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...

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Five Elements in Santhal Healing

N. Patnaik
The Santhals believe that as long as the balance between human beings and nature and supernatural beings is maintained there would be harmony, peace, health and happiness in life. It is their belief that any sinful act, incest and infringement of social customs makes anyone who commits such an offence suffer from illness. Otherwise a human being has a natural right to live up to old age in good health and die a natural death.
The evil spirits, whose number is legion in the Santhal world, are enemies of men and bent upon harassing them and eating up their vitality and causing illness and death. There are bongas (supernatural beings) and witches in large number in the Santhal habitat and they only know how to make someone unwell but do not know how to make well.
There are priests in every Santhal village to propitiate the deities and there are medicine-men and magicians to neutralize the effects of sorcery, evil eye and witchcraft. The institution of ojha-ship and training given on herbal medicine and healing practices is very elaborate and well-established. The ojha is a diviner, sooth-sayer, sorcerer, exorcist and magician and an expert in herbal medicine. He knows all the methods of home remedies, like sekao (fomentation), iskir (massage), soso (marking with the juice of marking nut) and tobak (marking the affected part with a pointed sickle made red hot). He also knows the divinations of purging the evil spirit out of the body of ailing persons.
The Santhals take preventive and precautionary measures against certain diseases. In the month of January-February (Magha), all men of a village observe sexual abstinence and on a day, fixed earlier, sacrifice a black female kid and a black pullet at the end of the village and bury them there. They also take vows to offer sacrifices to the bongas living on the village boundaries the next year, provided they keep good health throughout the year. After the ritual, some medicinal pills, comprising different kinds of medicinal herbs are ground and mixed with handia and distributed among the villagers. Then sanctified rice-water is sprinkled in every house by the ojha.
They wear different kinds of amulets, on a string, round the neck, waist or elbow. Medicines are kept in a receptacle which is sealed. Another form of amulet contains ancient stone beads. It is used to keep cholera and smallpox away. It is believed that the amulets can save a person from epilepsy, bronchitis and cough, and are often tied on children.
The Santhals rarely suffer from diseases of the teeth. They regularly clean their teeth with a tooth-stick made of sal twigs. They do not eat anything and do not drink even water before cleaning their mouth and brushing their teeth with a datanni (tooth-stick).
The sanitary habits of the Santhals are remarkable. They like open air and their villages are not congested. The houses are built on fairly high lands and sufficient space is left between the houses. They have very broad streets and the houses are set apart from one another. The houses are put up round a courtyard and all rooms open to the courtyard. No house appears to be crowded. They do not have any windows in their houses. Every house has only one door. Generally they cook their food outside, but have a fire place inside also, where food are cooked during rains and in winter. Since there are no proper outlets the smoke from the oven gets trapped inside the room. The fowls are kept inside the living room at night.
The herbs and ingredients used in medicine are available in the locality. The Santhals can identify many medicinal herbs and are able to use them without consulting the ojha. But the ojha and other practitioners keep stock of these medicines and supply them to the patients whenever needed. However, the common people have no knowledge of the invocations, incantations, spells and magical formulae which are the prerogative of the ojha. Only he knows how and on what occasion such mantras and jharnis can be used for remedial measures.
As regards the preparation and application of medicine, the following procedures are observed. Some medicines may be given in their natural form. An example of this form is the use of bael fruit. Some medicines are soaked in mustard oil or water. Some medicines are boiled and the boiled water is given to the patients. The common procedure for the preparation of medicines is to grind the ingredients on a flat stone and mix it with other ingredients. Medicines are given on empty stomach in the morning, repeated at noon and in the evening. In the case of bone fractures, splints are used in the bandage. The splints are made of cut pieces of sar (Sacecharum Sara). Medicinal steam-bath is also given as a remedial measure for certain maladies. In certain cases, particularly carries of the teeth, the worms (tejos or main god, as the worms are called) are removed.
The administration of medicine takes into account the day it should be done. For the Santhal not all days of the week are auspicious. A fairly large number of remedies are treated on Sunday morning before easing the bowels or attending morning ablutions. Sunday is generally considered to be a good day, and, so, the remedy to be most efficacious is administered on this day.
Not all types of water are suitable for the preparation of medicine. In some preparations, carefully-collected dew is used. To collect the dew, a clean piece of cloth is dragged over the grass in the morning and then squeezed out. Dew, thus collected, is supposed to have a mysterious quality that makes the medicine efficacious. Similar qualities are attributed to hail water. Hailstones are collected in time and kept in a bottle for future use. The vessel used for the preparation of medicine is always a new, unused earthenware pot which is used for preparing and administering the remedy. The earthen vessel is considered to be cleaner than other types of vessels. The girls who help in the preparation of medicines are always unmarried. The precaution is probably more to ensure that the girl has not been exposed to the influence of the bongas than with their virginity. It is believed that a married woman could be under the influence of her husband's bongas.
Yet another interesting point has something to do with the association of women that a sacrificer, on the night previous to the day of sacrifice, is to be kept away from women. The same restriction is observed before the preparation and administration of medicines to cure barrenness in women.
The Five Elements
The concept of the pancabhuta extant among the Santhals are found in the local folk sayings, literatures and oral tradition. A few sayings which convey some ideas of the pancabhuta, similar to those mentioned in a funeral hymn derived from the Rigveda, are:
Hasa Halam Hasare Mitaua
The earth-made body will mix with earth.

Hay jijiban Hayare Mitaua
The air-laden life merges in air.

Nan Halam Tha Sengal Langitha
This body is for the fire.
Santhal literature is very rich, but its cataloguing and compilation has not yet been done exhaustively. The literatures are in Hindi, Oriya, Bengali and Roman script. Some of them are in Ol Chiki. The two sources which make a mention of the five elements in the most abstract manner are Hital, published by the late Pandit Raghunath Murmu, who invented the Ol Chiki script, and an unpublished manuscript by the late Ram Dayal Majhi.
Pandit Raghunath Murmu's book Hital gives an account of the five elements. Stanzas 15 to 21 are quoted below. It is in the Ol Chiki script.
Maranburu Kate Mid Tha Etemte An En Jahirain
Kate Mid Tha Kenya Tem An En

It may be so that you as Maranburu turned left.
It may be so that you as Jahirai turned right.

Serma talare an thatam tarak Janpam En
Hudur ate Bilit Barandu Gurlau Achur En

The force of these rotations met at the mid-sky.
As a result the whirlpool was born with thundrous sound.

Achur Achur Bilid Barandu Khanak Am An En
Sin Bonga Ar Epil Engel chand Dhartiks

As a result a new world was born and
Sun, stars, moons, were also born.

