Towards the Rising of the Sun is the Birth of Man
--A Santal Proverb
In the beginning, the primitive world was filled with water only and God had the problem in creating the land.The land is normally considered opposite to water. So he created. Therefore, he created seven animals -crab, crocodile, alligator, eel, Pawn, earthworm and tortoise. All amphibian animals that can live in both land and water
For creating land, God invited the kings of all these animals to sort out this problem. Every one was coming one by one; they did not have any success. At last, the earthworm came and succeeded in creating land. The King of earthworm after seven days and seven nights ate the bottom of water and excreted on the back of tortoise that was swimming above. The tortoise anchored himself firmly on both sides, brought up the earth and thus earth was shaped.
Hens the Santals believe that earthquakes are the result of the movement of tortoise. When the tortoise moves or shakes, earthquakes occur.
The Santal myth about the creation of the world is different from the myths associated among the other indigenous people of India and in many sense it is unique that it ascribes the creation of earth with the help of amphibian animals, specially the earthworm and tortoise.
There is another interesting myth about the creation of human beings. The Santal do not strictly believe that they have descended from animals, however, they assume that there is some connection between animal and human beings., God created two heavenly birds - Has and Hasil-out of his hair. Then these birds started flying in the sky. They could survive the early state of earth, where the entire earth was covered with water, so they could mediate the opposite elements heaven and earth. They flew below the sun and above the earth thus making the contact between the both worlds. After flying several days, they built the nest on the earth and laid egg. In fact the cosmic egg, out of which two creatures; human male and human female were born - Pilchu Haram and Pilchu Burhi.
Once the Santal tribal had gone to the forest for hunting and they started the discussion about their ‘Creator and Savior’ while they were taking rest under a tree. They questioned themselves that who is their God? Whether the Sun, the Wind or the Cloud? Finally, they came to a conclusion that they would leave an arrow in the sky and wherever the arrow would target that will be the God’s house. They left an arrow in the sky; it fell down under a Sal tree. Then, they started worshiping the Sal tree and named their religion as ‘Sarna’ because it is derived from a Sal tree. Thus, Sarna religion came into existence. There are priests and assistant priests called "Naikey" and "Kudam Naike" in every Santhal village.
Sarahul is the main festival of the tribal population. The meaning of Sarhul is the “worship of Sal” The word Sarhul has been derived from two words Sar and Hul. ‘Sar’ means Sarai (seed of Sal tree) and Hul means worship /pray. In Kurukh language it is known as Khaddi. Therefore Sarhul is worship of nature in which local people worship Dharti Mata as Sita, wife of lord Rama. Since the local inhabitants are great admirer, devotee, and follower of lord Ram, they have great respect for Mother Sita. They also worship Sal Tree (Sarna Tree) that is believed as the place of goddess Sarna, who protects the village and the community from all kinds of natural calamities and disasters.
The worship place is known as Sarna Sthal. It is a place chosen by the priest called Pahan Or Baiga. Usually it remains aside the village where at least one Sal tree is found. This is also known as Chala- Pacho. Chala means Sarna and Pacho means old woman. Therefore it means a house of old woman.
Long long ago there lived a pair of swan. From their eggs a boy and a girl named Pilchu Haram and Pilchu Burhi respectively were born. They fed and kept them for some time. Soon they became impatient to get a suitable home for their human siblings. They prayed to God for help who ordered them to fly away and seek a suitable place. They obeyed His command, fled towards the setting of the sun, found Hihri Pipiri and reported back to God who advised them to settle the boy and girl there. They carried them on backs to that place.
The boy and girl lived happily at Hihri Pipiri until the evil god Lita instigated them to take brew and drink handi. After drinking handi, they fell into sin by indulging in sex and thus they begot seven sons and seven daughters. All of them married one another.
The human race thus greatly multiplied and gradually became wicked. Afterwards the seven parents decided that henceforth brothers and sisters should not marry. They divided themselves into seven septets called Hansdak, Murmu, Kisku, Hembrum, Marandi, Soren and Tudu. With the passage of time, five more groups were formed. Now a total 12 clans is found among the Santals.How?
.Later they came to a land called Khoj-Kaman where God told them to return to Him, which they garrulously ignored.
