Santhal people

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Santali dance photo.png
Santhali people at a dance Saontal
Total population
Regions with significant populations
              Jharkhand 2,410,509[1]
              West Bengal 2,280,540[2]
              Bihar 367,612[3]
              Odisha 629,782


              Jhapa District 23,172
              Morang District 16,387
              Assam 800,000-900,000
              Bangladesh 271,485 (in 2012)
Sari Dharam  • Sarnaism  • Hinduism  • Christianity
Related ethnic groups
Mundas  • Hos  • Kols  • other Mon-Khmer people
Dhodro banam musical instruments

The Santhal (Hindi: सांथाल, Bengali: সাঁওতাল, translit. shāñotāl, Nepali: सतार/सन्थाल, translit. satār/santhāl ) are a tribe of people indigenous to Terai of Nepal and India, who live mainly in Nepal and the Indian States of Jharkhand, West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha, Assam (part of the Tea Tribes). There is also a significant Santhal minority in neighboring Bangladesh, and a small population in Nepal. They are one of the largest tribal communities in India. The Santhal mostly speak Santali, a member of the Munda language family.

Santhali language[edit]

The Reverend J. Phillips published 'An Introduction to the Santal Language' in 1852, printed at the Calcutta School – Book Society's Press.

Lars Olsen Skrefsrud, a Norwegian missionary and a language researcher, published 'A Grammar of Santhali Language' in 1873.

Paul Olaf Bodding (born Gjøvik, Norway on 2 November 1865, died Odense, Denmark on 25 September 1938) was a Norwegian missionary, linguist and folklorist. He served in India for 44 years (1889–1933), and operated mainly from the town Dumka in the Santhal Parganas-district. Bodding created the first alphabet and wrote the first grammar for the Santhali-speaking native people in eastern India. In 1914 he also completed the translation of the Bible into the Santhali Language.

In about 1925 Raghunath Murmu created Ol Chiki script for the Santali Language.


One of the most studied tribal religions in India, the Santhal religion (Sari dharam) worships Marang buru (god), or Bonga, as the Supreme Deity.  The weight of belief, however, falls on a court of spirits (Bonga), who handle different aspects of the world and who are placated with prayers and offerings in order to ward off evil influences. These spirits operate at the village, household, ancestor, and sub-clan level, along with evil spirits that cause disease and can inhabit village boundaries, mountains, water, tigers, and the forest. A characteristic feature of the Santhal village is a sacred grove (known as the Jaher[5] or "Santhal Sthal") on the edge of the settlement where many spirits live and where a series of annual festivals take place.[6]

A yearly round of rituals connected with the agricultural cycle, along with life-cycle rituals for birth, marriage and burial at death, involve petitions to the spirits and offerings that include the sacrifice of animals, usually birds. Religious leaders are male specialists in medical cures who practice divination and witchcraft (the socio-historic meaning of the term, used here, refers to the ritual practice of magic and is not pejorative). Similar beliefs are common among other tribes of northeast and central India such as the Kharia, Munda, and Oraon.[6]

Smaller and more isolated tribes often demonstrate articulated classification systems of the spiritual hierarchy less well documented, described as animism or a generalized worship of spiritual energies connected with locations, activities, and social groups. Religious concepts are intricately entwined with ideas about nature and interaction with local ecological systems. As in Santhal religion, religious specialists are drawn from the village or family and serve a wide range of spiritual functions that focus on placating potentially dangerous spirits and coordinating rituals.[6]

Santhali culture[edit]

Chadar Badar, a form of pupetry known also as Santhal puppetry, is a folk show involving wooden puppets placed in a small cage which acts as the stage. The Santhal traditionally accompany many of their dances with two drums: the Tamak‘ and the Tumdak’.[7]

Traditions of Santhals[edit]

Sohrai is the biggest festival among Santhals.

Notable people[edit]


 This article incorporates public domain material from the Library of Congress Country Studies website

  1. ^ "Jharkhand: Data Highlights the Scheduled Tribes" (PDF). Census of India 2001. Census Commission of India. Retrieved 2010-01-10. 
  2. ^ "West Bengal: Data Highlights the Scheduled Tribes" (PDF). Census of India 2001. Census Commission of India. Retrieved 2010-01-10. 
  3. ^ "Bihar: Data Highlights the Scheduled Tribes" (PDF). Census of India 2001. Census Commission of India. Retrieved 2010-01-10. 
  4. ^ "Santhali: Also spoken in Nepal". Retrieved 2011-04-01. 
  5. ^ "Jaher Worshiping Place of Santhals". Retrieved 2014-09-27. 
  6. ^ a b c "The Green Revolution in India". U.S. Library of Congress Country Studies (released in public domain). Retrieved 2007-10-06. 
  7. ^ "Chadar Badar". Telegraph. 2015. Retrieved 2015-03-22. 
  8. ^ "Arjun Tudu - Forward, Delhi Dynamos FC | ISL Player Profile". Retrieved 2017-01-31. 


  • Archer, W. G. The Hill of Flutes: Life, Love, and Poetry in Tribal India: A Portrait of the Santals. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1974.
  • Bodding, P. O. Santal Folk Tales. Cambridge, Mass.: H. Aschehoug; Harvard University Press, 1925.
  • Bodding, P. O. Santal Riddles and Witchcraft among the Santals. Oslo: A. W. Brøggers, 1940.
  • Bodding, P. O. A Santal Dictionary (5 volumes), 1933–36 Oslo: J. Dybwad, 1929.
  • Bodding, P. O. Materials for a Santali Grammar I, Dumka 1922
  • Bodding, P. O. Studies in Santal Medicine and Connected Folklore (3 volumes), 1925–40
  • Bompas, Cecil Henry, and Bodding, P. O. Folklore of the Santal Parganas. London: D. Nutt, 1909. Full text at Project Gutenberg.
  • Chakrabarti, Dr. Byomkes, A Comparative Study of Santali and Bengali, KP Bagchi, Calcutta, 1994
  • Culshaw, W. J. Tribal Heritage; a Study of the Santals. London: Lutterworth Press, 1949.
  • Edward Duyker Tribal Guerrillas: The Santals of West Bengal and the Naxalite Movement, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1987, pp. 201, SBN 19 561938 2.
  • Hembrom. T, The Santals: Anthropological-Theological Reflections on Santali & Biblical Creation Traditions. 1st ed. Calcutta: Punthi Pustak, 1996.
  • Orans, Martin. "The Santal; a Tribe in Search of a Great Tradition." Based on thesis, University of Chicago., Wayne State University Press, 1965.
  • Prasad, Onkar. Santal Music: A Study in Pattern and Process of Cultural Persistence, Tribal Studies of India Series; T 115. New Delhi: Inter-India Publications, 1985.
  • Roy Chaudhury, Indu. Folk Tales of the Santals. 1st ed. Folk Tales of India Series, 13. New Delhi: Sterling Publishers, 1973.
  • Troisi, J. The Santals: A Classified and Annotated Bibliography. New Delhi: Manohar Book Service, 1976.
  • ———. Tribal Religion: Religious Beliefs and Practices among the Santals. New Delhi: Manohar, 2000.

External links[edit]