistan dominated on the East Bengala I never had notice of the big hunting.

This, shortly, is the social santal organization. We could speak of socio-political unity at level of village,; such unity exists a little bit less to level of pargana, and it is almost not existing at level of district. The only tie that holds united the Santals of Bangladesh between them and with the Santals of India is cultural. No other socio-political ties exist for the moment between the Santals of Bangladesh, besides the mentioned ones. Keeping in mind that the tradition is law, we can say that the legislative power of the santal leaders is very limited. At village level this power is in the hands of the manjhi and the council of the magnates, and it can concern at the best the imposition of money or nature contributions and their specific destination. The tradition can be touched in its non essential parts; but in this case it is not more the manjhi of a village and his suggestion to legislate, on the contrary they are all the parganas with the respective manjhi to decide together and to propose the law that can be at times also rejected for lack of unanimous approval. Typical case is the new law on the compensation gifts to exchange on the occasion of marriages between the parts of the bridegroom and the bride, established around two years in Dhanjuri, at the presence of the parganas of at least three districts: Dinajpur, Rangpur, Rajshahi. Always at village level, judicial power is in the hands of the manjhi and his council. Instead executive power is practiced from the manjhi and from its assistants. At more villages level it belongs to the pargana only judicial power, always in accord with the village leaders of his jurisdiction and their council. The pargana however is a lot of times determinant about the sentence that will be emanated.


Santals are endogamic as people, because they can not be married outside their tribe, but they are exogamic as as clan, because they can not be married between the same clan, that in santal is called paris. According to Bodding they make two exceptions, not always accepted, on the marriage between individuals of the same clan, but not between the same sub-clan. Personally I don't know cases of this kind. Neverthless also in Bangladesh I have seen some exceptions in which however the clause of the sub-clan doesn't have anything to that to do. When for valid motives the marriage between two young people of the same clan becomes necessary, and consanguinity or affinity does not prevent it, then they apply a juridical pretense. An elderly couple with a name of a particular clan, adopts the bride, giving the proper name to her.

Currently the clans are eleven, that I bring in alphabetical order for convenience: Baske, Besra, Corè, Hasdak, Hembom, Kisku, Marndi, Murmu, Pauria, Soren, Tudu.

The twelfth, Bedea, has gone lost. According to the tradition the members of this clan would have refused to abandon the region of Champa when Mando Sin, bastard son of the daughter of king Kisu, threatened of defaming all the santal women , if they did not surrend to have for bride a santal girl that he liked. The Bedeas, allured by the promises of wealth and power by Mando Sin, sold themselves to him, betraying the brothers. Bedea remained only as a sub-clan of the Sorens.

Origin of the Clans

Two separate versions exist on the origin of the clans, one written in the Book of the traditions and the other oral. According to the first one, the clans were created for the exogamy; according to the other one they were created for the unity of santal people.

a) Written Tradition.

The Maran buru, said Lita, a day came to find Pilcu Haram and Pilcu Budhi (the progenitors), introducing him as their grandfather and saying to want to make them happy. He taught them to do the handi, the beer of rice. When they had prepared it they drank abundantly, they got drunk and, while they were still intoxicated, they united sexually. Waking up remembering what had happened they had big shame and they said this to Lita. He, laughing under the moustaches, responded that there was not anything of badly and went out. Then they covered themselves with some leaves of the bangla fig tree. They had seven children and seven daughters. The first child was called Sandra, the second Sandbom, the third Care, the fourth Mane and the smallest Acaredelhu. The first girl was called Chita, the second Kapu, the third Hisi and another one Dummi. The name of the other boys and the other girls has been lost.

They grew; and while the father took care of the boys, the mother minded the daughters. But a day the boys went to hunting in the forest of Khanderae and the girls went to pick up vegetables in the forest of Surukuc. Back from hunting the boys met with the sisters that were swinging in the aerial roots of a fig tree, and they sang. They started to dance together, and at a given moment the first of the brothers withdrew with the greatest sister, the smallest with the smallest and so all the others.

When they returned home, the two old men understood what had happened, and they said each other that it was necessary to marry them. They built seven huts, they prepared the beer of rice, they made party, then they invited the couples to take abode in the single huts. But Pilcu Haram and Pilcu Budhi were not calm: they thought of the way to prevent that subsequently brothers and sisters get married. They decided to give to every child a paris, the name with which they would identify the clans, and they established a norm for the marriage: the girl could have any paris but that of the boy should be different.

To the first child they gave Hasdak paris, to the second Murmu, to the third Kisku, to the fourth Hembrom, to the fifth Marndi, to the sixth Soren, to the seventh Tudu.

With the time the men multiplied enormously, they became bad and they behaved as buffalos. Thakur was become angry and sent the flood. Only a couple, chosen by the same Thakur, was saved. They had children and daughters and gave the ancient paris. Subsequently, to the first seven others added: Baske, Besra, Pàuria, Coré and Bedea.

This shortly is the story of the origin of the clans according to the book of the traditions. The rule established by the tradition according to which a boy can marry a girl of an any other clan different from his own, had subsequently some restrictions enacted not by any law, but always practiced till today, at least as far as Bangladesh concerns. A Tudu, for instance, doesn't marry a Besra and viceversa. The same happens between the Marndis and the Kiskus. The Baskes and the Hembroms are not even married with the Besras. Kochar in his book speaks of the two first cases only, and it says that this happens because of a traditional rivalry. As far as it concerns the Baskes and the Hembroms it exists a belief, according to which, if a member of these clans marries a Besra, no child will be born, or if he will be born he will die.

Rivalry between the Marndis and the Kiskus seems to go up again to a lot of years ago. It is said in fact that once the clan of the Marndis came in disagreement with the clan of the Kiskus because of a big land that the first ones had illegally taken. Not being possible a pacific solution, the Kiskus decided to dislodge the intruders with a battle. Preparations of attack were doene by both sides. The Kiskus that were camped to the lowland saw, in the waters of the stream, that, precipitous, went down from the highland, a big number of dishes of leaves, the patra, that the santals use for their meals. From this they deducted the number of the enemies camped on the mountain. Taken by fear, they were about to give to the escape, convinced that they would not be escaped to the destruction. But someone suggested a stratagem. During the night they cut numerous trees of the forest underlying the highland, to the height of a man, they covered the superior part with straw and torn, giving the most possible to the trunks the form of puppets and then they displaced between these the available archers. The Marndi believed to see a numerous army and, taken by fear, desisted from the attack. Finally they came to a pacific agreement through messengers. Nevertheless it remained between the two clans a strong rivalry because of which the Kiskus refused to give their daughters as brides to the Marndis, which naturally did the same. Some say that the cause of the dispute was a girl of the Kiskus abducted from an arrogant Marndi.

b) Oral Tradition.

In Champa (Sind-Punjab) the Kherwars started to be divided in various groups. And it was then that a manjhi named Karu, thinking to the unity of his family, calle all his children nutum se paris emakoamente, that is to give a name or a paris to them (name of the clan). He therefore imposed a name that concerned a fact or a virtue or a defect of each them. To one, remembering that a day, fallingsown on his own portion of rice and curry, he had dirtied in disgusting way, leaving the dirt to be dried up he gave the name Coré. To another very skilled in preparing the paura, the delicious grappa distilled from the flowers of the Bassia latifolia and untiring drinker, gave the name of Pauria. The proper name of these two brothers was respectively Carhat and Phagu. When the most elderly Baruk was presented, the father, remembering his insuperable astuteness called him Bedea. He called Tudu instead the child Themka, very small of stature but incorrigible in palpating the women. But who knows why he called him this way? To Samu, that had a strong tendency to friendship and that he knew how to make friends all the brothers, he gave the name Soren, as the stars (Pleiads) that are always together. To the child Bowas, that used indecent words when he talked to the brothers, he gave the name of Besra. An other one, Boso, didn't have measure in preparing the food and had always abundant rice also for the following day; he gave the name of Baske. To Manka, the child with a big and nice face, gave the name of Murmu. The child Harmu, perhaps less skilled than the brother Phagu in distilling alchool and not at all gourmet, when he was thirsty he didn't hesitate to drink muddy water. Therefore the father gave the name of Hasdak to him. Three brothers still stayed: Somae, Mihinidi and Karuk. Somae had remained for a long time bachelor and a day to the feet of a hesak dare (religious Ficus), he had killed a male of the blue cow. Remembering these facts, the father called him Hembrom. Mihinidi, perhaps to take revenge of the father that had called him with the name of a bush (Lausonia dawn), every day offered him some vegetables to eat. And the father gave him the name of a grass, calling him Marndi (Ischaemum rugosum). Karuk did like very much birds, and he was delighted in him to raise kisni (Sturnopastor capensis capensis), and also taught them to speak and to sing. Therefore his father gave him the name Kisku.

Finally he explained them that had given to each one a name because this facilitated the family unity. They had to not disperse like others had already done and continued to do. If they wanted to be strong against possible ennemies, they had to be united. And he wanted to give an example to them. He ashed each one to bring two lianas of around two meters each; he deposed one of them and hold in the hand the other. He said them to throw with strength and the liana was broken. He had the twelve remainders woven lianas and gave order to Bedea to break the braid, but he didn't succeed. It said then toKisku to throw with both the hands on one side, while Bedea threw from the other, but the attempt to break the braid was vain. Then the father had Marndi and Murmu united to Bedea, and he gave order to Hasdak and to Hembrom to unite to Kisku. Also this time the attempt was vain. Finally he had six on one side and six on the other; they threw with all their strengths, but every attempt to break the braid of lianas was useless. The old Karu made understand them that they were like the twelve lianas: if they remained united, nobody would ever have been able to break them, but anyone would have broken them easily (reduced in dust) if they were separated. For this they remained all in Champa, and every family grew, they built bunkers to defend from the pressure of the external enemies. And here we go again in what is in the written tradition.