Serma Marsal Enada Aanga Sirij En
Ana Barandu Rege Atha Jatak thab En

They took their respective places in the path of that rotation.
The sky was lighted with the birth of sun.

Elan thale thatam Sin bonga Rem Am Kad
Taa thale thatam Dharati taan rem Am Kad

You generated fire in the sun and you cooled the earth.

Dharati Chetan Sin Yinda Hulan Achur En
Taya Khan Haya, Hasa Dhiri tha Kam Benao En

There came day and night thereafter on earth and
therefore air, soil, stone and water were created.

Dharati Chetan Jiyi Sirij An Adam An Ked
Hansa Hansali Jiyi Dukin Barandu Anaga En

Out of these elements came up life with health and
happiness which living beings (Hansa and Hansuli) enjoyed on earth.
These stanzas indicate that the human body is made up of the five elements which, when balanced and in harmony with one another, bestow well-being on mankind and other living organisms.
Ram Dayal Majhi better known as Dayal Baba, came from Basipitha in the Udala subdivision. He was a Santhal and, according to his people, died at the age of 120 years. His grand-daughter's husband, Sida Hembram of Beguniadiha of Udala subdivision, has a manuscript of Dayal Baba. Some of the extracts from this are given below. These are regarding halma galahan (constitution of the body).
  1. Ata Serma Haya Situn
  2. Jarage Japud San Salam Anan
  3. Serma Daletem Ajam
  4. Taker Dalete Halam Am Ana
  5. Haya Daletam Urum
  6. Hayad chapu Gun Anan
  7. Situn Sengal Marsal Anan
  8. Manmi Halmare Med Anan
  9. Med Daletem Yenyel Kana
  10. Jarege japud tha Kana
  11. Anatege Alam Rasa Anan
  12. Helem Jaj Jharam Urun (Ma)
  13. Rasa Alam Urum Gun Ana
  14. Ata Da Aan Kana
  15. (tha) Dhare Dhiti Gata Aman Akan
  16. Ana Dege Manmiya Mun Akan
  17. Ji Gun Dale Mena Akan
The literary translation of these lines follows. However, further studies are required for the analysis and explanation of these abstract ideas.
  1. Earth, sky (ether), air and brightness (fire).
  2. Unceasing rain — all such creations appealing to mind and soothing to body.
  3. Space (heaven) enables us to hear.
  4. Space created resounding which helps in hearing.
  5. Air or wind gives you feeling and realization of things.
  6. Air is endowed with the quality of touch.
  7. Fire emits light.
  8. Man has eyes.
  9. Eyesight enables you to see.
  10. Rain gives water.
  11. The watery substance in tongue is due to rain.
  12. Therefore the tongue can taste sweet, sour, hot (chilli).
  13. The watery substance of the tongue has the quality of taste.
  14. The earth on which living organisms sustain life by air, water, warmth, light (fire), ether and earth is a wonderful place.
  15. There is soil (earth), stone and vegetation all round and they help life to grow healthy and contented.
  16. The man had nose which has given him smelling sense; and
  17. The air all around helps this sense to function.
There are many other such sources — some printed and others as manuscripts. Some of them are in memory of Santhals who had personal contact with the saintly persons, reformed, thinkers and writers. There is an urgent need to locate these, and retrieve them and prepare an annotated and classified bibliography on the subject of the five elements.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Understanding the Concept of God in Santal Traditional Myths


1. Introduction

Theologising in India has to become an effective proclamation of the message of liberation of human life in this country. The methodology of this Proclamation will be conditioned by the life situation of the human community that needs to be liberated. It is in this sense AP. Nirmal writes:The Primary task of theology, therefore is to make sense of human life and give it a certain direction and goal. The criteria of theology then must be derived from human life and not from other givens. Any theology which fails to make sense of human life and fails to fulfil, it ceases to be relevant and cannot be a living option."l C.S. Song affirms more clearly that, doing theology is not an act of the intellect divorced from the commitment of the heart.

To approach the heart of God it is for us to engage in "constructive imagination". For this we have to use the imagination of the people in Asia expressed through myths, songs, symbols, poetry and novels. Their myths (sacred stories) touches something of the depth of being. Jesus used stories to point to the mystery. The theological basis for this imaging is "Imago dei. "2 According to song, Christian Theology has to be conceived in the womb of peoples' experience of suffering and joy, agony an.!l ecstasy. Therefore for him their tears and struggles become the raw ingredients of theologising. Tears bring people together.

Tears are signs of life, Jesus is a person of tears, a Man ofsorrows (In. 11:35; Mt. 23:37; Lk. 13:34). God in Jesus Christ is able to identify and express solid41rity with those people who are in tears because of their culture and suffering.' "RaJ .. Sfephen Murmu teoche. Chrution TheolollY .. Ethic. at Santol Theologi.col College, Benogorio. This artiete is an attempt for constructive imagination of the Santal traditional Myths in' order to be able to imagine God's own self in the Santal culture and at the same time to bring out meaningful and relevant concept of God and the salvific potency of God hidden in their traditional myths for contribution towards the Santal Christian theology as the basis for Church's witness and service to the contemporary realities of the Santals.

2. A Brief Background

The majority Santals are living in Bihar, but scattered over a wide area in Bihar, Orissa, West Bengai, Bangladesh and Assam. Now the Santals of the district of Santal Parganas, which was formed after the rebellion of 1855 enjoy special legislative Protection. The Santals are one of the largest primitive tribes of India. The original name of the Santal is ~rwar, which .is the common stock of 9-10 tribes. They were

united with Mundaris tribes. The Santals used the term, 'Horhopon" for themselves as a distinct tribal name which simply means "Sons of Man." Later on they received the name

Santal, because they settled some years in the land called Soont or Sa nth which means peace. According to this etymological meaning the tribe is called Santal which signifies

'peace loving people." The land called Soant is in Midnapore, West Bengal.·

Many scholars consider the original Homeland of the Santals in Babylon. The historian Rev. C.H. Koomar called their land Babul which is actually referred to as Babylon. The Santals

entered in India through Khyber and Bolan Pass, and established a homeland three hundred miles to the Southwest near Chota Nagpur plateau.' But a large and important colony was once settled in Parganas Chai and Champa in Hazaribagh. From Hazaribagh the Santals have wandered into Manbhum and into the Santal Parganas.·

Most of the Santals moved towards Northwards and settled in the district of Santal Parganas around Dumka, the headquarters of Santal Parganas in 1790 and 1810. The Government formed the -namini-Koh" in 1832-1833 of an area of 1,366 square miles. The Government gave the Santals legal settlement here in 1836 with 860 square miles of elevated highlands for corn fields and village settlements and 500 square m'iles of plain land for rice fields. By 1851, 82,795 Santa} settlers were found and spread over 1,473 villages.7

