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Tribal Religion- Religious Beliefs and Practices Among The Santals
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Tribal Religion- Religious Beliefs and Practices Among The Santals
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About The Book

This is the first full-length systematic study of Santal religion as manifested in its beliefs and practices. Based on empirical data and interpreting the existing literature on the subject, it examines how these beliefs and practices contribute to the maintenance of Santal society and the manner in which religion interacts with other institutions in the Santal social structure. The study was conducted in the heart of the Santal homeland, where the tribals naturally have greater freedom to observe their rituals and ceremonies.

After describing the Santal society, the author studies how the Santal institutions have interacted with the wider regional culture. Religion and magic are both used in their attempt to cope with the mysterious supernatural world. A distinctive feature is the intimate relationship between the Santals and their spirits which is manifested in the rites and festivals of the agricultural cycle and in the individual's life cycle. Santal religion is such a powerful force that the Santals' religious and social identity have remained intact in spite of their constant interaction with Hinduism and Christianity.

Though the data were collected in a Santa! village, this study provides valuable insights into the religious norms shared by Santals over a wide geographic spread. As a result, this empirical study is likely to become part of that 'systematic comparison' of religions of diverse types and societies which Radcliffe-Brown believed would make it 'possible to establish a general theory of the nature of religions and their role in social development.

About the Author

Joseph Troisi was Assistant Director, Department of Research and Publication, Indian Social Institute, New Delhi and Associate Editor of Social Action. He has published a number of articles and book reviews in scholarly journals in India and abroad and is the author of The Santals: A Classified and Annotated Bibliography (1976).

Foreword

India's tribal population provides an important and interesting component to its many-faceted society and culture. Though the tribal people comprise less than 7 per cent of the population of the country, with a strength of over 40 million persons, they are numerically as well as culturally a significant category. How far India will succeed in integrating its tribal people into its wider society and culture without requiring them to abandon their distinctive ways of life, only time can tell; but the outcome of this venture will be as good a measure as any of the new India's success in preserving the best that was in the old.

India's tribal population is not only very large, it is also very diverse. There are more than four hundred tribes, located in different geographical areas, speaking a variety of languages and engaged in several types of productive activity. The diversity of tribal India reflects in a way the diversity of the country as a whole. Conversely, the four hundred or more tribes inhabiting the different parts of the country constitute some kind of a unity only in so far as India itself constitutes a unity. The Mundas, the Juangs and the Bhils are not merely tribal people: they are tribal people who have been associated with a particular historical tradition and now co-exist in the context of a particular political economy.

The Santals occupy a pre-eminent position among the tribal people of India. They are the largest of the Indian tribes, with a population of over three and a half million people. Although their homeland is in and around the Santal Parganas district of Bihar, they have moved far and wide, and there are now over a million Santals in the state of West Bengal. They have also a colourful history, and the Santal Rebellion of 1855-57 has become a legend, a legend that is treasured by tribal as well as non-tribal people.

The tribes of eastern India were among the first to attract the attention of social anthropologists, both Indian and foreign, when the subject became established as an academic discipline in the country more than fifty years ago. Since then social anthropologists have extended their interests to other sections of Indian society, and in recent years tribal studies have, if any-thing, suffered a certain neglect. This study of Santal religion by Dr Troisi places itself squarely within the tradition of research established by scholars like S.C. Roy and J.H. Hutton, and will be welcomed by everyone as a significant addition to the literature on tribal India.

If fieldwork is the hallmark of social anthropological research, then the fieldwork on which this study is based is exemplary. The author spent a period of over sixteen months in the area in which he did his fieldwork, living with the Santals as one among them. He learnt their language, and participated not only in every major religious ceremony but also in the ordinary round of everyday activities. It was only by identifying himself closely with the Santal way of life-by transforming himself from Joe Troisi to Joe Marandi-that he was able to amass the wealth of material on which this study is based.

Nor is the study based solely on data collected by the author himself in the field. The Santals are not an unknown people inhabiting a remote corner of the earth. A long line of missionaries, administrators and scholars have lived among the Santals and written about them. Dr Troisi has made extensive use of the published material, in more than one language, on the people he has investigated in the field. Since the earliest published material on the Santals goes back a century in time, the author has been able to draw attention to some of the changes that have taken place between then and now. Also, he has used this published material critically, pointing to inadequacies and inconsistencies in it.

Perhaps even more important than Dr Troisi's detailed knowledge of the people he has studied is his deep sympathy for them. Himself a Roman Catholic, he is well aware of the difference in orientation between his religion and theirs. But he has not allowed his faith to obscure his appreciation of the Santal way of life. Rather, he has put his own religious sensibilities to use in exploring the inner recesses of Santal religion and in explaining its nature and significance to his readers.