According to the same oral story, the four famous guru (teachers): Ulum Paika, Julum Paika, Kapi Karam and Baba Bijoe, who would have escorted the Santal in their escape from Champa, under the pressure of Mando Sin and after Bijoe, and would have initiated them to the spirits religion, they were children of Baruk Bedea. And from them the Mahalis would have had origin, very similar to the santal ethnic group for language and customs, but till to today clearly separated. Between these Bedeas were the gurus that established rules and socio-religious ceremonies. To establish all the festival of Santal therefore should have been the mahali gurus of the Bedea clan. between the Santals would have risen subsequently. To establish the parties santal of the annual cycle and the vital cycle would not have been the Santals therefore, but these gurus mahali of the clan Bedea. Then this detested name (Bedea) was disappearing, and the Mahalis assumed the names of the santal clans.

Observation on the two stories

From what said it is clear that between the two stories, the written and the oral one, an essential difference exists: the reason for which the clans were established, more than the time in which they born. The story of the book of the traditions puts well in evidence the fact that the clans were born for the exogamy of the group; while the oral story puts in prominence the fact that the clans rose for the unity of the group, without the least indication to the exogamy. Rather indirectly it sets the accent on the endogamy of the group. But we are not able to say that this second story excludes the exogamy, after all approved and respected by all the Santals. But it could open a flaw in the monolithic law of the exogamy; and it would be to the advantage of the most numerous clans, especially the clan of the Murmus, whose members at times have difficulty in finding, for the marriage, someone otside their clan.

Always acording to this story, the Santals would have acquired their true identity of group only in Champa, while first they belonged to the greater group of the Kerwars, and nothing distinguished them from the others. And this would have happened in 3000 B. C. In the first story we do not notice the least worry to explain the origin of the name of the clans or to give a meaning to them. According to the book of the traditions subsequently to some names of clans it was added an other name to point out an office or a work. For instance: Kisku raj, because it seems that the heads or raja were chosen by this clan; Murmu thakur, because probably they were the first naeke or priests; Hembrom Kuar, because it is considered that the Hembroms were princes or notables at the court of the Kiskus; Marndi kipisar, influential people for their wealths; Soren sipahi, that is soldiers; Tudu mandaria, builders of drums. Today some of these names point out an sub-clan, as for instance Tudu mandaria, that is an subr-clan of the Tudus. Although it was known that the Baskes were merchants, appellative was given to them.

In the second story is instead evident the worry to motivate single clanic name even if to an extraneous the connection between event and name, dowries or defects and name could not be clear. But there is not generally anything in these two stories or in the tradition santal that can make the santal clan as totemic. And the authors that have sustained the totemism of the clans, have sustained it without having a correct idea or making big mistakes.

As far as it concerns the Santals of Bangladesh, currently no indication exists on the totemism, even in the rituals of the sacrifices and the festivals. The numerous existing taboos between the Santals, are from them explained without the totem. All the Santals generally have the tendency to historicize the origin of the clans and the sub-clans. In more than one hundred villages I never saw distinctive emblems of the clans. If there were in past, today they don't exist. Nobody of those people that I have questioned has admitted that their ancestors had anything in common with the animal or the plant (grass) or the thing of which they bring the name, except of course the name itself. If we say to a Soren that he has veneration for the Pleiadis (Sorenko), and this to show that he descends from them, he will answer that it is true: he has veneration and respect for the Pleiads because they are gororn in, that is they are his homonym, and as such he reveres them and he respects them. I said once to a Hasdak that he derived, as everyone in his clan, from Has hasin and Has hasil, the couple of birds from which, would have had origin the progenitors according to the santal tradition. He was put to laugh, and he said me that then all the Santals, rather all the men should be called Hasdak from the moment that the two birds result to be the parents of the progenitors. I spoke with Suku Hasdak on this matter, and he also was laughing, saying me that no legend existed in which it was said that someone had as ancestor an animal or a vegetable. I brought his attention then on the taboos and I explained to him that, at least in the past, perhaps someone considered that animal or that vegetable an ancestor. He come back on the matter of the gorom and said to me: Take for instance the Murmus. They can not eat the meat of the blue cow (jei murum), neither the mushroom with their name (ot' murum) and they can not even kill the snake hawal murum. Now say me: which of three, according to you, is their ancestor? tohekhan do? well? . I did not insist with him. I tried with others, but I had compassionate smiles, as answer. I still had a doubt: perhaps not all had understood what I wanted to say. And remembering more than once what had happened to Rivers on the people of the Melanesia, when he said them non totemistic while he was bringing the documents proving it, I still had the doubt to make mistakes with the Santals. But after repeated attempts and observations, I had to convince myself that currently between the Santals of Bangladesh it doesn't exist the idea of totemism. To convince was also me another fact. Between many Oraons the idea of the totemism is today still clear, and they are not ashamed to speak about it, even if someone jokes on this subject. Now, if the same existed between the Santals, why they should throw back it with so much stubbornness or to hide it, from the moment that they are very much open than the Oraons? A day a young Oraon belonging to the clan of the Ekkas (turtle) said me to not eat the meat of that animal because... the grandfather of the grandfather of my grandfather... was a turtle. And meanwhile it had the hand rotated, as to say: more far in old times!. He laughed, and added: This way.. they say.

Historicization of the names of the Clans

Baske: This word means stale and it is applied to the foods and rice, particularly advanced the evening for the following morning. We have already seen why the old Karu has given this name to the child Boso. But others two traditions exist on this subject. According to the first one, on the occasion of a big hunting, during which the Santals decided to divide in twelve clans, some of they cooked so much rice to be enough also for the day after. Having eaten such rice the following morning, they were denominated Baske, and such name passed to their descendants. The other tradition says that the Baskes had as ancestors two young people, which during the same hunting, were lost in the forest and returned to the camp the day after. Not having anything to offer to them, the parents gave some rice from the previous day. From this the name of Baske to their descendants. Sengupta, speaking of the Mahalis of Midnapur in India ( West Bengala ), itsays that the clans mahali clans are totemic and ten of them are equal to the santal ones. Speaking of the Baskes, he says that baske or kanti is a kind of vegetable. I have not found neither between the Santais neither between the Mahalis of Bangladesh anybody that knew how to explain the relationship that passes between Baske and Kanti to me, name entirely unknown to them. The only word that is similar is kantha, Euphorbia granulata, whose leaves are edible, called from the Santais kantha harak'.

Besra: The Besras are considered inferior to the others, and more than once I had someone talking with contempt of them. They are, wrolngly, considered vulgar and licentious as their first ancestor. Someone derives their name from besrom that, between tother meanings has also that of licentious and shameless. The Besras are also called bayar, male buffalos, always in reference to their licentiousness. However everyone recognizes their intelligence; but also this is a free judgment. Sengupta thinks that Besra wants to say hawk. Really he is wrong. There is in fact the kuhi besra, but it is an sub-clan, common also to the Baskes and the Hasdak's. Kuhi besra is the Spilornis melanotis or Indian crested eagle, raider of snakes. The Mahalis of Bangladesh call the Besras with the name of Khanger, while Sengupta makes of this name the thirteenth mahali clan, and according to him the meaning is crow. The Mahalis I had consulted deny that Besra and Khanger are two separate clans.

Coré: it is a small clan and not much respected. They are nicknamed cacarhat, that wants to say dirty, with a rough skin, pimply and flood of squame like that of the lizards. The Mahalis call the Core with the name of cercetec, that corresponds to our gecko. Sengupta is therefore not completely wrong when he says that Coré means lizard.

Hasdak: Literally it means goose of water; but such name is never used from the Santals to indicate the goose, that is said sak. According to the written tradition it is the name assumed by the greatest child of the first human couple. Has is also the name of the mythological bird from which had origin the aforesaid couple. Sengupta translates hasdak with wild goose. As we have seen, Karu gave this name to the child Harmu, because he drank dirty water when it was thirsty, without taking care to look for clean water, just like the geese.

Hembrom: I have already made notice that the Hembroms were princes or they acted as notables at the court of the king Kisku, while they were in Champa, and were called Hembrom kuar. But in addition to prince, kuar wants to also say bachelor. And it is to the light of this tradition and this second meaning that it makes sense the name given from the old Karu to the child Somae: he had remained many years kuar, that is bachelor; and a day had killed a male of a blue cow a prey worthy for a prince. Sengupta thinks that Hembrom wants to say walnut-tree of areca. But he exchanges the clan with a sub-clan. It exists in fact the sub-clan Hembrom ' walnut-tree of areca', Gua Hemhrom (Gua=Areca catechu, walnut-tree of areca).

Kisku: The Kiskus were those that in Champa were imposed as heads, raja. But this doesn't have anything to that to do with the origin of the name. Sengupta has derived Kisku from kikir, the martin fishing beard. It seems a little bit uncertain, but also the manjhi Karu forced the sense calling Kisku the child Karuk, because he raised kisni (maina). The Mahalis when they speak between them, instead of Kisku they use Kauria.

Marndi: The Marndis had fame to be rich while they were in Champa. According to some this fame derives really from their name, as marndi is a very luxuriant grass and, in the field where prosperous, it suffocates the rice. Also Sengupta says that it is a grass:... clan marndi (grass); but in the same page he writes: ... Marndi (a kind of blue bird). Marndi would be therefore also a blue bird. Really he treats of another mistake: once more he confuses the clan with a sub-clan: Miru Marndi, that is Marndi cocorita. The Psittacula cyanocepbala, said from the Santals Kuindi miru, is a bluish cocorita.

