Symbolic or Substantiative Elevation of a Santhal Adivasi woman as first Citizen


Professor of Socio-cultural Anthropology (retd.)

Department of Anthropology

Panjab University


“Every Great Dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the patience to reach for the stars to change the World”. arriet

Harriet Tubman

India’s first Adivasi woman takes oath as the 15th President of India
India’s first Adivasi woman takes oath as the 15th President of India
  • My election is proof of the fact that in India, the poor can dream and fulfil those dreams,--- It is the power of India’s democracy that a girl born in a poor tribal home could reach the topmost constitutional position.

  • This is not only my achievement. It is the achievement of all the poor in the country.

  • With their blessings and the support of the mothers and daughters of the country I am standing here in front of you.

  • I belong to the tribal society, and I have got the opportunity to become the President of India from the Ward Councillor. This is the greatness of India, the mother of democracy.

  • Satisfying to me that the people who were devoid of development for years -the poor, Dalits, backward, the tribals- can see me as their reflection. My nomination has blessings of the poor behind it, it's a reflection of the dreams &capabilities of crores of women.

  • Today, I assure all the countrymen, especially the youth of India and the women of India, that while working in this position, their interests will be paramount for me.

Some valuable quotes from President Droupdi Murmu’s first speech after taking Oath as the 15th President of India.

There is palpable excitement in the country as first Adivasi woman is sworn as the first citizen of India on the historic day of 25th July 2022. There are many first attached to her name as the occupant of this most distinguished honour any Indian would aspire for. She is first Adivasi woman to become the 15th President of India. She is also the youngest president that India had since independence. She is also the first president from the State of Odisha. She won with a massive mandate of 64.03% votes against only 35.97% votes that her opponent received. She broke several glass ceilings and won the support of many opposition state legislators and parliamentarians. She was also the first Adivasi woman governor from the state of Odisha to another Adivasi state of Jharkhand and has the distinction of being the longest serving governor (2015-2021).


Her journey from Rairangpur in Odisha to Raisina Hill in Delhi is simply historic. In letters, Debabrata Mohanty (22nd July 2022) celebrates it aptly in the title: Why not? How a tribal girl who dared to dream became India’s 15th President. It was Bernard Shaw who said, “You see things and you say, ‘why’?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, ‘Why not?” One is not aware if first citizen of India read it and was inspired by it, but she certainly lives it.

She was Born on 20th June 1958 in a small village Uparbeda, Kusumi block, Mayurbhanj District, Odisha and studied in a dilapidated school structure. In her speech this morning, she mentioned going to a primary school was also difficult for children at a time when she was growing up. She learnt to compete early and came first in school. Her dreams were made of Odia translation of Robert Frost’s famous poem Stopping by woods on a snowy evening, internalizing Nehru’s favourite lines, “The Woods are lovely, dark and deep, But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep”.

It was this determination that took her to Bhubaneshwar to study after class 7th because the village school was only up to upper primary. Her determination to succeed takes her to Rama Devi college in Bhubaneshwar to pursue higher studies with specialization in sociology and Political Science. In her first speech after taking oath, she reiterated that she was the first girl from her village to go to college.

Her historic journey had just begun! After finishing college, she takes up a job as junior assistant at Odisha secretariate. Same year, she is married to Shyam Charan Murmu, and changed her name from Droupdi Tudu to Droupadi Murmu-a name that would always be etched in golden letters in Indian history.

Her tryst with destiny starts developing its contours from there on. In 1980, she gives up her job to take care of her four children. In 1988, her resilience is tested as her eight-year-old eldest daughter succumbs to illness. Slowly she learns to live with her loss and once her husband is transferred to Rairangpur, she starts teaching in a school there. Soon she becomes popular among students because of her commitment to teaching and for her humility and generosity. Slowly she became Didi to everyone and is fondly addressed till today as ‘Didi’ (an elder sister).

Her political career and race from Rairangpur to Raisina Hills starts here in the year 1997. Ward that she lives in Rairangpur becomes a reserved constituency for a woman from the scheduled tribe. She opts to align with BJP while the political party was neither a major player in the state politics or at the centre. In the 11th state Legislative assembly in Odisha there were only 9 elected members from BJP while congress had 80. Her decision to go with BJP is interesting and politically astute. Some political Pandits argue that politics is in her genes as her father and grandfather were Sarpanch of the Panchayat during their lifetime.