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...

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


They presently number over four millions. They live in the Eastern Indian states of Bihar, Orissa and West Bengal as semi-nomads. Beyond this region, the Santal have spread widely in India as agricultural and industrial labourers.

The Santal are a non-Hindu people. In fact, they make a clear distinction based on race between themselves and Hindus and are classified as a "Pre-Dravidian" tribe. They are the largest group of the Munda people, a proto-australoid group whose ancestors are believed to have migrated from Australia some ten thousand years ago.

Their language, Santali, belongs to the Munda (or Mundari) branch of the Austro-Asiatic language family. There are dialectical variations in Santali, but it is claimed that there is almost complete mutual intelligibility throughout the population, a factor that has contributed to their social cohesion, despite the fact that the Santal as a whole have never been politically unified.

Today, the Santal are predominantly cereal agriculturists, growing rice as their chief crop, and further supplementing this with millet, sorghum, maize, and some vegetable crops. Cotton is grown for textile use. Santal agricultural methods are primarily of the slash-and-burn variety, with little knowledge or application of crop rotation, irrigation, or fertilizers.

Cattle are raised to some extent: sheep, goats, pigs, oxen, buffaloes, cows, cats, and dogs. These animals are used as supplementary sources of protein in the diet, as well as for other purposes (e.g., rodent control). They also rear cocks for cock-fighting, one of their favourite past times.

The Santal trade extensively with neighbouring Hindu peoples for the bulk of their everyday goods except for foodstuffs and a few forest products.

Santal social organization is characterized by a lack of the caste cleavages so prominent in Hindu society, a patrilineal kinship system, and a relatively low level of political integration. The entire society seems to be divided into 9 (or 12) exogamous but non-corporate patrilineal clans. Each clan is connected to the other 8 (or 11) clans through marriage. These clans are divided into sub-clans, which in turn are subdivided into local patrilineal lineages.

The basic family unit is the extended patrilocal family. Each village is usually composed of a number of lineages.

The village is evidently the key political unit, but the largest formally organized territorial unit is the pargana, a loose confederation of approximately a dozen villages bound together to settle certain judicial questions and headed by an official called a parganath who is supposed to be a descendant of the founder of the village.

Villages consist of a long street with a single row of neat, clean and well-built dwellings on either side with outside walls painted with exquisite designs.

The woman has a high status among Santal: she runs the household and can hold moveable property like money, goods and cattle. However she does not have religious or political rights.

Santal have many gods with ill-defined attributes but whose festivals are strictly observed. Marang Buru, the Great Spirit, is the deity to whom sacrifices are made during the harvest festival of Sohrai. For some, Sing Bonga, the sun, is the supreme deity.

They also worship nature and ancestral spirits, including two specific to each family. Worshipping takes place in a sacred grove near by the village with the help of a priest.
Santal believe that spirits of the dead are employed in grinding the bones of past generations into dust from which the gods may recreate children.

Although magic and witchcraft have also figured prominently in Santal religious practices, these concepts were probably borrowed from the Hindus. The Santal strongly believed in the existence of witches in the society, who, motivated by envy and operating through the medium of the "evil eye" or other magical practices, spread sickness, death, and other calamities upon members of the village community.

By means of divinatory practices exercised through the offices of the witch-finder and the Ojha (a kind of exorcist), the causative agents of the disease were determined and ritually removed, and the identity of the witch revealed. Once the name of the witch was known, that person was often beaten, fined, driven from the community, and not infrequently killed. Witches in Santal society were inevitably female, while the Ojha and the witch-finders were male.

Today, many Santal have adopted Hinduism or Christianism.

Santal marriages exclude children. They are mostly based on love matching and follow several systems among which the buying of the bride through a dowry is the most widely accepted. Marriages are strictly clan-exogamous.

Santal burn their dead and ashes are taken to the holy Damodar River for immersion, the current of which takes them to the Ocean, which is the mythical origin and resting place of the Santal.
The legend goes that one day a wild goose came from the sea and laid two eggs giving birth to the first Santal man and woman named Pilku Hadam and Pilku Budhi.

Little research has been done about the art of this Indian tribal group which is however very rich in expression: wood-carving, wall and scroll painting are some their most outstanding art forms.
They excel in carving in wood a wide range of objects of mundane day to day or ritualistic use such as: masks, marriage litters, music instruments such as the lute.



An important part of social life of the Santal is music, dance and singing in turn. Dances are linked with the fertility of the harvest, and men and women perform them separately before and after the rainy season, and between sowing and harvesting.

The musical instruments that we are addressing here are called dhodro banam, literally meaning, “hollow instrument”. It belongs to the sarinda family, a type of lute with a partially open body that is covered with skin on the lower part. This instrument is played with a bow in the manner of a violin, but in a vertical position, and is found in Iran, Pakistan, Nepal, India and Central Asia.

Such instruments have been removed from their original environment and have fallen into disuse due to the strong social and cultural pressure of the dominant Hindu population and due to the zeal of Christian missionaries. They have been burnt, buried, let to rot or sold off to the trade, so it is difficult to retrieve precise information about them.

From a musical viewpoint, the dhodro banam is a simple instrument. It generally has only one string, and its archaic appearance points to the dhodro banam being a regressive form of the sarinda.

Figurative representations crowning stringed instruments are found frequently in India, mainly in the east, and in the Himalayas. Mostly animals are depicted.
The Santal prefer human figures. Animals generally appear only in juxtaposition with human figures, e.g., while being ridden. The crossbars and finials of the peg boxes of the lutes often bear relief or fully articulated carvings of groups of women dancing in a chain, sometimes depicted in multiple registers. These women, dressed in skirts or sari-like costumes, are portrayed performing a dance dedicated to the fertility of the earth. Sometimes the accompanying dhol (drum), nagara (kettle-drum) (fig. 9), shanai (oboe) or dhodro banam player is depicted.

In addition to these rows of dancers, two figures, usually female (fig. 12), often decorate the top of the dhodro banam. These figures can be presented realistically or in a simplified manner, and are sometimes even reduced to two small projections. On lutes of Christianised Adivasi, these figures are re-interpreted and depict Adam and Eve, represented as a naked man and woman. One dhodro banam depicts a woman carrying a naked man. In the tradition of the Muria of the Bastar tribe, this represents a bride and bridegroom (Fig 14).

