Sarnaism or Sarna[1][2][3] (local languages: Sarna Dhorom or Sarna Dharam, meaning "religion of the woods"), also known as Sariism (Sari Dharam, literally "sal tree religion") or Adiism (Adi Dharam, literally "original religion"), is the collective designation of the indigenous religions of the Adivasi populations of the states of Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh, centred around the worship of nature represented by trees. Followers of these religions primarily belong to the Munda, Ho, Bhumij, Santal,Baiga and Khuruk ethnic groups.

Sarnaism flag
The flag of Sarnaism
Sarna dhorom 2014-05-30 19-54
A symbol of Sarnaism


Sarna means "grove" and it is etymologically related to the name of the sal tree, sacred to the religion, from which also derives Sari Dhorom ("religion of the sal tree"). A large population of Munda, Ho, Santal, Bhumij and Kurukh continue to practice Sarnaism.


Sarna followers have been organising protests and petitions to have their religion recognised by the government of India in census forms.[4][5]


Adherents of Sarnaism believe in, worship and revere Dharmesh,[6] or God as the creator of the universe, who is also called Marang Buru, Singbonga or by other names by different tribes. Adherents also believe in, worship and revere Chalapachho Devi, the mother goddess, identified as the earth, nature, and the world tree, symbolised by the sal tree. Dharmesh is believed to manifest himself in sal trees.

Worship places and rites

Sarna worshippers following their religious rites
Sarna worshippers

Sarna temples are called Jaher than or Jaher gar, and can be found in villages, while worship can be performed also in jaher, or sacred groves. Sal trees are present both in the temples and the sacred grove. The ceremonies are performed by the whole village community at a public gathering with the active participation of village priests, pahan. The chief assistant of village priest is called Naike.


  • Akhil Bharatiya Sarna Dharam (ABSD)
  • All India Sarna Dharam Mandowa (AISDM)


  • Jharkhand — 4,223,500
  • Odisha — 500,000 to 1,000,000 (estimated)
    • Census 2011 of Jharkhand and Odisha: 4,957,000[7]
  • Assam — 1,000,000 to 1,500,000 (estimated)
  • Bihar — 1,349,460 (estimated)
  • West Bengal — 1,237,121 (estimated)
  • Chhattisgarh - 768,910 (estimated)


  • A. K. Sachchidananda. Elite and Development. Concept Publishing Co., New Delhi, 1980. ASIN B000MBN8J2
  • James Minahan. Ethnic Groups of South Asia and the Pacific: An Encyclopedia. Series: Ethnic Groups of the World. ABC-CLIO, 2012. ISBN 1598846590
  • Kishor Vidya Niketan. The Spectrum of Tribal Religion in Bihar: A Study of Continuity & Change Among the Oraon of Chotanagpur. 1988.
  • Malini Srivastava. The Sacred Complex of Munda Tribe. Department of Anthropology, University of Allahabad, Allahabad 211 002, Uttar Pradesh, India. Anthropologist, 9(4): 327-330 (2007)
  • Phatik Chandra Hembram. Sari-Sarna (Santhal Religion). Mittal Publications, 1988. ISBN 8170990440



  1. ^ Minahan, 2012. p. 236
  2. ^ Sachchidananda, 1980. p. 235
  3. ^ Srivastava, 2007.
  4. ^ Santosh K. Kiro. Delhi demo for Sarna identity. The Telegraph, 2013.
  5. ^ Pranab Mukherjee. Tribals to rally for inclusion of Sarna religion in census. Times of India, 2013.
  6. ^ Minahan, 2012. p. 236
  7. ^ Zeeshan Shaikh for The Indian Express: "Fewer minor faiths in India now, finds Census; number of their adherents up".

External links


Adivasi is the collective term for the indigenous peoples of mainland South Asia. Adivasi make up 8.6% of India's population, or 104 million people, according to the 2011 census, and a large percentage of the Nepalese population. They comprise a substantial indigenous minority of the population of India and Nepal and a minority group of the Sri Lankan society called Vedda. The same term Adivasi is used for the ethnic minorities of Bangladesh and the native Tharu people of Nepal. The word is also used in the same sense in Nepal, as is another word, janajati (Nepali: जनजाति; janajāti), although the political context differed historically under the Shah and Rana dynasties.