Furious by their misdeeds and indiscipline He decided to finish their race. He spared however, the only holy pair by ordering it to hide in a cave in the mountain of Harata. That pair obeyed. For seven days and seven nights there was rain of fire destroying every living thing in the world?
The pair came out of hiding after the rain of fire stopped and thus new human races sprouted. Now five more septets were added to the original seven - Baski, Besra, Paunria, Chore and Bedea. The last sept has been lost.
They are Hansdak', Murmu, Hembrom, Soren, Kisku, Tudu, Marndi, Baske, Besra, Chonre, Puria and Bedea. Sacred contact is believed to link these clans and their respective totems. Therefore, each of the names of clans is derived from either from the plants or animals species.
There is a belief among the Santals that totems have some connection with the deeds or birth of ancestors of the clans.
Hansdak clan members claim to be of the highest status as they have derived from the name of their clan from first ancestors. The term Hans designates wild goose while dak' in Santali means water. This clan is, therefore, linked to the original state of world and first ancestors. It is the most senior among the all clans of the Santals since it is related to myth of creation. For the Santals , swan or goose is not just animal. It builds nest on earth, walks on earth and flies on sky.
Next are the Murmus represented by the Nilgai or the antelope. According to the myth of genesis of the clans, the ancestors of this clan this animal was first sacrificed by Santals. By this time, Santals started hunting and eating of animals and subsequently become fond of hunting and eating of flesh. The antelope being purely a land animal is responsible for the destruction of Santals among the Santals as opposed to swan who combines the four elements and stands for humanity and creation of human beings. The Hansdak and the Murmu are the two superior clans of the Santals. Hansdaks are given the status of advisors and the Murmus are the priest.
The Kiskus have kingfishers bird as their totem and come third in the hierarchy. They are regarded as kings and are given the Royal status.
Hembroms are fourth in order with betel nut as totem. It is said that the ancestor of the Hembrom clan was born with a betel nut string around his waist. There are also those who believe that their ancestor was actually born under a totally hard and solid betel nut tree.
Marandis are linked with grass or type of weed and are traders.
The Sorens are soldiers or warriors and are linked to the constellation of stars.
The Tudus are musicians and have accepted owl as their totem.
Baskees are cooks and associated stale rice. They have believed to offered stale rice to the Gods and are thus prohibited from eating it.
Bedeas have sheep as their totem and believed to have no personal own much like the animal they revere. They are not found in now days, probably assimilated with other clans.
Lastly are the Paurias and Chonres who have pigeons and lizard respectively as their totems. In most of the cases the only animals the clan members could hunt were made heir totem, which perhaps restricted them endangering the species.
So strong are their feelings towards these totemic species that they respect them as their won clan members. If any of the clan members sees a dead totem, he observes the death rituals. Eating or hunting the totem is prohibited..
Each of these clans is further divided into several sub clans. Each one upholds a distinctive myth and set of customs that differentiates it from the others, including kinds of food taken, ornaments, worn and worship of the spirits or Gods (Bongas). Even the sacrifices vary during the rituals from one sub-clan to another. The names of the sub-clan are also derived from plants and animals. Out of the 16 sub-clans nine trace their origins to certain animals. For examples, Chilbinda hansdak' derived its name from the ancestor who killed an eagle, "Jihu hansdak" from Jihu or babbler bird. Sole-Hemborm do not eat eels as it is believed its ancestor had been saved by it while ferrying flooded river. The kahu-Besras are prohibited to kill crows. The totem exercises powerful influence on the habit of the Santals.
Coming back to the creation story.
All the clans lived at Harata for some time and then moved to Sasanbeda, a flat riverside land full of turmeric. Now the race was divided into nations and tribes. From Sasanbeda they came to Jarpi. During their wandering they came across a high range of hills in which they nearly lost their lives. It was so high and long that only in the forenoon they were able to see the sun. So they started worshipping Marang Buru - the big mountain. Crossing the Sin and Baih Passes they reached Aere, there to Kaende, Chai and finally to Champa.
