Tribes in News

Sarna Religion and its Forest Conservation Rituals


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Sarna Religion

Mains level: Not Much

Sarna Religion

Central Idea

  • A study at IIT Indore on tribal culture, forest conservation, and wildfire in central India sheds light on the Sarna religion’s tenets.

About Sarna Religion

Nature of Faith Indigenous religious faith predominantly followed in the Chota Nagpur Plateau region.
Geographical Spread Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, and smaller numbers in Assam, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh.
Central Belief Reverence of Sarna, the sacred groves, and worship of a village deity (Gram deoti, Dharmes, Marang Buru, etc.)
Etymology ‘Sarna’ means ‘grove’, related to the sal tree.
Theology Worship of village deities and the mother goddess identified as the earth or nature.
Sacred Grooves Patches of forest considered sacred, such as sal, mahua, neem, and banyan trees.

No harm allowed to these areas.

Practices Rituals performed in sacred groves involving village priests; worship of ancestors.
Main Festival Sarhul: Celebrating nature and ancestors, offerings made to sacred trees like sal.

Karam: Worship of the sacred karam tree, focusing on crop enrichment and preservation of biodiversity.

Faggu: Gathering of dry wood and leaves from forests, reducing fuel load and lowering wildfire risks.

Tribes Following Followed by various tribes including Santal, Oraon, Ho, Munda, Bhumij, and others.
2011 Census Counted 4,957,467 followers in India, primarily in eastern states.
Sarna Code Resolution (2020) Jharkhand assembly passed a resolution for the inclusion of Sarna as a separate religion in the census.
Impact of Colonialism Historical conflict due to Western missionary activities in tribal areas.

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