In its pursuit of solutions to the challenges posed by Modernity, India’s urban youth now takes pride in indigenous culture: “tribal” FashionHealth and nutritionNature and wildlifeEco tourism and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples are regularly featured in the Media.

Lokarajan, a Kota student from the Nilgiri mountains aspiring to become an engineer – Photo © Ludwig Pesch

It is up to young members of tribal communities themselves to overcome those Misconceptions or stereotypes that stand in the way of their self-development. Many among them have realized that progress and emancipation in a democratic society would elude their communities unless they make their voice heard in higher education. For this they need to overcome the alienation from their cultural roots often blamed on Colonial policies and their impact on the country’s educational system.

Photo © Dr. Ivy Hansdak | Fashion & design >>

As a case in point, a literary meet in Jharkhand 23-24 January 2013 was titled “JAGWAR: Santal Onolia Helmel”. The Santali term Jagwar means being “vigilant, watchful”. Public readings gave senior Santali authors and scholars an opportunity to interact with budding poets, prose writers and the  audience.

Keynote speaker Prof. Promodini Hansdak spoke eloquently on the problems facing Santali language and literature within the Indian academia and outside it even though “the identity of a group is closely linked to the protection of its language”.


Prof. Nikudimus Tudu underlined the need to rejuvenate Santali literature and language through the use of effective pedagogical practices in schools and universities. The challenges posed by social change came into focus:

One specific trend that was discussed at length in the Akhara was the use of ‘crude language’ by new writers, similar to the trend found in the Dalit autobiographies of so-called ‘lower-caste’ groups in India. This controversial debate centred on the emergence of a new idiom of expression in a world poised between tradition and change. The question in everyone’s mind was: Should this new trend be viewed negatively or should the traditional literary norms be redefined?

Lokhon Chand Hansdak and Mr. Shibu Soren, two poets from Birbhum, West Bengal introduced the incantatory style in poetry reading:

Their poems may be described as ballads that began with Santal relationship to Nature, and then moved back to the Santal Hul or Rebellion of 1855-56. No tribal poetry is complete without going back to the ancestral and primeval world of past history, folklore and mythology.

Participants examined the impact of this event on Santal society in a critical manner, hoping that such events would become a regular feature:

We felt as if we had entered a new world through our rich and vibrant literary heritage. We felt glad, confident and watchful… in other words, we felt Jagwar! – From convener Ivy Imogene Hansdak’s report on the Santali Literary Meet 2013 held in Jharkhand