In Champa they lived in prosperity for a long time. They helped Lord Ram against Ravan so the kshatriyas became friendly with them. But later on they started fighting with the kshatriyas and even among themselves. Several races like the Mundas, Birhors, Kurmis and others separated form the original clan. The Mundas call themselves Horoko, which means 'men'. Just as Ba-ntu means "men.” Naturally their wanderings continued. From Champa they came to Tore Pokhori Baha Bandela, where after twelve days / years of debate they decided to give up old customs, and adopt new social customs. Then they migrated to various places and finally settled on their present home of Chotanagpur…
Thus goes the Santal legend of creation, on the basis of which the Rev. L.O. Skrefsurd concluded that they lived in Persia, Afghanistan, Chinese Tartar and entered India from the north- west where they first settled in Punjab and from there they came to Chotanagpur plateau. But according to Bodding this story of creation in part is prevalent in Southern Burma and the Santal language contains several linguistics features of not only Burma, but also of the Malay Peninsula.
There is no reference to Chotanagpur in the Vedic or Puranic literature but in the 18th hymn of the seventh book of Rig-Veda, it is mentioned that a fierce battle took place on the bank of river Saraswati in which the Aryan chief Sudas fought against non-Aryan tribes. The Munda traditions also narrate a bloody warfare in the land of 'five rivers'. The name Munda is found in the Vishnu Puran in which a dynasty of eleven princes has been mentioned. In the Vayu Puran there is a word Muranda and in his ‘Ancient India' Ptolemy has mentioned Mundalis who were probably the same people as the Monedes of Pliny who with the Sauri occupied the area to the south of Polibother or Patliputra.
Then there is also the legend of Yayati - son of Nahush who divided his empire among his five sons. In the tenth generation from Turvas the famous four brothers Pandya, Kieda, Kola and Chote divided India among themselves. Kola got the Northern India whose descendents are called Kolas who dwell in the Jharkhand region.
The three aboriginal races, which ruled over the jungle and mountain regions of Chotanagpur and Santal Pargana, were Kharwar, Oraon and Chero. Kharwars claim themselves to be Suryavanshi Kshatriya. They trace their descent from Ajanagara or Ayodhya. Karusa was the sixth son of Vaivasvat Manu to whom this territory was assigned. Their descendents were called Karusa who later on came to be known as Karwar or Kharwar.
The Valmiki’s Ramayan records the flight of Mundas to the South. The Mundas had played the band at the time of Ram's coronation at Ayodhya. Highly impressed by their meritorious services Ram gave this territory to them.
But during Mahabharat period their destiny tumbled down. Jarasandh was their friend who was killed by Bhim. The Mundas were in the army of Bhishm and so they fought against the Pandavas alongwith the Kauravas. In the Bhishma Parva of the epic Mahabharat Sanjay says that on the left side of Bhishm are the Karusas with the Mundas Vikunj and Kundivars. Satyaki compares the Mundas with the demons and boasts that he would liquidate them as Indra had finished the demons. Pandav prince Arjun is said to have married a Nag princess of this region and had a son named Babhruvahan.
In the Mahabharat war the Kaurva were defeated and so the Mundas were driven away to one place or the other until they finally reached Jharkhand which means the forestland. This area has also been called Atavi, Khukhra, Nagdesh and Dasaranya in different phases of history.
Status of Jharkhand is very old and even before the period of Magadh Empire. During Mughal Empire period the Jharkhand area was known as Kukara area. After year 1765 this area was under the control of British Empire and was known as "Jharkhand" (The Land of Jungle and Jhari, i.e. bushes). Under the shadow of British Empire, non-tribal population got spread in the region of Jharkhand. Such outsiders who practically take over control where called as "Diku".
The name Jharkhand has been described in Akbarnamah as a place inaccessible to the outsiders because of dense forests and warrior tribes where diamond, ivory and silk are plentifully available.
It remained independent throughout the Turko-Afghan rule (1206-1526 A. D.). The fortress of Rohtas was the farthest limit. Shamsi Siraj Afif in Tarikh-i- Firuz-Shahi says that Firoz marched From Jaunpur against the Rai of Jai Nagar (Orissa) after his second campaign against Bengal in 1359 –60 and returned through the routes of Jharkhand.