Scenes from everyday life, such as a father, mother and child, horse and elephant riders, and farmers driving carts are popular. The elements bearing these scenes are also ornamented with lines, circular rosettes, sun symbols and scrolls. With varying skill, later owners often added further ornamentation such as fish, birds, mammals or human beings. The sun symbol is frequently depicted and derives from associations with the sun god Sing Bongo.

The instrument would traditionally be given an anthropomorphic form. Santal indeed believe they are physically related to the dhodro banam and consider the instrument to be a human being, divided as such into distinct body parts: The key block is the head, the handle is the neck, the open body part is the chest, the closed part is the belly sometimes flanked by arms.

From the belly would emanate a sound, which is reminiscent of the human voice of the human characters carved on the instrument and facing the audience such as female dancers, a primordial couple, a family, horse riders who would tell legends of the Santal lore.With the assistance of these instruments, they also believe that they can communicate with supernatural powers.

The dhodro banam has a layered meaning for its players and their audiences. It is more than a simple tool for producing music and there is a deeper meaning behind the instrument's prestigious appearance than a wish for mere attractiveness.

Verrier Elvin, the famous anthropologist, reports that Santal believe that all beauty created by man is destined to disappear with him, and thus Santal usually bury or burn their exquisitely decorated instruments.

This, however, has not always been the general rule. If one studies older examples of dhodro banam in detail, it can be observed that they have been played by several generations. The patina from use is often quite fresh, although the rest of the instrument may be completely encrusted.

Similarly, the awkward decorations that have been added and the different depths of patination point to the fact that an ancient instrument has been recently used. Apparently these instruments were greatly valued, which accounts for their preservation over generations.

It is thought that it was played by either wise men begging from village to village or professional minstrels invited to the village to accompany dances that would take place on festive occasions such as before and after the rainy season and between sowing and harvesting. Women and men usually perform them in front of the house of the village headman separately.

A Santal legend goes that seven brothers killed their sister and all ate her but one who buried his share. There grew a tree that would sing melodious songs. A passing-by wise man heard them, cut a branch out of the tree and carved the first dhodro banam out of it.

Today, each musician is supposed to emulate the wise man and carve his dhodro banam in the same dark wood, largely following his own personal creative inspiration.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tribals rally protesting Christian religious conversion

April 1, 2007

Srikakulam (Andhra Pradesh): Tribal communities and associations of Palakonda mandal in Srikakulam district have expressed anger at the ongoing attack on tribal culture in the name of Christian religious conversion.

These organizations were agitated at the deceit going on in under the veil of religious conversion as published in the investigative report by Andhra Jyothy newspaper. On Tuesday various charity organizations severely condemned the reported incidents. Jana Chetana Swachanda Sanstha, Adivasi Aikya vedika, Adivasi balala hakkula vedika staged a massive rally in protest to ongoing conversions in tribal hamlets.



22 Christian missionaries taken into custody

March 21, 2007

Dharwad (Karnataka): Twenty-two Christian missionaries from Andhra Pradesh were on Tuesday taken into custody amidst tension over their alleged attempts to convert people at Baad in Dharwad district, police said.

Local residents objected to the distribution of pamphlets by the missionaries. They alleged that the missionaries were trying to convert people to Christianity. Police took them into custody and seized the materials in their possession.

According to police, the missionaries were appealing to villagers to become Christians to lead a happy life and to attend a meeting on Friday. All of them were produced before the magistrate in Dharwad.

(Such proud Hindus are real strength of Hindu Dharma ! Congratulations to proud Hindus who help police to arrest Christiain missionaries. - Editor)

Christian designs to convert Santal Tribals in West Bengal

April 22, 2007

New Delhi: Evangelising among tribal peoples in India has never been easy, it demanded patience and determination from the first missionaries to set foot in the country. Still today some of the numerous ethnic tribal communities have yet to hear the Good News of the Gospel.

India has about 68 million Adivasi or Tribals belonging to what are termed "registered tribes", representing 8% of the whole population. It should be said that these people maintain their ethnic and cultural identity but are generally excluded from the social policies of the government and have little access to education, work social services. The Catholic community in India has always shown special concern and attention for these people.

The Gospel reached the Santal Tribals in Kalyani district West Bengala State thanks to Salesian missionaries, sons of St John Bosco: as part of a triduum in preparation for the feast day of the Founder on 31 January, the Salesians of the Don Bosco Vidyaniketan Formation Centre, made their official entrance in a Santal tribal community consisting of about 500 families.

According to the Salesian bulletin ANS the warm welcome received contrasted with the difficult beginning of this mission over the past fee years. The community organised a celebration to show their gratitude, which the guests appreciated: Rev E.A. Thomas, director of Don Bosco Vidyaniketan, Rev Raymond Tudu, three Salesian collaborators, a sister of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians and a group of Salesian school students. The community asked the Salesians to take in hand the education of the children and young people. The Salesians' promise to evangelise through education met with great enthusiasm on the part of local youth.

(Hindus beware from such Christians!- Editor)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Freedom Struggle :Unsung Heroes of the Freedom Struggle

While much has been written on the Indian Freedom Movement as led by the Congress and Gandhi, little is known of the numerous uprisings by peasants, tribal communities, princely states and other isolated revolutionary acts of resistance against the British. Heroic acts of resistance against the British during 1763 to 1857 are particularly unknown. The following is a listing of armed revolts that were brutally suppressed by the British as the East India Company consolidated it's rule in the century preceding the 1857 revolt:-