3. The concept of God in the Santal Traditional Myths

The peculiarity of the Santal tradition is its abundance of myths and images which systematically analyses the human situations, the creator of the myths, and reveal profound insights of the characteristics of "Thakur jiu", the creator and sustainer of the Universe (The supreme God).

a) Bel~f in Supreme God

The word "Thakur jiu" is a Sanskritized term used for the name of the Supreme God in Santal traditional belief. The word 'Thakur' means Baba (Father) and Malik (owner of everything), Maran Isor (High God), who is worthy to be worshiped, and ~iu' means supernatural spirit of God with the personalities of omnipresence and omniscience. The etymology of the name 'Thakur jiu' does not represent the idea for polytheism nor Animism, but they express the Santals' attempt to present their God in language known to them. Nowadays the Santals say that, the Cando bonga or Sin honga (the Sun God) is the functional name for one God. Among the Santals, the Supreme God is identified with the natural objects, the Sun, thus He is Cando honga or Sin bonga (the Sun God).' But the forefathers of the Santals have witnessed that the Can do honga or Sin bonga (Sun God) is not 'Thakur jiu'. The Sun is the natural object created by 'Thakur jiu.'lo Thakur jiu is the living God. He sees and knows the human hearts. When He sees sins and immoral activities ofhumankind, he punishes them through many distresses.Johannes Gausdal says:

He (God) can not be seen with bodily eyes, but He himself sees all. He has created heaven and earth, human beings, animals, birds and insects in fact everything and every

one, he keeps and controls all and supports our lives small and big."ll J. Troisi supports the idea of Santal belief that the 'Thakur jiu'is the creator, owner, sustainer of the whole universe andthe Father of all humankind.12 The etymological meaning of Thakur jiu carries something of God's inner nature. In other words, an attempt is possible to interpret God in the language of the Santals, their own.

'Thakur jiu', therefore may be considered as a principal name for God. This name, by which God is called in Santal tradition, is descriptive of His character, His reality and that He is not an abstract concept. It conveys the clear expression of tI\e Santal religious thinking and their religious experience. God is real to the Santals, God, in fact as He is known, thought of and spoken of by the Santals ever present and ever acting reality in the world. The name for the Supreme God is uniquely used for Him only and no part of it is shared by any other hongas (Spirits), according to the sacred stories (Myths) of the Santals. But in the contemporary religious practices of the Santals the name 'Thakur jiu' God is often invoked with the 'Maran Burn' and

rest ofhongas (the chief evil spirit and the rest of the spirits).13 Besides the name, the Santals have rich tenninologies for the attributes of Gqd which express the reality of God. He is addressed as Father, Grandfather, .Friend, but not in a human sense. They invariably refer to their dependence on God, whether in cases of success or failure, trouble and happiness they often invoke or Praise such as -Baba Dayate," "by the Grace of God." Yet He can be angry, He can love, understand and hear.

The Santals felt and experienced God as a real friend or helper of all people who reveals and helps them in their trouble and blesses their hard work. The Santals of course suffered a lot through drought, famine, epidemics and socio-economic oppressions, even poverty. Those calamities are believed to be the signs of God's displeasures. But at the same time the Santals have experienced God's merciful liberative acts recorded in the history of the Santals. The history of the Santals shows that the Supreme God created them, pruned them, enquired of them, punished them while commiting immoral lives, and liberating them while they were in all kinds of trouble. The 'Thakur jiu' (Supreme God) knew and participated in the joys and sufferings, that is socio-economic prosperity and oppression of the Santals in history. A particular Santal Historical event reminds us of God's personal revelation in a human form to liberate the Santals from their tears of distresses. T.K Rapaj quotes Kalikar Datta, The revelation came all of a sudden, Sidhu and Kanhu were at night seated in their home, revolving upon many things (in their minds); their brothers, Chand and Bhyrub (Bhairab), were ten miles away at Simul chap, a bit of

paper fell on Seedoo's (Sidhu's) head, and suddenly the Thakur (God) appeared before the astonished gaze of Seedoo (Sidhu) and Kanhu, he was like a white man though dressed in the native style; on each hand he had ten fingers; he held a white book and wrote therein; the book and with it 20 pieces of paper in 5 batches, four in each batch, he presented to the brothers, ascended upwards and disappeared."14 The content of this historical revelation is that God was

moved with compassion on the socio-economically oppressed people, who were exploited by the Mahajans, of the weaker sections of the Santals at that time. Here the story of a miraculous divine revelation, just ocurred in 1855, inspired the Santals to take prompt and open measures for the removal of their distress and pains under the leadership of the Santal Saints and heros Seedoo and Kanhu. They were strengthened and unitedly stood for the justice by the inspired determination

from God. The Santals shed blood and lost lives, but won the victory against injustice.From the beginning of the creation the 'Thakur jiu' has been a God of benevolence and justice in the experiences of the Santals. For Santals the Supreme God is a male deity, the Father of all. He does not tolerate injustice, He fights against injustice and liberates all from bondage.

The Santals believe that God upholds the moral law. "He is the judge of human both now and in life after death and so humans are responsible to Him for their deeds."1I God is not only believed as a judge, but He is considered benevolent and does not require to be propitiated by the daily offering of sacrifice. He is worshipped and offerings are made to Him in Thanksgiving for bumper harvest. When everything else failed, the Supreme God is appealed to because He is the final court of appeal, the judge of all, and to Him humans turn to indespair.

b) Mankind and their Relationship with God.

i) Original state of Mankind.

The Santals have an interesting myth on the creation of mankind by Thakur jiu (Supreme God). The Santal sacred story of the origin of humanity combines the Principles of creation and evolution, for according to it humankind are ultimately derived from two images, which were modelled in human form out of damp clay, but afterwards accidently transformed into birds, from whose eggs the first Man and woman of flesh and blood were hatched. This story of origin of Mankind finds some similarities with the biblical view of creation of Adam and Eve (Gen. 1:26-27; 2:7). In the beginning there was only water and underneath it soil. First of all 'Thakur jiu' (Supreme God) created fishes, tortoises, crocodiles, earthworms, sun, moon and all kinds of living creatures of the water and finally human beings.18 'Thakur jiu' (God) made two human couples of earth. When He was ready to impart souls or breathe (life) into them, the "Sin Sadom" (The day horse of the Sun in the form of horse) came down from above and trampled them to pieces. 'Thakur jiu' became awfully grieved by this. Thakur Baba (God the Father) did not give up His plan of creating humankind. The myth further asserts, "Then Thakur jiu created physical

formation of male and female birds instead of human formation

out of damp clay. The birds were imparted"breath or soul Oife) by the 'Thakur jiu' from the inner part of His bosom. "17 He named the birds-Has and Hasil (meaning goose and gander). He used to keep the birds on his hands and talk and play with them. When the birds needed place to live, 'Thakur jiu' formed the earth and whole creation along with all the necessities. The birds made a nest in a clump of thatching grass. The female bird (Hasil) laid two eggs. From those eggs two humans were bom-one male child and another female child. They were called by the name, ·Pilcu Haram" and Pilcu Budhi. "11

