Santal people

A traditional Santali dance
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]
Bihar 406,076[1]
 Bangladesh 300,061 (2001)[2]
Assam 213,139[3]
   Nepal 42,698[4]
Santhali, Odia, Bengali, Hindi
Sari Dharam   Sarnaism   Hinduism   Christianity
Related ethnic groups
Mundas   Hos   Kols   other Mon-Khmer people

The Santhal, or rarely Santhals (Santhali:ᱥᱟᱱᱛᱟᱲ,Hindi: संताल,Odia: ସାନ୍ତାଳୀ Bengali: সাঁওতাল, translit. shãotāl, Nepali: संताल, translit. satār/santāl), are an ethnic group, native to Nepal and the Indian states of Jharkhand, West Bengal, Bihar and Odisha. Santhals are the largest indigenous 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. 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[5] or "Santal Sthal") on the edge of the village 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 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.[6]


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’.[7]

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.

Notable people


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

  1. 1 2 3 4 "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. "Statement 1: Abstract of speakers' strength of languages and mother tongues - 2011". Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India. Retrieved 2018-07-07.
  4. "Santhali: Also spoken in Nepal". Retrieved 2011-04-01.
  5. "Jaher Worshiping Place of Santhals". Retrieved 2014-09-27.
  6. 1 2 3 "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, 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.

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