During the first half of the 16th century Chero chiefs were the rulers of Jharkhand. The cheros trace their descent from the famous sage Chyavan who had invented Chyavanprash. In 1538 Sher Shah Suri wanted to get the white elephant named Ramchandra from the Chero king Maharato because having this elephant was considered to be a good sign. He sent emissaries to the Chero King who bluntly refused to part with his precious elephant. Sher Shah sent his troops under the General Khawas Khan who with great difficulty won the war and took the elephant away. Maharato Chero fled away in the deep forests. This area was strategically important to Sher Shah because Cheros possessed the main road to Lower Bengal.
Sher Shah however made no administrative regulation in Jharkhand and shortly after his death in 1545 the Cheros recovered their lost territory.
The Mughals were attracted towards Jharkhand for its mineral wealth. Diamond and ivory were found near the river Sankh. Raja Man Singh invaded and captured Palamu in 1574. Again in 1584 Akbar attacked on Khukhra (Jharkhand) and made it a tributary under the leadership of Shahbaz Khan Kamba. In 1591 Raja Man Singh was despatched to Orissa to suppress Afghan rebels via the river route.
The king of Kashmir Yusuf Khan was also sent to Midnapur to assist him while marching over Jharkhand. Man Singh settled some members of his troop in Palamu who were expelled after the death of Akbar in 1605. The Raja of Chotanagpur, reduced to the position of a tributary had to join the Mughal expedition to Orissa. After conquering Orissa Man Singh returned but his three bodyguards (who were incidentally brothers) remained in Singhbhum to suppress the clashes between Bhuiyas and Hos. This triad conquered the area and established its own regime called Porahat kingdom.
It is said that the three areas of Jharkhand were named from the three words Veer Man Singh as Birbhum, Manbhum and Singhbhum. There is however no historical record to support it.
It appears that after the death of Akbar this area gained independence. In 1616 Ibrahim Khan Fateh Jung, Governor of Bihar and the brother of Queen Nurjahan defeated the 46th Raja of Chotanagpur Durjan Sal for his failure to pay his tribute to Delhi for several years. Durjan Sal was no doubt chivalrous but the Mughals entrapped him and looted all his 23 elephants and jewellery. He was imprisoned in the Gwalior fort for twelve years along with several other Hindu kings.
There is a story that once the Emperor Jahangir wanted to know about the difference between the real and fake diamonds. One of his maidservants belonged to Jharkhand who knew Durjan Sal’s mastery in testing diamonds. Durjan was at once summoned from the Gwalior jail. He displayed his skill before the emperor. He tied the diamonds on the horns of two deers and instigated them to fight. The fake one was easily broken.
So Durjan was released on a condition that he should pay an annual tribute of Rs. 6000. He returned to Chotanagpur and with him came a tyrannical rule of oppression and exploitation, and a turning point in the life style of simple and nature loving tribal.
In the Gwalior jail Durjan Sal came to know about the luxurious and lavish princely life. While returning to Chotanagpur he had taken rest in the palaces of some kings. He started comparing his own life of utter poverty. His friend kings were also amused to see his depleted house made of mud.
These kings promised to make a palace for him. They despatched a battery of masons and carpenters. The palace was completed in 1711 but by that time Durjan Sal and his heirs had no money to pay wages to the workers. Therefore they gave away a number of villages to them by degree.
One of the conditions of Durjan Sal’s release from the jail was an annual tribute to the Mughal Emperor. Durjan charged this amount from Mundas and Oraon folks of his kingdom, which they resisted, and vehemently opposed. To suppress their revolt he brought warriors and button men from North Bihar and Central India and gave jagir to them in lieu of wages. Durjan Sal declared himself a Hindu king and brought a number of priests who too were given jagirs.
All these jagirdars ultimately became zamindars and started collecting rents and tax from the tribal landowners. They also started a new tradition of taking free service from them. A. E. Gate, the Commissioner of Chotanagpur wrote in 1911 that “the troubles of the Mundas began when their Raja was converted to Hinduism and gradually brought in from Bihar a crowd of hangers-on of all kinds, whose services he rewarded or whose goods he paid for by the transfer of his rights over various villages.”
The tribal resisted. After two centuries it acquired dangerous proportion .The tribal still hate Durjan Sal, they have not yet forgiven him because it was he who brought a life of curse to them.
Back to the age of Jahangir, the Chero king Sahbal Rai had also extended his territory upto Champaran in North Bihar. Provoked by his advances, Jahangir attacked and captured him in his own fort at Chainpur in Shahabad district. He was taken to Delhi as captive where he died fighting a tiger while entertaining the emperor.