The first human couple grew up in "Hihiri Pipiri,» the original birth place of the Santals. The place Hihiri Pipiri, geographically is uncertain. But one of the songs denote that the Hihiri pipiri was a place like paradise, a peaceful place situated somewhere in Babylon. The first human beings were taken care of by the birds according to the advice of the "Thakur

jiu" (God). It is at this situation, when the birds faced difficulties to feed the first human couple, offered supplication to the Thakur jiu' for providing food for the human couple. le In this context of neccesity Thakur jiu' created the whole universe for the wellbeing of humankind. Then the birds easily found fruits for the human beings. Therefore the earth and the whole creation is created out of the necessity as the source of life for all human beings. In this context of loving providence of God the Santals have never thought of the absence of God's rule, care and relationship with creation and humankind. The first man and woman lived in joy and happiness under the loving care and protection of God. They talked with Him and had fellowship with Him. In those days they knew nothing of illness and death. They were not afraid of death. In their first generation, they had abundant peace, prosperity and security. They did not work hard because labour was mostly free from toil. "The rice grew ready husked and cotton bushes,

bore cloth already woven. "20 They believed that this Providence and easy supply were possible only by the Grace of Thakur jiu'.

The Santals' vision of communion with 'Thakur jiu' (Supreme God) is much deeper. God is real and the only shelter to them. As Dr. Timothy Hembrom writes, Thakur jiu' (God), being a spiritual power cannot be reduced to any form of Image, hence the tribals (Santals) have never been idol "worshipers."21 The belief in a Supreme God is a distinctive feature for the Santals.

He is understood and believed as the High Spirit in contrast to the many other deities and spirits.2Z They worshipped God as it was willed by God. He may be approached and worshipped by any person in any place. As once again to quote Dr. Timothy Hembrom, "The import of the dictum, God is neither worshipped in Jerusalem nor in Gerizim (In. 4:21), is well known to the tribals in India since time immemorial. "23 Here the emphasis is that the Santals worshipped the kind of God, who does not exist in a limited worshipping abode, but ever active and ever present everywhere. It was taken for granted by the Santals that God was with humankind from the beginning of creation. He liked to be with human beings. He is a relational Being. The Santals

believe that the present life does not end with death, but what concerns a Santal is both his present state of life and the life after death to be in the hand of God. Therefore, the Santal

religious concern about human beings begins from birth. This life is a part of God as a whole. The word 'Jivi' (soul), imparted from the inner part of God's bosom,· to human beings, is part of God (Amsa of God). The 'Jiv,," (Sou}), being a part of God, is a living force in human life, which makes human beings capable of acting, reasoning and moving. The 'Jivi' (Soul) relates humanity with God. In this sense we imagine God's own self exists in humanity according to Santal religious belief: So, God's special gift to humanity is His Jivi (soul or breath) as having some similarities with God's gift of His Image in Biblical view to humanity. That is why, the Santals believe that the Supreme God has a living and intimate relationship with all human beings, here in this world and in the life after death. As the forefathers have been saying, "Thakur jiu has sent us to this world -. He will take us back to next world. "24 (Mare hapram ko ko ror &kat'a, Thakur ge dhartiteye kol &kat' bonakhane idi bona hanapurite).

Their simple belief is that, as God is the giver of 'Jivi', He takes initiative for relationship with human beings and in that sense humanbeings are the relational beings, who can maintain a relationship with God and his neighbours. God is the source of all good gifts. The earth belongs to Him. He gives intellect to human beings and they can enjoy all good things that God has bestowed upon them. This belief shows that God Himself maintains a personal relationship by His very nature of relational character. Hum8llity remains as human only on the basis of his relationship with God and with others, As Dr. R Chandran, writes quoted by Dr. D.W. Jesudoss,

The nature of man and the purpose of his life can be known only on the basis of his relationship with God. In fact, his every existence as man depends on his relationship

with God."25

Thus to the Santals the nature of humanbeings is good or bad depending on whether they are related to God or not. This idea runs parallel to the idea of Christian Theology, which teaches that Man (humanity) is totally dependent on God for all his spiritual, intellectual and matet1al possessions. Therefore, when mankind reject God, it only shows their ungratefulness in receiving the gifts and not recognising the Giver.2I The Santals give imporUmce on the original creation of humanity, the combination of the Principles of creation and evolution. 'Thakur jiu' created birds out of damp clay (the dust) and the damp clay became living creatures by the breath of God's life and then in the process of evolution the first human beings were hatched from the eggs of the birds. Here by the act of imparting breath to the damp clay, the inanimate . physical formation of birds made. out of damp clay becoming . animate. The breath of God became a living force inside those models of birds that makes them capable of moving and acting. In this.combination of matter and a spirit or spirit force may be rec6~ized as having similarities with Biblical view of original creation story of Adam and Eve (Gen. 1:26-27; 2:7).

As John Macquarrie writes, "If man is formed of the dust of the ground, he is also said to have breathed into him by God the breath of life."27 The idea of evolution, i.e. the transformation of the birds into mankind, is absent in the Bible. But it is a popularly accepted fact by the Santals that, the first human beings were created from the damp clay of the soil (the dust of the ground) and they are the creatures of God. John Macquarrie asserts:

Man is a creature of God, he has the potentiahty for

becoming the "offspring" of God or for being "adopted" into

sonship and so somehow participating in God's life. It is

when we consider this openness whereby a creaturely being

may be taken up into holy Being that we get, so to speak,

a breathing view of creation in all its unimaginable

possibilities. "28

The Santals to need realise their potentiality for becoming offspring of God and to have communion with 'Thakur jiu' (God) for their liberation from their contemporary culture ofsuffering (spirits worship, and offering sacrifices 'in vain). This point is helpful to make a bridge between Christian understanding of returning to a living God and the Santals returning to the original concept of God and their relation with God.

ii) The Separatinn between God and humankind:

