Santal culture


Santal are known as the oldest ethnic race in Bangladesh.  Santal have own religion, strong cultural heritage and traditional village political structure. Their social solidarity, religion and traditions as a distinct culture are at stake today. A large number of this ethnic minority has converted into Christianity, leaving aside their ancient religion. Christianity has brought vast changes in their belief, cultural life-styles. This ethnic race was originally hunters and gatherers and used to live in hill forests of middle-eastern India. But over time due to increase of majority population, deforestation and scarcity of wild animals and birds, they had to move out to different areas, mainly plain land areas for their survival.

According to Bangladesh Population Census of 1991, the total Santal populace in Bangladesh is almost 261,746 (UNESCO, 2005). Approximately 15,000 Santals live in Nawabganj Thana of Dinajpur, a northern district of Bangladesh. Seventy five percent Santals are illiterate and strive on a very low income. They rely on their agricultural based economy; they do not have substitute proficiencies or other opportunities for employment. They are compelled to sell their labor at a very low wage in agricultural fields and elsewhere.  Thus for survival they have to prioritize economic solvency to improve their current living situation rather than preserving their culture. They live in mud-huts with tin rooftops. They usually keep house clean and live in very simple life.

The senior generations try to uphold their hereditary culture, religion and social values; but they are reluctant to convince the present generations to preserve their cultural rights due to the facilities the present generations contribute to their families by converting into Christianity.  With the lack of social motivation to preserve their hereditary culture most of the present Santal generations are convinced easily by the Christian missionaries to convert from their original religion with the promises of better future and life fulfillment.


Story by Murtada Bulbul