His son Bhagvat Rai, a dauntless hero succeeded him and started raiding on the imperial territories.
When Shahjehan ascended the throne he appointed Ahmed Khan as Subedar of Patna and gave Palamau as jagir to him. Ahmed Khan imposed an annual tribute of Rs 1,36,000 on all his tributaries. In 1631, the Governor of Bihar Shaista Khan led an army of 15000 soldiers and 5000 horses to attack on Palamu through the Manatu pass. At that time Anant Rai was the ruler of Palamu. Shaista Khan along with his general Zabaralast Khan defeated Anant Rai who promised to pay a tribute of Rs. 80,000.
By that time the two uncles of Anant Rai namely Tej Rai and Durga Rai conspired with Itihad Khan, the successor of Shaista Khan to imprison Anant Rai and seize the throne. But their conspiracy flopped and on the recommendation of Itihad Khan the Emperor Shahjehan made Anant Rai his mansabdar.
Chero kings were habitual defaulters by not paying the annual tribute to the Mughals. Angry by their arrogance the Emperor Aurangzeb gave orders to the Governor of Bihar Daud Khan to attack on them. Daud left Patna with a big contingent on April 3, 1660. He reached within two miles of Palamau in November. He then offered the Chero king to surrender and become a Muslim. Before the king should think on it, one of Dauds captain attacked. The king fled away with his family and followers to the deep forests. Daud’s army occupied the fort and the town, destroyed the temples and built mosques. He then left Palamau giving charge to his fauzdar Mankli Khan. But he was sacked in 1666 and Palamau was placed under the direct control of the new Bihar Governor, Laskar Khan.
From 1662 to 1674 Medini Rai ascended the throne of Palamau. He extended his territory to South Gaya, Hazaribagh and Sarguja. He was a popular and benevolent ruler. People still remember him by a couplet, which means, “in the region of Raja Medini Rai no house was without a churner and butter.” Like the legendary caliph Haroon-Al-Rashid of the Arabian Nights he used to stroll in the night to see if any one was without cow or a buffalo. It is said that once he thought of taking at least a shell from each headman as his tribute. They presented him a gold shell because he had not demanded anything before. There is a legend that his queen bathed on the lotus in the pond and she was so sweet that even the lotus did not sink.
But Santal Parganas was not a neglected area during the Mughal period. In May 1549 Akbar sent Man Singh as governor of Bengal who changed his capital from Gaur to Rammahal. Previously its name was Agmahal. He changed its name to Rajmahal and then to Akbarnagar .Rajmahal is witness to fierce battle between Shah Jahan and Ibrahim Khan brother of Empress Nur Jahan .Shah Jahan defeated Ibrahim Khan in 1624 and murdered him.
Shah Jahan appointed his second son Prince Mohammad Shuja as vice royal of Bengal. Shuja made Rajmahal his capital. He gave permission to the East India Company to trade in Bengal.
During the war of succession after the death of Shah Jahan, Shuja crowned himself as Emperor in November 1657. But Aurangzeb rushed his troops to chase him under the command of his son Muhammad Sultan and his ablest General Mir Jumla.
With the fall of Shuja the British were in hot soup. Their boat laden with saltpeter were stopped. It was only after they apologized that their vessels were released.
In 1695-96 Shova Singh, a landlord of Cheto-Barda in Midnapur led a rebellion. Rahim Khan , an Afghan chief joined him. They captured Rajmahal and seized the property of the English. But however the Mughals crushed them. A few years later Aurangzeb issued a proclamation ordering the arrest of all Europeans in India and in 1702 all the servants of the company were arrested.
After the death of Aurangzeb in 1707 his grand son Azim-us-Shan who was the Nawab of Bengal left his son Farrukhsiyar and took off to Delhi to support his father Shah Alam, ascended the throne under the title of Bahadur Shah. Azim-us-Shan returned to Rajmahal.
But the Mughal Empire had started trembling. A great confusion erupted after the death of the Emperor Bhadur Shah in 1712. Prince Farrukhsiyar proclaimed himself as Emperor at Patna. His region was short lived and then in 1719 Muhammad Shah became the Emperor.
