Tribal religions in India

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About 104 million 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, since the census of 1951, the tribal population has been stopped separately. Many Indians belonging to these populations adhere to traditional Indian tribal religions, often syncretised with one or more of the 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 Orissa. In 1991, there were some 24,000 Indians belonging to the Santhal community who identified explicitly as adherents of the Santhal traditional religion Sarnaism in the Indian census, as opposed to 300,000 who identified as Christians. 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

See also


  1. 2011 Census Primary Census Abstract
  2. 2.0 2.1 "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.