The Santals are one of India's largest
'Scheduled Tribe' communities. Santali language belongs to the 'Mundari'
branch of the Austro-Asiatic language group. This is the secound largest
colloquial language in West Bengal, next to the Bengali language.
Santals cannot marry within their clan. The clans are often totemic
in nature and the clan members maintain the totemic taboo of their respective
clans. These people depend on the natural environment of their own locality
to meet most of their material needs. As the natural world recedes,
so shrink the capacities of local ecosystems to support the people.
Until the late eighteenth century, the Santals can be said to have been
hunter gatherers and shifting cultivators, but after changes in the
system of land tenure by the British, they underwent a period of rapid
transition and found their free forest based economoc life challenged.
In independent India, dams, mines and quarries for instance, have physically
displaced millions of tribal communities including the Santals.