1763-1800 Sanyal Revolt includes:
1763 Dhaka
1763-64 Rajshahi
1766 Cooch Bihar
1767 Patna
1766-69, 71, 76 Jalpaiguri, Rangpur and surroundings
1770-71 Purnea
1773 Mymensingh
1766-67 Midnapur
1766-67 Dhalbhum Rajas
1766-68 Peasant's Revolt, Tripura (led by Shamsher Ghazi in Roshanabad)
1769-70 Sandip Islands (S. of Noakhali)
1769-99 Moamarias, Jorhat/Rangpur
1776-89 Chakmas, Chittagong
1781 Gorakhpur, Basti and Bahraich
1783 Rangpur Peasants
1787-99 Sylhet includes:
1787 Radharam
1788 Khasi revolt
1799 Agha Muhammad Reza
1788-89 Birbhum, Bishnupur
1792 Bakarganj Peasants
1794 Vizianagram
1795-1805 Poligars Uprising includes Tinnevelly, Ramanathapuram, Sivaganga, Sivagiri, Madurai, N. Arcot
1797, 1800-05 Raja Kerala Verma, Kottayam
1799 Chuar Peasants, Midnapur
1799-1800 Bednur
1799 Vaji Ali, Awadh
1800, 1835-37 Ganjam, Gumsur
1800-02 Palamau
1806 Vellore Mutiny
1809 Bhiwani
1810-16 Naik Revolt (in Bhograi, Midnapur)
1808-09 Travancore (under Velu Thambi)
1808-12 Bundelkhand Chiefs
1810 Abdul Rahman, Surat
1810-11 Benaras Hartal/Agitation
1813-34 Parlakimedi, W. Ganjam
1815-32 Kutch
1816 Rohilla Revolt included Bareilly, Pilbhit, Shahjahanpur, Rampur
1817 Hathras
1817-18 Paiks included Cuttack, Khurda, Pipli, Puri
1817-31,46,52 Bhils included Khandesh, Dhar, Malwa
1820-37 Kols included Sighbhum, Chota Nagpur, Sambhalpur, Ranchi, Hazari Bagh, Palamau, Chaibasa
1819-21 Mers, Marwar
1824 Gujars, Kunja
1824 Sindgi, Bijapur
1824-26 Bhiwani, Rewari, Hissar, Rohtak
1824 Kalpi
1824-29 Kittur, Belgaum
1828-30,39,44-48 Kolis
1826-29 Ramosis, Pune
1825-27,32-34 Garos. Also known as the Pagal Panthis Revolt - in Sherpur, Mymensigh distt.
1828-30 Assam included Gadadhar Singh 1828-30, Kumar Rupchand 1830
1829-30 Khasis led by Tirot Singh
1830-31,43 Sighphos (Assam/Burma border)
1929, 35-42 Akas (Assam)
1830-61 Wahabis (spread from Bengal, Bihar to Punjab and NWFP)
1831 Titu-Mir, 24-Parganas
1830-31 Mysore Peasants
1830-33 Vishakapatnam
1832 Bhumij, Manbhum
1833-34 Coorg
1833 Gonds, Sambhalpur
1838 Naikda, Rewa, Kantha
1838-47 Farazis, Faripur
1839 Khamtas, Sadiya-Assam
1839-62 Surendra Sai, Sambhalpur
1840 Badami
1842 Bundelas, Sagar
1844 Salt Riots, Surat
1844 Gadkari, Kolhapur
1844-59 Savantvadi, N. Konkan
1846-47 Narasimha Reddy, Kurnool
1848 Khonds, Orissa
1848 Nagpur
1848-66 Garos, Garo Hills
1848-1900 Abors, NE Hills
1840-92 Lushais, Lushai Hills
1849-78 Nagas: Naga Hills
1850-52 Umarzais: Bannu
1852 Survey Riots: Khandesh
1852 Saiyads of Hazara
1853 Nadir Khan, Rawalpindi
1855-56 Santhals included Rajmahal, Bhagalpur, Birbhum

These revolts show the range and spread of the opposition to British consolidation. However, the fragmented nature of the opposition, and British Military superiority gave the British a decided edge. Although the resistance was often very heroic, the lack of coordination and disadvantageous timing led to brutal defeats. Nevertheless, some of these struggles raged for many years and culminated in the far more widespread revolt of 1857.


Freedom Struggle :The Revolt of 1857

Excerpted from India's Struggle for Independence and Modern India (NCERT Publication, 1971) by Bipen Chandra

It was the morning of 11 May 1857. The city of Delhi had not yet woken up when a band of sepoys from Meerut, who had defied and killed the European officers the previous day, crossed the Jamuna, set the toll house on fire and marched to the Red Fort. They entered the Red Fort through the Raj Ghat gate, followed by an excited crowd, to appeal to Bahadur Shah II, the Moghul Emperor a pensioner of the British East India Company, who possessed nothing but the name of the mighty Moghuls to become their leader, thus, give legitimacy to their cause. Bahadur Shah vacillated as he was neither sure of the intentions of the sepoys nor of his own ability to play an effective role. He was however persuaded, if not coerced, to give in and was proclaimed the Shahenshah-e-Hindustan. The sepoys then set out to capture and control the imperial city of Delhi. Simon Fraser, the Political Agent, and several other Englishmen were killed; the public offices were either occupied or destroyed. The Revolt of 1857 had begun.

The Background
The Revolt of 1857 was the most dramatic instance of India's struggle against foreign rule. But it was no sudden occurrence. It was the culmination of a century long resistance to domination by the British whose scale, duration and intensity of plunder were unprecedented in Indian history.

In Bengal, for example, in less than thirty years land revenue collection was raised to nearly double the amount collected under the Mughals. The old zamindars and poligars were deposed and replaced by new men of money merchants and money lenders who pushed rents to ruinous heights and evicted their tenants in case of non-payment. The economic decline of the peasantry was reflected in twelve major and numerous minor famines from 1770 to 1857. The very first one, soon after East India Company secured political control of Bengal in 1757 killed about 10 million people, the scale of death unknown in the history of India till then.

Not only was the old ruling elite displaced and the peasantry pauperized, the artisan class was annihilated. Indian goods, much valued in Britain, had to face imposition of duties as high as 80% so that the mills of Paisley and Manchester could keep running. The British manufactures, on the contrary, had virtually a free entry into India.

The rebellions began as soon as and wherever the British rule was established. From 1763 to 1856, there were more than 40 major rebellions. The Sanyasi rebellion of Bengal (1763-1800) was followed by Chuar uprising of Bengal and Bihar (1766-1772 and again 1795-1816); other uprisings in Eastern India such as Rangpur and Dinajpur (1783), Bishnupur and Birbhum (1799), Orissa zamindars (1804-1817) and Sambalpur (1827-1840).

In South India, the Raja of Vizianagram revolted in 1794, the poligars of Tamilnadu during the 1790s, of Malabar and coastal Andhra during the first decade of the 19th century, of Parlekamedi during 1813-1814. Dewan Velu Thampi of Travancore organized a heroic revolt in 1805. The Mysore peasants too revolted in 1830-1831. There were major uprisings in Vizagapatam from 1830-1834, Ganjam in 1835 and Kurnool in 1846-1847.

