Kudum : Santali Riddle | Symbolic Expression of Santal Values

Kudum is a Santali term for 'Riddle'. It expresses the symbolic idiomatic reference to understand the way of life to Santal . The common speech, riddles and proverbs reveal the kind of personality structure and emotional pattern of their common behavior. Riddles are taken as 'play' among them in leisure time. Also, in occasion like marriage, the groom is questioned to answer some riddles, it's a fun part among them. Children are told about 'Kudum' by their grandparents.

But the important aesthetics of Santal riddle show the capability of Santal people to hold detailed observation, to gather the uniqueness of object like its color, decor and situation in space or it's structure . And to interpret them in their oral tradition.



Riddles thus open interesting aspects on personality structure, group emotions and social value orientations. Sometime the riddle paints a still life e.g : picture of fruits, vegetables, fishes, animals.
and sometime it symbolize an object, an activity, dynamic of movement, a gesture like bloom of flowers, images of dried fruit bursting, frying maize or daily activity like brushing teeth with a green twig, weaving the rope along the structure of cot.

According to W.G Archer, Kudum are the Santal Child's unconscious introduction to poetry, they accustom the children to think in images and when in due course they learn the songs it brings in the same aesthetics to them.


We've tried to mention few common riddles of Santal below and going through them you would come to know that the people who use them are of jovial nature and can look the absurdities of life, appraise  its joy and sorrows.

No. Original(In Santali) Literal Meaning(In English) The Symbolized Object
1 Machan Chetan jambulu bili. Snake eggs on machan Kundri(a kind of vegetable)
2 Pur latar chukah dah. Below the bush a pot of water Bengal (Brinjal)
3 Balgere Tuyu derenj. The horns of the fox in backyards Maricha (Chillies)
4 Sermare bed tukuj. A closed earthen pot in the sky. Tiril(Kendu Fruit)
5 Jom Joh jang bam yama ero joh bam yanma. No bones while eating. No seeds for sowing. Ud(Mushroom)
6 Raskatem Kiri yan Kudam rem akaya. Purchased in pleasure.Hung up in the backyards. Pagra(Earring.)
7 Si say Karha-aay midi tange dhelakey. Ploughed up and levelled (the field) Yet a clod would remain. Sud(Coiffure)
8 Chetan baihal re siyu aay Latar baihalre gul dau balaya. Up adove the plough moves. The clod moves down below. Parkom Ten(Weaving a cot made out of ropes)
9 Sebej Sebj dahre puthi hakuye don balaya. In very shallow waters the tiny fish frolicks. Alan(Tongue)
10 Malangte bajna tayom te nacni. The Orchestra in front the dance behind. Tul(Squirrel.)
11 Biliyah agu metad meya berelah em agu adiyan. I had asked for the ripe You brought the green. Kambel(‘Kum’ fruit)
12 Midtang khunti sayati duar. One pillar hundred doors Susur Banchan. (Wasp’s Nest)
13 Gidra Pidra deljunpe kulchun katen guduhkana. Run away children I am creamped to death Lamah jan(Siali fruit.)
14 Rush gidraday thirka ah hah hambud Ijidaya geran eh ah. The sick child is silent. The mother weeps. Parwa hapan.(Baby pigeon)
15 Tala hor tala bir-re ram mamoy rum gujuh kana. In the middle of the jungle. Sariom(Sal seed.)
16 Tala bir-re gudra mamoy tal gujuh kana. In the middle of the forest. Rama mamu (maternal-uncle) is jumping to his death. Luman(Silk cocoon)
17 Bir hor pukhuri hati sadomko lahadaha lata ban unum eh. The pond on the jungle road. Elephants and horses will get drenched but a small pot won’t get filled. Sisir dah(Dew-fall) .
18 Aar kayanme budhi tiya kayanme Hold on to it old woman, keep it pulled. Silpini(Door made of split bamboos. )
19 Miditan budhi duar chene tara eh gidiya. The old woman,She throws the ashes from the hearth at her doorsteps. Katkom (Crab).
20 Gada gadata goytha cape. The cowdung cake floating on river waters. Rote(Frog)
21 Buru chetan sagal laga. Pulling a cart up a hill. Bagal(Hired labour.)
22 Rahal dhuli dhonga calao. Rowing a boat on a dry river bed. Raibar(The middleman in a Santal marriage.)
23 Miditan danirite si keh aay dal dali re karha keh aay baryah dangri alah ked kina. Ploughed up with one Ploughman. Levelled up with one Ploughman. ‘When leaving two Ploughmen. Datani(The stick to brush teeth.)
24 Gatabir lah ah gunduri chupi bay lah ah. The whole forest burns but gunduri bird’s tail does not catch fire. Sauli rehed (The roots of Khar, a kind of grass).
25 Rapud rapud Olah re kongka enejkan. Cranes dancing in a broken house. Janta ata(Frying maize in a pot) .
26 Gada gadate Sui topa In the river, in the river needle’s eyes. Bumbuj haku(a kind of small pointed fish).
27 Gada gadate banduk tendar In the river, in the river guns have been placed against walls. Icah haku(Prawns) .
28 Gada gadate bati tapa The metal bowl buried upside down on the river sands. Hara(Tortoise) .
29 Tahen khan baya jom keya banuh taya mente jom keya. If it was there they would not have attacked. Because it is not there, they have attacked. Bandi dangri(Cow or bullock that has lost its tail).
30 Miditan rangia gai alah sakame joms holum o citira. A coloured cow She eats twigs and leaves. And passes ash as stool. Chulha(Fire place)
31 Miditan buru renan mad ban utiana. The bamboo of a jungle It has no joints. Boho ub(Hair on the head).
32 Noam burunjel parom kayanme hante dun senoh ah. Take me over this hill Thereafter, I will go alone. Daka(Rice) .
33 Miditan gidra katij joh daya bataj koh ah Sena kate daya tata akena. Wearing cloth when Young Naked when grown up. Mad(Bamboo tree).
34 Jated lekhan taka. Touch it And a rupee. Len-dong Telunipoka (a kind of crawling insect that rolls itself up in self- defence when touched.) Mad(Bamboo tree).

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