The Santals have a myth which speaks of how human beingswere separated from God by the 'Maran Buru" (Satan, the chief evil spirit). "Maran Buru" is the evil spirit who possesses the most clearly defined individuality.2I The name "Maran Buru" means "great mountain", but the word 'buru' means not only a mountain, but also used for spirits in general. Another name for "Maran Buru" is 'Lita',3° which is a proper name for the chief evil spirit, just as Diabol for Satan found in the Bible. The references to 'Uta' in Santal mythology clearly indicate his dominant position. As W.J. Culshaw denotes, "He appeared on the scene at a very early stage in the life of the first pair."31 At a very early stage, he visited them and found them in a state of innocence and told them that they have not yet learnt to taste the joy of this life. He introduced himself to them as their grandfather and so established an intimate

relationship between himself and them. He taught them how to prepare beer and asked them. "Now both of you drink this after first of all having poured on the ground some to Maran Buru." He then left them for few days and when he returned he chuckled to see the change in their appearance, for during his absence they had become drunken. In that condition they lost all the sense of purity and moral dignity, Their innocent nature was changed to Pride and covetousness. It was the time of temptation when they acquired all the natures of the chief evil spirits. In this changed inhuman situation they had for the first time experienced sexual intercourse and realizing their nakedness and felt ashamed. They made loin clothes to cover. Maran Buru taught them that they must always offer beer in his name whenever they invoke his name.IIThe Santals consider this fact as the original disloyalty to the 'Thakur jiu' (God) and loyalty ~ the 'Maran Burn' (the Satan). They forgot their God, but He did not leave them from His sight. The first human pair, 'Pilcu Haram' and 'Pilcu Budhi' got children, seven sons and seven daughters. They got married with each other, which was sin at that stage, without rules and regulations, as per the later development of the clan organisation of the Santal customs and religious culture. It is said that from these seven couples became a huge tribe classified in twelve clans with systematic cultural clan organisations, as follows: Hansdak', Kisku, Murmu, Hembrom,Tudu, Soren, Baskey, Marandih; Besra, Core, Pauria and Bedia. This clan organisation was set by the first pair for the social and moral wellbeing of their Children as E.O. Jameswrites:

"The sacred lore of the tribe is not a fanciful tale told in

explanation of natural phenomena and inexplicable events,

but a method of expressing certain. ways of thinking and

feeling about the facts of life ·and of regulating human

moral actions."33

The above passage emphasizes the purpose of the division of human race into clans, Le. regulating one's way of thinking, feeling and human moral actions for maintaining community spirit, solidarity, racial identity and moral dignity in the society. The clan organisation is an' accepted norm for the Santal society. That is why, non-conformity to the accepted norm is sin, in Santal community life. And each act of sin, for the Santal, is an insult to the community and it is the duty of the community to punish every act of sin. They believe that if anyone does not confess and ~ent for his or her sins here in this world, he or she would be punished in the next world,

after death.

4. A Theological Evaluation.

Behind the Santal original state of humanity, universe and their separation from the Supreme God, it can be discerned that something had gone wrong with human beings and the universe. The Problem was that, they did not enjoy perfect bliss. Humankind's original, peaceful life had been interrupted and they had to reap its consequence in this present life. It is perhaps. here that the Christian doctrine of -the fall of humanity" may serve as a point of contact for the Santal understanding of the Present state of human life.

The myth about the separation between humanity and 'Thakur jiu' (God) has an important theological significance. It is noted that the main cause of separation was not God but human beings through the evil motivation of the evil spirit. Human beings misused their freedom. They rebelled against their creator. They were. innocent but became proud. As a result it brought tragic consequences for humanbeings and the whole universe. They lost the privilege of speaking directly to God, hence they became helpless. They lost happiness, peace, joy. Sickness visited humankind and death remained with them. Their ability .to understand and gain knowledge of Godwere affected.

Humankind having lost the original fellowship with God, their knowledge about God too, has been distorted and come short of glory of God. (Rom. 3:23). Direct conversation between

God and humanity is no longer possible. Their communication with God, which was possible without the mediation of sacrifice and priests has been cut oft'. Humankind have lost not only fellowship with God, but also the easy supply from the creation-animal, vegetation and natural forces. They have had to struggle alone for their lives. The universe became a

riddle for them. They often confused themselves more and more. Their freedom of expression, relationship and movements were distorted. The evil thought, immorality impurity, licentiousness, sorcery, enmity, envy, drunkenness, carousing and evil spirit worship followed humankind and have been dominating them. This idea has close similarities with the Genesis account of the "Fall of humanity".

The Santal myth about the original state of Mankind and the separation suggest their concept of God. In their traditional belief the question of God's existence was never raised. They took it for granted that God exists and mankind were at th. mercy of God. The myth, regarding the relationship between God as the creator and human beings as the creatures, also introduces the origin of worship. Worship is willed by God. This idea discloses, the importance of maintaining unending relationship with God as mankind's responsibility to God. Human beings are responsible to God and to the whole universe. So, the Santal traditional myth traces that their religion originated from God. It is the will of God for humanity.

The Santals have a strong belief in life in this world and its continuance in the next world. Thus the Santals take· this present life seriously beCause the future will be determined on

the basis of the present life in this world. Life in this world is as important as the life after death in the next world. So they believe in immortality of soul. It is exciting to imagine in the Santal tradition that human beings' possibility of restoring fellowship with God was not completely destroyed by 'their rebellion against God. God continues to bless them in general. The tradition tells us that through repentance that is, turning back to the creator God, a new relationship could be restored once again. This new relationship with God will surely lead humanity to a new community where people might feel the living active presence of God. Their forefathers witnessed that human beings return to God for help and refuge when all other means fail them.

Therefore, all that they have to do is to submit everything to the mercy of God. The Santal religion does not offer mankind a message of forgiveness and redemption. It knows forgiveness of God. As "Thakur jiu" (God) lovingly declared, before annihilating the immoral human race by the fiery liquid rain, an invitation to mankind, saying, "return to me and to the

path of the correct conduct while there is time."M This insight of the forgiveness of God in Santal traditional religion maybe considered as a doctrine offorgiveness of God. It may be stated 'that the mess. of Jesus Christ, the Good News of God's free forgiveness, the gift of salvation and the liberation from bondage of cultural suffering is ah'~ady present in the Primeval

traditional myth of the Santal. In this context the message of God's forgiveness and salvation for all people in Jesus Christ could easily be understood as a unique and true message by

the Santals.

5. Concluding Remarks

The traditional myths of the Santal portray the person (human race) as in need of Salvation as being in a condition that is estranged from the Supreme God. This estrangement from God is the tragedy of mankind. The real evil which prevents humankind from knowing and acknowledging God's salvation, according to Santal traditional religious belief is not their physical defectiveness but their spiritual darkness.