In Western India, the chiefs of Saurashtra rebelled (Kutch Rebellion) repeatedly from 1816 to 1832, the Kolis of Gujarat during 1824-1828, 1839 and 1849.Maharashtra was in a perpetual state of revolt after the final defeat of the Peshwa. Prominent were Bhil uprisings (1818-1831); the Kittur uprising, led by Chinnava (1824); the Satara uprising (1841); and the revolt of Gadkaris (1844).

Northern India was no less turbulent The present states of Western U.P. and Haryana rose up in arms in 1824; Bilaspur in 1805, the taluqdars of Aligarh in 1814-1817, the Bundelas of Jabalpur in 1842, and Khandesh in 1852.

The tribal people, who had depended on the forest for food, fuel and cattle-feed, and practiced shifting cultivation, witnessed the destruction of their livelihood and identity as they were brought into the ambit of colonialism. The colonial administration usurped forest lands and introduced the triumvirate of trader, moneylender and revenue farmer to exploit the tribals. The tribal uprisings were numerous, all marked by immense courage and sacrifice on their part and brutal suppression and veritable butchery on the part of the rulers.

Among the numerous tribal revolts, the Santhal hool or uprising was the most massive. The Santhals, who live in the area between Bhagalpur and Rajmahal, known as Daman-i-koh, called a meeting of 6000 Santhal representatives from 400 villages at Bhaganidihi on 30 June 1855. It was decided to mobilize the Santhals and throw out the dikus (outsiders) by force. Sixty thousand Santhals organised in bands of 1500 to 2000 participated in the insurrection. The colonial government responded by its own military mobilization under the command of a major-general. The rebellion which lasted as late as 1866 was crushed ruthlessly. More than 15,000 Santhals were killed while tens of villages were destroyed.

The Kols of Chhotanagpur rebelled from 1820 to 1837. Thousands of them were massacred before British authority could be re-imposed.

The Revolt
The discontent against the British had thus been accumulating for a hundred years. By 1857, the material for a mass upheaval was ready, only a spark was needed to set it afire. The episode of greased cartridges provided this spark for the sepoys and their mutiny provided the general populace the occasion to revolt.

The new Enfield rifle had been first introduced in the army. Its cartridges had a greased paper cover whose end had to be bitten off before the cartridge was loaded into the rifle. The grease was in some instances composed of beef and pig fat. The sepoys, Hindus as well as Muslim, were enraged. Many believed that the Government was deliberately trying to destroy their religion. The time to rebel had come.

The Revolt began at Meerut, 36 miles from Delhi, on 10 May 1857 and then, gathering force rapidly, it cut across Northern India like a sword. It soon embraced a vast area from the Punjab in the North and the Narmada in the South to Bihar in the East and Rajputana in the West.

Even before the outbreak at Meerut, Mangal Pande had become a martyr at Barrackpore. Mangal Pande, a young soldier, was hanged on 29 March 1857 for revolting and attacking his officers. On 24 April ninety men of 3rd Native Cavalry refused to accept the greased cartridges. On 9 May 85 of them were dismissed, sentenced to 10 years imprisonment and put into fetters. This sparked off a general mutiny among the Indian soldiers stationed at Meerut. The very next day, on 10 May, they released their imprisoned comrades, killed their officers, and unfurled the banner of revolt. They set off for Delhi after sunset. When Meerut soldiers appeared in Delhi the next morning, the local infantry joined them, killed their own European officers, and seized the city.

The entire Bengal Army soon rose in revolt which spread quickly. Avadh, Rohilkhand, the Doab, the Bundelkhand, Central India, large parts of Bihar, and the East Punjab all shook off British authority. In many of the princely states, rulers remained loyal to their British overlord but the soldiers revolted or remained on the brink of revolt. Many of Indore's troops rebelled and joined the sepoys. Similarly over 20,000 of Gwalior's troops went over to Tantia Tope and the Rani of Jhansi. Many small chiefs of Rajasthan and Maharashtra revolted with the support of the people. Local rebellions also occurred in Hyderabad and Bengal.

The tremendous sweep and breadth of the Revolt was matched by its depth. Everywhere in Northern and Central India, the mutiny of the sepoy was followed by popular revolts of the civilian population. After the sepoys had destroyed British authority, the common people rose up in arms often fighting with spears and axes, bows and arrows, lathis and scythes, and crude muskets. In many places, however, the people revolted even before the sepoys did or even when no sepoy regiments were present. It is the wide participation in the Revolt by the peasantry and the artisans which gave it real strength as well as the character of a popular revolt, especially in areas at present included in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Here the peasants and zamindars gave free expression to their grievances by attacking the money-lenders and new zamindars who had displaced them from land. They took advantage of the Revolt to destroy the money-lenders' account books and records of debts. They also established the British-established law courts, revenue offices (tehsils) and revenue records, and thanas. It is of some importance to note that in many of the battles commoners far surpassed the sepoys in numbers. According to one estimate, of the total number of about 150,000 men who died fighting the English in Avadh, over 100,000 were civilians.

The storm-centers of the Revolt of 1857 were at Delhi, Kanpur, Lucknow, Bareilly, Jhansi and Arrah in Bihar. At Delhi the nominal and symbolic leadership belonged to the Emperor Bahadur Shah, but the real command lay with a Court of Soldiers headed by General Bakht Khan who had led the revolt of the Bareilly troops and brought them to Delhi. In the British army, he had been an ordinary subedar of artillery. Bakht Khan represented the popular and plebian element at the headquarters of the Revolt. After the British occupation of Delhi in September 1857, he went to Lucknow and continued to fight the British till he died in a battle on 13 May 1859. The Emperor Bahadur Shah was perhaps the weakest link in the chain of leadership of the Revolt. He had little genuine sympathy for the humble sepoys who in turn did not trust him fully.

At Kanpur, the Revolt was run by Nana Sahib, the adopted son of Baji Rao II, the last Peshwa. Nana Sahib expelled the English from Kanpur with the help of sepoys and proclaimed himself the Peshwa. At the same time he acknowledged Bahadur Shah as the Emperor of India and declared himself to be his Governor. The chief burden of fighting on behalf of Nana Sahib fell on the shoulders of Tantia Tope, one of his most loyal servants. Azimullah was another loyal servant of Nana Sahib. He was an expert in political propaganda.