Murmu: The Murmus practiced the priestly office anciently and therefore were called Murmu thakur, those people that offer sacrifices to the spirits. And the only santal clanic name of which Bodding says that it could be a totemic name coming from murum, the Portax pictu, commonly called blue cow, and that really it is a buck whose meats can not be eaten by the Murmus. They can not even kill this animal and, to the news that Santal of other clans has killed it, they must purify with the bath and to wash the suits. We have already seen that Suku Hasdak also denies any totemism to this clan. Karu gave this name to the child Manka for his ample and nice face like that of an ox. Sengupta says simply that Murmu is a kind of animal, and with this he thinks to have proved his thesis. The Mahalis, to call the Murmus, use commonly the word Dumri.

Pauria or Paulia: This is a not numerous clan. About the origin of this name there are not other news besides those of the oral tradition: Phagu, the tenth child of Karu haram, was called Pauria, because he distilled and drank gladly the delicious grappa extracted from the flower of matkom. Sengupta ignores this clan. But in Bangladesh they exist Mahali with this name, in addition to Santal. A characteristic of the Paurias is to not be able to wear any object of metal, even if of gold or of silver. Nobody knew how to explain the origin of this taboo to me.

Soren: In Champa they were considered soldiers and messengers, therefore were called Soren sipahi. Sengupta makes them originating from Sorenko (the Pleiads). And also Campbell says that the Pleiads are the totem of the clan of the Sorens, while Bodding does not say anything on this. Someone should have been present to the laughter of that Santals that, referring to the Sorens, said: And would they descend (descend, not originate) from the stars? . The oral story tells that the origin of the name is because of the way of living of Samu with its brothers, united as the Pleiads.

Tudu: They were called Tudu mandaria because in Champa they were blacksmiths, builders and drums players. Also today, between the Santals, blacksmith is a little bit a synonymous of libertine. With the above it could be explained the fact that Karu gave the name of Tudu to the child Themka, incorrigible in palpating the women. According to Sengupta, Tudu would be a field mouse. I asked the explanation of it to Suku Hasdak that, after some thinking said me: Probably because, between the Mahalis, the Tudus sacrifice some godo (mice) during the pujas. But Tudu doesn't want to say absolutely mouse.



In the social life of the Santals the feasts have a great importance: they are the alive expression of the religious feeling of the community, characterized from the fear for the spirits, and at the same time the demonstration of that deep desire of joy that is an integral part of the santal nature, and it is particularly expressed in the song and in the dance. The Santals don't give any space to individualisms, it is really during the feasts that the individual realizes himself in the community, because he can show his dowries and his abilities of performer, dancer, chorister, minstrel, guest, hunter, archer and, at times, also of peacemaker. It is during the feasts that he can throw the bases of his future social role in the life of the community.

Being the expression of the religious feeling of people, it is normal that in all the feasts we can notice a strong sacred character, even if they are originated only from common events of life or facts lost in the fog of the times and that nothing have to do with the sacred. It is on the occasion of the feasts that relatives and friends get together, individuals of the same sub-clan are assembled. At times the feasts concern only the inhabitants of a village, other times involve more villages, as it generally happens on the occasion of marriages. However the partecipation to almost all the feasts is unanimous. Dance and song are an essential part of the most important feasts, always accompanied by lavish meals and conspicuous drinks. Public and private sacrifices, accompanied at times by simple offers, are the center of every feast. Ablutions and unctions of oil, the use of the vermilion with which are marked the victims, the men and also the beasts participants to the feast, and of the curcuma (Curcuma longa in dust, a kind of saffron) they are other essential elements.


I. Birth and socio-religious ceremonies.

The Santals don't have some particular belief connected to the conception or to the birth. Every village has its dhai budhi, the midwife of role, that we could call midwife of obligation. She in fact not only intervenes to the birth of the child, but also owes to attend to all the socio-religious ceremonies that follow. Her role is so important that, still today, when a mother gives a child to the light in the hospital or in the dispensary, she must be punctually paid, as if the mother had been assisted during the birth. Besides she must be guest to take part to the ceremonies that they will be done, as soon as possible, in the village. This fact makes a great deal reluctant the santal women to give birth with the assistance of physicians or nurses, owing to correspond a double honorary: to them and to the midwife of the village.

a) Janam chatiar.

It is so called the ceremony of ritual purification that follows the birth of a child. Literally it means purification of the birth. When a child is born, not only the mother but the house where the birth took place and the whole village are considered impure. Accordingly to no one, with the exception of course of the family itself, is allowed to take food in that family; and in the village it is not allowed to offer sacrifices to the bongas.

The ceremony of the Janam chatiar is completed in the fifth day from the birth if the newborn is a male; in the third day if the newborn is a female.

To give the start to the ceremony is a barber, that is sent for the occasion from the father of the newborn. He shaves first hair to the naeke, then to the kudam naeke, and subsequently to the five heads of the village; finally to all the present men and, as last, to the father of the child.

When finished his job, the barber, from the porch where he stays, asks the midwife to bring the newborn to him. She comes with the child in the arms and two plates, one to put the water and the other for the hair of the newborn.

At this point of the ceremony, writes Obert, it should take place the cut of the navel, with the point of an arrow. "Cut the hair and put on the dish, another ceremony takes over, that is the cut of the navel... After the cut, the midwife attaches two threads to the arrow" he affirms. The author is incurred evidently in an error of time: the cut of the navel, that happens with the point of an arrow in our case, is ended immediately after the birth, evidently. But even it is not necessary to think to an ulterior cut of the brief appendix that it stays from there, from the moment that this, drying, falls spontaneously.

In the book of the santal traditions and institutions it is said: "after that, to the arrow, with which to the child as soon as been born has been cut the navel, two threads will be tied". While the midwife is about to tie the threads to the arrow, the father of the newborn fills of oil a cup of leaves, he is conducted then by the men, in compact group, to the place of the bath. When the men return home, the midwife takes some oil, some red colour and the arrow, to which she has tied the two threads, and he drives the women to the bath. Come to destination, the midwife throws on the wave the hair of the newborn with one of the threads that had tied to the arrow. This ceremony of hair and the thread, thrown on the wave that flows (such it is the sense of the verb atu gidi), it is like the wish of a happy marriage: it is thought in fact that, if the hair of the child (or the girl), arrived in the sea with the water of the river, will met with the hair of a girl (or a child), they will marry.

Before making the bath, in the exact place where the women will go down to wash, the midwife sprinkles water with dust of vermillion five times. Such ceremony is told ghat kirin', that wants to say buy of the ghat, that is the place were they take bath. Really it concerns a ritual purification of water.

To their return to the house, the midwife takes the thread remained attached to the arrow and dips it in a solution of water and turmeric (the Turmeric longa is the Indian saffron) and it fences in the sides of the newborn of it. Then the mother goes out from the hut and she takes in her arms the child. She seats at the shade of the porch, nurses him, holding in hand a leaf of atnak, the Terminalia tomentosa, as wish that the newborn grows strong as the silkworms (Antherae mylitta) that flourish on the leaves of that plant.

While the woman nurses the small one, the midwife prepares a mixture of water and dung of cow and she puts some flour in the water of another vase; precisely they are three flour cones that she puts in the water. The mixture, very diluted, of dung of cow is to purify, while the mixture of water and flour is for prosperity. Monfrini says that it has to keep distant the bad spirits, but I have not found confirmation of this assertion.

After the mixtures have been prepared, the puerpera purifies herself, dipping the left hand in the mixture of bovine dung, bringing then it to the front and the lips. She reenters therefore in the house to depose on the parkom (bed of ropes and bamboo) the newborn. Then the midwife enters in the house, and she sprinkles with the flour mixture the four angles of the bed, then she sprinkles on the breast of all the men present to the ceremony, starting from the principal priest, and finally to all the women starting from the wife of the principal priest.

It is this the moment in which the presents ask if the newborn is a child or a girl using a particular formula " Is the newborn one who brings on the head (child) or on the shoulders (girl)?

b) Imposition of the name,

Contrarily to what affirms Obert, the ceremony of the imposition of the name doesn't happen a week after the birth, but habitually after the Janam chatiar. When the old ones of the family is still alive, they ask themselves: How will we call him? . And they choose, immediately, the name with which the newborn will be called. If it is the first-born, he takes the name of the fatherly grandfather; if girl, takes the name of the fatherly grandmother. The second born, if child, takes the name of the maternal grandfather, if girl, that of the maternal grandmother. The third one, according to the sex, the name of the small brother of the father, or of the wife of the small brother of the father. In the case that is born a fourth child, then if child he takes the name of the brother of the mother, if girl that of sister of the father. And so on for the others that will come, always following a rigid scheme.

When the midwife, on the porch, will communicate the name to the presents, she will do it in a particular way: after having greeted the presents with the due bow to the single ones, in case of boy she will say: From today, when you will go together with hunting, you will call him with the name of.... If girl, she will say: From today, when you will invite her to go with you to draw water, you will call her with the name of....

The ceremony is closed with the offer of the nim dak' mandi, water of rice with leaves of nim (Melia azadirachta), that are beloved, but have also numerous medicinal properties. All the men, starting from the naeke, eat a little bit of it, and so the women, starting from the wife of the naeke. In the case that the priest is not present, the first one to receive the offer of the nim dak' mandi it is the head of the village, that is the manjhi.

As far as it concerns the name, it must be noticed that every Santal possesses two names: the cetan nutum or external name, that is the name that is known by everybody and it is used for calling a person; and the bhitri nutum, that is the hidden name, that is known only from the narrow relatives, and that it will be revealed to the child later.

I had occasion to question quite a lot boys and young santals personally on the reason of such hidden name, and all have given the same answer to me: The bongas must not know my true name, because so they can not harm me.

Five days after the imposition of the name, the midwife and the barber return to the house of the newborn to shave it a second time; therefore such ceremony, that is subject to variations, in some places is called hoyoruars, that literally means to " cut hair again". And the people of the village, with the manjhi, is invited to drink the beer of the new cut of hair. It is the common beer of rice that the women prepare for the occasion. Barber and midwife receive, before the others, two cups of beer that they drink happily, then they distribute the drink to all the presents, drawing to the jar with cups of leaves.

