The Story of Santal Rebellion

T Vijayendra

It is a beautifully illustrated children's *book addressed to the Santal children. The words are few, but the illustrations by Saheb Ram Tudu tell the story effectively. It is a large format coffee table kind of book, hard bound, published on thick paper. The illustrations are stylised monochromes (shades of brown and black) that help to bring out the theme. Otherwise in real life Santal settlements are surrounded by green trees and forests and people are hardly visible. As the tribal girl from the Nilgiri forest asked, 'Is it true that there are more people in the plains than trees?'

To quote from the back page, "The Hul was a valiant effort of the Santal people to free themselves from the oppressive powers of the landlords, moneylenders and the British crown. More than 150 years after the epic struggle of the Santal warriors led by Sido and Kanhu Murnu, we want to honour their sacrifice by telling the story of their gallantry to our children. A lot has changed since 1855, yet we are not the masters of our lives and destinies. Remembering the Hul will help us engage with our past and reinterpret its meaning for our present and future. It's up to us to keep the spirit of the rebellion and its relevance alive!"

Year after year towards the end of June, Santal men, women and children make the long walk to the spot where the Santal Rebellion started in 1855. Tracing the route of the uprising, this long walk is to remember and celebrate one defining moment in adivasi history.

The Hul, as it was and still is called, left a deep impression upon the social imaginary of the Santal people. It was a last ditch effort to defend their way of life which was being undermined by the influx of outsiders. This is a book for children to remember and cherish the heroes and their deeds.

The price is justified by the quality of production, which is one of the best this reviewer has seen in India. A bilingual version with Roman Santali added will be very useful as it would have made it more attractive not only to Santal children but also non-Santal children would have got a whiff of Santal language.

*Disaibon Hul (Let's remember the Santal rebellion of 1855-57)

by Ruby Hembrom and Saheb Ram Tudu, 2014, Adivaani, Kolkata. Price Rs. 200/-. Available from Earthcare Books, 10, Middleton Street, Kolkata 700 071. Phone: 033 2229 6551, Email: Website:

Vol. 47, No. 6, Aug 17 - 23, 2014