Santhal Rebellion: Uprising, Causes of Revolt, Santhal Rebellion UPSC Notes

By K Balaji|Updated : October 27th, 2022

In 1854, the Santhal rebellion, led by Sido and Kanhu, rose up against their oppressors, declared the end of the Company's rule, and declared their independence. The situation was only brought under control in 1856 after extensive military operations. Kanhu was arrested in 1866 after Sido died in 1855. The government established a separate district of Santhal Parganas to appease the Santhals.

The Santhal rebellion is linked to the history of British India and makes it an important topic in the Indian history syllabus of the UPSC GS II examination. Frequent questions are asked related to the role of eminent participants in the Santhal revolt. It is necessary to be up to date with the events that led to the Santhal uprising. You can also download the PDF of this article on the Santhal rebellion using the link provided below.

Table of Content

Background of Santhal Rebellion

UPSC aspirants need to be well aware of the historical background of the Santhal rebellion which is given here. From the time they began consolidating, after the Battle of Plassey in 1757, the East India Company started implementing revenue policies, laws to be followed by the citizens to control the vast territory of India.

Santhal Rebellion PDF

  • Lord Cornwallis established the Permanent Settlement in a few regions of the country, including Bihar, Bengal, and Orissa, in 1793.
  • Landlords had permanent and hereditary control of the land under the permanent revenue system till they paid a set revenue to the British.
  • In case the peasants were unable to provide their rent, the British would auction off large tracts of Santhal land to anyone willing to pay a fixed amount in revenue, and many of the tribal lands were sold.
  • The Santhal lost ownership over the land during this process, and their long-standing tribal network and political layouts ended.
  • The Santhals were a tribal people who lived in the Rajmahal hills' forest. The East India Company separated the Damin-i-Koh from the portion of Jharkhand in 1832 and handed it to the Santhals in exchange for a promise not to interfere in their land.
  • However, as time passed and the Britishers' demand increased, the charges to the Santhals skyrocketed.
  • Finally, the Santhals found themselves in a position where their only option was to revolt against the British and the Zamindars.
  • Another reason for the Santhal rebellion to take place was because of the fact that the Santhals used the barter system. They had difficulty paying money to the zamindars, forcing them to borrow money by asking the moneylenders, which would come at exorbitant interest rates, trapping them in a never-ending cycle.
  • The only way out of this vicious circle and to save the Santhals' identity was to stand against British policies.

Santhal Uprising

There was yet another uprising against the British in North India just two years prior to the uprising of 1857. Tribes used crossbows on one side, and the British, along with their agents, the Zamindars, used the most modern weapons on the other. Sadly, our school history textbooks only give a cursory reference to the epic Santhal rebellion, which was waged in the forests of Jharkhand and West Bengal. This Santhal revolt was not only very significant, but the fundamental issue it addressed (the right to tribal lands) also served as the inspiration for a more recent, deadly movement in India known as the Naxalite movement, which is still active today.

The Santhals are a tribal community that lives in Jharkhand, West Bengal, Bihar, and Odisha. They communicate in Santhali and idolize their own deities. Santhals lived in the region's dense forests and hunted until the 18th century. But even so, distant political events had a considerable influence on their daily lives. This was accompanied by Lord Cornwallis' initiation of the notable Permanent Settlement or Zamindari system in 1793 CE. It was agreed in this settlement' that landlords would have continual and hereditary rights to the land as provided that they paid a set revenue to the British Government.

To build this new generation of Zamindars, the British auctioned off large swaths of Santhal land to anybody who could assure them such set revenues. Many wealthy Indians living in cities purchased zamindaris in these remote forests.

Soon after, began exploiting people there. With the implementation of the Zamindari system, Santhals were stripped of all land rights. Individuals were lowered to hired workers in the farms for these new occupants' This also meant the end of the old tribal frameworks and political layouts that had remained in place for generations The Zamindar and his troops were in command.

The introduction of the monetary system of currency was another major setback that gave rise to the Santhal rebellion. The Santhals used a barter system, but the Zamindars required cash payments. This implied they had to take loans from money lenders at exorbitant interest rates. The hold of moneylenders and the loss of identity created a deep sense of resentment among the Santhals.