Adivasi societies are particularly prominent in Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, West Bengal, and some north-eastern states, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Many smaller tribal groups are quite sensitive to ecological degradation caused by modernisation. Both commercial forestry and intensive agriculture have proved destructive to the forests that had endured swidden agriculture for many centuries. Adivasis in central part of India have been victims of the Salwa Judum campaign by the Government against the Naxalite insurgency.


Ali Illahism (Persian: علی‌اللّهی‎) is a syncretic religion which has been practiced in parts of Iranian Luristan which combines elements of Shia Islam with older religions. It centers on the belief that there have been successive incarnations of the Deity throughout history, and Ali Ilahees reserve particular reverence for Ali, the son-in-law of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, who is considered one such incarnation. Various rites have been attributed as Ali Ilahian, similarly to the Yezidis, Ansaris, and all sects whose doctrine is unknown to the surrounding Muslim and Christian population. Observers have described it as an agglomeration of the customs and rites of several earlier religions, including Zoroastrianism, historically because travelogues were "evident that there is no definite code which can be described as Ali Illahism".Sometimes Ali-Illahism is used as a general term for the several denominations that venerate or deify Ali, like the Kaysanites, the Alawis or the Ahl-e Haqq/Yarsanis, others to mean the Ahl-e Haqq.

Baiga tribe

The Baiga are an ethnic group found in central India primarily in the state of Madhya Pradesh, and in smaller numbers in the surrounding states of Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. The largest number of Baiga is found in Baiga-chuk in Mandla district and Balaghat district of Madhya Pradesh. They have sub-castes: Bijhwar, Narotia, Bharotiya, Nahar, Rai Bhain and Kadh Bhaina.

Christianity in Jharkhand

Christians are an ethno-religious community residing in the Indian state of Jharkhand. As per 2011 Census of India, 4.3% of people in Jharkhand are Christians. Christians are majority in Simdega district of Jharkhand.


Donyi-Polo (also Donyi-Poloism) is the designation given to the indigenous religion, of animistic and shamanic type, of the Tani and other Tibeto-Burman peoples of Arunachal Pradesh, in north-eastern India. The name "Donyi-Polo" means "Sun-Moon", and was chosen for the religion in the process of its revitalisation and institutionalisation started in the 1970s in response to inroads made by Christianity and the possibility of absorption into Hinduism.The religion has developed a congregational system, hymns to be sung composed in the Tani ritual language of shamans, a formalised philosophy-theology and iconography of the gods and temples. The pioneer of the revival was Talom Rukbo. Donyi-Polo is related to the Hemphu-Mukrang religion of the Karbi and the Nyezi-No of the Hruso.

Ho people

The Ho people are an ethnic group of India. They are an Austroasiatic ethnic group concentrated in the state of Jharkhand and Odisha where they constitute around 10.5% of the Scheduled Tribes. With a population of approximately 700,000 in the state in 2001, the Ho were the fourth most numerous Scheduled tribe in Jharkhand after the Santhals, Kurukhs, and Mundas. Ho territory also extends to adjacent areas in the neighboring states of West bengal, where there are approximately 80,600 Ho, Chhattisgarh and Bihar.They also live in Bangladesh and NepalThe ethnonym "Ho" is derived from the Ho language word hō meaning "human". The name is also applied to their language which is an Austroasiatic language closely related to Mundari. According to Ethnologue, the total number of people speaking the Ho language was 1,040,000 as of 2001. Similar to other Austroasiatic groups in the area, the Ho report varying degrees of multilingualism, also using Hindi and English.Over 90% of the Ho practice the indigenous religion Sarnaism. The majority of the Ho are involved in agriculture, either as land owners or laborers, while others are engaged in mining. Compared to the rest of India, the Ho have a low literacy rate and a low rate of school enrollment. The government of Jharkhand has recently approved measures to help increase enrollment and literacy among children.