The revolt at Lucknow was led by Begum of Avadh who had proclaimed her younger son, Birjis Kadr, as the Nawab of Avadh. Helped by the sepoys at Lucknow, and by the zamindars and peasants of Avadh, the Begum organised an all-out attack on the British. Compelled to give up the city, the latter entrenched themselves in the Residency building. In the end, the seige of the Residency failed as the small British garrison fought back with exemplary fortitude and valor.

One of the great leaders of the Revolt of 1857 and perhaps one of the greatest heroines of Indian history, was the young Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi. The young Rani joined the rebels when the British refused to acknowledge her right to adopt an heir to the Jhansi gaddi, annexed her state, and threatened to treat her as an instigator of the rebellion of the sepoys at Jhansi. She fought like a true heroine; tales of her bravery and courage and military skill have inspired her countrymen ever since. Driven out of Jhansi by the British forces after a fierce battle in which "even women were seen working the batteries and distributing ammunition," she administered the oath to her followers that "with our own hands we shall not Azadshahi (independent rule) bury." She captured Gwalior with the help of Tantia Tope and her trusted Afghan guards. Maharaja Sindhia, loyal to the British, made an attempt to fight the Rani but most of his troops deserted to her. Sindhia sought refuge with the English at Agra. The brave Rani died fighting on 17 June 1858, clad in the battle dress of a soldier and mounted on a charger. Besides her, fell her life-long friend and companion, a Muslim girl.

Kunwar Singh, a ruined and discontented zamindar of Jagdishpur near Arrah, was the chief organiser of the revolt in Bihar. Though nearly 80 year old, he was perhaps the most outstanding military leader and strategist of the Revolt. He fought the British in Bihar, and, later joining hands with Nana Sahib's forces, he also campaigned in Avadh and Central India. Racing back home he defeated the British forces near Arrah. But this proved to be his last battle. He had sustained a fatal wound in the battle and he died on 27 April 1858 in his ancestral house in the village of Jagdishpur.

Maulavi Ahmadullah of Faizabad was another outstanding leader of the Revolt. He was a native of Madras where he had started preaching armed rebellion. In January 1857 he moved towards the North to Faizabad where he fought a largescale battle against a company of British troops sent to stop him from preaching sedition. When the general revolt broke out in May, he emerged as one of its acknowledged leaders in Avadh. After the defeat at Lucknow, he led the rebellion in Rohilkhand where he was treacherously killed by the Raja of Puwain who was paid Rs. 50,000 as a reward by the British.

The greatest heroes of the Revolt were, however, the sepoys many of whom displayed great courage in the field of battle and thousands of whom unselfishly laid down their lives. More than anything else it was their determination and sacrifice that nearly led to the expulsion of the British from India.

Even though spread over wide territory and widely popular among the people, the Revolt of 1857 could not embrace the entire country or all the groups and classes of Indian society. Most rulers of the Indian states, and the big zamindars, selfish to the core and fearful of the British might, refused to join in. On the contrary, the Sindhia of Gwalior, the Holkar of Indore, the Nizam of Hyderabad, the Raja of Jodhpur and other Rajput rulers, the Nawab of Bhopal, the rulers of Patiala, Nabha, Jind and Kashmir, the Ranas of Nepal, and many other ruling chiefs, and a large number of big zamindars gave active help to the British in suppressing the Revolt. In the words of Governor-General Canning these rulers and chiefs "acted as breakwaters to the storm which would have otherwise swept us in one great wave." Madras, Bombay, Bengal and Western Punjab remained undisturbed, even though the popular feeling in these provinces favored the rebels. In fact, no more than one per cent of the chiefs of India joined the revolt.

Lacking central authority and coordination, a unified and forward looking program, modern weaponry, and unable to unite all classes and all regions behind it, the Revolt failed. The British Government poured immense supplies of men, money, and arms into the country, though Indians had later to repay the entire cost of their own suppression. The rebels were dealt an early blow when the British captured Delhi on 20 September 1857 after prolonged and bitter fighting. The aged Emperor Bahadur Shah was taken prisoner. The Royal Princes were captured and butchered on the spot. The Emperor was tried and exiled to Rangoon where he died in 1862.

With the fall of Delhi, the focal point of the Revolt disappeared. One by one, all the great leaders of the Revolt fell. Nana Sahib was defeated at Kanpur. Defiant to the very end and refusing to surrender, he escaped to Nepal early in 1859, never to be heard of again. Tantia Tope escaped into the jungles of Central India where he carried on bitter and brilliant guerrilla warfare until April 1859 when he was betrayed by a zamindar friend and captured while asleep. He was put to death after a hurried trial on 15 April 1859. The Rani of Jhansi had died on the field of battle earlier on 17 June 1858. By 1859, Kunwar Singh, Bakht Khan, Khan Bahadur Khan of Bareilly, Rao Sahib, brother of Nana Sahib, Maulavi Ahmadullah were all dead, while the Begum of Avadh was compelled to hide in Nepal.

By the end of 1859, British authority in India was fully reestablished, but the Revolt had not been in vain. It was the first great struggle of the Indian people for freedom from British imperialism. It became a source of inspiration for the later freedom struggles and its heroes became household names in the country.


Freedom Struggle :Peasant Revolts

Excerpted from In the Wake of Naxalbari by Sumanta Banerjee, Calcutta 1980

The early years of British rule in India were marked by widespread peasant rebellions. Long before the Sepoy Rebellion -- often regarded as the first war of Indian independence -- hungry peasants of Bengal and Bihar, victims of a terrible famine (1770) rose in revolt against the East India Company, which had been exacting money and crops from them. This was the famous Sannyasi rebellion. A large number of sannyasis and fakirs who were being fleeced by the British rulers through various forms of exactions, played an important role in organizing the peasants and hence the name --Sannyasi Rebellion. Along with the peasants and the sannyasis and fakir, there were also village artisans -- the famous silk weavers of Bengal, who had been made to slave for the British merchants -- and the thousands of unemployed soldiers from the disbanded Mughal army. Led by Majnu Shah, Bhabani Pathak, Debi Chaudhurani and a host of heroic figures, the rebellion continued till the beginning of the 19th century and was marked by daring attacks on the East India Company's offices in different parts of Bihar and Bengal, killing of notorious Indian landlords and money-lenders as well as of oppressive British traders and army officers, and both guerilla and positional warfare against the British army.

