Government of West Bengal
Tribes and Cultures
Before the the British came to India the Santhals resided peacefully in the hilly districts of Cuttack, Dhalbhum, Manbhum, Barabhum, Chhotanagpur, Palamau, Hazaribagh, Midnapur, Bankura and Birbhum.They leaded a peaceful life by clearing the forest and also engaged themselves in hunting for subsistence. But when the British claimed their rights on the lands of the Santhals, they peacefully went to reside in the hills of Rajamahal. After some few years the britishers and their counterparts started claiming as this new Santhal owned land theirs. The British were helped by the local Zamnidars, who were with them for their own selfish needs.
The Santhals celebrate their biggest festival, Sohoray, from the end of Paush and for the entire month of Magh. They also celebrate festivals like Janthad Lonan Puja, Baha Utsav, Aerak Parba or Ashare Puja and Sakranti (Fagu) Parba (Ijam). "Karam" festival is celebrated by the Santhals in the month of Aswin (September- October) in order to have increased `wealth and progeny` and to get rid of the evil spirits. During this festival, two youths after being purified, fetch two branches of Karam tree from the forest and plant them just outside the house. The head of the household offers rice beer and other articles to Manjhi Haram and Maran Buru and pray for the prosperity of the house. This worship is followed with singing, dancing and playing of instrumental music. All those present there, are given rice-beer. The traditional dress of Santhal women is called Pandhat, which is a covering from the chest to the foot. Bow and arrows are the favourite weapons of Santhals.
The Santhals are musicians and dancers par excellence and have dances for every imaginable occasion. The martial dances - Golwari and Paikha are marked with vigour, virility and a lot of jumping and leaping in the air. They carry bow and arrows while doing martial dances and perform mock fights and attacks. Their courtship and marriage dances are typical. These dances, romantic and lively in nature, are performed on full moon nights. The loud drumming, resembling thunder, calls the belles of the community and they come dressed in their fineries, adorned with flowers, feathers and assemble under a large banyan tree. The young men come forward taking strides with drums and lilting songs on their lips, and then the dance commences in two rows, their arms interlinking in pairs. The rows surge forward like rhythmic waves and then recede with supple footwork and swaying heads and bodies. The boys in the row opposite play on flutes, drums, and large cymbals and sing songs in perfect harmony. After the dance the boys and girls mingle and have a good chat.
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