In this blog post, we will discuss in brief, who are Santal. Here we discuss their short history, their lifestyle, their movement, and mission work.
Who are Santal
The Santals are one of the aboriginal tribes of India belonging to the so-called Santali-speaking group of people. Little is known of the history of the Santals before they settled in the district around Dumka. The Dumka was the headquarters of Santal Parganas, between 1790 and 1810.
In 1832-1833 the Government of Bengal formed the Damin-i-koh a hill tract around Bhagalpur in the Northern part of Santal Parganas. The hill section is reserved for the Paharia people.
But some 500 square miles of low land at the foot of the hills was given to the Santals. We can find that some 82,795 Santals, scattered about in 1,475 villages had settled at the Damin area in 1851
The Santals were known as peace-loving and freedom-loving people, honest and simple-minded. But they uneducated and unpolished; and fared badly in their dealings with the far more advanced Hindu and Muslim neighbors.
The Santal Revolution
Because of the oppression of the moneylenders, the dishonesty of shopkeepers, and agrarian difficulties.
The Santals were under the leadership of four brothers, Sidhu, Kanhu, Chandu, and Bhairal. They revolted against the Government and their oppressors in 1855.
The Government sent regular troops against the rebels, and it stated that some ten thousand Santals lost their lives before the insurrection was quelled.
Santal in Politic
Also, a political motive appears to have played an important role in this insurrection. According to the Santal Traditions, the Santals had once been a powerful people with their own rulers; and known under the name of Kherwars, when they lived in Champa.
The degrading social conditions became an incentive to rise in order to regain their lost liberty; for which they had been yearning ever since their glory days in Champa.
The Kherwar idea of a Santal Raj or kingdom was also the underlying motive in later disturbances in the district of Santal Parganas in 1874, 1875, and 1881.
The movement appeared as a social-religious freedom movement with a well-organized underground system. It uproots by the Government as a political movement; but has survived to the present day as a religious body under the name of Sapha Hor.
In the Sapha Hor movement the Hindu element expresses itself very strongly; the adherents adopting many Hindu customs and beliefs.
The Kherwars were strong opponents of Christianity and had a checking influence on the progress of Christianity in Santal Parganas in the latter part of the Eighteenth Century.
Rev. Jeremiah Phillips of the American Free Baptist Mission (AFBM) was the first missionary to take up regular evangelistic work among the Santals. Phillips published the first grammar in the Santali language, using the Bengali characters.
He further translated portions of the Bible, published a hymnbook, translated several school textbooks, etc. He also opened up the first primary school for Santals.
A contemporary missionary of the same Mission; the Rev. Otis R. Bachelor developed a flourishing system of primary education among the Santals of the Midnapur District. The AFBM also established a training school for Santal teachers.
The Church Missionary Society (CMS), which took up work among the Santals in the Northern part of the Santal Parganas District at the beginning of the 1850s as well as the IHM, benefitted much from the excellent pioneering work done by the AFBM.