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They are also called Manjhi, tribal people of eastern India, numbering about 5,380,000 in the late 20th century. Their greatest concentration is in the states of Bihar, West Bengal, and Orissa. Some 65,000 also live in Bangladesh and 10,000 in Nepal. Their language is Santhali, a dialect of Kherwari, a Munda language.

Many Santhals are employed in the coal mines near Asansol or the steel factories in Jamshedpur, while others work during part of the year as paid agricultural labourers. In the villages, where tribal life continues, the most important economic activity is the cultivation of rice. Each village is led by a hereditary headman assisted by a council of elders; he also has some religious and ceremonial functions. Groups of villages are linked together in a larger territorial unit termed a pargana, which also has a hereditary headman.

The Santhal have 12 clans, each divided into a number of subdivisions also based on descent, which is patrilineal. Members of the same clan do not marry each other. Membership in the clan and subclan carries certain injunctions and prohibitions with regard to style of ornament, food, housing, and religious ritual. Marriage is generally monogamous; polygamy, though permitted, is rare. The traditional religion centres on the worship of spirits, and the ancestral spirits of the headmen are objects of an important cult.

They had multiplied from proto – Australoid origin. It is also believed that they had come from the Districts of  ‘Santha’ and for it are called as ‘Santan’ or men of Santha state. Physically short with beard, long but flat nose, these black complexioned tribals are strong and hard working. In the hills, the Santhals settle in villages comprising of closely clustered houses. Their prime food is Rice, Dal and Meat. Every village has a Headman who is responsible for conducting the affairs of the village. They worship nature in any form as their God and also propitiate their anscestors for their well being. They are very superstitious in character. They make their livelihood on agriculture, Cultivation of fruits and vegetables and at times on hunting. They speak in ‘Munda’ language. Their marriages are exogamous and these marriages known as ‘Bapla’ are of seven types namely Sanga, Kadam, Kirin, Upagir, Tanki Dipil, Itut, Nirbelok etc. At the end of every marriage, the bride money is collected.

By nature, the Santhals love Dance, Music and wine. There cannot be a festival without these. Their fairs and festivals are colourful as evident from the festivals of Baham, Saharai and Sakrat.

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