Dr Troisi, in my view, wisely avoids giving a label to Santal religion. He considers labels such as "animism" and "bongaism" proposed by earlier writers, and finds them to be unsatisfactory, Far too many people have dealt with tribal religions with the main objective of fitting them into this or that theoretical scheme. In this sense Dr Troisi does not have any theoretical axe to grind. Rather, he has tried to understand Santal religion on its own terms, and in its relations with other religions, particularly Hinduism. A notable feature of the study is that where similar religious traits are found among the Santals and the Hindus, the author does not automatically conclude that the former have borrowed them from the latter; it is at least plausible that the flow might sometimes have been in the opposite direction. Although the focus of this study is on religion, it is based on an understanding of Santal life as a whole. Dr. Troisi spent most of his time with the Santals in a single village, observing and participating in the religious activities of the people in their various spheres of life. Thus we get from this study a fair idea of the major groups and categories of Santal society, and of the economic and other institutions that bold them together. This way of looking at Santa! religion reveals the extent to which it is a living thing. Dr Troisi is to be congratulated for using his scholarship and his sympathies in bringing to life an important segment of Indian society and culture.

Preface

This book has developed from a Ph. D. dissertation which was carried out in the Department of Sociology, Centre of Advanced Study in Sociology, Delhi School of Economics and submitted to the University of Delhi in 1977. I take this opportunity to express my thanks to those who have helped me in the preparation of thir work. I am deeply grateful to Professor Andre Beteille for his insightful guidance and constant encouragement in carrying out this work. If this book makes any contribution to the sociological study of religion, it is because of Professor Beteille's scholarly concern for methodological rigour and systematic analysis of the relationship between religion and the processes of social and cultural change in tribal society and, in particular, that of the Santals.

I am also particularly indebted to Dr Alfred de Souza, Director of Research and Publication at the Indian Social Institute for his valued suggestions and criticisms both in the initial stages and also in the final editing of this study. I recall with deep gratitude the hospitality and generous cooperation extended to me by the people of Pangro, especially by Smt. Dulari Marandi, whose house was a second home for me. During the period I lived with them I experienced their warm friendship and their readiness to help me to understand them. Had they not enlightened me, I would have missed the significance of many aspects of their religion, culture and social organisation.

I acknowledge the financial support which I received as Research Fellow from the University Grants Commission during the course of my research. Finally, I am also grateful to the Director and staff of the Indian Social Institute for their interest and support, and to Mr. Roshan Lal Kalra and Mrs. Mini Mull for efficient secreterial assistance.

**Contents and Sample Pages**











Tribal Religion- Religious Beliefs and Practices Among The Santals

Item Code:
NAW726
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Edition:
2020
ISBN:
9788173043406
Language:
English
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9.00 X 6.00 inch
Pages:
294
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About The Book

This is the first full-length systematic study of Santal religion as manifested in its beliefs and practices. Based on empirical data and interpreting the existing literature on the subject, it examines how these beliefs and practices contribute to the maintenance of Santal society and the manner in which religion interacts with other institutions in the Santal social structure. The study was conducted in the heart of the Santal homeland, where the tribals naturally have greater freedom to observe their rituals and ceremonies.

After describing the Santal society, the author studies how the Santal institutions have interacted with the wider regional culture. Religion and magic are both used in their attempt to cope with the mysterious supernatural world. A distinctive feature is the intimate relationship between the Santals and their spirits which is manifested in the rites and festivals of the agricultural cycle and in the individual's life cycle. Santal religion is such a powerful force that the Santals' religious and social identity have remained intact in spite of their constant interaction with Hinduism and Christianity.

Though the data were collected in a Santa! village, this study provides valuable insights into the religious norms shared by Santals over a wide geographic spread. As a result, this empirical study is likely to become part of that 'systematic comparison' of religions of diverse types and societies which Radcliffe-Brown believed would make it 'possible to establish a general theory of the nature of religions and their role in social development.

About the Author

Joseph Troisi was Assistant Director, Department of Research and Publication, Indian Social Institute, New Delhi and Associate Editor of Social Action. He has published a number of articles and book reviews in scholarly journals in India and abroad and is the author of The Santals: A Classified and Annotated Bibliography (1976).

Foreword

India's tribal population provides an important and interesting component to its many-faceted society and culture. Though the tribal people comprise less than 7 per cent of the population of the country, with a strength of over 40 million persons, they are numerically as well as culturally a significant category. How far India will succeed in integrating its tribal people into its wider society and culture without requiring them to abandon their distinctive ways of life, only time can tell; but the outcome of this venture will be as good a measure as any of the new India's success in preserving the best that was in the old.

India's tribal population is not only very large, it is also very diverse. There are more than four hundred tribes, located in different geographical areas, speaking a variety of languages and engaged in several types of productive activity. The diversity of tribal India reflects in a way the diversity of the country as a whole. Conversely, the four hundred or more tribes inhabiting the different parts of the country constitute some kind of a unity only in so far as India itself constitutes a unity. The Mundas, the Juangs and the Bhils are not merely tribal people: they are tribal people who have been associated with a particular historical tradition and now co-exist in the context of a particular political economy.