The Santhal Revolt

The Santhal revolt began on June 30, 1855, along with the assistance of eminent leaders such as Kanhu, Sidhu, Chand, and Bhairav, as well as their sisters, Phulo and Jhano.

  • The anguished Santhals waged guerrilla warfare opposite to the Britishers, forming their own armies of farmers, villagers, and women.
  • They were capable of hijacking large areas of land during this quest, including Rajmahal Hills, Bhagalpur district, and Birbhum.
  • These people militarised over ten thousand Santhals. The villagers set fire to the warehouses, and any or all forms of communication were cut off.
  • The government used all available means to put a stop to the movement. To put down the Santhal rebellion, Britishers used heavy loaded weapons against the Santhals' bows and arrows.
  • The landlords supported the government, whereas the locals backed the Santhals wholeheartedly.
  • Unfortunately, the brothers Sidhu and Kanhu were arrested, and the Santhal revolt came to an end in a bloodbath.
  • The Santhals were suppressed, and the movement ended in 1856.

Santhal Rebellion UPSC

Santhal rebellion is an important part of the UPSC syllabus for the preparation for the IAS examination. It is important to cover the history of British India in the syllabus, which covers the important events, factors, and rebellions that led to the Santhal uprising. A major part of this topic includes the role of the history of Santhals and the events that happened during the Santhal revolt. It is also important to constantly keep referring to the Indian polity and history books for a good score in the IAS exam. You can also refer to the currently available UPSC study material and previous year's question papers to prepare better.

Santhal Tribe UPSC Questions

Question: After the Santhal Uprising subsided, what were the measures taken by the colonial government? [UPSC 2018]

  1. The territories called 'Santhal Parganas' were created
  2. It became illegal for a Santhal to transfer land to a non-Santhal.

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: (c) Both 1 and 2

Question: Consider the following events: [UPSC 1999]

  1. Indigo Revolt
  2. Santhal Rebellion
  3. Deccan Riot
  4. Mutiny of the Sepoys

The correct chronological sequence of these events is:

(a) 4, 2, 1, 3

(b) 4, 2, 3, 1

(c) 2, 4, 3, 1

(d) 2, 4, 1, 3

Answer: (d) 2, 4, 1, 3

Important Notes for UPSC
Chalukya DynastySkill India Mission
Press Council of IndiaSilent Valley Movement
Right to EducationMultipurpose River Valley Projects in India


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FAQs on Santhal Rebellion

  • Protestors named Sido and Kanhu led the Santhals in an uprising against their oppressors in 1854 that resulted at the end of the Company's reign and the declaration of the Santhals' freedom. After protracted military actions, the situation wasn't finally brought under control until 1856. After Sido's passing in 1855, Kanhu was detained in 1866. To placate the Santhals, the government created the distinct Santhal Parganas district. Beginning on June 30, 1855, the Santhal revolt—also known as the Hul revolt—was supported by illustrious figures like Kanhu, Sidhu, Chand, and Bhairav as well as their two sisters, Jhano and Phulo.

  • The Rajmahal hills' forest was home to the Santhals, a group of indigenous tribal people. With the promise of not interfering in their nation, the East India Company detached the Damin-i-Koh region from Jharkhand in 1832 and gave it to the Santhals for settlement. The 1857 revolution overshadowed the Santhal rebellion, yet it was a turning point in the development of modern Santhali identity. It played a crucial role in the creation of the state of Jharkhand in the year 2000.

  • In the Rajmahal hills' jungle, there was a tribe called the Santhals. In exchange for a commitment not to tamper with their property, the East India Company awarded the Santhals the Damin-i-Koh in 1832, demarcating it from the territory of Jharkhand. The rent to the Santhals, however, rose as time went on and the Britishers' demand grew. In the end, they were left with little choice but to rise up in the Santhal revolt against the British and the Zamindars.

  • Due to their reliance on the barter system and their inability to pay the zamindars in cash, the Santhals were compelled to borrow money from moneylenders at excessive interest rates, which put them in an impossible situation. Revolting against British policies was the only option to break out of this cycle and preserve the Santhals' individuality.

  • Some of the prominent leaders of the Santhal rebellion were:

    1. Sidhu
    2. Kanhu
    3. Chand
    4. Bhairav
    5. two sisters, Phulo and Jhano.

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