Santhals - The Wise Tribe of the East

Call them the ‘Wise Tribe of the East’ – the Santhals are the third largest tribal community in India. The legends of Santhals are only persisting in songs and folklore of Santhal tribe itself.  Fahien the Chinese traveler was the first to make a pilgrimage in India and first to describe about the Santhal tribe at large. His journey lasted about sixteen years (A.D. 399-414) and described in detail about the tribe staying and lifestyle in foothill of Rajmahal.  According to historians, Santhals are from Pre-Aryan period.  Some anthropologists also hint that the Santhals belong to the Proto-Astraloid racial group.


Pandit Raghunath Murmu, the great Santhal scholar, wrote that Santhals are from Pre Aryan period. And they were the real great fighters during British regime. Santhals were the first who fought against Permanent Settlement Act of Lord Cornwallis during 1855. It was during late 1850, when Sidhu Murmu, KanhuMurmu, Chand Murmu and Bhairo Murmu along with 85,000 Santhals wage a war against British Raj.


Culturally, the Santhals are very modern. Their basic needs are fulfilled by forests and cultivation. The tribe also indulges in fishing and hunting. They also make musical equipments, mats and baskets out of the plants. Santali rituals are mainly comprised of sacrificial offerings and invocations to the spirits, or Bongas.


Santhals like many other tribes of Jharkhand and Odisha are pagans. Santhals don’t believe in idol worship. They follow Sarna religion! Their god and goddesses are Marangburu, Jaheraera, and Manjhi. Santhals also pay respect to the ghosts and spirits like Kal Sing, Lakchera, Beudarang etc. Animal sacrifices in order to appease the Gods is a common practice

Lifestyle & Dance:

God must have told them, ‘let there be dance’! They move to the beat of the music, celebrate the magnificent nature, offer prayers to the god and more importantly hoist a message.

The Santhal dance is said to be one of the best tribal folk dances of India. It eliminates the gender biasness, suits women, men and children alike. The immense vibrancy and cheerfulness the dance has to offer is unparalleled.

While performing, the male Santhali dancers are decked up in dhoti and make use of decorative accessories, like turban, tree leaves, flowers and bushes. The dance is mainly performed on special occasions.


Santhals can be called a musical tribe. The names of many Santhal tunes are derived from the traditional ritual with which they were once associated. Sohrai tunes are sung during Sohrai festival.


Karam festival is the main occasion of celebration! It falls in the month of September and October, and is the highlight festival followed. Other festivals of the celebrated include Maghe, Baba Bonga, Sahrai, Ero, Asaria and Namah. They also celebrate haunting festival called Disum sendra on the eve of Baishakhi Purnima


Santhali is the prime language spoken by the Santhal Tribe. This Indian tribe also have a script of their own called Olchiki. Apart from Santhali they also speak Bengali, Oriya and Hindi.