During Muhammad Shah’s period Chero Kings stopped paying tributes to Mughal treasury. The Governor of Bihar Sarbuland Khan led a campaign against the Raja of Chotanagpur Nagbandi Singh and defeated him. In 1742 the Marathas captured Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. Bhaskar Pandit, the general of the Maratha army entered Chotanagpur through Chhatisgarh and stretched up to Midnapur.
The Emperor Shah Alam was defeated by the East-India Company at Buxar after which he grantesd the Diwani of Bihar, Bengal and Orissa to it on 12 August 1765. Jharkhand area was in Bihar and so it came under a new regime which indulged in the systematic pogrom of the peace loving tribal to the extent that in the nineteenth century they had to shed their thousands of years of slumber and start armed rebellions against the government.
In fact, the local inhabitants and the kings of Jharkhand never thought themselves to be under any one. They considered themselves to be independent. Their whole concept of life, their society, their customs were different than the rest of the world. The Mughal didn’t interfere with their world; they just attacked, plundered, took tributes and went away.
But the British rulers were different. They started mercilessly attacking on their roots and social infrastructure without heeding and introduced a complicated administrative system. Therefore during the entire British regime the Jharkhand boiled giving rise to a large number of rebellions gradually complication the situation. Most of the problems, which the government of India and people of Jharkhand are facing today, are the creation and legacy of the British Raj.
One must know what the land means to the tribal. To them the land is not a property; it is a part of their life. Their ancestors cleared their village lands under the leadership of the headman or Munda and village priest, a Pahan who reallocated the lands and collected the dues. In the month of May the Munda and the Pahan called the tribesmen to assemble and distributed the land verbally to those who wished to cultivate. A piece of earth was taken as a token of acceptance from the headman who was called Mahato in some areas. It was some sort of village republic in modern terminology.
Above the village level there existed the parha or palti under the manki. Each parha had its own flag.
The tribal don’t think that their ancestors leave them even after death. When any tribal dies his descendant brings his soul to his home and place them in a fixed place reserved for the ancestors. Hence they live with spirits of their ancestors happily: it means that a tribal is a custodian of his ancestral property, he cannot sell or give his and to any one, not even his son-in-law.
This basically simple, cheerful and contented tribal society was getting blows from two sides. The tribal ruling family had assumed the title of Maharaja and along with his entire court had converted into Hindu. The Brahmins invented and ancestral link of the Maharaja with Pundarik, the mythological king of the Nags or the snakes, that the first king was the son of Pundarik by Paravati, a Brahmin girl and therefore the dynasty was Nagvanshi.
With this Hinduization came the hordes of outsiders bent upon to destroy the commune systems of Mundas and Oraons. The tribal started calling them diku or the trouble makers. There were two sets of dikus:
The first set had come much earlier and was living peacefully with the aboriginal. They were called Sadans. Their language was called Sadani, a mixture of North Bihar and tribal languages.
But the second set of dikus was devoid of human emotions. They were extremely oppressive and rapacious in nature. These dikus became Jagirdars, thikadars and mahajans. They started taking possession of tribal lands by hook or crook. The mahajans introduced the system of bondsman i.e. if a borrower was unable to repay the principal and interest he became a bondsman. In this way many tribal cultivators became virtual slaves. It led to the emigration of the tribal to other parts of Bihar and Bengal especially to the indigo plantation where there was job; often working on low wages.
The peace and tranquility of the tribal society was disturbed by the British penetration as well. After getting the diwani the East India Company introduced the permanent settlement in 1796 to strengthen its hold on the area. The diwani granted the company the right to demand tributes, land revenues and services.
This permanent settlement, a brainchild of Lord Cornwallis defined and enhanced the powers of zamindars at the cost of the tribal. Their ancient village rights were devoured by the zamindars permanent property in the soil. The traders, settlers and alien administrators started encroaching upon them when the tribal rose in protest as in Tamar in 1783 and others in 1789 till 1795 they were, brandied as marauders or rebels and silenced, by the power of barrels.
The non-tribal subordinate officers used to exaggerate the criminality of the tribal. The British didn’t understand the tribal languages so they had to rely on the versions given by these officers. In 1793 a very difficult situation was created. Tribal from Patkum, Silli and Singhbhum joined to form a common front against the British who deployed troops under Major Farmer for a year. He started an intensive investigation into the cause of this rebellion and soon found that the zamindars and the revenue collectors of the Maharaja misled him.