The chieftans' uprising of peasant rebels spread all over South India from 1800-1801, against the British soldiers and Indian feudal princes. The rebels under the leadership of Marudu Pandyan of Sivaganga, Malappan of Ramnad, and several other chieftans -- all men of the masses -- succeeded in forming a Peninsula Confederacy all over South India, and after having defeated the British army in different parts of South India, established their sway over a large number of villages, where people's committees were formed and villagers refused to pay taxes to the East India Company. [South Indian Rebellion -- First War of Independence, 1800-1801 by K. Rajayyan, 1974].

The challenge posed by the rebels was so serious that the British had tomarch detachments from Ceylon, Malaya and England on an emergency basis to crush the rebellion. But "more than what the English did, the decisive factor that rendered the rebel fortunes unsustainable was the hostile attitude of the princes. The devoted service rendered by them not only made the power of the English formidable, but crippled the will of the patriots and excited dissension within their ranks." [ibid]

In 1820, the Ho tribal peasants of Chhotanagpur in Bihar, rose against the British rulers and the local money-lenders and zamindars. The establishment of British authority in the area, had led to dislocation in the socio-economic living pattern of the Ho people. A large number of Hindu, Muslim and Sikh traders and money-lenders had come and settled among them. Their lands were being occupied by these outsiders through contracts enforced by courts of law. Widespread discontent ensued among the Hos. The first Ho uprising of 1820 was suppressed soon by the British. But the Hos rose again in 1821. This time they were well-organized and strong enough to besiege the fort of Chinepoor, and had the entire Kolhan area at their mercy. The zamindars and the Rajah of Porahat appealed to the British for help, and the Ho uprising was ruthlessly crushed.

In fact, the Chhotanagpur area remained a centre of turbulent uprisings throughout the 19th century. The Oraons -- another tribal communityrebelled in 1820, 1832, 1890. The Kol tribals organized an insurrection in 1831-32 which was directed mainly against Government officers and private money-lenders. The Mahajans extracted 70 per cent or more interest and many Kols became boded labourers for life. The immensity of the Kol rebellion could he gauged from the fact that troops had to be rushed from far off places like Calcutta, Danapur and Benaras to quell it.

Another important rebellion of this period was the Wahabi uprising in Bengal under the leadership of the famous Titu Meer in 1831. What began as a religious reform movement soon turned into an armed revolt against orthodox mullahs, feudal landlords and British soldiers. Although Titu and his peasant followers who fought their last heroic battle from within a bamboo fortress in a village called Narikelbaria, were defeated by the British in course of the insurrection, Titu had managed to oust the British through successive operations from several villages in South 24-Parganas, Nadia and Jessore, where he established a parallel authority and collected taxes from zamindars.

But a more stirring source of inspiration for future agrarian struggles ws the Santhal uprising of 1855-57. The Santhal country extended from Bhagalpur in Bihar in the north to Orissa in the south, the centre being Damin-i-koh (meaning the skirts of the hill), situated near the Rajmahal Hills, stretching from Hazaribagh to the borders of Bengal. The Santhal tribes reclaimed from wild jungles every square foot of arable land, where they cultivated and lived peacefully till the arrival of Bengali and other traders and merchants. The latter persuaded the Santhal peasants to buy luxury goods on credit, and later at harvest time forced them to pay back the loans along with interest. The balance against the Santhal in the mahajan-cum-trader's book increased year by year, till the poor peasant was compelled to give up, not only his crops but gradually his plough and bullocks, and finally his land, to meet the demands of the traders. As the debt, lying like an incubus upon the landless Santhals, daily grew upon them, many were reduced to bond-slaves pledging their future descendants to the service of the creditors' families.

The leaders of the Santhal rebellion were two brothers - Sidu and Kanu of Bhagnadihi. Organized on a vast scale, it swept across the entire Santhal region from Bihar to Orissa. Frustrated in their repeated attempts in the past to seek justice from courts and minions of the law, the peasants raised the cry -- "Death to the money-lenders, the police, the civil court officers and the landlords !" It thus took on in effect the nature of an anti-feudal and anti-state movement. Within a few months the tables were turned. The whirlwind fanned up by the money-lenders swept down upon them without pity or remorse. Notorious landlords, traders and mahajans were selected and killed. Later historians expressed their shock at the "brutalities" committed by the rebels, but chose to ignore the years of grinding brutality that the peasants had to suffer at the hands of the landlords and traders. The Santhal rebels were joined by poor and landless peasants of other lower castes and village artisans. They defeated the British troops in several encounters, forcing the colonial administration to declare martial law over a vast expanse from Birbhum and Murshidabad in Bengal to Bhagalpur in Bihar --the area where the rebels succeeded in destroying all semblance of British rule. The Santhal rebellion was finally crushed by the British troops. About 10,000 rebels perished in the unequal fight between peasants armed with bows and arrows on the one side and soldiers equipped with firearms, on the other.

Sporadic peasant revolts found their culmination in the 1857 uprising, which besides being a mutiny of sepoys and a putsch by the ex-rulers of the country had, as an important component, thousands of spontaneous peasants' jacqueries all over North India. Although bourgeois historians have glossed over the role of the peasantry in the 1857 uprising, contemporary records provide ample information to help us measure the extent of peasant participation. A British eye-witness account, according to one historian, admits : ".. .in Oudh the whole population was up in arms; every village was fortified, and everyman's hand was against us. As an example it may be pointed out that out of the 40,000 men who besieged Lucknow, 20,000 went away to sow the fields." [The Sepoy Mutiny and the Revolt of 1857, R.C. Majumdar, Calcutta, 1963]. In February 1858, in the battle that took place at Miagunj, between Lucknow and Kanpur, among the 8,000 rebel soldiers that fought the British, only 1,000 were sepoys, the rest being peasants from adjacent villages.

Within a few weeks of the uprising, British rule was almost demolished all over northern India. In a bid to establish some sort of people's rule, the rebels set up a "Court of Administration" with elected representatives from the sepoys and other sections of the population. The rest of the story is well known.

