The Santal historical heritage, the Bodding Symposium


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Introduction: asking difficult questions

Can you imagine that the largest and most valuable collection of your saga manuscripts, Viking ships and other iconic remains from the Viking era – not to speak of your most exquisite collection of folk culture were owned by a foreign museum[1]?

When posing this hypothetical entry question to several of my countrymen their unison reaction is one of utter disorientation.  The idea is hardly imaginable and when truly contemplated – preposterous. This question with its rhetorical edge is however not outlandish.  The reactions provoked, suggests that public memory in Norway about our own long country’s colonial past has faded. read more

Tone Bleie is Professor of Public Planning and Cultural Understanding at the University of Tromsø, in Northern-Norway.   She has worked and published on minority and indigenous issues in South Asia in a range of capacities over three decades and lived in Nepal, Bangladesh, Thailand, the US and Norway. Bleie is the Head of the newly formed Scandinavia-Santal Heritage Initiative (SSInherit).  The Bodding Symposium is one of the current initiatives under this umbrella initiative. Another is an ongoing book project, which aims at rewriting the history of the Scandinavian-Santal pastoral enlightenment legacy – making the book readable and available for audiences in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Scandinavia and elsewhere in Europe.Her email address is:

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Dr. Asoka Sen Interview

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This year on the 159th anniversary of the Santhal Rebellion we have invited scholars/academicians to contribute articles related to Santhal community. We hope through this endeavour we can portray some valuable works done by scholars on the Santhals. Our intention is to make the articles/interviews open source so that anyone can access these useful information easily.

Today we are pleased to have Dr. Asoka Kumar Sen to talk about Santhal Rebellion and the Santhals in general. Dr. Sen is an alumnus of Tata College, Chaibasa, Patna College and Patna University. Dr. Sen taught History at Tata College, Chaibasa, Singhbhum West, Jharkhand and retired from the institution as University Professor in 2002. Presently an Independent Researcher, Dr.Sen is also the Editor of online Journal of Adivasi and Indigenous Studies. He was awarded a fellowship at the Department of Sociology, Delhi School of Economics in 2004. He also worked as a Researcher for Sussex University, UK from 2005-07 on a British Academy Project. Dr. Sen is the author of From Village Elder to British Judge: Custom, Customary Law and Tribal Society (Orient BlackSwan, 2012), Representing Tribe: The Ho of Singhbhum during Colonial Rule (Concept Publishing Company, 2011), Bengali Intelligentsia and Popular Uprisings 1855-73 (Firma KLM Pvt Ltd. Calcutta, 1992) and The Educated Middle Class and Indian Nationalism (Progressive Publishers, Calcutta, 1988). He has contributed research papers to leading Journals and edited volumes including South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, Indigenous Affairs. Journal of International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs, Copenhagen; D.Kumar, V.Damaodaran and Rohan D’Souza (eds), The British Empire and the Natural World: Environmental Encounters in South Asia, Oxford University Press and D.J.Rycroft and S.Dasgupta(eds.), The Politics of Belonging in India: Becoming Adivasi. Routledge, England. read more

Sumit Soren is the founder of Livelystories. Basically an Agricultural Engineer, Sumit has interest in varied topics. He regularly writes on tribal history, internet and science related topics.

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Brothers in Arm: the days of the great Rebellion

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It is difficult to portray a man, about whom we know very little, whatever information we have is unsystematic, unorganized and shrouded in mystery. Yet the hero of the Santhal Rebellion is an unrecognized towering figure in Indian history. This extraordinary character changed everything that was becoming so usual in India, the collapse of Empires, and Emperors, the downsizing of rulers and their estates, the forced austerity upon nobles and fiefs. And lo, here is the man armed with the most primitive weapon went on to take the mightiest power on the planet, the English! He is not afraid of consequences; he is not worried about the superiority of his enemies, or anything else. In him and his band of followers the English found the glorious enemy, “the most truthful, faithful, gentle and harmless race in India.” In fact when the first news of the rebellion was conveyed to the Commissioner of Bhagalpur, he could not believe his ears, “report seemed so strange and unlikely that at first little credit was attached to it”![i] The uprising was so sudden and spontaneous that it lead to astonishing speculations someone even suggesting that, ‘a Frenchman is said to be among the Santhals and a suspicion is abroad that Russian agents and Russian money have been employed to fan the discontent of the hill into the fame of insurrection.’[ii] So without a doubt the rebellion, ‘has most seriously weakened the prestige of the Government’.[iii] read more

Sumit Soren is the founder of Livelystories. Basically an Agricultural Engineer, Sumit has interest in varied topics. He regularly writes on tribal history, internet and science related topics.