By the way on this drinking of beer, nothing is said in the Horkoren Hapramko sea reak' Katha; I have taken the information from the manuscript of the Pitor Mardi. Between the Santals of the Bengala, it is very clear that this drinking has community importance as every other drinking connected to particular socio-religious ceremonies. But this silence in the book of Skrefsrud can also indicate that this particular one is not of obligation like other circumstances.

It is in this occasion that the midwife receives the compensation enacted by the custom, that remains anywhere, although if, for change of situations, it has gone varying sensitively in these last years. The established rule is the following: if the newborn is a boy, the midwife has the right to receive three cubits of cloth, one muri (approximately 30 kilograms) of paddy and a bracelet, due for the cut of the navel. If the newborn is a girl, she receives three cubits of cloth, approximately 20 kilograms of paddy and a bracelet.

While I was in the village of Dhanjuri of the district of Dinajpur in Bengala, I knew that the midwife was satisfied with some cloth, two rupees, and the bracelet. She asked for at least the two rupees if she didn't assist to the birth.

For the barber it doesn't seem there is a fixed pay established by the custom. He receives yet enough food, in remuneration of his job, that consumes on the place; besides a not fixed quantity of rice, lentils and oil. But he will stay to complete a last service to the presents, before going out with the remuneration: to pour water on their hands and on their feet and to anoint them of oil.

c) Caco chatiar.

Obert excludes the idea of purification on the ceremony of the caco chatiar. After having explained that caco means to make the first footsteps, he adds: "If the word chatiar means purification in the word janam chatiar, united to caco it means only that the child passes from the irresponsibility of infancy to the first use of the reason."

But he is in contradiction on what he affirms a little afterwards: The purification of the cremation.... is not applied to whom still waits for the purification of the caco chatiar". It is not difficult to show that also this ceremony has in itself the idea of purification. The word chatiar in santali language doesn't have any other meaning over that of ceremonial purification. After all, the final words of the long conclusive prayer of the ceremony speak of purification clearly, from the whole context,. They are the words said in the name of the authorities of the village or of those people that enter to belong to the family santal through the caco chatiar: We pray you, pacjon (the magnates of the village), we were black like crows, we have now become white like the heron, please witness this.

We do not understand how Obert has been able to put these words in relationship to the wish that the child, become great, gives a contribution of progress to the santal community.

Neither Obert, or Monfrini and even Campbell seem to have gathered the deep sense of this ceremony or, at least, not completely. All of them agree to admit that the caco chatiar introduces the child or the teen-ager of both sexes to be indeed part of the santal community, and it gives the right to all the privileges due to the members of the community. They are also in agreement to admit that without the caco chatiar the marriage is not possible and who dies before passing through this ceremony can not be cremated, neither his ashes can be thrown in the Damuda or other river. But they seem to ignore that the final purpose, more important, of the caco chatiar is another. Pitor Mardi, in his manuscript, where he mentions the caco chatiar, begins with these precise words: Motlop -jemon ana purire enga apa taluc'ko napam. This phrase translated literally wants to say: Purpose (of the caco chatiar): so that in the other life he can meet with the own parents. From these words it not only appears clear that such ceremony it is essential to the civil and religious effects of community, but mainly to be abler, after the death, to enter to belong to the community of the Ancestors. Only so it makes sense the great importance that the Santals annex to this ceremony, even if to an inexperienced eye it doesn't introduce anything remarkable.

The caco chatiar, as it points out the word, should be completed when the child begins to walk; there is not fixed time for such ceremony, but it must be done before the marriage. When a father has many children subsequently he waits for some years before completing the ceremony, to purify more children together and to reduce so the expenses of the feast to it connected.

Every father of family, when he intends to complete the ceremony, prepares beer of rice, turmeric and oil to anoint the people of the village. It will be up to the girls of the village to anoint men and women, giving the welcome to them, when they will be presented to the house where the caco chatiar has to be done.

The morning of the day established for the ceremony, the manjhi and the paranik go to the house of the purifying boy (or of the purificandis), where a beer is offered to them. After having taken it they ask: Which kind of beer are you offering to drink? . The family father replies: it is the beer of invitation to preside to the ceremony of the caco chatiar that I desire to complete.

Drunk the beer, they send the godet to call all the people of the village, which hastens to the house of the ceremony. It is at thispoint that the girls, following a rigid order of priority, start to anoint with oil and turmeric the first priest, his wife and then all the others in order of authority and importance. It follows the offer of the beer, but in this case the priority is for the manjhi and the paranik. After that everyone has drunk a cup of it, the father is asked on how many children has to be done the caco chatiar; and they are given to everyone four cups of beer so many times as the children or the boys for whom the caco chatiar has to be done. During the distribution it is asked to the father, metaphorically, how many and wich ears of millet are grown in the field, meaning how much boys and how many girls have come to cheer the family. Then they congratulate the fortunate father.

They arrive to the last customary question: What is their place of origin? Such question appears to be a pretext to drink another cup of beer. In fact, after the father has made the name of the village of the grandfathers (naturally it can be the same in which the ceremony happens), they require some beer. The family head than brings a jar of beer, called the beer of the grandfathers, and he distributes first to the five authorities of the village. After this drink the people, tune up a song, during which the rest of the beer is distributed to everyone.

Chosen a proper person to the purpose, he is invited to give the start to the long prayer that concludes the ceremony. The prayer of conclusion is a sort of memorial, during which the creation and all the voluntary and forced wanderings of the santal people are historically reported since the origins up to the actual time; also settling and the growing in determined places and times is mentioned. It is at the same time a memorial of the benefits received from the Supreme Being Thakur. And it is finally a summary of the norms to follow in the various circumstances of life, given by the Ancestors. The reason, expressly mentioned, of such memorial, is that the young people don't forget all these things.

To a certain point, not always fixed, of of this prayer-memorial, it appears evident another important purpose: to bring the boy or the girl, through the mentioning of the facts and the norms, to the purification, to which the Ancestors arrived, wandering on earth.

d) Sikha

Literally the word sikha wants to say coin, and of coin has the form the scar or the scars that are on the left forearm of every young santal. The sikha is the result of a scorching produced with a ignited rag , rolled up like a cigar, that is applied on the arm of the youth. The number of the scars varies from one to seven, but they are always of odd number. This is due to the fact that, to the moment of every application of the red hot rag, the words jion (life) and moron (death) are pronounced and therefore having an even number of scars would mean to have the last one inauspiciously connected to death.

It has ben discussed on the value of the sikha. Obert defines the ceremony, during which the scorching is applied, an action of courage in which the little santal boy santal is leaned out to the thresholds of adolescence, showing to himself and to the others that it is a hor or a true man, actually and not only as right, as declared with the caco chatiar. Campbell, says instead that it concerns a simple custom without some religious or tribal meaning. Monfrini connects such use to the belief according to which if a Santal dies without the sign of the sikha, in the other life he will be gnawed from big worms like poles. And it is for such motive that, according to Skrefsrud, the boys santals bear with stoic fortitude the pain of the scorching.

From what said it can not be denied that there is a religious meaning in this, also because it is tied to a belief that it has been connected with the tradition of the Ancestors. It is also true that undergoing to such torture, is a demonstration of courage, as Obert says; but many times the boys are forced to such ceremony from greater boys. I also note that, despite we can speak of a sort of cerimony, this has not any officiality, as no particular norms or procedures are followed. It usually has done in the open country, during the pasture, from a narrow group of boys or young people. It doesn't keep any relation with the caco chatiar, as in some cases it can precede it.

I have known some boys that subtracted themselves to such torture, escaping whenever the friends tried to submit them; other times defending with feet, hands and teeth. Once Christians, they have been left in peace. But sometime also christian boys are submitted to sikha. Having asked to those people that did not have sikha if they were not afraid to be devoured from the worms in other life, they answered to not believe to those things .

This custom doesn't have a tribal meaning tightly, as it is practiced also from the Mahalis, Munda, Craon Kole, Gunju and others. I asked a day to an Oraon because he brought on the forearm the seven signs of the sikha. He answered to me that the greater boys had picked him up they had practised him the scorching.

Another Oraon, who brought on the arm three showy scars, almost commented the fact with identical words to those that I had heard to pronounce from an alpine around the militar jokes : What I have to tell you, father! Life is like a wheel: today I am under, tomorrow I will be above... that is today the other ones do to me, tomorrow I will do it the others. I did not like at all this, as I have always hated the wheel as symbol of life, but in that instant I had the clear impression that that Oraon compared to a joke of bad taste the fact of bringing on the arm three big scars. The two Oraons were neither Christians nor Hindu, perhaps they had tried to elude my question, speaking of the effect more than the cause: my question in bangla word could have been not understood. But one suddenly said me: The Santals say that in the other life they are eaten by the worms if they don't have the sikhas on the arm. I took advantage for asking him what him and his companion and the other Oraons generally thought. This time he could not escape to my precise question. He answered to me: Kicchui nai, that is nothing at all. He seemed to me sincere, and perhaps he was; but then I really ignored still what the old Oraons thought of the sikha. It was common belief, even if it is disappearing especially between the emigrants, that the sikha was essential to have success in the life and to assure the entrance in the kingdom of the Ancestors.

e) Khoda.

The santal women don't practise the sikha, but to escape to be devoured from the worms in the other life, they have their breast tattooed. But in this case, more than the fear to be devoured by the worms, the vanity of the woman has an important role, as the Kolean assures. He in fact says that the khoda is not comparable to the sikha, because the women practise it, mainly, only to have a beautiful figure. It is neverthless clear that the tattoo is a cause of big pains, and such operation is followed at times by high fever. I have not only seen santal women tattooed on the chest but also on the back, on the face, on the arms and on the legs; the tattoos were enough complicated, but purely ornamental. There is also between the Santals who affirms that the tattoo will serve to the women to be recognized from the respective husbands in the other life.