If we examine Santals' present religious belief and practices, we find them dominated by the bongas forces (evil spirits forces) suffers and groans. This Animistic belief and practice of the Santal analyse the human situation as yet in a rather superficial way: mankinds are in want of riches, children and heaven, all those wants can be supplied by bongas (spirits)

propitiation in one hand and mankinds are threatened by fear, and hunger, by old age diseases and by death. There is a deeper want in humanity or salvation as the Santa} cultural realities (Past and Present) reveal pathetic human situation.

This study discovers the history of how God has been dealing with humanity in the past. This interpretation of the oral traditions shows the basic forms of religious faith, practices and moral teachings of the fathers. The oral traditions and customs are accepted as holy and authoritative for the faith and practice of the people. These had been carefully preserved and transmitted intact by the fathers from one generation to another, even down to this day. Therefore this interpretation of the Santal concept of God, mankind's relationship with God and their separation from God might evolve a creative and meaningful Santal Christian Theology that is relevant and contextual to our contextual realities.

This study contributes to an understanding of true freedom. In this attempt of contextualization, a bridge between Christianity and Santal Religion can be established to help the human race (the Santa}) to move from Unreal to Reality and from Untruth to Truth-that'results in a new ordering of religious activities and social obligations. The shadowy figure of the Supreme Being is invested with personality and comesinto the centre of consciousness. He is not merely the Creator to whom little is ascribed as the dispenser of good and bad weather, He is vitally concerned with human life and conduct. The story of the Jews is appreciated as that of a people who suffered through a long history from oppression, and the story of the wanderings appeal to the Santal. It is altogether fitting that the one Saviour of all mankind should be born of a people with whom the Santal feels that he has much in common. The traditional story of the origin of mankind and their separation from Supreme God may be held to supplement the Biblical narrative. Adam and Eve may be referred to as Pilcu Haram and Pilcu Budhi and Maran Buru on the other hand is equated with Satan, and the cult of worship that he instituted may be regarded as a deception imposed on the Santals. To the Santals who have been led in any degree to appreciate the Christian teaching about God, the identification of Maran Buru with Satan seems to be obvious. He led the first human pair into sin and revealed to them the secret of sexual intercourse, for which the polite name among the Santals is always baric'kami or evil work. He caused their ancestors to wander through the forests and finally foisted on them the cult of the spirits centering in the worship of himself.

The Santals' hope is in the Supreme God for Protection and deliverance from evil spirits and all kinds of problems. The Supreme God-the Saviour God, who has revealed himself in the message of Christs' victory over evil, will provide freedom from the fear of malevolent spirits and all kinds of human' problems.


1. AP. Nirmal, "Towards a Relevant and Contemporary Theology in India-

A Vision For Man, S. Amirtham (ed.), CLS, Madras, 1978, p. 61.

2. C.S. Song, TMology from the Womb of Asia, p. 132.

3. Ibid., pp. 111-112.

4. Gorge E. Somene, The Dy1l4micB of Sontal Traditions in a Peasant

Society, p. 38.

5. Ibid., p.4

6 .. G. A. GrienlOn, "Munda and Dravidian Languages: Linguistic Survey

of India, (Calcutta: office of the Superintendent of Government Printing,

Vol. IV, 1906), p. 31.

7. Olave Hodne, L.O. Skrefsrud Mi88io1UJl'Y and Social Reformv' among

the Santals of Santal PargtJ1UJ8, (Oslo: Edge Instituted 1966), p. 19.

8. J. Troisi, Tribal religion: Religious belief and Practices among the

Santals, Manohar Publication, New Delhi, 1979 p. 74.

9. Jonathan H., Thumra, -rhe Primal Religious Tradition,- Religious

Traditions of Indio, P.S. Daniel David C. Scott, and G.R. Singh (eei.),

Indian Theological Library, Senate of Serampore College, 1988. p. 48.

10. L.O. Skrefsrud, The Traditions of the Santals, (nineth edition in Santali),

Literature Committee ofthe NELC, Dumka 1994, p. 179.

11. Johannes Guasdal, -Ancestral and Sacrificial clans among the SantaIs,The

JounuU of the Asiatic Society, Science, Vol. XIX. No.!, 1952, p. 65.

(word in bracket represents author's).

12. J. Troisi op. cit., p. 76

13. Ibid., p. 181.

14. T.K. Rapaj, Hazaribagh Reak' Jtioos (the History of Hazaribagh),

Calcutta, 1994, p. 89, quoted from Kalikar Datta, The SantalInsurrection

of 1855-57, Chapter U, p. 14.

15. Jonathan H. Thumra, op. cit., p . .48.

16. W.J. Culshaw, Tribal Heritage: A Studv of the Santals, London pp. 65-


17. L.O. Skrefsrud, op. cit., p. 1.

18. Literally, "First Old Man and First Old. Woman-

19. L.O. Skrefsrud, op. cit., p. 2.

20. Indu Roy Chowdhury, Folk tales of the Santals, New Delhi, Sterling

Publication, 1974, p. 19.

21. Timothy Hembrom, "Ministry and Mission from a Primal Perspective,-

Gurukul Journal of Theological studies, Vol. V. No. 1 & 2, 1994 p. 55.

22. L.O. Skrefsrud, op. cit., p. 179.

23. Timothy Hembrom, op. cit., p. 55.

24. L.O. Skrefsrud op. ciL, p. 158.

25. D.W. Jesudoss, "What is Man? Research Institute, Gurukul, Madras, p.

81. quoted Rusel Chandran, Ethics, p. 85.

26. Ibid., p. 81.

27. John Macquarrie, Christian Theology, SCM Press, London, 1977, p.


28. Ibid., p. 231.

29. W.J. Culshaw op. cit., p. 81.

30. 'LlTA' is the proper name of the Principal Bonga (The chief evil spirit

just as Satan is called Diabol in the Bible) also commonly called 'Maran

Buru-, meaning -The Great Mountain-.