Juang people

The Juang are an Austroasiatic ethnic group found mainly in the Gonsaika hills of Keonjhar district of Odisha. Some Juangs, however migrated to neighbouring plains of Dhenkanal district of Odisha during the Bhuiyan revolt in the late 19th century. The 2011 census showed their population to be around 50,000. The Juang language belongs to the Munda family of the Austroasiatic languages. They are classified as a Scheduled Tribe by the Indian government.

Kurukh people

The Oraon or Kurukh tribe (Kurukh: Oṛāōn and Kuṛuḵẖ), also spelled Uraon or Oram, are a Dravidian ethnic group inhabiting various states across central and eastern India, Rakhine State in Myanmar, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Bhutan. They spoke the Kurukh language, which belong to dravidian languages family.

Traditionally, Oraons depended on the forest and farms for their ritual and economic livelihood, but in recent times, a few of them have become mainly settled agriculturalists. Small numbers of Oraons have migrated to the northeastern part of India, where they are mainly employed in tea estates. Population estimates are unreliable, but the total population is estimated to be around 3.5 to 4.5 million people. They are listed as a Scheduled Tribe for the purpose of India's Reservation system.

List of ethnic religions

Ethnic religions (also "indigenous religions") are generally defined as religions which are related to a particular ethnic group, and often seen as a defining part of that ethnicity's culture, language, and customs.

List of religions and spiritual traditions

While religion is hard to define, one standard model of religion, used in religious studies courses, was proposed by Clifford Geertz, who defined it as a

[…] system of symbols which acts to establish powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods and motivations in men by formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic." A critique of Geertz's model by Talal Asad categorized religion as "an anthropological category." Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to explain the origin of life or the universe. They tend to derive morality, ethics, religious laws, or a preferred lifestyle from their ideas about the cosmos and human nature. According to some estimates, there are roughly 4,200 religions in the world.The word religion is sometimes used interchangeably with "faith" or "belief system", but religion differs from private belief in that it has a public aspect. Most religions have organized behaviours, including clerical hierarchies, a definition of what constitutes adherence or membership, congregations of laity, regular meetings or services for the purposes of veneration of a deity or for prayer, holy places (either natural or architectural) or religious texts. Certain religions also have a sacred language often used in liturgical services. The practice of a religion may also include sermons, commemoration of the activities of a god or gods, sacrifices, festivals, feasts, trance, rituals, rites, ceremonies, worship, initiations, funerals, marriages, meditation, invocation, mediumship, music, art, dance, public service or other aspects of human culture. Religious beliefs have also been used to explain parapsychological phenomena such as out-of-body experiences, near-death experiences and reincarnation, along with many other paranormal and supernatural experiences.Some academics studying the subject have divided religions into three broad categories: world religions, a term which refers to transcultural, international faiths; indigenous religions, which refers to smaller, culture-specific or nation-specific religious groups; and new religious movements, which refers to recently developed faiths. One modern academic theory of religion, social constructionism, says that religion is a modern concept that suggests all spiritual practice and worship follows a model similar to the Abrahamic religions as an orientation system that helps to interpret reality and define human beings, and thus religion, as a concept, has been applied inappropriately to non-Western cultures that are not based upon such systems, or in which these systems are a substantially simpler construct.

Munda people

The Munda people (Hindi: मुंडा, Assamese: মুণ্ডা, Bengali: মুন্ডা) are an Austroasiatic ethnic group of India. They speak the Mundari language, which belongs to the Munda subgroup of Austroasiatic languages. The Munda are found in the northern areas of east India concentrated in the states of Jharkhand, Odisha and West Bengal. Munda also reside in adjacent areas of Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Arunachal Pradesh as well as in portions of Bangladesh. The group is one of India's largest scheduled tribes.

Munda people in Tripura are also known as Mura, and in Madhya Pradesh they are often called Mudas.

Organized religion

Organized religion (or organised religion—see spelling differences), also known as institutional religion, is religion in which belief systems and rituals are systematically arranged and formally established. Organized religion is typically characterized by an official doctrine (or dogma), a hierarchical or bureaucratic leadership structure, and a codification of rules and practices.