Birth outside the marriage

When a girl not married becomes pregnant, the father and the greatest brother (The greatest brother or dada is the first male of the family, even if he is much younger than the sister he will be always the dada that must be respected and obeyed) they have the obligation to tell the manjhi and the paranik, which let the men of the village assemble. To the presence of everyone the girl must say who is the father of the child. The suspected man is grabbed by five men, to avoid that he escapes. It is not enough that he denies the fact to be saved from the accusation. On the other hand it will be practically impossible to bring proofs on what happened, that can excuse him without possibility of doubt.

The only possibility of escape will be to affirm categorically that other men have been with the girl, in this case the doubt on the paternity will make to consider the future boy as bastard.

In the case that the girl can assure with certainty who is the father, he must take her as wife (if there are not impediments of relationship or, worse, of tribe or caste). When it can be prooved that two or more men have been with her, they are forced to pay a fine, and the responsibility of raising the boy will be left to the manjhi jog, of whose clan the small one will make part, freeing him of the "title" of bastard. In the case that the jog manjhi is relative of the girl, the responsibility of the care of the child will be left to the jog paranik or to any other of the village. The money of the fine paid will be given part to the mother-girl, part to whom will take the responsibility of the child, part will be devolved to the maintenance of the child. The balance, if any, will be distributed between the five responsibles of the village.

When, instead, the girl doesn't succeed in giving proof on the father, and to no one is given the precise accusation to have frequented the girl, the father and the brother must purchase an husband to her, otherwise the child is destined to be forever a bastard. In the case that someone accepts to be purchased he must take the responsibility of the child and to give the name of his clan to him. In remuneration he receives 20 rupees. Such price has been maintained till today despite the very strong devaluation of the rupee.

In theory sometimes a child is born bastard and he stays as such; in practice this never happens, unless the father belongs to another ethnic group. In fact a manjhi, a jog manjhi or a jog paranik, or even someone of the village, for good heart or for the honor of the same village will assume the responsibility to raise the child and to give his name to him. In such case, the father and the greatest brother of the girl must correspond a sum to to whom gives the name to the child. I am able, to this intention, to bring an even puzzling case, if we consider the extreme rigidity the santals have on what concerns the purity of the race. The manjhi of the village where I lived, not having his own children, took subsequently in his house two small bastards: a female and a male. He was certain that the respective fathers, even if he ignored the names, were not santal. The manjhi knew that by doing so, he was going to hurt the santal community susceptibility and the responsibility that he assumed was really a big one. Until the inhabitants of the village did not know the reality, everything went smooth. No problem if their leader, not having children, provided to the succession, picking them up where they were. But, when they came to know that two adopted children were not of pure santal blood, troubles began for the manjhi. A deaf opposition was born at first, then more and more open up to the point to ask for his resignation. He became so exacerbated that a day was decided to give the resignations publicly. But it happened an unpredictable fact: nobody was considering himself able to take his place. They begged to stay in his office until someone could replace him. And so: two years ago the adoptive daughter has gotten married with a young santal. And probably also the child will do the same; may be he will not take the place of the father, but meanwhile he will be considered a true santal from everyone.

Infanticide and voluntary abortion.

Never I have seen a written information of infanticide between the Santals. Yet the infanticide is practiced regularly, if impediments of external order to the group don't intervene, at least in a circumstance and with the tacit consent of everybody. It exists between the Santals a not written law, and even not openly bequeathed but know from everyone, according to which, if a child is born marked by the doubt, he must die. This happened and it happens regularly when the supposed father of the child, says that he is not the father.

More than once I asked to whom was speaking on a death, apparently normal, of a newborn: What do you think? , and I received the usual laconic answer: Digdha menak'a, there are doubts. This answer played a role of a sentence, and not many times the poor child survived to the doubt; practically this happened only when the moral pressure of some person external to the group santal intervened on the definite wish of the man that was feeling betrayed, or, better, intervened to brake the yearning that the old women of the family had to have the poor creature disappeared.

At times the doubt around the legitimacy of the child can be founded, because there are proofs of the unfaithfulness of the wife; but a lot of times the doubt is born from the blind trust that the husband has in his ability of anticonceptional control, and he does not admit to make errors in his relationships with the wife. Naturally, if the wife conceives a child in that period, the husband will not recognize him like his own. And in case the child will see the light, it will be very difficult that he will arrive to the janam chatiar. Such use stays also between the converts to Christianity; and they ask a baptism for the child condemned to die.

J. H. Hutton brings a case of infanticide happened in 1931, but for different reasons. He speaks of the case of a Santal that killed his own child to the purpose of recovering from an illness that had struck him. It concerns an isolated case or, may, a few cases, in which it intervenes the idea of sacrifice as mean of health and prosperity in connection with magic.

Although many missionaries don't want to admit, the voluntary abortion is enough common between the Santals; they have at their disposal plants and medicines with which to get an abortion in the first months after the conception, without too many drawbacks. If the fetus is already in advanced state, the thing becomes more difficult, but an old woman will always be been complaisant to do the job, even if too often the woman will die for bleeding or infection.

The causes of the voluntary abortion can be varios. The malice of an "easy" girl or the lightness of the woman with the excuse that she does not want the child sometimes are enough. But the cases are not frequent, and after all common in the whole world. Many times, the woman, overloaded of job, throws away "the thing" that is of impediment to her working life. At times, the woman, rather than to see to kill the child after the birth, for the above exposed reasons, prefers to free her before. Other times, both for married and single, the honor can be an other cause: if a leader or other imprtant person is involved, then the girl or the woman are forced to abort. Rare are the cases, in such circumstances, that the child comes to the light and then is suppressed. If a parent is involved, the only way is the abortion, as no marriage or possibility of reparation can happen. The two would be declared bitia ha, that is excommunicated, and automatically out casted, and they would be forced to live at the borders of the society, unbearable thing for the majority of the Santals.

II - The Santal Marriage

Bapla: it is the marriage. The common one, kirin bahu bapla, preceded by the visits exchanged by the relatives of the bridegroom and the promised bride, during which the beer flows abundantly, it culminates with the action of the sindradan, the ceremony in which the bridegroom for five times marks with the vermilion the front of the bride, sprinkling the whole head. But before and after it is a continuation of symbolic and religious ceremonies, drinks and meals of varied groups separately, besides the lavish final banquet. Music, song and dance accompany the carrying out of the feast.

I mention shortly only the other types of marriage:

1) tunki dipil bapla: it is the marriage of the poor men, and she/he takes the name from the bamboo basket that the bride brings on the head;

2) randi bapla: the marriage of a widower or a widow;

3) chadwi (chandwa) bapla: marriage of separate persons;

4) jawae kirin' bapla: marriage of a mother-girl that purchases the bridegroom through the father or the greatest brother. Obert calls it cupi baplas;

5) n'ir bolok' bapla: when a girl enters in the house of the boy to live like husband and wife. It generally follows a regular marriage, but without the preceding ceremonies;

6) itut' bapla: it is the irregular application of the vermilion on the front of the girl. A lot of times it happens against the wish of the girl, that neverthless becomes wife of the man that has marked her;

7) angir bapla: marriage with a woman stolen to the first husband;

8) hirom cetan bapla: marriage with a second wife, when the first wife is still alive. Ohert calls it chukti bapla;

9) golaeti bapla: we could call it intermarriage, when, for an antecedent birth, a boy of family A marries a girl of the family B and a boy of the family B marries a girl of the family A.

The divorce between the Santals is admitted for a double reason: adultery and witchcraft, to which currently it adds a third one, that is incompatibility of character.


You would say that the Santal is not afraid of the death. Yet, there is a kind of particular death that fears: that that he waits for a curse. But in such case, to make sad and worried a Santal it is the tiring waiting of death more than same death.

Here it plays the psychological factor: the whole being rebels to the injustice of that death, to which, yet, he is convinced to not be able to escape. Hardly a Santal has the strength to react to the feeling that invades him: a mix of anguish, of anger and of discouragement, and he ends to really die.

Once a young married santal, with a child, came to me. He was really more than scared. I knew that he was mined by the tuberculosis and I thought that the evil was about to let him die. When I asked to him if he wanted medicines, he answered to me of no: he had come to say me that his mother had curse him for death, together with his great brother. The woman hated them both, because, having abandoned the family roof to unite to another man after the death of the husband, she didn't succeed in subtracting the patrimony of the children, as she was desiring. I don't know if that woman was crazier than wicked. The fact is that an afternoon she did return home, and at the presence of all the family, she cursed his children. When that poor man came to me, I tried to console and to reassure him. I exhorted him to confide in the help of God, of his father that from the heaven watched over on him and on the brother but he shaked the head sobbing and he said to me: "There is not anything to do, I must die and I am still young. But why, why has my mother cursed me?" . I asked to him why he was believing in similar things, and he replied that there was not need to believe: it was this way!

Some days passed and I knew that he run away from the village together with the brother, leaving wives and children. Both had gone far hundreds of kilometers, taking care, they said, from their illness. Really it was an attempt to escape to the curse of the mother. The youngest died after fifteen days. The other buried him, then he did return to the village of the wife. The last time that I saw hin, he was reduced to the extreme; he had alive only the eyes, hard like a steel blade. With me he was polite, but cold. He had so much hate in heart, someone said me. He died a little afterwards.

The Santal, if doesn't generally fear death, is however afraid of the corpses. He considers inauspicious to meet on his road a funeral, while he goes to the job or he is traveling. All the Santals are afraid of the deceased corpses in anomalous situations, as, for instance, of the dead women with the child in their breast. I have known some young sturdy santals which shivered to the thought that at night some corpse came to tickle them under f the feet or to throw the lobes of the ears.

a) Announcement of the serious illness

When someone of the village is seriously sickened, the head of the family, or who takes this responsability, approaches the head of the village and manifests his apprehensions on the worsening despite all the attempts of care.

