Tribal religions in India

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

About 104 million indigenous people in India are members of Scheduled Tribes, which accounts for 8.6 % of India's population (according to the 2011 census).[1] In the census of India from 1871 to 1941, tribals have been counted in different religions from other religions, 1871 (other religion), 1881 (Aboriginal), 1891 (forest tribe), 1901 (animist), 1911 (Animist), 1921 (Primitive), 1931 (Tribal religion), 1941 (tribes), However, in the 1951 census religion of tribals was not mentioned. In the 1961 census the religion of the tribals was mentioned as Saridharam, which is actually the religion of the Santal tribes of India. In 1971 also the religion of the Santal tribes was mentioned as Saridharam. In the 1981 census again no religion of any Indian tribe was mentioned. However again in the 1991 census the Santal religion Saridharam was mentioned as the religion of the Santal tribe. It should be mentioned that Saridharam is the recognised tribal religion of the Santal tribe of India and it comes under the purview of Special Marriage Act, 1954. The Santals and other Indian tribal communities are not Hindus, and do not belong to any Indo-Aryan religion like Hindu, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Sikh, Jainism and Persian. Many other Indian tribes adhere to their own traditional Indian tribal religions, often mistakenly syncretised with one or more of the Indo-Aryan religions like major religious traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam or Christianity and often under ongoing pressure of cultural assimilation.[2]

The tribal people observe their festivals, which have no direct conflict with any religion, and they conduct marriage among them according to their tribal custom. They have their own way of life to maintain all privileges in matters connected with marriage and succession, according to their customary tribal faith.[citation needed]

In keeping with the nature of Indian religion generally, these particular religions often involve traditions of ancestor worship or worship of spirits of natural features.[3] Tribal beliefs persist as folk religion even among those converted to a major religion.

The largest and best-known others religion of India is that of the Santhal of [[West Bengal, Jharkhand,Orissa,Bihar,Assam and Tripura]. According to 2011 census the population of Santals in West Bengal was around 29,00,000; in Jharkhand the population of Santals was around 28,00,000; in Orissa the Santal population was around 9,50,000; in Bihar the Santal population was around 9,00,000; in Assam the Santal population was around 9,75,000; in Tripura the Santal population was around 30,000. Indians belonging to the Santhal community identify explicitly as adherents of the Santhal traditional religion Saridharam in the Indian census. The Santals and other Indian tribes practice, profess and propagate their own traditional tribal religions since time immemorial. They have their own Gods and Goddesses and separate places of worship which is completely different from other Indo-Aryan religions. The Gods and Goddesses of the Santals and other tribals do not belong to Hindu pantheon or any other Indo-Aryan pantheon. "Saridharam" is the only religion of the Santal tribe. And the Sarna religion is the religion of the Munda and Oraon tribe of India.

The population of India is classified under four major linguistic groups. They are the (1) Austric Language Family, (2) Dravidian Language family, (3) Sino-Tibetan/ Tibeto-Burmese and (4) Indo-Aryan language family. According to linguists, the Austric Language family is the oldest language family in India, the Dravidian language family is the second oldest and the Sino-Tibetan/ Tibeto-Burmese language family is third oldest language family. Tribal communities like the Santals and Munda belong to the Austric language family and the Santals are the major tribe of this language family, the Santals are also the largest homogenous tribes of India. Tribal communities like Gond, Bhil, Oraon and Mina belong to the Dravidian language family. Tribal communities like Bhutia, Lepcha and tribes living in the North-Eastern states belong to the Sino-Tibetan/ Tibeto-Burmese language family. People belonging to the Indo-Aryan language family came to the Indian sub-continent around 3000 years back. Among the Munda people and Oraons of Bihar, about 25 % of the population are Christian. Among the Kharia people of Bihar (population about 130,000), about 60 % are Christians. Tribal groups in the Himalayas following Bon religion were similarly affected by both Hinduism and Buddhism in the late 20th century. The small hunting-and-gathering groups in the union territory of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands have also been under severe pressure of cultural assimilation.[2]


According to the Indian legal system, all the native or indigenous religions of India fall broadly under Hinduism, since the constitution does not classify only Vedic religions[disambiguation needed] as Hinduism as used in the colloquial norm. The term "Hindu" is derived from Persian meaning "Indo" (or Indian), hence the official word "Hinduism" broadly refers to all the native cultures of the Indian subcontinent. The 1955 Hindu Marriage Act "[defines] as Hindus anyone who is not a Christian, Muslim, or Jew".[4]

List of current folk religions[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 2011 Census Primary Census Abstract
  2. ^ a b "The Green Revolution in India". U.S. Library of Congress (released in public domain). Library of Congress Country Studies. Retrieved 2007-10-06.
  3. ^ National Council of Educational Research and Training. "Social and Political Life - III". Publication Department, NCERT, 2009, p.83.
  4. ^ Cavanaugh 2009, p. 88.