31. W.J. Culshaw, op. cit., p. 81.

32. Johannes Guasdal, op. cif., pp. 10-14.

33. E.O. James, Comparative Religion, Methun, London, 1938, p. 304.

34. L.O. Skrefsrud, op. cit., p. 8.




Pritishri Parhi**

INTRODUCTION Indigenous knowledge is local knowledge, that is unique to a given culture and society. This knowledge is the information base for the society. Codified in the language of the society, it facilitates communication and decision making. Indigenous knowledge is dynamic, it changes through indigenous creativity innovativeness as well as through contact with other knowledge system. Indigenous knowledge is passed down from generation to generation usually by word of mouth. Today because of its oral tradition, as well as the introduction of new technologies, the preservation of indigenous knowledge is at risk unless it is documented. Being inspired by the uniqueness of the indigenous knowledge, the author tempted very much to collect some of the indigenous practices prevailing among the tribals of Santal tribe in Mayurbhanj District of Orissa, relating to child care practices because of the following considerations. Parents the world over are interested in the well-being of their children. Almost every phase of family living affects the child. Child care must be considered as an important part of total programme for improved living . * Lecturer, College of Home Science, Orissa University of Agriculture & Technology, Bhubaneswar. ** Paper presented in National Seminar on "Indigenous Technologies for sustainable Agriculture" organised by National Council of Development Communication, Varanasi, in collaboration with Division of Agricultural Extension, I.A.R.I., New Delhi. But large number of children die every year from causes that could be prevented by the parents if they had been taught the healthful way to care for their children. Child care begins with the mother when she isn't pregnant, what she eats and how she cares for herself affects her chances to have a healthy strong baby. She needs to know how to feed and care for the infant now and when to wean the child and how to properly feed and care for the toddler after weaning. The mortality rate in children between the ages of two years and four or five is great in many areas. When the children are no longer given breast milk, they are often fed only a diet of starchy gruel with no protein for which protein deficiency in preschool children is one of the great nutritional problems with which Government around the world are now concerned. Child care emphasizes good nutrition in relation to progress of the child in school. It includes children's needs and how to meet these leads from infancy to adolescence. Parents need to understand that to give their children better living, both the home and the community must increasingly become healthful places to rear children. If there is not proper food to eat, houses have no windows, if they are unsanitary, if they have no latrines, if water for their family is unsafe and scarce, if there are flies and mosquitoes everywhere, the children have little chance to grow healthy and strong. Whether the mother is categorized as tribal or non-tribal, urban or rural, she is constantly attempting to keep her child healthy either through conventional child care practices. Since the tribal mothers have better opportunities and greater exposure to indigenous child care practices over conventional methods the location for the study was selected through purposive sampling technique and the data were collected through participant observation method and key informant technique. Some of the practices which seem to be conspicuous and interesting were collected which are as follows: 1. FOR EASY DELIVERY a) Wearing of the root of a young tamarind plant uprooted by hand around waist region of the body of the mother at the time of delivery pain hastens easy delivery. b) Applying the flower/plant of Gloriosa superba (Family Liliaceae) after properly ground in a paste form at the time of delivery pain on the belly portion of the mother relaxes the muscles promoting easy delivery. c) When the delivery pain is acute, the castor oil is massaged gently on the belly which causes easy delivery and immediately relieves the pain. d) It is also adopted by some women folk that tightening the belly portion by means of a cloth in a gentle manner and then swinging the belly lightly relieves all complications and pain during delivery. 2. PRACTICES FOLLOWED AFTER CHILD BIRTH a) After the child is born, immediately normally an old lady called Traditional Birth Assistant (Dhai) cuts the umbilical cord of the child kept on a coin with the help of a barber's knife (Khura) or by sharpen edge of a Samuka (Pandara). Then ash of burnt goat cake (Chheli lendi in Oriya) is put on the umbilical cord for its drying and immunization against any attack by micro-organisms. It is done regularly two times a day till the cord is fallen, thus separated from the body. Contrary to the above, also hot fomenting by fire with the help of oily thumb of right hand is done on the umbilical cord for quicker drying and its separation from the body. As long as the cord remains alive and intact with the body, the bathing of the baby is strictly prohibited for the Santals. b) The child is not breast-fed for about two days thinking that the milk is poisonous and concentrated. Instead the child is fed a honey-water mix as its food. But after two days the tribes encourage breast-feeding till next issue or after three to four years of birth. c) Massaging the baby by mustard oil boiled with garlic twice a day is done -to strengthen muscles and to prevent against cold and cough. 3. PRACTICES FOLLOWED FOR HEALTH CARE OF SANTAL CHILDREN i) Stem of Ocimum sanctum (Tulsi) with garlic petals and purified Kochila seeds (Strychnos nux-vomica) are worn around the neck or waist of Santal babies to prevent against cold, cough and evil spirits. Juice of tulsi leaves with honey given to children for cure against cold, cough and fever (essential oil of garlic and alkaloid of Kochila seed probably have the medicinal value against diseases of children). ii) Against the viral infections like chicken pox, small pox and measles, seeds of Harida (Tarminalia chebula) and root of Moti-saga and Cannabis sativa tied to left or right arm of children in black thread during spring season particularly on Saturday or Thursday as a preventive. iii) The petiole of betel leaf smeared with caster oil and applied to the anus of the constipative baby to facilitate motion, i.e., passing of stool. iv) Against severe headache, acute fever and for reduction of body temperature, the paste prepared out of Dalchini (Cinamomum xylanicum) is smeared on the forehead of the baby. It gives an instant relief to the child. v) Gall stone of a cow called "Gorochana" is used as a medicine. It is added with mother's milk or honey and given to the children to cure indigestion, hiccups, flatulence, and liver malfunction. It is a very common practice. vi) "Jastimadhu" i.e. stem part of Glycyrrhiza glabra is roughed on a clear polished stone and given with "Gorochana" for prevention against indigestion and used as a carminative, improves vigour, voice and skin colour of Santal children. It is also given with honey to cure jaundice. Decoction prepared with milk and sugar given to weak babies and anemic babies increases iron content of the blood. vii) On an auspicious day namely, "Bata-Usha" the children of the household and neighbourhood are given gentle strokes with Bajramuli plants (Sida cordifolia). It gives as it is believed, longevity and vigour to young child and delays the aging process. The root powder, the seeds and the decoction of the entire plant also if taken continuously with lukewarm milk for a fortnight gives miraculous recovery of liver weakness. It was collected with a religious rite so that during "Bata- Usha" time it is cheaply available which we have perhaps forgotten and currently it has been reduced to gentle stroke. viii) A very useful plant to the tribals called "Puruni" (Boerhovia diffusa) is used in different forms. The entire plant especially the root are ground and given to the children with food for rejuvenating the body cells. The leaf juice with honey given to children against body weakness, cough, jaundice and liver troubles. ix) For the children suffering from the loss of memory, low intelligence, sore throat, hoarse tone, an instant improvement has been marked by chewing the rhizome of the plant called "Bacha" (Achorous calamus) and taking its powder with honey or lukewarm milk at the time of full lunar eclipse. CONCLUSION The information as collected above are by interviewing and observing the tribal women folk in Santal areas of Mayurbhanj District. The informations have been gathered are based on their age-old practices being followed. Some of the cases/practices need further scientific analysis to establish their authenticity by proper reasoning and further study. REFERENCES 1) Agricultural Extension - A reference manual, F.A.O, Rome, 1972. 2) CIKARD News letter, Vol-I, No. 1, Iowa State University.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Captain Sherwill, the revenue surveyor, in 1851, closely watched the life of the Santhals. “ The Santhal,” he wrote, “ or lowlander, is a short, well made and an active man, quiet, inoffensive and cheerful; he has the thick lips, high cheek bones, and spread nose of the Bheel, Kol and other hill tribes of Southern and Central India; he is beardless or nearly so; he is moreover an intelligent, obliging creature, and an industrious cultivator of the soil, and he is unfettered with caste, he enjoys existence in far degree greater than does his neighbour.”