The manjhi, trhu the godet, assemble in hs house all the men and informs them that in village is a serious patient, who, despite the medicines, continues to worsen. All agree that they must call the ojha or magician-diviner to know the cause of the illness. The manjhi takes the necessary oil and the leaves of sal (Shorea robusta), and then goes, with all the men, to the ojha to diagnose the illness.

Although the cause of the evil, that the torments the patient, can be various (es.: poison, a spirit of the house, some other spirit, an accidental misfortune), many times it will be identified with a dan or witch. Once that the ojha has proclaimed that the cause of the illness is a dan, it will be up to the jan guru to discover who is really the dan, cause of the illness.

The jan guru, whose first duty, at least in theory, is to discover the witches, iwill never make the name of the person guilty for the illness, but he will express with such and so many details, for which it will be impossible to be wrong on the identity of the accused person. The dan is always a woman, without distinction of age. Once discovered, it is inflicted a fine to her and she is admonished severely to stop "eating" the patient. If after the fine and the admonition the patient dies, as often it happens in cases of serious illness, the accused woman can consider herself fortunate if she is only forced to abandon the village. The majority of the times she is submitted to such and so many physical and moral tortures that she dies or committes suicide. It is not easy to understand how the Santals, with their mild soul, can become generally so cruel, even with a member of their family.

It would be interesting to make a study on the search of the witches from the janguru, but this would bring us a great deal away from our purpose. I note only that while between many other primitive people the hunting of the witches and the wizards is done after the death, between the Santals, as between the Mundas, the witches are sought during the illness. Besides, between the Santals, the dan is the first, immediate and efficient cause of the illness and the consequent death of an individual. In fact, the dan has sickened to die her victim eating it. It is not an instrumental or secondary cause of the illness and death; and even not only the first cause which uses other causes to destroy her victim. For other people the witch or the wizard are only the efficient cause of the death of an individual and, in last analyses, to want the death they are the Ancestors or some offended spirit.

The Santals, saying that the witch eats the men, they don't intend to speak in a figured, but in real way: she would use a particular grass said katkon carec (Rottboellia perforata) to remove the liver, the bellows and the heart of the victim, that she cooks and eats. This would not be done once, but many times, in a space of time that can vary.

b) Announcement of death

When the death arrives unexpectedly, the women start the lamentations: they cry hopelessly, launching high cries of complaint and beating their breast. They arrive, at times, to beat the head against hard objects. They interrupt the complaints only to exalt the virtues of the extinct one, his beauty, his youth, his dowries of worker and hunter.

The head of the family gives the notice to the manjhi and the paranik, they, through the godet tell the people of the village inviting all the men to assemble in front of the house of the corpse.

While the men attend standing, grasping the ax that will serve to cut the firewood of the pyre, the women grind some turmeric and they toast cotton seeds and paddy.

Some men catch a chicken that will serve for exorcisms, they ignite a big straw rope and they make a bundle of grass removed by the roof of the porch, setting all with the toated cotton seeds and the paddy on an old sieve. On a parkom, different from that of the dead body they dispose, in nice order, all the objects that are supposed the dead person wants to bring with him: dresses, money also in small coins, the ax, that once was that for war and now for job, the arc, the arrows, the baton, the flute and other tools. After having done this, four men enter in the house and, grabbed the parkom, on which the corpse is, by the four legs they bring it out and they burden it on the shoulders, bringing it up to the extremity of the village, where the road is bifurcated.

After that the men have deposed the parkom carefully in the center of the bifurcation, the women are about to to anoint the dead body with oil and turmeric, and they make for him on the front a bracelet with minium pasta. After this operation, from the four angles of the bed they scatter all around the cotton seeds and the toasted paddy. This one is an action for preventing to the spirits to take possession of the soul of the dead.

At this point the ojha turns three times around the dead body. I note here that action repeated three or five times, not only in the funeral ceremonies, is a recall to the three great spirits in all the ceremonies: Maran buru, Jaer era and Gosae era, and to the five brother spirits, said Morékos. But if, as in this case, we ask to the Santals what is the reason for which the ojha turns for three times around the dead body, they would answer: Bay badaea, we don't know.

After they have anointed the body of the dead and scattered the seeds, the women do return the village, while the men go to the place of the cremation.

c) The cremation

The Santals generally cremate the corpses, even if we know from the Tradition that in the ancient times they buried them. The cremation of the corpses was taken from other tribes met during their long wanderings. The Santals affirm to have taken the use of the cremation from the Hindus. However such use goes up to very distant times.

Today some Santals, in addition to the Christians, still bury their corpses. It is not yet clear if such tombs are done in case of persons deceased of normal death or bad death: the old ones don't speak, and the children or the questioned boys answer: What do we know? The same Pitor Mardì, doesn't do any distinction in his manuscript. He says simply that the dead body is brought to the place of the cremation or to the place of the tomb: Kobor if rapak' jaegare seterkatekko...

If the dead person possessed some land with a pond, there he is brought for the cremation, otherwise near a river. The pyre must be prepared in north-south direction; and to give to it stability, four poles said trumpets of the pyre (torre) are plunged to the four angles of it.

The most narrow relatives, wash the hands and the feet of the corpse, and they pour in his mouth some remained water. At times, water that remains is poured behind the head of the dead body; instead other times they put in it a rupee of metal, that they had held in hand during lavender, as an unction.

After having brought the corpse for three or five times around the pyre they prepare him on it with the head turned again to the south. The dead body is now stripped of everything he wears: dresses, necklace, rings, earrings, the twine that every Santal brings at the sides and anything else; finally they put on the limbs a twig. To hold rigid the dead body on the pyre, they assure it with four strong poles: one is set on the breast, another on the abdomen, a third along the sides and a fourth along the legs. These poles are said poles of coverage (danapal katko).

After the dead body has been put on the pyre, all the men of the village stand around; but those that have their wives pregnant stay a little far. No explanation is given for this attitude as no explanation is given for the fact that the women don't take part neither to the cremation, neither to the tomb. Only in the last years of my permanence in Dhanjuri, a small number of women began to take part to the Christian funerals. Men and women questioned on the fact, for us enough strange, said that it was santal use, may be to close the matter. The first years some women assisted to the burial hidden behind the trees of the forest, in the middle of which there is the Christian cemetery.

The first two women that took part to the funerals were the wife of the manjhi and a single woman that lived in the convent with the Nuns. It seemed, at first, that their example didn't attract the others. And the reason appeared then enough clear: the first one was sterile and the second would never be married. Asking again, with prudence, the same question, I came to know that the women santals were abstained from assisting to the cremation and the burial for fear that the spirit of the corpse could not only harm the children already conceived, but also to the conceivable ones in a next future. With this information we may think that the men, who have in their house a pregnant woman, fear that the spirit of the corpse can harm, through them, to the new creature, therefore they are rather apart, but this is only a supposition of mine. I have known subsequently that, if a woman takes part to the cremation or to the tomb, she could be considered the witch that has caused the death.

When everyone took his place, generally the ojha, but sometimes one selected between the presents, completes an exorcism in the following way: holding the chicken gotten for the purpose, he turns for three times, from right to left, around the pyre, after that he plunges the chicken to any one of the four poles that sustain the pyre. Then, destroied the parkom, he goes away. The heir of the dead one, that can be the greatest child or a brother or some other relative, comes with in hand a twig of carice (Cyperus tegetum), around which is enveloped a thread of cloth, removed by the edge of the suit of the dead one, he ignites it and inserts it in the mouth of the corpse, turning the face on the other side. Such action is called, with a non santali word, ag mukh.

At this point we have the confirmation than the Santals fear the corpses. While the relatives, then all the other present men throw firewood on the pyre, they turn a short prayer to the corpse with which they exhort him to go him to go away with the speed of the wind.

When the fire is all around the pyre, they take a seat in small groups at a given distance and they stay in silence until the flames are extinguished; then they sprinkle some water on the ardent carbons. The heir picks up the fragments of remained bones, washes them carefully with water, and finally he pours above them a mixture of milk and turmeric.

Anciently the bones and the ashes were brought to the Damuda river, said by the Santals Nai. Currently, for the distance from the river, that makes practically impossible the transport of the bones and the ashes, everything is thrown in a pond or in any river, with the exception of three small pieces of the skull and the vertebrae of the neck. These bones are set in a small clay container, closed with a cover that is sealed carefully with pasta of turmeric. In the center of the cover it is left a small hole, so that the corpse can breathe. Not only, but in the hole they introduced some stems of Rottboellia perforata, in way that the corpse can go out and enter without problems.

This because, despite the prayer to depart fast like the wind, the dead prefers to stay between the alive ones, and to this the Santals believe firmly.

At times, according to an use still preserved, the bones, are preserved within a small broom that, wound in a piece of new cloth, is hung in the ceiling of the hut, until the heir doesn't enter in possession of the goods of the dead one. They will be brought to the river after, as subsequently we will see.

Picked up the bones, a sieve is set at the center of the place where the cremation tok place. After having stamped on it for well, the presents turn around the man that hands the bones of the corpse, hoeing; the last one completing such action minces the sieve with the hoe. One of the presents mixes some dung of cow in a container of water and it sprinkles all the others, then everybody scatter together on the place of the cremation the remaining cotton seeds and toasted paddy, while they say to the corpse to become convinced by now that the world has been blocked to him and that they purify him to go in peace.

If the bones have been set in the vase of earth, three men go to bury it in the jungla at the edge of the village. Dug a hole, they depose the vase above which they prepare a stone, when it is possible to have it or some other flat object, and they cover everything with earth. Finished the job, they go together to take a bath. Coming back, they stop at the limit of the village waiting that someone brings them some fire, on which they put some incense, and they are purified, attracting with the hands the smoke to their breast. Once purified, they return home. In some cases it follows a further individual purification on the threshold of the hut: standing, the man attends that the woman gives some water to him and he sprinkles it on the head before entering in the house. The same day, if time allows, all the objects, that had been set under the parkom of the dead, are sold, and with the money taken they buy a goat that will be eaten from the five heads of the village and from the other men, excluded those of the family of the dead one.