Religion in Bihar

The main religions in the Indian state of Bihar are Hinduism (practiced by 82.7% of the population) and Islam (16.9%). Other religions are practiced by small minorities. Places in Bihar have important historical and cultural associations with Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism along with Hinduism.

Santal people

The Santal, or rarely Santals, are an ethnic group, native to Eastern South Asia, including India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan. Santals are the largest indigenous tribe in Jharkhand in terms of population, and are also found in the Indian states of Assam, West Bengal, Bihar and Odisha. They are the largest ethnic minority in northern Bangladesh's Rajshahi Division and Rangpur Division.

The Santals mostly speak Santali, an Austroasiatic language and that is the most widely-spoken of the Munda languages.


Sarna may refer to:

Sarna (Polish surname)

Sarna (Punjabi surname)

Sarna (clan), a Punjabi clan of India

Sarna, Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship, a village in northern Poland

Särna, a locality in Dalarna County, Sweden

SaRNA, small activating RNA

Sarna (drug), a drug

Simdega district

Simdega district is one of the twenty-four districts of Jharkhand state, India, and Simdega town is the administrative headquarters of this district. This district is the least population density district of jharkhand(2011).This district was carved out from erstwhile Gumla district on 30 April 21. It is currently a part of the Red Corridor.

As of 2011 it is the third least populous district of Jharkhand (out of 24), after Lohardaga and Khunti districts.

Tea-tribes of Assam

Tea-tribes of Assam (Assamese: চাহ জনগোষ্ঠী) is a term used to denote those active tea garden workers and their dependents who reside in labour quarters built inside 800 Tea estates spread across Assam while "Ex-tea tribe" (ভূতপূৰ্ব চাহ জনগোষ্ঠী) to those who were once active as tea workers but now have left the job and labour quarters for other employment opportunities after retirement. So the contradictory terms "Tea-tribe" and "Ex-tea tribe" are collectively used officially by Government of Assam for people who are the descendants of tribals and backward castes brought by the British colonial planters as indentured labourers from the predominantly tribal and backward caste dominated regions of present-day Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal, Telangana and Chhattisgarh into colonial Assam during 1860-90s in multiple phases for the purpose of being employed in the tea gardens industry as labourers. They are found mainly in those districts of Upper Assam and Northern Brahmaputra belt where there is high concentration of tea gardens like Kokrajhar, Udalguri, Sonitpur, Nagaon, Golaghat, Jorhat, Sivasagar, Charaideo, Dibrugarh, Tinsukia. The total population is estimated to be around 6.5 million of which estimated 4 million reside in residential quarters built inside tea estates. Santhali speakers are also found in parts of Kokrajhar, Baksa and Bongaigaon districts of Lower Assam. They generally use Nagpuri or Sadri with Assamese influence as lingua franca among themselves along with use of other languages like Sora, Sambalpuri, Santali, Kurukh and Mundari. Jhumair dance is quite popular among them.

Tribal religions in India

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). In the census of India from 1871 to 1941, tribals have been counted in different religions from other religions,1891(forest tribe), 1901(animist),1911(tribal animist), 1921(hill and forest tribe), 1931(primitive tribe), 1941(tribes), However, since the census of 1951, the tribal population has been stopped separately.Now 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 and/or Christianity and often under ongoing pressure of cultural assimilation.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.

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. Tribal beliefs persist as folk religion even among those converted to a major religion.

The largest and best-known tribal 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 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, but all are heavily influenced by Folk Hinduism. Tribal groups in the Himalayas 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.

Tribes of Jharkhand

The tribes of Jharkhand consist of 32 tribes (8 primitive) inhabiting the Jharkhand state in India. The tribes in Jharkhand were originally classified on the basis of their cultural types by the Indian, Lalita Prasad Vidyarthi. His classification was as follows:

Hunter-gatherer type — Birhor, Korwa, Hill Kharia

Shifting Agriculture — Sauria Paharia

Simple artisans — Mahli, Lohra, Karmali, Chik Baraik

Settled agriculturists — Bhumij, Chero, Ho, Kharia, Kharwar, Munda, Oraon, Santhal etc.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.