Tribal religion changes India 1-2

Tribal religion changes

Answer format

Hinduism and Christianity are the major religious systems which have affected the tribal communities. 

1. Rituals

2. Beliefs 

3. Dieties

4. clothing

5. Practices

6. Women

7. casteism

8. festivals.

Sachidananda case study of Oraon or The Hindu news as latest case study - Revival of old religion in Jharkhand.


The Tharu (Srivastava 1958) and the Khasa (Majumdar 1962), the two central Himalayan tribes in North India are a good example of completely assimilated or Hinduised tribes. By adopting Hindu caste names, wearing the sacred thread, establishing social links with the local Rajput and Brahmin groups, these tribals have incorporated their identity with high caste Hindus. Similarly, the Kshatriya model (Srinivas 1966) of Hinduism has been adopted in middle India by the Chero, Kharwar, Pahariya of Bihar and the Bhumij of Madhya Pradesh. 

In Eastern India the Bauri of West Bengal (see Shasmal 1967) accepted to observe the prescribed number of days of pollution for mourning, wear the sacred thread, go to pilgrimage and follow Vaishnavism. They now claim to belong to the Brahmin caste. 

Similarly, in many of the Oraon villages of Chotanagpur, Hindu gods and goddesses are worshipped; Hindu priests are employed to carry out ritual performances during life-cycle ceremonies (Sahay 1962 and Sachchidanand 1964). 

Hindu castes have been adopted by the Chenchu, Kadar and Muthuvan. Hindu gods and goddesses like Aiyappan, Maruti and Kali are worshipped by the Kadar. 

Hutton (1931) observed that Hinduism and tribal religions share a common base, while Bose (1971: 6) is of the opinion that the tribal population of India has contributed to the making of Hinduism. 

Tadvi Bhil Muslims wearing a sari, or they will fold and join their hands in front of an idol. They offer namaz. practise gotra exogamy, and are endogamous, bury their dead.

Beginning with the conversion of the Khasi of Assam in 1813, of the Oraon of Chotanagpur in 1850 and of the Bhil of Madhya Pradesh in 1880 (Sahay 1963, 1967) by Christian missionaries, Christianity has brought about many changes in the cultural life of the trbals in India. 

Conversion to Christianity gave the tribals a model of westernisation. 

Church organisation, western education, values and morals reached the tribals through Christianity. Their introduction implied a demand to give up tribal belief and practices. In some cases, traditional festivals were reinterpreted in terms Christianised myths. For example, origin of the festival Sarhul of the Munda was, after conversion, associated by them to the fight between Alexander and King Porus in 400 B.C. Sahay (1963) 

gave up their faith in traditional Sarna religion and adopted Christian faith. This resulted in considerable changes in celebration of festivals, village organisation, economic life and other aspects of their culture. Thus, some scholars have viewed Christianity as a source of disintegration of tribal religion. 

 Under the Church organisational network, many tribal groups scattered over a wider area came together and built contacts not only with the provincial and national but also international Church bodies. 

Radical Religious change case study

The leader of Tana Bhagat movement was called Jatra Oraon who lived in village Beparinwatoli in Bishanpur Thana of Gumla sub-division of Ranchi district. In 1914, this person announced in the month of April that Dharmesh, the high god of the Oraon, had revealed to him that the people would have to give up the worship of ghosts and spirits and the practice of exorcism. He told his people that they would have to refrain from animal sacrifice, meat eating, liquor drinking etc. Even cultivation by plough with the use of animal power was rejected. It was believed that god had given to Jatra certain songs or spells by which fever, sties, and other ailments could be cured.