Santal people

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Santali dance photo.png
Santali people
Total population
7.4 million
Regions with significant populations
 India,  Bangladesh
Jharkhand 2,752,723[1]
West Bengal 2,512,331[1]
Odisha 894,764[1]
Assam ~500,000
Bihar 406,076[1]
 Bangladesh 300,061 (2001)[2]
   Nepal 42,698[3]
Santali,Bengali, Hindi
Sari Dharam  • Sarnaism  • Hinduism  • Christianity
Related ethnic groups
Mundas  • Hos  • Kols  • other Mon-Khmer people
Dhodro banam musical instruments

The Santal, or rarely Santals (Santali:ᱥᱟᱱᱛᱟᱲ,Hindi: सांथाल, Bengali: সাঁওতাল, translit. shãotāl, Nepali: सतार/सन्थाल, translit. satār/santhāl), are an ethnic group, native to Nepal and the Indian states of Jharkhand, West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha. Santhals are the largest tribe in India in terms of population. There is also a significant Santhal minority in neighboring Bangladesh, and a small population in Nepal and Bhutan. They are one of the largest Scheduled Tribe communities in India. The Santal mostly speak Santali.

Santali 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 about 1925 Raghunath Murmu created Ol Chiki script for the Santali language.[citation needed]


One of the most studied tribal religions in India, the Santal religion (Sari Dharam) worships Marang buru (God), or Bonga (God), 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[4] or "Santal Sthal") on the edge of the settlement where many spirits live and where a series of annual festivals take place.[5]

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.[5]

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 Santal religion, religious specialists are drawn from the village or family and serve a wide range of spiritual functions that focus on placating potentially dangerous spirits and coordinating rituals.[5]

Santali culture[edit]

Sohrai is the principal festival of Santal community. Besides that Baha, Karam, Dansai, Sakrat, Mahmore, Rundo, Magsim etc. are important. Chadar Badar, a form of puppetry known also as Santal puppetry, is a folk show involving wooden puppets placed in a small cage which acts as the stage. The Santal traditionally accompany many of their dances with two drums: the Tamak‘ and the Tumdak’.[6]

Traditions of Santals[edit]

Sohrai is the biggest festival among Santals.

Notable people[edit]


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

  1. ^ a b c d "A-11 Individual Scheduled Tribe Primary Census Abstract Data and its Appendix". Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India. Retrieved 2017-11-18. 
  2. ^ Cavallaro, Francesco; Rahman, Tania. "The Santals of Bangladesh" (PDF). Nayang Technical University. Retrieved 2017-11-17. 
  3. ^ "Santali: Also spoken in Nepal". Retrieved 2011-04-01. 
  4. ^ "Jaher Worshiping Place of Santhals". Retrieved 2014-09-27. 
  5. ^ a b c "The Green Revolution in India". U.S. Library of Congress Country Studies (released in public domain). Retrieved 2007-10-06. 
  6. ^ "Chadar Badar". Telegraph. 2015. Retrieved 2015-03-22. 
  7. ^ "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, Massachusetts: 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]