Largest tribal community in India, found mainly in the states of West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand and Orissa. Satars or Santhals are one of the most backward ethnic groups of the neighboring country Nepal. They live in the districts of Jhapa, Morang and Sunsari. There is also a significant Santal minority in neighboring Bangladesh. Santhals also call themselves Hor. They prefer to live in the peripheries of forests and rivers. They have their own unique religion and culture. They are animist. Hunting and fishing are their favourite occupations. Their ancestral deity is Thakurjiu and their paternal guardian deity is Maranburu. Bow and arrows are their traditional weapons. Their favorite meat is pork. Most Santals are engaged in farming and labor. They belong to the Austro-Asiatic group of human families. They have also been called as a subgroup speaking a language belonging to the Munda family (Dahal, BS2051/052). Their language is called Santhali. They have their own script, which was developed by Dr Raghunath Murmu in 1925. It is called Olchiki.
Racially the Santhals belong to the protoastraloid racial group, linguistically they belong to the Mundari group of Austro-Asiatic linguistic family and economically they may be classified as plain agricultural type. The Santhals are very conscious about their identity and heritage. And this is the reason why they have, most probably consciously, built up a sense of solidarity amongst themselves. Their internal solidarity is often based on their principle of likeness, that is a shared cultural characteristic, which binds them together. The Santhals live in peace and harmony among themselves.
The Jhapa district in Nepal has the highest population of Santhals and Morang district has slightly less. Their population, according to the census of 2001, is 42,689. The Southern part of the Bihar is called as `Santhal Praganas` because of the density of the Santhal tibe in this area. They had multiplied from proto – Australoid origin. It is also believed that they had come from the Districts of `Santha` and that is why they are called as `Santan` or men of Santha state. The Munda-Santal of northeastern India and Nepal comprise of nine different, but very closely related people groups. They are distributed politically throughout the states of Bihar, West Bengal, and Orissa, India. Most of the tribes live in the hilly areas of the Chotanagpur Plateau, located in southern Bihar. Others prefer living in the plains. Beyond this region, they have spread widely throughout India as agricultural and industrial laborers.
The seven groups who occupy territory farther north include the Santhal (of India and Nepal), the Bhumij, the Koda, the Mahili, the Ho, and the Agariya. The two remaining groups, the Juango and the Gadaba, are located in the southern portion of India, nearer to the coast of the Bay of Bengal.
The Santhali language is part of the Austro-Asiatic family, distantly related to Vietnamese and Khmer. The history of the Santals may be traced to Africa from where started the human migration. It was found that humans from Africa started to migrate towards the Eastern part of the world or Asia. The Santhali script, or Ol Chiki, is alphabetic, and does not share any of the syllabic properties of the other Indic scripts such as Devanagari. It uses 30 letters and five basic diacritics. It has 6 basic vowels and three additional vowels, generated using the Gahla Tudag.
Santhals did not have a written language until the twentieth century. Therefore the script is a recent development. A distinct script was required to accommodate the Santhali language, combining features of both the Indic and Roman scripts. The modern Ol Chiki script was devised by Pandit Raghunath Murmu in 1925. He wrote over 150 books covering a wide spectrum of subjects. Darege Dhan, Sidhu-Kanhu, Bidu Chandan and Kherwal Bir are among the most acclaimed of his works. Pandit Raghunath Murmu is popularly known as Guru Gomke among the Santhals, a title conferred on him by the Mayurbhanj Adibasi Mahasabh.
The Santhals traditionally had an organized judicial system for the management and solution of the various problems within the community. They make every effort to solve the social problems arising within their community by themselves. The head of the Santhal community is called Manjhi Hadam. He is the chief of the executive, judicial and all other functions within society. He is assisted by other office bearers like Paranik, Jagmanjhi, Jagparanik, Naike, Gudit, etc, who work in their respective fields to solve various kinds of problems. After the birth of a child, the Jagmanjhi and following the death of a person the Gudit and others are present. Manjhi Hadam undertakes the looking into judicial cases and the dispensing of justice and above him is Disham Manjhi, and above both is Diheri. The Diheri is the highest judicial office bearer of Santhals. The Santhals who generally like to live in concentrated settlements of their own near rivers and forests are divided into 12 thars or groups. As the groups are in accordance with professional specialization, this appears as a form of social system. The Murmu are the priests of Santhals and Murdi the businessmen, while Kisku are the rulers and Hemram judges. Similarly, the Tudu are musicians and Soren soldiers. The organizations of Santhals are village council (Manjhibaisi), Proganna Council (Pramatrabaisi) and the highest council (Labirbaisi).