The Santals occupy a pre-eminent position among the tribal people of India. They are the largest of the Indian tribes, with a population of over three and a half million people. Although their homeland is in and around the Santal Parganas district of Bihar, they have moved far and wide, and there are now over a million Santals in the state of West Bengal. They have also a colourful history, and the Santal Rebellion of 1855-57 has become a legend, a legend that is treasured by tribal as well as non-tribal people.

The tribes of eastern India were among the first to attract the attention of social anthropologists, both Indian and foreign, when the subject became established as an academic discipline in the country more than fifty years ago. Since then social anthropologists have extended their interests to other sections of Indian society, and in recent years tribal studies have, if any-thing, suffered a certain neglect. This study of Santal religion by Dr Troisi places itself squarely within the tradition of research established by scholars like S.C. Roy and J.H. Hutton, and will be welcomed by everyone as a significant addition to the literature on tribal India.

If fieldwork is the hallmark of social anthropological research, then the fieldwork on which this study is based is exemplary. The author spent a period of over sixteen months in the area in which he did his fieldwork, living with the Santals as one among them. He learnt their language, and participated not only in every major religious ceremony but also in the ordinary round of everyday activities. It was only by identifying himself closely with the Santal way of life-by transforming himself from Joe Troisi to Joe Marandi-that he was able to amass the wealth of material on which this study is based.

Nor is the study based solely on data collected by the author himself in the field. The Santals are not an unknown people inhabiting a remote corner of the earth. A long line of missionaries, administrators and scholars have lived among the Santals and written about them. Dr Troisi has made extensive use of the published material, in more than one language, on the people he has investigated in the field. Since the earliest published material on the Santals goes back a century in time, the author has been able to draw attention to some of the changes that have taken place between then and now. Also, he has used this published material critically, pointing to inadequacies and inconsistencies in it.

Perhaps even more important than Dr Troisi's detailed knowledge of the people he has studied is his deep sympathy for them. Himself a Roman Catholic, he is well aware of the difference in orientation between his religion and theirs. But he has not allowed his faith to obscure his appreciation of the Santal way of life. Rather, he has put his own religious sensibilities to use in exploring the inner recesses of Santal religion and in explaining its nature and significance to his readers.

Dr Troisi, in my view, wisely avoids giving a label to Santal religion. He considers labels such as "animism" and "bongaism" proposed by earlier writers, and finds them to be unsatisfactory, Far too many people have dealt with tribal religions with the main objective of fitting them into this or that theoretical scheme. In this sense Dr Troisi does not have any theoretical axe to grind. Rather, he has tried to understand Santal religion on its own terms, and in its relations with other religions, particularly Hinduism. A notable feature of the study is that where similar religious traits are found among the Santals and the Hindus, the author does not automatically conclude that the former have borrowed them from the latter; it is at least plausible that the flow might sometimes have been in the opposite direction. Although the focus of this study is on religion, it is based on an understanding of Santal life as a whole. Dr. Troisi spent most of his time with the Santals in a single village, observing and participating in the religious activities of the people in their various spheres of life. Thus we get from this study a fair idea of the major groups and categories of Santal society, and of the economic and other institutions that bold them together. This way of looking at Santa! religion reveals the extent to which it is a living thing. Dr Troisi is to be congratulated for using his scholarship and his sympathies in bringing to life an important segment of Indian society and culture.

Preface

This book has developed from a Ph. D. dissertation which was carried out in the Department of Sociology, Centre of Advanced Study in Sociology, Delhi School of Economics and submitted to the University of Delhi in 1977. I take this opportunity to express my thanks to those who have helped me in the preparation of thir work. I am deeply grateful to Professor Andre Beteille for his insightful guidance and constant encouragement in carrying out this work. If this book makes any contribution to the sociological study of religion, it is because of Professor Beteille's scholarly concern for methodological rigour and systematic analysis of the relationship between religion and the processes of social and cultural change in tribal society and, in particular, that of the Santals.

I am also particularly indebted to Dr Alfred de Souza, Director of Research and Publication at the Indian Social Institute for his valued suggestions and criticisms both in the initial stages and also in the final editing of this study. I recall with deep gratitude the hospitality and generous cooperation extended to me by the people of Pangro, especially by Smt. Dulari Marandi, whose house was a second home for me. During the period I lived with them I experienced their warm friendship and their readiness to help me to understand them. Had they not enlightened me, I would have missed the significance of many aspects of their religion, culture and social organisation.

I acknowledge the financial support which I received as Research Fellow from the University Grants Commission during the course of my research. Finally, I am also grateful to the Director and staff of the Indian Social Institute for their interest and support, and to Mr. Roshan Lal Kalra and Mrs. Mini Mull for efficient secreterial assistance.

**Contents and Sample Pages**











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