Tribal religions in India

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About 104 million citizens of the Republic of India are members of Scheduled Tribes, which is about 8.6 percent of India's population (according to the 2011 census).[1] Many of these adhere to traditional tribal religions, often syncretized with one or more of the major religious traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and/or Christianity, and often under ongoing pressure of cultural assimilation.[2] The religions often involve ancestor worship or worship of spirits of natural features.[3]

The largest and best-known tribal religion of India is that of the Santhal of Orissa. In 1991 there were some 24,000 Santal who identified as adherents of the traditional religion in the Indian census, as opposed to 300,000 who identified as Christians. Among the Munda and Oraon in Bihar, about 25 per cent of the population are Christians. Among the Kharia of Bihar (population about 130,000), about 60 per cent are Christians, but all are heavily influenced by Folk Hinduism. Tribal groups in the Himalayas were similarly affected by both Hinduism and Buddhism in the late twentieth century. The small hunting-and-gathering groups in the union territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands have also been under severe pressure of cultural assimilation.[2] Needless to say, tribal beliefs persist as folk religion even among those converted to a major religion.

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  1. ^ 2011 Census Primary Census Abstract
  2. ^ a b "Library of Congress Country Studies". U.S. Library of Congress (released in public domain). Retrieved 2007-10-06. 
  3. ^ National Council of Educational Research and Training. "Social and Political Life - III". Publication Department, NCERT, 2009, p.83.