Major Farmer came to know the real story and took conciliatory measures after which the rebellion subsided. In fact the indirect British rule through the Hinduized Maharaja proved a curse for the tribal. The tribal had no other means to vent their grievances other than revolt and the Maharaja and his henchmen gave an exaggerated account of the trouble to the authorities at Chatra due to which every time troops were marched against the rebels.
In 1798-99 the Bhumij of Manbhum revolted against the dikus and the Britsh. The massive rebellion broke out in South-West Bankura and in North-West Midnapo The British insultingly called the tribal and oppressed people of Midnapore, Bankura and Jangal Mahal as chuars , a very derogatory term which in fact had been taken from Chor- Chuhar, meaning thieves and nasty persons who eat mice. They depended for their existence on the wealth of the forests and cultivated with primitive methods. The collector of Midnapore in a letter to the Board of Revenue wrote: Those who were enjoying the right to this land since the antiquities, when they saw that their land was being taken away from them without any rhyme or reason, or that an excessive amount of revenue was sought to be extracted from them, then they took to arms in defence of their rights. This was no matter of surprise (Letter written on 25 May 1798).
During the Mughal period, law and order was maintained in the villages with the help of Paiks. When they were dismissed from service en masse, they too joined this revolt.
In 1798, nearly 1500 rebels led by Durjan Singh, established their rule in 30 villages of Raipur Pargana. They attacked the headquarters of the Government's seat of power in this area but after a day long bloody battle, they were defeated. Yet in Salbani, the rebels were victorious and destroyed the army barracks. They burnt all zamindary documents. A few zamindars also joined the ranks of the rebels. Resorting to bloody repression and the policy of divide and rule, British were able to crush the Chuar Rebellion.
In 1806, the British confiscated the land of the Laiks of Bogir and at once the Laik ReblIion started. The Laiks were close to the chuars led by the indomitable Achal Sinha, the Laiks revolted against the Raj in the deep Sal forest of Gangani near Garbeta their headquarters by adopting guerilla tactics.
Ultimately the British destroyed the entire forest by heavy artillery fire. Yet some Laiks, headed by Achal Sinha escaped and repeatedly harried the British. An act of treachery led to the arrest of Achal and he was promptly shot dead. In 1816 the rebellion was finally crushed and some 200 rebels were brutally executed.
The acting Magistrate of Ramgarh w. Blunt gave suggestion to the government to introduce Zamindari police under Regulation XVII, 1805 to control the law and order situation in Chotanagpur, the Maharaj a accepted it after some hesitation. But the system of daroga, jamadar and mohurrir created more trouble.
In 1810 Barwa and Tamar and between 1811 and 1813 the tribal of Nawagarh under the leadership of Buktour Sahi and Mandal Singh defeated even the Ramgarh battalion.
In 1818 the Maharaja’s son and daughter died of fever and small pox. The barkandazes (a matchlockman, guard, or escort) of the Maharaja murdered a woman named Adhar Dai on the suspicion that she was a witch and she had inflicted her black magic on the two deceased children of the Maharaja.
As a sequel to it the Munda of Tamar picked up arms against the rulers under the leadership or Rudun and Kunta, the two Mundas who took refuge in the forest after a hot chase by the British troops. They were arrested with the help of the Singhbhum chiefs. The root cause of this uprising was a superstition of the tribal. The wanted to kill Tribhuvan Manjhi and others whom they accused of preventing the rainfall through their black magic. The insurgents were also conniving with the brother or Raghunath Singh of Sindri who was the leader of 1810 rising. Rudun and Kunta were imprisoned.
Meanwhile two whimsical officers S. T. Cuthbert and W. Smith were appointed to look after Chotanagpur. Both of them made several experiments to secure the full enforcement of the regulation in Chotanagpur. In 1822 Smith recommended to extend the excise tax and the following years suggested to collect the road cess. The road cess was however not enforced. For a few years only the general excise was levied in Chotanagpur. But in 1930 Cuthbert proposal that a house tax should be levied on the home brewing of the tribal because “they are great drunkards and cases have not been infrequent lately in which people have lost their lives in drunken brawls,” Another serious mistake of Cuthbert was to introduce poppy farming which was opposed by the peasants.
