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Santhal Tribe

Indian President Draupadi Murmu belongs to the Santhal tribe of Odisha which is spread over several states in eastern India.


Santhals are one of the largest tribal communities. (The largest tribe in India is the Bhil, followed by the Gonds and the Santhals).

Before establishing themselves on the Chotanagpur plateau, the Santhals were a nomadic people.

They had gathered in the Jharkhand Santhal Parganas (earlier Bihar) by the end of the 18th century (earlier Bihar). They moved to West Bengal and Odisha from there.

They lived in Bihar’s Rajmahal Hills and were primarily into agriculture. These regions were governed by the Bengal Presidency, whose authority the British took over in 1757 following the Battle of Plassey.

The British sought Santhals to increase their agricultural earnings and Santhals consented to clear forests so they might engage in established agriculture. Many Santhals came to settle in this area as a result of promises of land and economic benefits. Many territories were designated as Damin-i-Koh or Santal Pargana in 1832.

However, British exploitation gradually increased to the point where it gave birth to the Santhal Rebellion.

    • Lord Cornwallis established the Permanent Settlement in several regions in the country, including Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa, in 1793. As long as landowners paid a set revenue to the British government, they were granted perpetual and hereditary rights to the land under the permanent revenue system. In the event that the peasants were unable to pay their rent, the British sold various tribal holdings by auctioning off sizable swaths of land belonging to the Santhals to anybody willing to give them a certain amount of money.

The Santhal lost authority over the land during this period, and their long-standing governmental and tribal systems also came to an end.

The assault of the Zamindari system that they imposed upset Santhal existence. They were reduced to becoming enslaved, landless workers in their own houses. The Santhal lands were taken and abused by the local landowners.

The fact that the Santhals used a barter system and had difficulty paying the zamindars in cash was another justification for the revolt. As a result, they were forced to borrow money from moneylenders at excessive interest rates, which finally put them in a vicious cycle

Two years before to the Revolt of 1857, on June 30, 1855, two Santhal brothers named Sidhu and Kanhu Murmu organised 10,000 Santhals and declared a revolt against the British. Sidhu, Kanhu, Chand, and Bhairav – the four Murmu Brothers, led the uprising. Phulo and Jhano– sisters of the Murmu brothers also actively participated in the uprising.

The Santhals took part in guerilla conflict. Therail and postal networks were destroyed by the Santhal army.

Additional Information

The yearly celebration ofHul Divas is held on June 30 in honour of the tribal leaders- Sidho and Kanhu Murmu of the Santhal Hul (rebellion) on June 30, 1855, in Bhognadih in the Sahebganj district

The Santhal Parganas Tenancy Act, which the British passed in 1876 and which provided some protection for the indigenous people against exploitation

The Eighth Schedule to the Constitution recognises Santhali as one of the scheduled languages. Santhali is written in the OI-Chiki script.


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