At the evening, the elder men of the village go to the house of the dead to comfort the relatives. There are simple and, at the same time, wise words, those that they say. Here is an example used in similar circumstances: "Don't continue to be sad; he has gone: now he is happy. Also a day we must go. But now continuing to cry, the health get worse and the job comes uselessly postponed. There are heads to serve, usurers to satisfy, relatives to help. You also have a stomach to which to think and a life to sustain. For the whole time that you will live you will also owe to eat and to drink, therefore you can not avoid work. From today be indifferent like a rock. Continuing to cry, the ancestors would make fun of him, beating him on the head like to a young buffalo, and they would tell him: - So, dance, because they are singing for you! Don't spread your complaints every where, otherwise they will torment a great deal him!".

d) Tel nahan

This is the ceremony that is done five days after the death. The persons of the village are assembled at the house of the dead one again in that circumstance. The men will have the cut of hair, while the women prepare three pies of rice said taben. with a piece of soap-earth (narka hasa), some pieces of residues of the mustard pressing, some oil, three twigs to clean the teeth and some leaves, the men approach together to take the bath. The women go on an other place.

Before making the bath, each one puts on three leaves a bit of soap-earth, some residuals of compressed mustard, a twig for the cleaning of the teeth; taking then with the left hand a lump of earth, they do some offer respectively to the corpse, to the progenitors, and to the Maran buru or head of the spirits.

Doing the offer the corpse they beg: Oh you have died, and we, on the occasion of the tel nahan, make the bath and wash our hair; you also make the bath and washed your hair.

Then they do the offer the progenitors saying: Oh Pilcu haram and Pilcu budhi,... take such dead with you affectionately drive you him by hand; don't set him under the porch or on a foreigner's house.

Finally, doing the offer the Maran buru, over the usual prayer, they add the following invocation: Mind to take care affectionately of the dead and drive him carefully by hand.

After the bath men and women return to the village and they go to their own houses. The widow of the dead, approached to the place where the vase before going home has been buried with the bones of the husband and she squeezes above it the suits impregnated of water.

After the refection, that each one takes in his house, everyone returns to gather near the house of the dead, where the characteristic part of the tel nahan will be done, that is the rumok'.

Rumok', wants literally to say to be possessed by a spirit. In the ceremony of the rumok' it happens a kind of representation, in which three individuals identify respectively with the corpse, with the spirit Porodhol and with the Maran buru.

After that the three ones have been possessed by the spirit, that appears evident from rhythmic shaking of the head, they are asked: Oh spirits, manifest immediately us who is the one in which you are identified, so we can revere with the respect due to a spirit. Then two of the three possessed, say respectively, after having uttered the ritual exclamation sahak: I am Porodhol, I am Maran buru.

As the third keeps silent, one of the presents sprinkles him water on the face and strikes him slightly on the cheeks and on the back. Then it utters only the ritual exclamation: sàhàk'. And the presents ask to him: Who you that arrive now? Tell us immediately. And he answers: I am who has died.

After having offered some rice to the three spirits, the presents weave with them a brief dialogue. Besides, they ask to the Porodhol and the Maran burus: How come he has died? For some time sacrifices were made for his illness. Without attending answer they ask to the man impersonating the dead: Tell us you, spirit, you that have died, how come that you have gone? The corpse can give different answers according to the cases. He can say simply: I have become exhausted myself. Or: There was not place for me in the eye of a certain person, therefore I have gone. And this an evident accusation against a witch, and his words want to mean: I have died for the envy of a witch.

At this point is done an offer of water and beer to the corpse and the other two spirits, followed by a brief discourse. Someone is addressing to the two spirits saying: We will bring him to the river, because in any place along the path of the forest he can rise up and develop in us an ache of belly or a headache. The same corpse responds saying: My boys, don't worry! Go like the wind and like the wind return. It seems that he doesn't want to compromise with some promises, but he is interested evidently that the other ones hurry on their duties in his respect so that he will be able to enter in the kingdom of the Ancestors.

After this, the spirits abandon slowly and silently the three men, that return to normalcy.

It is prepared a packet with some taben, three bits of bread and some rice, contained in a bag done with the cloth of a suit used from the dead, then everyone goes out from the village stopping where the roads are bifurcated. Three men detach from the group and they go to take the vase with the bones of the corpse. Exhumed the vase, they ignite a small fire, saying: The house of the old one burns. It is like an indirect invitation to the corpse to do not return in that place. They go directly then toward the group without turning back.

They prepared three ebony batons, rather short, they tie them together, and they depose them above the vase with the bones, that are immediately drawn out and delivered to the women. Some of them pour above water, sprinkle them of turmeric and finally they sprinkle them of milk. After they have been put back in the pouch of the heir, the men draw away from the place where the vase had been deposed on the three ebony batons, leaving alone the three men that had gone to take it from the pit. Each of them grabs one ebony baton, they turn for three times around the empty vase and they strike it with the left armed with baton, shattering it. I notice that poles and ebony leafy branches are also used between the LoDagaas of Western Africa during their funeral rites,; but Goody, notices this many times, doesn't motivate the use of such wood instead of another, as he doesn't motivate the Horkoren to it Hapramko sea reak' Katha.

The three men entrusted of the bones, with the pouch that contains them, go up to the border of another village. There they eat the pie of rice and bread, then they do return the proper village bringing the bones. To the house of the corpse they have meanwhile prepared for them the parkom and the seats so that they can rest; the people of the house receives them ceremoniously washing them feet and hands with water and giving the conventional regards. Entered in the hut, they depose the bones in a new earth vase, that is hung at the ceiling of the house. After having taken meal with all the others that were waiting, each one returns home. In the evening, some fishes and a hen are brought to the house of the dead and are cooked without salt. A leg and a wing of the hen are however put aside and tied up to a cane. After having drunk some beer, three men approach to the usual bifurcation bringing other canes, some straw removed by the roof of the porch, and some fire. One of them is dragging the cane with the wing and the leg of hen. Arived to the intersection, they build you a false hut, putting above it the straw. They throw inside the leg and the wing and they hang the fire to it, repeating the words said before and going out without turning back: The hut of the old one burns! .

A similar ceremony, but a great deal more complicated, to remove the soul of the corpse definitely from the village, is performed from the women oraon in the district of Ranchi, while in Bengala it is performed by men. Arrived to the door that gives in the courtyard of the house of the corpse, the three ones are assured that a big wood vase has been prepared with some water (in the contrary case they should wait), and if water is ready, they dip the left leg before entering in the courtyard. The last dipping the leg, strikes the vase with the foot, turning it upside down.

They are now all assembled ones for the final meal,: one next to the other, they prepare to eat. Two men of the house of the corpse eat their rice on leaves of karam (Adina cordifolia), while all the other eat on flat of leaves of sal, done only to half. Finished the meal, a cup of curry, one of rice and one of water are put in a basket: those of the family feign to eat the content using the left hand, while some presents sprinkle them of water with roots of sirom (Anfropogon muricatus), to eliminate from them every impurity; such action is told bak' roa daka. The basket is then suspended to a peg for the dead one.

The day after, they go to see if the corpse has eaten rice. In the case he has eaten, it must be noticed some dirty in the cup of water, used from the corpse to clean the hand with which he has eaten.

The cups used for the dead one and all the used dishes of the evening for the last meal are put in an old bamboo basket and abandoned with the same basket in the jungle, next to the bifurcation of the road.

e) Bhandantet

The bhandan is the last ceremony that is done in honor of the dead. Anciently it was immediately ended after the return of the men from the Damuda, where they had gone to throw the ashes and the remaining bones of the corpse. Currently such ceremony, in a rich family, is ended within two or three months from the death but in a poor family, within a year or two.

The expense is not small, they must give to eat and to drink, in adition to the relatives, also to all the inhabitants of the village. And it is not a simple refection, but of a complete and rich meal. And it is essential therefore to prepare a big quantity of rice, of beer and of the whole material for the curry. The relatives help the family of the dead person bringing rice, hens, goats, pigs in relation to their possibilities.

It is up to the heir to establish the day of the bhandan and to give notice of it to the manjhi, who will inform,through the godet, all the village.

In the selected day, people gather to the house of the dead, the men have hair cut and they make the bath. At evening the corpse is invoked and with him the Ancestors and the Maran buru: the rumok' is repeated. Invocating the Porodhol and the Maran burus, they make notice that in this occasion it is given to the corpse what is due; they have to open the eyes and the ears well to see and to feel what it happens. And they respond that it is ok. Then they are addressing to the corpse, saying him that they give him in hand what it is due, and beg him to accept and pick up with joy. And he also answers that everything goes well.

They begin to a drink beer, at the end of which the three possessed return slowly to normalcy. When the bones were brought in the Damuda,what described above happened immediately before the real bhandan. Then some brought the bones of the dead to the definitive place a month or five months after the cremation; others more distant waited even two or three years, preferring the month of aghar (November-December, that is the eighth month of the year).

Currently, notes Pitor Mardi in his manuscript, as far as it concerns the Santals of the Bengala and the Bihar, the transport of the bones, that had been suspended to the ceiling, happens immediately after the above-mentioned drinking.

There are chosen to the purpose three or four men to whom are entrusted the bones, washed and greased of oil and of turmeric. A lot of times, during such office, the lamentations are occurring again. The appointees are furnished of rice, of some pie, always of rice, of blown rice and of some money. Arrived to the river, before abandoning the bones to the tide they do some offers to the corpse, to the Porodhol and the ancestors. As soon as they return to the village, the ceremonies of the final sacrifice, which is the essence of the bhandan, can start.

