Santhal Rebellion: Leaders, Uprising, Causes, Santhal Revolt UPSC

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

The Santhal rebellion took place in 1854, led by Sido and Kanhu, who rose up against their oppressors, announced 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 1856 after Sido died in 1855. The government established a separate district of Santhal Parganas to appease the Santhals. With the implementation of the Zamindari system, Santhals were stripped of all land rights. 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 rebellion is linked to the history of British India which makes it an important topic in the Indian history syllabus of the UPSC GS II examination. Frequent questions are asked in the Civil Services exam related to the role of eminent participants in the Santhal revolt.

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.

Leaders of Santhal Rebellion

The leaders of the Santhal Rebellion were Kanhu, Sidhu, Bhairav and Chand including Jhano and Phulo who were their two sisters. The Santhal Rebellion took place in the area now called Jharkhand. During British rule, various parts of the land owned by the Santhal tribe were lost. Due to this reason, the Santhals started a revolt against the British East India Company.

The Santhal Revolt began on 30th June 1855 with the members of the Santhal tribe forming their own groups. These war groups were composed of all villagers, farmers and women as well. The Santhal Rebellion was successful to some extent as the Santhals were able to grab good parts of land such as the Bhagalpur district, Birbhum and Rajmahal Hills.

Causes of Santhal Rebellion

One of the major causes of the Santhal Rebellion is largely understood as the Permanent Settlement tax system which was introduced by the British government in some of the regions such as Bihar, Orissa and Bengal. Under this system, the British government started putting a particular section of land on auction if the peasants were unable to pay the rent. This instigated the Santhal Rebellion.

  • The original landlords during the time of the Santhal Revolt could own the land as long as they paid a particular amount to the government.
  • Gradually, the tax amount also increased to a great extent which left the Santhals with no choice but to revolt against the British government. The revolt came to be known as Santhal Revolt.
  • Another cause of the Santhal Rebellion was the ‘barter system’ in which the tribal people were facing issues in returning the payment in the form of cash.

Significance of Santhal Rebellion

The major significance of the Santhal Rebellion was that it threw light on the complicated Zamindari system introduced by the East India Company. It was because of the revolt that the harsh reality of the Zamindari system was brought to light.

  • The Santhal Rebellion was also significant as it exposed the cruelty of the lenders who exploited the ignorant Santhal tribals and demanded extremely high-interest rates on the loans they provided to them.
  • The Santhal Revolt marks a turning point in the history of Jharkhand which exists today as a result of the rebellion in the year 2000.

Impact of Santhal Rebellion

The Santhal Rebellion led to the killing of the two most eminent leaders, Kanhu and Sidhu. The homes of the tribal people were vandalised and destroyed by war elephants which were provided by the Nawab of Murshidabad. A hard impact of the Santhal Rebellion was that 15 thousand people lost their lives, several villages were wrecked and people were forced to leave their homes.

Apart from all the negative impact of the Santhal Rebellion, a positive outcome of the revolt was that it gave some encouragement to the weak sections of the society such as the peasants and farmers. They could muster up the courage to stand up against the British government. The Santhal Revolt created a pathway for the upcoming Revolt of 1857.

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.

Who were Santhals?

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. This led to the Santhal revolt in 1855.

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 heavily 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

The Santhal Rebellion was an uprising of the Santhal tribe in the area called the Bengal Presidency then. The rebellion was a reaction towards the harshness of the British East India Company. It is therefore an important subject to be studied for the candidates preparing for the UPSC exam.

A major part of this topic includes the role of the history of Santhals and the events that happened during the Santhal revolt. Read the following points to quickly learn some important facts about Santhal Rebellion significant for the UPSC exam:

  • The Santhal Rebellion was an uprising against the unfair Zamindari system and the Permanent Tax Settlement System.
  • The British tax system enabled unfair and harsh behaviour towards the farmers who were not able to pay the land rent in time.
  • Kanhu and Sidhu Murmu were the two main leaders of the Santhal Revolt. They were brothers and led the movement against the British.
  • Many Santhal leaders lost their land because of the tax system.
Important Notes for UPSC
Chalukya Dynasty Skill India Mission
Press Council of India Silent Valley Movement
Right to Education Multipurpose River Valley Projects in India
Our Apps Playstore
SSC and Bank
Other Exams
GradeStack Learning Pvt. Ltd.Windsor IT Park, Tower - A, 2nd Floor, Sector 125, Noida, Uttar Pradesh 201303
Home Practice Test Series Premium