“This study represents an attempt to provide the kind of book that I wish could have been placed in my hands when I first began to work amongst the Santals,” says the author in his Preface. Based on material gathered during his 11-year residence amongst the Santal people, this is a pioneering anthropological study of one of the largest tribal peoples of India, whose homeland is based around the area north east of the Ganges. A proud and self reliant people who once rioted against the corruption of British tax officials in colonial India, they have retained their own language and independent religion.
Culshaw explores every aspect of their culture, from their perception of themselves, and their interaction with their neighbours, to the intricacies of their art, both verbal and visual. The inclusion of diagrams of Santal instruments, and translations of their poetry and song, combined with the careful descriptions of the importance of both ceremonial and celebratory dance, animates the description of these people and accentuates the diversity and richness of their beliefs.
The reader is taken on a journey of discovery, through the most important episodes in life, including birth, marriage and death, to encourage understanding of the customs and practices of these dignified people. Elements of everyday life, such as the manner in which the tribe is structured, and the impact of natural events that are so important to an agricultural community, are contrasted with their belief system, myths, legends and religion.
Covering their history, their relationships with other ethnic groups, their social organisation and daily lives, their customs and religious beliefs, their art and folklore, and the impact of the Christian missions on their way of life, this wide-ranging account provides an excellent introduction to a fascinating culture, and deserves to be acknowledged as one of the most important books on this subject.
Includes a glossary of Santali words and kinship terms.