next ancient Faith, Maranda and others in Gudota, A.; remote tribal village in The eastern state of Odisha in India, they are the ‘adivasi’, or indigenous tribesmen. They belong to Sarna Dharma, which is a belief system that shares common threads with many ancient natureWorshipers of religions.
The ritual has begun with resounding roll of Drums resounded throughout the village. Women in Colorful sari broke into the Aboriginal folk dance, moving their feet to its fast rhythm.
At the peak, 12 worshipers – proudly practicing a faith not previously officially recognized government – I came out of slush house He walked towards a sacred grove that he believed to be the home of Village Goddess. Led by the village chief Jacia Maranda, they carried religious totems, including an earthen jug and a sacrificial axe.
On that day inside the grove, worshipers showed their reverence for natural worldThey make circles around a sal plant and three sacred stones, one All for Malicious spirits they believe in need pleased. They knelt while Maranda slapped the stones with Crimson paste, bowed to the sacred plant, and laid down Fresh leaves are covered in a cow dung paste.
Our gods are everywhere. We see more in nature Maranda said.
But the government Does not legally recognize their faith – a fact that became a rallying point for they change for some of 5 million or so indigenous tribes in India who follow Sarna Dharma. They say official recognition would help preserve their culture and history in getting up of slow wear of Indigenous peoples’ rights.
Citizens are only allowed to take sides with themselves with one of The six Officially recognized religions – Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Jainism and Sikhism. While they can define the “others” category, many nature The worshipers felt compelled by religious affiliation system to relate with one of named religions.
Tribal groups organized protests in support of Giving Sarna Dharma official debt position in the future of Next national The population census in which citizens declare their religious affiliation.
The protests gained momentum after the last elections of Droupadi Mormo first Tribal woman to serve as President of India, raising hopes of Positive change for the original people population. They number about 110 million, according to the census. They are scattered all over India and divided into hundreds of Clans with Different myths, languages and words for Their gods – many, but not all follow Sarna Dharma.
Salkhan Marmo A former legislator f community Activist who Sarna Dharma adheres, at the center of push protests for government Recognition. his sit-in Demonstrations in Several countries have it drawn thousands.
in protest recently in Ranchi the capital of Eastern state of Jharkhand Demonstrators sat cross-legged on A highway obstructing traffic as Murmu spoke from a nearby theater and explained how anxiety over Loss of their religious identity and culture they lead demand for Recognition.
“This is the fight for our identity,” Mormo said to the crowd, who They clenched their fists in The air And they shouted: “Victory to Sarna Dharma.”
Murmu takes him campaign inside remote tribal villages. His message: If Sarna Dharma disappears and one of The state last Links to its first inhabitants go with He. She. It is a convincing argument evidenced by the increasing number of Tribal members gather behind for him.
“If our religion will not be recognized by the government, I think, we will wither away,” Murmu said group of The villagers crowded around him in Angarpada village in Odisha.
Murmu’s efforts just The latest Pay for official Recognition.
In 2011, A.J government Agency for the natives asked the federated tribes government To include Sarna Dharma as a separate religious symbol in that yearcensus. In 2020, Jharkhand state, where tribal people make up approximately 27% of The populationA decision was made with similar goal.
federal government He did not respond to either request.
one argument for granting Sarna Dharma recognition is the scale of The nature worshiping population, said Karma Uraun, an anthropologist who He taught at the University of Ranchi and studied indigenous tribes for contracts.
2011 census shows more From half – Number close to 4.9 million – of Those who Choose the religion of “others” option They are identified as followers of Sarna Dharma. Similarly, India Jane population Officially the sixth largest religion in the country group – is a bit over 4.5 million people.
Decades ago, there was more options for Indigenous tribes.
The census has begun in 1871 under British rule ruleis allowed once for The selection of “Animators”, “Natives”, and “Tribals”. Categories were removed in 1951 when it was first census in Independent India happened.
Some hope is given to Sarna Dharma official Their status could stem existential threats to their religion, ranging from immigration to religious conversions.
“We are going through an identity crisis,” Oraun said.
His fears have escalated after Hindu nationalist groups, including the rule of Prime Minister Narendra Modi partythey sought to bring nature Hindu devotees in the fold. These efforts stem from a firm belief that the indigenous people of India are originally Hindus, but are followers of them of Sarna Dharma says that their faith is different from their belief in monotheism and polytheism.
Sarna Dharma does not have temples and scriptures. Her followers do not believe in Heaven or Hell and they have no pictures of Gods and Goddesses. Unlike Hinduism, there is no caste system Nor is the doctrine of rebirth.
Tribal people maybe share some cultural ties with “The Hindus,” Oraun said, “but we have not assimilated into their religion.”
Gradual hugs of The Hindu and Christian values of some of the indigenous tribal groups exacerbated his fears.
At the end of the nineteenth century centurymany tribal members in Jharkhand, Odisha and other states abandoned them nature They worshiped—some voluntarily, others persuaded by money, food, and free education—and converted to Christianity. Hindu and Muslim missionaries also cut away in their numbers.
Most Christian missionaries are met with Resistance these days, but conversions still happen. but, for Sukhram Munda, man in Late eighties, that’s a lot already He went.
he is the great-grandson of Birsa Munda, 19-century Charismatic indigenous leader who led him into the forest community in insurgency against British colonists. Munda’s legend grew after him death and statues of appeared to him in Almost every tribal village in the state. Soon a man who Worship nature He was worshiped by his country people.
But Dean Munda is hardly survived Transfers in His ancestral village Ulihatu in Jharkhand. Half of Sakhram said that his descendants became Christians. right Now , first What visitors see is a large white church building This stands out against the green of surrounding forests.
“This was the village where we used to worship nature,” Sukram said half of The people They don’t even remember what religion their ancestors followed.