Even after 1857, and the consolidation of British rule in India, the ferment of unrest among the peasants burst forth periodically into revolts. The peasants of Bengal, forced to cultivate indigo under a life-long bondage to the British planters who exported the blue dye to Britain to feed the requirements of the growing cotton industry there, rose in a rebellion in 1850, and succeeded in putting an end to the hated system.

Under the leadership of Birsa, the Mundas of the Ranchi area fought the Hindu landlords in 1895. In the princely states of Rajasthan, the traditionally militant Bhil and Meo peasants fought against the local money-lenders and landlords. In the south, the Moplah peasants of Malabar rose against feudal extortions and oppression.

Two major peasant uprisings that occurred in India in more recent times were, the Tebhaga movement in undivided Bengal in 1946, and the insurrection at Telengana from 1946-51. Unlike the usually sporadic and spontaneous peasant revolts of the past, both the two developments were politically inspired and had a firm organizational basis and practical programme. The then undivided Communist Party of India played a leading role in both the events. The Tebhaga [three parts] movement, as its name indicates, demanded the reduction of the share of the landowners from one-half of the crop to one-third. Peasants, under the leadership of the Communist Party dominated Kisan Sabhas, cultivated the fields and took away forcibly two-third of the harvested crops to their granaries. The landlords attacked the peasants with the help of mercenary toughs and the police, and bloody clashes ensued. The movement spread from village to village, from Dinajpur and Rangpur in North Bengal to 24-Parganas in the south of the province. Although primarily launched on economic demands, the rebellion in some areas led to the flight of landlords leaving the villages at the mercy of the peasants, who often virtually turned them into 'liberated areas' administering affairs in the villages through the Kisan Sabha. For various reasons, the The Tebhaga movement finally petered out.


The insurrection at Telengana was of a more lasting value, both because of its achievements and its military organization. Telengana was a part of the former Hyderabad State in South India. It was the biggest princely state in India with 17 districts and a population of 17 million at that time, ruled by the Nizam. The Telegu-speaking Telengana region occupied half the area.

The peasant struggle in Telengana which began in 1946, was against forced labour, illegal exactions, evictions by feudal landlords and oppression by village Patels, among other things and later developed into an agrarian liberation struggle to get rid of feudal landlordism and the Nizam's dynastic rule in the state. The struggle continued even after the Nizam's rule ended with the entry of Indian troops in September 1948 and the merger of the Hyderabad State into the Indian Union. From elementary self-defence with lathis and slings against the landlords' hired hoodlums and police, the struggle evolved into a full-scale armed revolt against the Nizam and his army, and later against the offensive of the Indian troops.

By 1947, a guerilla army of about 5,000 was operating in Telengana. During the course of the struggle which continued till 1951, the people could organize and build a powerful militia comprising 10,000 village squad members and about 2,000 regular guerilla squads. The peasantry in about 3,000 villages, covering roughly a population of three million in an area of about 16,000 square miles, mostly in the three districts of Nalgonda, Warangal and Khammam, succeeded in setting up gram-raj or village Soviets. The landlords were driven away from the villages, their lands seized, and one million acres of land were redistributed among the peasantry. As many as 4,000 communists and peasant activists were killed, and more than 10,000 communist and sympathizers were put behind the bars, initially by the Nizam's government, and later by the armed forces of the Indian Government.

Describing the strategy and tactics adopted by the rebels during the anti-Nizam phase of the struggle, i.e. before September 1948, one Communist leader who was also a participant in the struggle wrote : "It was felt that we could not resist the raids of army, police and Razakars* without well-trained guerillas. The initial prerequisites were collection of arms and formation of guerilla squads. All the previous struggles were of an economic nature and in self-defence. Although they were politically significant they were not products of the slogan of political liberation. Consequently future struggles had to be planned with the slogan of political liberation unlike in the past. The Communist Party and Andhra Mahasabha [the mass front from behind which the illegal Communist Party had to work] jointly gave a call for collection of arms and formation of guerilla squads. A directive was issued for sudden raids in the night on homes of landlords and seizure of their weapons on a fixed date ... Guerilla squads were formed with young men who could devote all their time. This was the first type of squad. A second sort of squad for village defence was organized with such men who could not devote all their time to guerilla squads. The third category 'of squads was composed of those who destroyed the communication and transport lines of the army and razakars.... Some comrades who had formerly worked in the army imparted training in tactics of warfare. After some time there emerged instructors 'among our workers. This was a consequence of continued battles and expansion of squads." [Heroic Telengana by Ravi Narayan Reddy, 1973]

Describing the administration of the villages from where officials and lordlords fled, the writer said : "Lands enjoyed by the landlords with false revenue certificates were taken over and distributed. A ceiling on landlord's holding was fixed and the rest distributed among the people, particularly among agricultural labourers and the landless poor. All the lands, implements and cattle of landlords who were allies of the enemy were taken over and distributed. Documents of debts with money-lenders and landlords were destroyed and such debts made infructuous. Hundreds of quintals of foodgrains were taken over from the godowns of traitors and given away to the people. Wages of agricultural labour were raised." [ibid]

By September 1948, when the Indian Army moved in, about one-sixth of the region had passed over to Communists, who had started re-distributing land confiscated from the landlords, among the peasants. But differences developed among the CPI leaders of Telengana in 1948, after the entry of the Indian Army. Finally, in 1951 the Communist Party asked its followers to surrender arms and withdraw the movement.


The Santhal People of Nepal

Santhal, until recently, have been considered as tribal people living nomadic livstyles. Santhal are found in India and Bangladesh as well where as in India they are living densely in Southern part of the country. Traditionally this community was relying on hunting and fishing as their livelihood however the modernization of the society and geo-political changes forced them to shift into other occupation mainly working as daily wage laborer in agriculture and other areas.

In Nepal, they are considered as one of the first settlers in eastern plain area. Now they are concentrated in Jhapa and Morang districts. As per the census data of 2001, the total populations of this community was 42,689 and were found scattered in almost 30 districts; however the number is very negligible in other districts except Jhapa and Morang. Jhapa is the district where large numbers of Santhals are living and their population was recorded as 23,172. They are scattered throughout the district but are highly concentrated in 15 southern Village Development Communities bordering or near to India.

