As the drums start there rhythmic thrumming, the people line up, resplendent in their traditional costumes, and start to dance. Others stop at the statue of Sidhu and Kanha Murmu, 2 venerated figures of Santhal history, to pay their respects.
The vibrant festivities are a part of the celebration of the Santhal uprising of 1855 against British occupation of their land which takes place on 30th June each year.
Most of the people gathered here have marched over a 115 km from different parts of the subcontinent—Jhrakhand, Bihar, Assam and even Nepal and Bengal.
150 years after the event the people gather in Bhoginadih, the site of their leader, Sidhu Murmu’s execution, to celebrate this first uprising against their colonial masters with great zeal.
For many like Mukhil Murmu, it is an opportunity to meet people from his community.
“I have come from Bangladesh to learn about my people,” he says.
The Santhals form one of the largest tribe groups in India with significant numbers in neighbouring countries like Nepal and Bangladesh. Traditionally dependant on forestland, over 60% of their land has been taken over by non-adivasis either legally or illegally.
“Through this march we hope that people will take inspiration from the sacrifices made by Sidhu and Kanha so that they can work towards development with renewed hope energy, motivation and honesty,” says one organiser.
In a rapidly changing world, the celebration brings hope that the Santhals will be able to carve out an identity for themselves and find socio-economic stability.