A traditional Santali dance
|Regions with significant populations|
|Santhali, Odia, Bengali, Hindi|
|Sari Dharam • Sarnaism • Hinduism • Christianity|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Mundas • Hos • Kols • other Mon-Khmer people|
The Santhal, or rarely Santhals, are an ethnic group, native to Nepal and the Indian states of Jharkhand, Assam, West Bengal, Bihar and Odisha. Santhals are the largest indigenous tribe in Jharkhand in terms of population. There is also a significant Santhal minority in neighboring Bangladesh, and a small population in Nepal and Bhutan. The Santals mostly speak Santhali, an Austroasiatic language and that is the most widely-spoken of the Munda languages.
One of the most studied, the Santal religion worships Marang buru or Bonga as the Supreme Deity. The majority of reverence, 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 a Santhal village is a sacred grove (known as the Jaher or "Santal Sthal") on the edge of the village where many spirits live and where a series of annual festivals take place.
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.
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.
Sohrai is the principal festival of Santal community. Besides that Baha, Karam, Dansai, Sakrat, Mahmore, Rundo, Magsim etc. are important. The Santal traditionally accompany many of their dances during these festivals with two drums: the Tamak‘ and the Tumdak’.
- Sidhu Murmu and Kanhu Murmu, freedom fighters who rebelled against the British
- Tilka Manjhi
- Raghunath Murmu, philosopher
- Babulal Marandi
- Draupadi Murmu, governor of Jharkhand, India
- Gobinda Chandra Majhi
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- Arjun Tudu, football player
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- Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Santal.|
|Wikisource has the text of the 1905 New International Encyclopedia article Santals.|
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- All India Santal Welfare and Cultural Society
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- Santal culture on Daricha Foundation website (Kolkata)
- Banam The bowed music instrument played by the Santals
- http://projekt.ht.lu.se/rwaai RWAAI (Repository and Workspace for Austroasiatic Intangible Heritage)
- http://hdl.handle.net/10050/00-0000-0000-0003-A6AF-2@view Santali language in RWAAI Digital Archive