This documentary focuses on the dilemmas posed by modern developments that undermine the traditional way of life of India’s tribal communities. It is marked by a symbiotic relationship with nature rather than economical considerations. Women still sing Santali songs while working in the fields. But as erratic rainfall affects many Santal peasants, families are torn apart as men seek work in nearby coal mines and distant cities.

A literacy and health campaign in Jharkhand forms the highlight and conclusion of this documentary: we witness how Jagran, a group of young Santal actors and musicians, serves its community in the face of destitution and involuntary rural migration.

The original inhabitants of South Asia are known as Adivasi. Their lifestyle is generally marked by a profound respect for nature. It is this sense of harmony that sustained the life of countless tribal communities for thousands of years. Today’s changes include carbon dioxide pollution caused by coal mines, deforestation and the impact of climate change. These factors threaten the social fabric of many Adivasi communities including the Santal. They constitute one of the largest communities whose settlements are spread across North-East India, Bangla Desh, Nepal and Bhutan. Their mother tongue is known as Santali.

© Sigrun Schnarrenberger (script, camera, editing): cutout (7:17) from “Johar Jharkhand” (re-edited for the Tribal Cultural Heritage in India Foundation in 2011)

See also

Chotanagpur | Chota Nagpur | Fact checking

Communities: Asur | Ho| Kharia | Munda | Oraon | Santal | State wise ST list (Scheduled Tribes)

Cultural heritage

Government of India


Hul (Santal rebellion 1855-1856) | Tribal freedom fighters

Jharkhand | Jharkhand land rights

Video | Banam: Lutes and fiddles of the Santal people – Jharkhand and West Bengal

Video | Hul Sengel: The Spirit of the Santal Revolution (1855) – Jharkhand