Page:A Brief History of the Indian Peoples.djvu/50

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46 THE NON-ARYANS. end of the ceremony the girl's relatives pound burning charcoal with the household pestle, and extinguish it with water, in token of the breaking up of her former family ties. The Santals respect their women, and do not take a second wife during the life of the first, except when the first is childless. They solemnly burn their dead, and whenever possible they used to float three fragments of the skull down the Damodar river, the sacred stream of the race. Santal Religion. — The Sant&l has no knowledge of bright and friendly gods, such as the Vedic singers of the Aryan Indians worshipped. Still less can he imagine one omnipotent and beneficent Deity, who watches over mankind. Hunted and driven back before the Hindus and Muhammadans, the Santal does not understand how a Being can be more powerful than himself without wishing to harm him. ' What,' said a Santal to an eloquent missionary who had been discoursing on the omnipotence of the Christian God, — ' what if that strong One should eat me ? ' He thinks that the earth swarms with demons, whose ill-will he tries to avert by the sacrifice of goats, cocks, and chickens. There are the ghosts of his forefathers, river- spirits, forest-spirits, well-demons, mountain-demons, and a mighty host of unseen beings, whom he must keep in good humour. These dwell chiefly in the ancient sal trees which shade his village. In some hamlets the people dance round every tree, so that they may not by evil chance miss the one in which the village-spirits happen to be dwelling. Santal History. — Until near the end of the last century, the Santals lived by plundering the adjacent plains. But under British rule they settled down into peaceful cultivators. To prevent disputes between them and the Hindu villagers of the lowlands, our officers set up in 1832 a boundary of stone pillars. But the Hindu money-lender soon came among them ; and the simple hillmen plunged into'debt. Their strong love of kindred prevented them from running away, and they sank into serfs to the Hindu usurers. The poor Santdl gave over his whole crop each year to the money-lender, and was allowed just enough food to keep his family at work. When he died, thp lifp-lnncr hnrHpn dpQppnrlprfl tr» l-iio MiilrlrpTi * fnr fti*» V»,rrVi