Santhal tribes, Jamshedpur, state Jharkhand, India (2011)
Sonari in the city of Jamshedpur is a place where the river Kharkai meets the bigger and stronger river Subamarekha which leads to the north in the direction of the lake Chandil. Sonari is a salutary place for the people of the tribe of Santhal, living in poverty, but also in harmony with the nature, with their own rules and traditions. The view of the delta of the rivers Kharkai and Subamarekha recall a view of an old image. Women dressed in the traditional variegated dresses Sari or in Panjabi, in long tunics with wide pants, with a scarf draped around their shoulders and holding a basket full of washed clothes can e seen walking from the river bank. A bit further one can perceive a wooden barge transporting passengers from one bank to the second or third of the river delta. It’s six o’clock in the morning, so it’s pretty busy. It transports the men of the village Chandal. They all travel with bicycles and indispensable yellow safety helmets which shine in the light of the rising sun. They emerge from the jungle just like ghosts, one by one, patiently pushing their bikes through the soft yellow sand to the river. And amongst them you could see a little girl, with a bag over her shoulder, dressed in flowery dress with an orange headscarf. She keeps up the pace with the strong men on their way to work at TATA Steel as if she was one of them. Holding a small jerry can her face seems so dedicated and yet grim, a child that had to became an adult too soon. Does she have a chance for a change…?
The Santhal tribes belong to the 32 tribal groups living in the state Jharkhand in the East India and also partially in the states Bihar, Orrissa, West Bengal a Assam, known under several names, including Bhils, Bhutias, Gonds, Hos, Konds, Mundas a Oraons. They descend from the direct lineage of Australia-Asian community, which started to live in India about 55 000 - 60 000 years ago. They are among the most numerous indigenous populations in India. There are among 50 million of them in the total population of billion of India, making this country the second most populated in the world. They speak in a Santhali dialect, a language founded recently as a language “Ol Chaki”. The tribals mostly worship the tribal religions, Hinduism or Christianity. According to the last report “Census 2001” the literacy levels of the tribals are only 40%.