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Tales of the Milky Way

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Last year, I arose at around 4am to take a quick wander outside to look at the night sky. Displayed before me were thousands of stars accompanied by the glow of millions of others that comprise our Milky Way Galaxy. Every time I’m fortunate to have a view of our galaxy like this I am in awe at its breathtaking stellar beauty. However, at the same time as being moved by what was displayed before me, I was also somewhat saddened. For this was not the sky I see from my suburban backyard in the city of Adelaide; this was the sharp black sky as seen from outback Arkaroola in South Australia. read more

Sumit Soren is the founder of Livelystories. Basically an Agricultural Engineer, Sumit has interest in varied topics. He regularly writes on tribal history, internet and science related topics.

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Boorong Skies

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To the Aboriginal Peoples of Australia, the night sky is of great significance. For the night sky could serve many purposes, some practical and some more spiritual in nature. Few of us today have the same connection that early cultures did to the wider environment around us. For example, most of us spend more time under roofs than outside. Even many keen astronomers probably don’t spend the same amount of time looking at the sky as our early predecessors did. One of the reasons for this is that the night sky just isn’t considered as significant as it once was by many early cultures. read more

Paul Curnow [B.ED], is the Vice President of the Astronomical Society of South Australia (member since 1991) and a former council member of the Field Geology Club of South Australia. He has been a lecturer at the Adelaide Planetarium since 1992 and was the recipient of the ASSA editor’s award for 2000; 2010; and then again in 2013. In 2002, he served as a southern sky specialist for visiting U.S. and British astronomers who were in Australia for the total solar eclipse. He is regarded as one of the world’s leading authorities on Australian Aboriginal night sky knowledge; and in 2004, he worked in conjunction with the Lake Erie Nature and Science Center Planetarium in Ohio, on the creation of a show that features Indigenous Australian stories of the night sky. In addition, Paul runs a number of popular courses for the general public that focus on the constellations, planetary astronomy, historical astronomy and ethnoastronomy, which primarily deals with how the night sky is seen by non-western cultures. He appeared as the keynote speaker at the inaugural 2010 Lake Tyrrell Star Party in Sea Lake, Victoria and in 2011 was a special guest speaker at the Carter Observatory in Wellington, New Zealand. Since 2012 Paul has taken the role of Lecturer for the Astronomy & Universe course (EDUC2066) for the School of Education at the University of South Australia. Paul appears regularly in the media and has authored over 50 articles on astronomy.

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Architectural history of the Santals

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Santals are historically and locally renowned for the neatness, orderliness and workmanship in constructing houses and organizing village settlements. Writing about Santal villages, W. G. Archer pointed out that “the mud walls have a hard cement-like precision, a suave and solid neatness, and the roofs, softly thatched or ribbed with tiles, compose a vista of gently blending courves. Even in the rains the walls contrive to keep their trimness. Of all the other tribes of eastern India, now has quite the same relish for neatly ordered buildings, the same capacity of tidy spacious living or the same genius for domestic architecture.”[1] read more

Gauri Bharat is an architect and Assistant professor at the Faculty of Architecture, CEPT University, Ahmedabad. She is currently doing PhD at the School of Art History and World Art Studies, University of East Anglia, Norwich under Dr. Daniel Rycroft and Prof. John Mack. Her interests include Adivasi architecture and material culture; she has been carrying out research on Santal built environments for the past 14 years. Ms. Bharat’s current research is moving in the direction of Adivasi everyday lives and participatory explorations of perceptions and identity.


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