Page:A Brief History of the Indian Peoples.djvu/49

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THE SANTALS. 45 peace of the border, in return for a yearly gift of cloth, hoes, and grain. Their very names bear witness to their former wild life. One tribe, the Akas of Assam, is divided into two clans, whose names literally mean ' The eaters of a thousand hearths,' and ' The thieves who lurk in the cotton-field.' More advanced non-Aryan Tribes. — Many of the ab- original tribes, therefore, remain in the same early stage of human progress as that ascribed to them by the Vedic poets more than. 3000 years ago. But others have made great ad- vances, and form communities of a well-developed type. These higher races, like the ruder ones, are scattered over the length and breadth of India, and I must confine myself to a very brief account of two of them, — the Santals and the Kandhs. The Santals. — The Santals have their home among the hills which abut on the valley of the Ganges in Lower Bengal. They dwell in villages of their own, apart from the people of the plains, and, when first counted by British officers, numbered about a million. Although still clinging to many customs of a hunting forest tribe, they have learned the use of the plough, and have settled down into skilful husbandmen. Each hamlet is governed by its own headman, who is supposed to be a descendant of the original founder of the village, and who is assisted by a deputy headman and a watchman. The boys of the hamlet had their separate officers, and were sfrictly con- trolled by their own headman and his deputy till they entered the married state. The Santals know not the cruel distinctions of Hindu caste, but trace their tribes, usually fixed at seven, to the seven sons of the first parents. The whole village feasts, hunts, and worships together. So strong is the bond of race, that expulsion from the tribe used to be the only Santal punish- ment, A heinous criminal was cut off from ' fire and water ' in the village, and sent forth alone into the jungle. Smaller offences were forgiven upon a public reconciliation with the tribe ; to effect which the guilty one had to provide a feast, with much rice-beer, for his clansmen. Santal Ceremonies. — The Santals do not allow of child- weddings. They marry about the age of 15 to 17, when the young people are old enough to choose for themselves. At the