Sarna sthals are sacred groves in the religious traditions of the Chota Nagpur Plateau region in the states of Jharkhand, Odisha, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Bihar and West Bengal. Followers of these rituals primarily belong to the Baiga, Kudumi Mahato, Ho, Kurukh, Munda and Santal. According to local belief, a Gram deoti or village deity resides in the sarna, where sacrifice is offered twice a year. In recent years many tribal and Kudumi Mahato organization have demanded a religious code for Sarna as Sarnaism, separate from Hinduism, as many tribals and Kudumi Mahato believe that they are nature worshippers.
Adherents of Sarnaism believe in, worship, and revere a village deity as protector of village, who is called as Gaon khunt, Gram deoti, Dharmes, Marang Buru, Singbonga, or by other names by different tribes. Adherents also believe in, worship, and revere Dharti ayo or Chalapachho Devi, the mother goddess identified as the earth or nature.
Worship places and rites
Sarna is place of worship which is sacred grove. It is also called gram than, Jaher than or Jaher gar, and can be found in villages. Sal trees are in 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 Naike.
The sthal typically has multiple trees like sal, mahua, neem, and banyan.
The main festival of Sarnaism is Sarhul, a festival in which devotees worship their ancestors. A legend among the Munda says a lion once ran after a man, who escaped by hiding in a bush. After the incident, he promised he would offer sakua flowers and leaves as well as a living animal. During the festival, the pahan brings three water pots to the sarna. If the water pots reduce in level, they believe the monsoon will fail, but if it stays the same the monsoon will come as normal. Men then offer sakua flowers and leaves.
Overall population: c. 4,957,000
- Jharkhand: 4,223,500
- Odisha: 500,000 to 1,000,000 (estimated)
- Assam: 1,000,000 to 1,500,000 (estimated)
- Bihar: 1,349,460 (estimated)
- West Bengal: 1,237,121 (estimated)
- Chhattisgarh: 768,910 (estimated)
Demand for a Sarna census code
- Akhil Bharatiya Sarna Dharam (ABSD)
- All India Sarna Dharam Mandowa (AISDM)
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