“From Burhyte (refer map), large quantities of rice, bora beans Indian corn, mustard and several oil seeds are conveyed away in carts by Bengalis to Jangipore, on the Bhagiratti; and in return for these grains, the Santhals are paid in money, salt, tobacco, beads or cloth. “ Once Captain Sherwill went to a village called Gowpara and meet with the village headman (Manjhi), on entering the village he found all the villagers were alarmed by his arrival and everyone seem to avoid his proximity. Somehow he convinced the village headman that he meant no harm, a wonderful conversation developed, followed by exchange of gifts. He noticed that while they were talking a crowd had started to build up slowly, and he says, “I threw a quantity of the hair ornaments consisting of tufts of Tuasser silk, dyed scarlet, and tied with a black cotton; to the children in Manjhi’s house I distributed a quantity of copper money, bargained with the Manjhi with a quantity of empty bottles, and money for poisoned arrows, and grass hammocks.”

Captain Sherwill had given the Manjhi a gift- an empty bottle, which the Manjhi accepted rather hesitatingly. He repeatedly asked Sherwill whether he gave the gift out of his own will or he had any intentions, but Sherwill assured him that he had no other interest other than the pleasure to gift. Before parting, he asked the headmen not to fear any European but to consider them as friends. But this friendship will no longer remain with the breaking of the revolt of 1855.

Santhal village

Ten thousands Santhals assembled in the field of Bhognadih, on 30th June, 1855, and unanimously passed a resolution to fight the corrupt government officials, the “Dikus”. The “Dikus” had betrayed them, forced them to slavery and abused their women; they had no choice but to fight them. They assembled under their leaders, Sidhu, Kanu, Chand, Bhairo and pledged to fight till their Independence is secured.

The rebels did not have much grievance against the “Whites” or “Sahibs”, their main enemy was the “Dikus”. The rebels caught the enemy in surprise; no one was expecting that the innocent and timid “Santhals” could ever take up arms. But when they eventually took to arms, it seemed the days of Mongol conquest have come back. Village after village fell to them, money lenders were put to death, Jamindars were killed, and hundreds of villages became human less.

Map of Santhal Revolt, click to enlarge

The British weren’t ready for this, a small contingent of force under Major Burrough was called to suppress the rebels but he meet tremendous resistance and was defeated at Pirpainati. The victory of the Santhals over the all mighty British further fuelled the rebellion and it spread like wildfire. The below table shows the major skirmishes up to end of January 1856, when the revolt finally came to an end.
As you can see in the map, that the Santhals divided themselves into three different groups and fought in three different places. Their main objective was to reach Calcutta and inform the Government about the atrocities of the “Dikus” , they believed that the British immediately would come to their help and put a stop to their age old oppression. They were uninformed about the complex politics that run the huge machinery of imperialism. However one group (a) left their stronghold of Berhait and marched towards Calcutta by the way of Birbhum district. The other group (b) choose to enter through Murshidabad. The chocolate colour lines shows the various routes taken by the rebels.

Although they had initial victories but soon the English replied back strongly. I will present some interesting perspectives from the British side about the revolt and the rebels. Madras Christian Herald in 27th May 1857 issue mentions of a poor Santhal who was pursued by the British infantry, he had a child in his arm, as volley of fire were shot at him, he replied back shooting arrows and each time he shot he laid down the child on the ground. Finally he died saving the child, and the British took the child unharmed. “They don’t understand yielding,” said Major Jervis, he further observed that as long as the Santhal drum kept beating, the Santhals kept on fighting. Such discipline was rarely seen in any native army, and Santhals never fought in an army.
Major Skirmishes of Santhal Revolt

The English observed that the Santhals never used poisoned arrows against them, although they used such arrows for hunting. Even Charles Dickens writing in “Household Words” praised the Santhals over the Russians. The officers recalled that the Santhals usually gave warning before they attacked sometimes even sending exact date of assault. Once the Santhals caught hold of a postman, “dakiya” they didn’t harm him instead they ordered him to carry three leaves to Suri, signifying an attack on Suri in three days.

Major Commanders British
58th Regiment Major Middleton
31st Native Infantry Col Norman
2nd Bengal Regiment Major Forbes
81st Native Infantry Major Sitwell
unknown Captain Anderson

Major Ryall

There are reports that Santhals plundered every village they came across, but this may not be fairly true, or even if it is it may only be partially true. In an account in Calcutta Review 1856 I find that the few hill tribes were responsible to defame the Santhals on this. The Pahariyas would follow the Santhals for some distance, and when the latter had driven away all the villagers of the village, they would pounce upon the situation looting everything they could find. In this way the Santhals had lot to fight, but little to plunder.
A page from east India Company's account book showing expenses during the suppression of Santhal Revolt.

Most of the fights as Major Jarvis say, “not war” but simply murder. When a rebel group was encircled and asked to surrender, they would not yield, forcing the English fire each volley and ask for surrender, but even then they would fire, till the last man, till the last arrow. They were some important observation as well, a Muslim officer in British service wrote in Times, 1st April,1858, “ The Santhals would make excellent materials for soldiers. I have seen a great many kinds of men but I have never seen men like the Santhals...They have no prejudices of caste or religion to fight against; for this reason, I conclude, they would do anything and go anywhere the Government desires. It is true these men are savages, but they would be taught even other men are, for it is a well known fact civilization begets civilization.”
The British were aware that the Santhals were not against them, but against the “Dikus”. Ironically the same treatment the British had offered to the natives (mainly upper castes) of India, the natives had offered the same to the lowest bunch in the caste hierarchy. So in a way the exploitation was not one dimensional it had many faces, but always directed to the immediate weakest section of the society.

The revolt was crushed brutally, hundreds of Santhal villages were levelled to the ground, the heroes were put to death, but one thing which all these extreme punishments could not take away is the spirit of Santhals. Even after the Independence of India the Santhals continued to take part in the struggle against oppression.

Santhal Revolt

Copyright © The Santal Resources Page | Powered by Blogger Theme by Ronangelo