But Smith and Cuthbert made some useful suggestion as well. They pointed out that the people of this area are fed up with the judicial system and suggested that they should be governed by “a system of jurisprudence adapted to their actual condition and circumstance.” Both of them also gave a proposal to move the sadar station nearer to Chotanagpur but the Government turned it down leaving the tribal at the mercy of dikus and corrupt officers. Cuthbert offended the Maharaja by interfering with Sati and introducing the Zamindari Dak. In fact he wanted to grab vast powers to fulfill his dream of stopping all the evils of a backward society.
Back to the Rajmahal hills in Santal Parganas the Paharias or the hill men had become turbulent. Their northern section was called Maler. During the famine of 1770 these Maler Paharias had become deadly robbers. The zamindars employed them for plundering each other’s villages. The people of lowland and Muslim zamindars used to kill them like amok dogs or tigers.
These Paharias got the attention of Warren Hastings. In 1776 Augustus Cleveland was appointed collector of Bhagalpur. He was much impressed by their simplicity and honesty and appreciated their claim that that had always been independent. To appease them he proposed a member of benevolent schemes, are of which was allowances to sardars and naibs. Cleveland had gained their confidence love and affection to the extent that he used to meet them in the hills unarmed and almost unattended. He also established regular markets in the villages at the foot of the hills. It was unfortunate that he died at the age of 29. Paharias still remember him as Chilimili Saheb.
But after his death everything was stopped. The stipend to the tribal chiefs was usurped by the unscrupulous elements and zamindars encroached upon their lands. With the exception of Fombelle the other successors did practically nothing to pacify the Parharias. After Fombelle the supervision came under the hands of Abdul Rasul Khan who became a legendary tyrant.
The tribal were marginalized when the Hindu traders and Muslim farmers thronged to Jharkhand and modern law and administration was established. British Colonial authority facilitated the process of making the tribal pauper. The administration was manned by outsiders and there was introduction of paper currency, alien to the tribal. Their villages were in the hands of the landlords who were bent upon to confiscate their landed property. All these factors culminated in the armed resistance.
The 19th century rebellions were definitely due to consequences of illegal deprivation of tribal lands reducing the tribal to a state of poverty and badly in debt.
The first ever revolt against the landlords and the British government was led by Tilka Manjhi, in Santal tribal belt in 1771. He wanted to liberate his people from the clutches of the unscrupulous landlords and restore the lands of their ancestors.
Baba Tilka Majhi was first freedom fighter of India. He had raised his voice against English fought with them around 100 years before Mangal Pandey. He drove a mortal arrow into Cleveland, the British Commissioner who had made a great name for himself by pacifying the region. The arrow killed Cleveland.
This great Santal revolutionary took up the arms against the British in the 1789's. The British surrounded the Tilapore forest from which he operated but he and his men held the enemy at bay for several weeks. When he was finally caught in 1784, he was tied to the tail of a horse and dragged all the way to the collector's residence at Bhgalpur. There, his lacerated body was hung from a Banyan tree. A statue to the heroic leader was erected at the spot after independence.
Then in 1779, the Bhumij tribes rose in arms against the British rule in Manbhum, now in West Bengal. The Bhumij were well known as a turbulent people. They thwarted any attempt to settle the jungle Mahals.
Afterwards the Chero tribes unrest in Palamau rocked the area. They revolted against the British Rule in 1800 AD. Seven years later in 1807, the Oraons in Barway murdered their big landlord of Srinagar west of Gumla. Soon the uprisings spread around Gumla. The tribal uprisings spread eastward to Tamar areas of the Munda tribes.
The landlords were given extraordinary powers and the authority to evict the tenants, dispose of and sell their property, and even seize their persons without recourse to the court of law and the tenants had no document of their rights. The signs of tribal unrest became evident when in 1789, there was an insurrection in Tamar. Though it was crushed by the military, but disturbances followed again in 1794 and 95. Police outstations were then introduced who joined hands with the powerful landlords to further worsen the state of the tribal. Further insurrections followed in 1811, 1817 and 1820. The Hos in Singhbhum were becoming restless. They came out in open revolt in 1820 and fought against the landlords and the British troops for two years.
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