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Sarnaism[1] or Sarna (local languages: Sarna Dhorom or Sarna Dharam, meaning "religion of the holy woods") defines the indigenous religions of the Adivasi populations of the states of Central-East India, such as Munda, the Ho, the Santhal, the Khuruk, and the others. Historically subsumed as a folk form of Hinduism, in recent decades followers have started to develop an identity, and more recently even an organisation, distinct from Hinduism, similarly to other tribal religious movements such as Donyi-Polo or Sanamahism.


Sarna means "grove" and it is etimologically related to the name of the sal tree, sacred to the religion, from which the other name Sari Dharam, "religion of the sal tree".


Sarnaist followers have been organising protests and petitions to have their religion recognised by the government of India in census forms.[2][3] In 2013 Sarnaist followers have organised a protest against use of indigenous imagery by Christians in order to attract converts.[4]


They worship a god who is the creator of the universe, variously called Dharmesh or Singboga, or by other names by different tribes, and Chalapachho Devi, the mother goddess identified as the earth, nature, and the world tree symbolised by the sal tree. Dharmesh is believed to manifest in sal trees.

Worship places and rites[edit]

Sarna temples are called sthal or asthal, and can be found in villages, while worship can be performed also in sacred groves, jaher. Sal trees are present both in the temples and the sacred grove. The ceremonies are performed by the whole village community at a public gathering with the active participation of village priests, pahan. The chief assistant of village priest is called pujaar or panbhara.


  • Akhil Bharatiya Sarna Dharam (ABSD)




  1. ^ Srivastava, 2007.
  2. ^ SANTOSH K. KIRO. Delhi demo for Sarna identity. The Telegraph, 2013
  3. ^ Pranab Mukherjee. Tribals to rally for inclusion of Sarna religion in census. Times of India, 2013.
  4. ^ Kelly Kislaya. Tribals to remove Virgin Mary’s statue if attire isn’t changed. The Times of India, 2013.

External links[edit]