In the courtyard of the house it is planted a branch of sal. And Pitor Mardi notices, the Santals don't know for which reason this is done, but it is required by the use. Everything around the leafy branch is smeared with dung of cow diluted with water, and on the place, so purified, the dishes of leaves that will serve for the meal are prepared.

Now the sacrifice of the victims can start. The principal offerer of the bhandan, that is who offers the principal victim, kills it. Striking it with a big hit, he addresses to the dead begging him to accept and saying him that he should be satisfied.

During the ceremony, that can be extended for a long time, those people that are addressed to the corpse use a particular expression: bapu Thakurtin' or bap cilion. This last expression is simply an expression of tender affection, to elderly persons or to superior. I don't not at all share the interpretation, given from Obert, of "dear treasure". The first expression, can assume instead various meanings: Oh God, my father, or Oh Spirit, my father, or it could point out simply an expression of respectful affection. The same Santals also ask themselves if with such expression they intend or not to complete an action of direct veneration to the corpse, as to any other spirit (bonga). In fact, from this moment it has beginning the procession of all the offerers, first the relatives of the extinct one and then all those of the village, that introduce the offers and they sacrifice one by one all the other victims in name of the dead one.

Any victim is offered to other bongas. Finished the offer of the victims, they still pour on the earth some beer in the name of the dead one, wishing him that him to be happy and that he doesn't pretend anything more. The same thing they do, to the Porodhol and the Maran buru.

Once completed the sacrifices and the libations, the head of the family divides one by one the immolated victims, invoking all the dead without distinction. Interesting is the prayer for the dead ones in this occasion, and that Pitor Mardi writes in his manuscript: Oh you, that have died, come to pick up these victims and make for you them to multiply in the other world; and make also that we can be well here, without any illness, any pain and any fear.

It now follows the offer to all the ancestors of whom he still remembers the name, starting from the dead for which the bhandan is ended. The head of the family divides the liver of the victims, previously put aside, on small flat of leaves, next to the immolated victims and cut in pieces. He prepares so many parts as the number of the ancestors to whom he wants to make the offer, and in the name of each it throws to the earth a bit of liver, pronouncing a prayer of offer, that finishes with these words: We will also eat some, we will eat a little of it; no headache neither ache of belly attacks us!

Now the preparation of the meal can start, and in this case everybody eats together. During this meal they drink beer, neither the young people dance after the banquet, as habitually done in other circumstances. The morning after it will be offered some beer to all the participants to the bhandan. Up to the bhandan, the whole family has in the village a sort of legal impurity, for which any member of it cannot give offers or libations to the spirits, cannot decorate with the minium or get married. Finished the bhandan, they return to be completely inserted in the social life of community.

The other life, in the Santal conception

For the Santals the other life is the continuation of the life that is behaved in this world, even if with some variations: there is a village, there are some heads, feasts are made with dances and drinks of beer; there are stalls and hen-pens full of domestic animals. And it is common belief that more numerous are the victims offered to the dead during the bhandan, more numerous will be the animals, that the ancestor will have in the other world.

a) Prize and punishment

The Santals speak more of punishment for the bad ones, that not of prize for the good ones. In this the Santals they are distinguished clearly by the Oraons, which are convinced perfectly that in the other life all those which are admitted between the ancestors have to conduct same life, independently from their behavior in this world. According to the santal belief, the Supreme being sends the men on this earth for a determined period, at the end of which they must do return in the other world. Someone speaks of a certain Jom raja, the angel of death, to whose call no one can escape. But this superhuman being that makes couple with another angel of death, Jom hudar, is removed from the hinduist myth.

Once in the other world, all are judged according to their good and bad work. Naturally good and bad, well and badly must be intended as conformity or not conformity to the laws and the customs of santal community.

The good person are brought in a good place and the bad ones in a bad place. While the first ones will be completely independent from the spirits and together with God, the second are found completely abandoned to their dominion, and they will come from them terribly tortured.

The place where the bad ones go is represented like a jail, said narak, that wants literally to say place of the excrements. Once entered, the doors are closed tightly. The jail is great like a whole nation, and there are the various places of punishment. In the inside there is, besides, a pit, long and wide like the bed of a dry river. In this pit the fire burns in continuation, and it is full of men that with the hands and the feet try to scramble up on the bank, but uselessly, because the Maran buru, hooks them with a big iron harpoon and he throws back them inside, submitting them to great torment.

When a convict enters in such place of punishment he would like to run away, but the thing is impossible, because not only the doors are closed, but to each of them there is a watch that constantly watches over.

In many cases the same sins are the root of the punishments suffered by the convict. They in fact would like to get what they got in this world sinning, but being this impossible, they suffer terribly in that place of punishment. The gluttons, for instance, have abundant meat, from which emanates a disgusting stench, and they are not able therefore to take it. Special torment is reserved to those people that have not satisfied to their debts before dying: the skin from the back is thorn away, and the sore is sprinkled of salt. Hardly the sore recovers, the martyrdom continues.

This is what described the old Jugia but the popular tradition speaks of other punishments, as, for instance, a heavy millstone to bring to the neck, the behavior to turn without interruption the millstone of the oil; and we already mentioned him to the big worms like poles that devour the body of the men on whose left forearm there is not the sign of the sikha, or of the women that don't bring the tattoo.

b) The Ancestors

It doesn't seem easy to reconcile what said above with the existence of the ancestors, asintended by illiterate people, that is died members of a family or of a clan, that live in the other world a life that is the continuation of the present, and that are able to make action also for the alive relative. The problem is above all for those people that, in the other world are tied to places of punishment. Yet a solution is there: the punishments, however hard and long, they are not eternal. The offers done to the river, immediately after the cremation, to the ancestorss, Pilchu Haram and Pilchu Budhi, common ancestors of all the Santals, and to the Maran buru as those done at the river, before throwing in the tide the bones of the dead, seem addressed to decrease the period of punishment of the corpse, in case of need. The insistent prayers to the ancestors and the Maran buru to take affectionate care of the corpse, to drive it with sure hand to a sure place, to not abandon him behind the house of an extraneous, are a clear example. The tone is rather peremptory when the prayer is said to Maran buru.

Another matter can be that of the victims sacrificed during the bhandan: they are offered to all the corpses indiscriminately, excluded those that have become bad spirits, to which we will mention later. The purpose of the offer is evidently propitiatory, but it is common belief that such victims brought from the corpses in the other world will be multiplied prodigiously in favor of those people to whom have been offered prodigiously. It exists therefore the belief that all the dead good person and bad ones take advantage of such offers. In the offer of the victims it is particular respect for the dead relative: it is to him that the offer is made, also when this is done to all the corpses without considering if in his life he was or no a good Santal. The main point is that he doesn't die out of the community.

After the bhandan and because of the bhandan, the corpse acquires a proper body to pass in the other world: he goes to the place of punishment or to the place of serene life, to every descendant that will die, he will be invoked for the health and the prosperity of the family, and particular offers will be made for him until its name will disappear from the mind of the alive ones. But then, entered also to belong to the common ancestors, he will be invoked with all the other dead persons and he will get offers.

From what said it appears that being in the other world in a place of punishment doesn't prevent to a dead relative to become ancestor and to practice the functions of ancestor. The same matter after all could rise for the LoDagaas of the Blake Time River, studied by Goody. The hell of the LoDagaas is not less terrible than that of the Santals and lasts a great deal for a longer time, yet the influence of the ancestors in the socio-religious life of that population is of a depth and undeniable evidence.

Concluding, I think to be able to affirm that also between the Santals it not only exists really the cult of the corpses, but also the cult of the ancestors, what Obert instead denies in his book. To the eye of a superficial or prevented observer it can escape the existence of the cult of the ancestors or it can be confused with the cult of the corpses, but it can not escape to whom forces to penetrate the santal soul santal with a strong desire to discover the reality. After all, over the ceremonies already described , in which a cult of the ancestors is evident, a feast , said Kutam dangra, exists in their honor, that is the feast of the ox killed with a strong hit. Such feast is repeated whenever someone wants to honor his own ancestors; it is always a single one to offer to the victim, but everyone takes part to the following banquet. The victim must be killed without shedding of blood; yet, to avoid to offend the susceptibility of the Hindus, this ceremony takes place almost always at night, and out of the village, to the feet of a tree of atnak' (Terminalia tomentosa). During the ceremony another ox is killed in honor of the Orak's bonga and a third in honor of the Maran buru, these under a tree of sal and not of atnak'.

The ceremony of the Kutam dangra has an official role for the fact that the first ones to take advantage of the meat of the victim is the three principal heads of the village: the manjhi, that receives the middle part of a thigh; the paranik, that receives the inferior part of the same one; and the godet, that receives the superior part of it. The head, the bellows and the liver are cooked on the cerimony place and eaten by the men that they take part to the feast; the whole rest of the victims is brought to the village and consumed from the women and from the children.

c) Those exluded from the community of the Ancestors

There are excluded from the community of the Ancestors the women that die pregnant, who become spirits said curins. Besides are excluded the children that die in the mother's breast and all those that die before the janam chatiar. These two categories are enumerated between the bhuts, malignant goblins. The curin have a head similar to a spindle and they look like sticks, being very thin. They are hungry of men, they go to hunt them and when they surprise one, alone, they suck him up to the death. Instead the bhuts are small and black, but can appear under you various forms, and they like very much to frighten to the alive ones but they, however, can not harm them in other ways.

Nothing is said, by the way, of those people that die without the caco chatiar. It is only known that in the other world they can not meet with their Ancestors, but it is not said at all if they become bad spirits.

With this exposition, the subject is certainly not exhausted. I have omitted, for instance, the description of some particular funeral banquets, as they are not observed from everyone, certain ceremonies of purification related to women and children, to be done in relation with the death of a relative, because I have not, on them, sure information. Yet I think to have meticulously exposed the essential parts related to the funeral rites and the beliefs on the other world.



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