Thursday, February 9, 2012

Tribal Religion in India- Some Perspectives

In the beginning  tribal religions in India were termed as animism in various census reports and books.Animism was applied as most basic form of religion in which magic is the predominant element.It conceives of man as passing through a life surrounded by the company of powers and elements mostly impersonal in character.Some of these are regarded as presiding forces over the various departments of life each force having its sphere of influence.Thus there may be a spirit presiding over various diseases,spirits dwelling in rocks and mountains,trees or associated with river and waterfalls and so on.These are propitiated to ward off the dangers associated with their influence.


Among the Korwa there is a spirit presiding over crops,one over rainfall,cattle besides there are several spirits which govern the attitude of Korwa towards their neighbors,towards the priests and the headman of the affairs of the tribe.Thus animism carries with a belief in benevolent as well as malevolent spirits which are supposed to influence the destiny of man.The benevolent goes unattended as for instance the great sun-God Singbonga of the Munda are seldom worshiped as does not harm anyone.This is typical trait of primitive religion as they are concerned with evil forces ,fears and frustrations.

Hutton advocated the replacement of the term animism by tribal religions.He found it difficult on the basis of evidence from all over India to draw a sharp line of distinction between Hinduism and tribal religions.Elwin also in his various monographs and books pointed out the futility of distinguishing between tribal religions and Hinduism.Ghurye has suggested that the tribal population of India represents only a backward section of Hindus and that they should be designated not as animists or aboriginals but as backward Hindus.
According to Elwin tribal people are always willing to worship a few more gods if by doing so they can enjoy some material or social advantages.Consequence of these contacts has been the present marginal character of tribal religions.The tribal religion today represent marginal religions says D N Majumdar.

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