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The Sonthals, though belonging to the same race as the Coles, Bheels, and other cognate aboriginal tribes of India, have not, until a comparatively recent period, been settled in the territory which they rendered for a time famous by their rebellion in 1855.  They were a wandering race from the neighbourhood of Cuttack and Pulamow, and were permitted in 1832 to settle themselves at the foot of the Rajmahal hills, on land which the hillmen would not cultivate.  In 1851, they numbered 82,795 souls.

They are well made and active men; possessing the thick lips, high cheekbones, and spread nose of the Bheel, Cole, and other hill tribes, and nearly beardless; quiet, inoffensive, cheerful, intelligent, and obliging; timid, cowardly towards mankind, but brave when confronted with wild animals.

They are industrious cultivators, and enjoy their existence unfettered by caste; they eat beef, kid, pork, poultry, drink a spirit called  pachũi, and have no objection to a hearty dance; but, on the other hand, do not refuse to eat even snakes, ants, frogs, and field rats, when better diet is scarce.  The Sonthal women are fat and short, and though not pretty according to the European idea of beauty, have a very pleasing expression of countenance.  The men are generally five feet six inches in height, and weigh about eight stone.

The dress of the men is a small piece of cloth round the loins, that of the women an ample flowing cloth, one end of which is fastened round the waist, the other passed over the left shoulder, leaving the right shoulder and arm uncovered; the women are fond of such simple ornaments as they can afford (and by no means particular as to weight; one woman's bell-metal ornaments weighed thirty-four pounds!) the men wear small zinc ear-rings, finger rings, and sometimes a wrist bangle of iron; the hair in both male and female is worn long, and tied in a knot on the crown of the head.

Their religious observances are few, consisting of prayers, sacrifices, and dances "the whole of which are generally performed and attended to by the votaries whilst in a state of intoxication."  They pray chiefly for protection from famine and sickness from disease among their cattle, and for defence from wild animals and