Santhal people, who were considered to be 'sons of the soil', are now almost landlessness. Very few households now have their own land and most live on public land or rented land. The public land they live on tends to be nearby rivers/streams so are more prone to disaster. The flood of 2009 in Jhapa proved this. Of the 1000 most affected families, more than 60 percent were Santhals.

manSanthal people still follow their traditional way of living except their occupation that has been changed largely due to scarcity of natural resources: forest and rivers (fish). They have their own written and oral language and their own judicial system. Alcoholism mainly among male members is rampant since it has been considered as essential for every occasion. Their customs and traditions are becoming more and more difficult to maintain as it now costs a lot of money to source the materials they would normally have harvested from the land.
Many of them have no access to a sustainable livelihood, and now work in agriculture as wage laborers, earning minimal wages day to day. On a typical day, many of them flock towards nearby towns in search of wage labor in construction work, rickshaw pulling etc. Since they have no modern skills to sell in the market, they are quite often exploited and paid very poorly. Due to their vulnerable economic condition, almost all Santhal people live in huts made of mud and thatch which have no doors. They have no doors to close and no possession to steal.

While many children begin their formal educations, most of them will not complete their lower secondary level of education. At the age of 10, most children drop out of school and begin working with their parents to help their families survive.


An overview of the Santhal Tribe

By:Deirdre Gould

Inhabiting the northeastern region of India, in an area covering six states, the Santhali people are descendants of the oldest humans in India; indeed, linguistic evidence shows this tribe's ancestors as part of the original human migration out of Africa. While written script for the Santhali is a fairly recent invention, the Santhali language is a form of the Austro-Asiatic linguistic family rather than the Aryan family of dialect common to much of India. The uniqueness of the Santhali language and script has become a political tool in Jharkand, where heavy pressure for Santhali as a secondary official language has recently surged.

The villages of the Santhali tribe are located mostly in forested areas, where members hunt, fish or clear the land for rice agriculture. While many people choose to remain in their traditional villages in present day, another significant population has joined the industrial workforce in coal mines, steel factories or large scale agriculture.

The Santhali have 12 clans with a caste system based on descent. Marriage is strictly into different clans. Those that marry within their own clan are seen as incestuous and driven out of the tribe. Each village has its own judicial system, priest and hereditary leader. While the Santhali have their own cosmogony (or creation myth) and practice animism to some degree (as a Christian would pray to saints, the Santhali animism prays for favors from intermediaries including ancestor ghosts and gods of natural features,) they are mostly followers of the Sarna religion, a belief system following Singbonga, or the Sun God.

The Santhali Tribe was the first to rebel against British colonial presence in the late 1700s, protesting their enslavement by a fellow tribe that received the direct sanction and assistance of the British military. Though the rebellion was unsuccessful, it remains a point of pride with the Santhali people and was a source of inspiration for later revolutionaries in India from the 1850s on.

Art, music and dance are highly prized in Santhali culture. Physical mediums of art such as painting or sculpture use mythological figures or ancestors as their subjects. What truly sets the Santhali apart, however, is their music and dance.

Beginning with the instruments themselves, Santhali music is predominantly flute and drum. These instruments are typically elaborately decorated and are believed to have the power to communicate with the dead. Instruments can be passed down through generations or occasionally are cremated with the body of the owner.

Songs are communal in nature. Though new songs are frequently created, the author gives his or her song to the community as soon as it is composed, there is no private ownership of music.

Dances are held at all major life occasions: Birth, marriage, and death along with all periods of the agricultural calendar. In addition the Santali also hold courting dances on full moon nights and welcoming dances when people from other clans visit, but these are more informal social gatherings. The purpose of these dances are as varied as their occasion, but the overall emphasis of every dance is to reinforce community identity and solidarity.

Because of highly ritualised dance ceremonies and festivals, strong, seperate language, and tribal sovereignty within the Indian State, the Santhali have maintained their identity and cohesiveness over centuries when bombarded with invasion, new government, and technologies even into the modern era.


Statehood demand for Santhal Pargana gains momentum

by:Rajesh Kumar Pandey, TNN, Dec 22, 2009, 10.30pm IST

Read more: Statehood demand for Santhal Pargana gains momentum - Ranchi - City - The Times of India

DUMKA: The demand for a separate statehood for Santhal Pargana gained momentum on the 154th foundation day of the region on Tuesday.

The Gram Pradhan Majhi Sangathan, the district-level body of the traditional local self-government resolved to launch an agitation to press for the demand to bifurcate Jharkhand for creating Santhal Pargana as a separate state. It appealed to the common people to support the issue in light of the continuous neglect of the region and its indigenous people.

Hundreds of gram pradhans (village heads) from different parts of Santhal Pargana had gathered at the Yagya Maidan here to mark the foundation day of the region. The village heads were unanimous in their demand, stating that the region remained deprived from its share of benefits due to the discriminatory attitude of the subsequent Union and state governments.

In a press release, the Sangathan said that the traditional system of pradhani (village headship) was accorded legal status during the regime of the British government in the year 1856 which was further strengthened in 1872 by providing additional authority to the local village bodies.

However, the increasing administrative interference after the independence of the country left the traditional self-rule bodies helpless in resolving local issues despite the constitutional authority vested in them in terms of settling disputes by exercising judicial powers.

Bhim Prasad Mandal, the president of the district chapter of the organization, said that administrative indifference towards decentralizing power by recognizing the village bodies was mainly motivated by vested interests as a result of which, the socio-economic self-dependence of the Santhal Pargana villages had hit roadblock. He recalled that even the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, was in favour of economic independence for the region.

The patron of the organization and former MLA, Mohril Murmu, said this is high time the village heads and other stakeholders stood for the restorations of the self-rule system in a united way as the natives of the Santhal Pargana have even been barred from basic requirements of their livelihood.

The foundation day of Santhal Pargana was also organized at the S P College here by the "Sido Kanhu Gota Bharot Hul Baisi", a tribal organization.

SKMU vice chancellor Victor Tigga, pro-vice chancellor Pramodini Hansdak and former deputy chief minister Stephen Marandi were among the distinguished guests on the occasion.

Read more: Statehood demand for Santhal Pargana gains momentum - Ranchi - City - The Times of India

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