Santhal Tribal of Orissa
Residing in the Myurbhanj, Keonjhar and Balasore district of Orissa the Santhals are easily conspicuous by their picturesque houses that are spacious, dirt free and have quite uniquely two verandahs, one in the front and other at the backyard. Belonging to the Proto australoid group of tribal, they are one of the most primitive group of tribal to have resided in the country and are generally ascribed to be the descendants of all other tribes found in India. This ancient tribe has also etched their place in the history of the country with the Santhal rebellion of 1855 against the Britishers. The rebellion that predated the Indian Sepoy mutiny was headed by two daring brothers – Sido Murmu and Kanhu Murmu.
Known for their concern with personal hygiene and the cleanliness of their surroundings, the Santhal tribal are known for their great adoration of beauty. It is thus not unusual to find every Santhal garden full with beautiful flower plants. The Santhal tribal people work as cultivators. Some of them even take up the occupation of agricultural labors in the fields. With the end of every harvesting season also, some of these from the Santhal tribe immigrate to certain other places and take up the job of daily wagers though on a temporary basis. However, till date, these Santal tribes are less proficient in the field of education and learning. They also collect silk cocoons from Asan trees in the forest and process them to help make golden hued fabric called tussar.
The food of these tribes of Orissa is too exotic. Rice is the staple food. Although meat is consumed in every festival and ritual, it is also a main dietary supplement for them. The Santhal tribes have the habit of drinking alcohols. Especially at the time of festivals and also during several joyous socio- religious ceremonies alcohol, extracted from rice, is consumed. These Santal tribes make this drink at their individual houses. Quite often the Santhal people also buy alcohol, known as Mahua, from few of the local vendors.
The Santhal community is devoid of any caste system and there is no distinction made on the basis of birth. They believe in supernatural beings and ancestral spirits. Santhali rituals consist mainly of sacrificial offerings and invocations to the spirits, or bongas, who handle different aspects of the world and who must be placated with prayers and offerings in order to ward off evil influences. It is believed by some scholars that Bonga means the same as Bhaga (or Bhagavan).The Santhal system of governance, known as Manjhi–Paragana, may be compared to what is often called Local Self Governance. This body is responsible for making decisions to ameliorate the village's socioeconomic condition. Fairs and festivals as have been mentioned earlier, also are part and parcel of the Santhal tribal community. Festivals like Karama festival and Makar Sankranti are celebrated on an elaborate manner by these tribal. Dancing, singing and drinking commemorate several other socio-religious ceremonies like birth, marriage and also death. According to the Santal culture, the supreme deity, who ultimately controls the entire universe, is Thakurji. The weight of belief, however, falls on a court of spirits (bonga), these spirits operate at the village, household, ancestor, and subclan level, along with evil spirits that cause disease, and can inhabit village boundaries, mountains, water, tigers, and the forest. A characteristic feature.
The Santhal tribe of Orissa has its own dialect - the Santhali , which is the most widespread means of verbal communication among these tribal though other languages like Oriya and Hindi are also used. Like most other tribal societies, the Santhals did not have a written language for a long time. They were accustomed to use as many as four scripts for purposes of writing depending on the exigencies of geographical position they were put in. However a new script called Ol Chiki developed by Pandit Raghunath Murmu in 1925 that can correctly express the santhali language phoenitically has provided the much needed solution for the Santhals. For his noble deed and contribution of the script Ol Chiki for the Santal society, he is revered among Santals and popularly known as Guru Gomke by them.
The Santhal tribal of Orissa love music and dance. Santhal music differs from Hindustani classical music in significant ways. The Santhal traditionally accompany many of their dances with two drums: the Tamak' and the Tumdah'. The flute (tiriao) is considered the most important Santhal traditional instrument. Santhal dance and music traditionally revolves around Santhal religious celebrations. This is still true to a degree although traditional religious beliefs have been significantly altered by Hindu belief and Christian mission work. However, Santal music and dance both retain connections to traditional celebrations. The names of many Santhal tunes are derived from the traditional ritual with which they were once associated. Sohrai tunes, for example, were those sung at the Sohrai festival. The Santahals are also good artists. The walls of all Santhali tribal are decorated with paintings and artworks. The subject matter is inspired from stuffs like flora, fauna and traditional lifestyle Local mythology includes the stories of the Santal ancestors Pilchu Haram and Pilchu Bhudi.