Religion of Indian Tribes
Many tribes in India demonstrate considerable syncretism with Hinduism. They are devoted to Lord Shiva, who dominates their festivals and religious observances. Religious life in Indian tribes first begins with the Santhal religion, according to which, the supreme deity is ‘Thakurji’, who ultimately commands over the complete universe. The most important spirit residing amongst Santhals is ‘Maran Buru’ (Great Mountain), who is conjured up whenever offerings are made. However, the primary reverence of belief falls on a court of spirits named ‘Bonga’, who supervise various aspects of the world. These spirits must be appeased with prayers and oblations in order to ward-off evil influences. These spirits operate at the village, household, ancestor and sub-clan levels, along with evil spirits that induce disease.
The Naga tribes believe in a specific earthquake God who created the earth out of the waters by earthquakes. The Jhabua Bhil and others believe in 'Bhagavan' or 'Bholo Iswor', who is a personal supreme God. They also believe in minor deities who have shrines on hills or underneath the trees. The Toda religion is based primarily upon the buffaloes and their milk. The temples are the dairies.
Religious Beliefs of Indian Tribes
Going by religious beliefs in Indian tribal life, such evil spirits have possibilities to inhabit village boundaries, mountains, waters and the forest. The religious ideals of Indian tribes deal with Mother Nature and ecological systems and a series of annual festivals go on. Other deities without name or form reside in the mountains, forests, rivers and lakes, which need mollifying, for their hostile attitude to men. Omens and dreams are also generally believed in. Witchcraft is widely practised and some men are also believed to possess the capability to turn into tigers.
Religious Customs of Indian Tribes
Certain rituals are observed every year, which are intrinsically associated with the agricultural cycle, including rites related to birth, marriage, funeral rites, petitions to spirits, etc. Religious life of the Indian tribe is dictated by the religious leaders, who are male, specialists in medical cures. They like to practice soothsaying and witchcraft. ‘Oraon’, ‘Munda’ and ‘Kharia’ tribes are believed to observe similar religious customs.
Animal sacrifices are common, especially birds. The smaller tribal communities exhibit a comparatively less clarified version of spiritual hierarchy, manifested through animism or rather a unique collection of spiritual energies which are followed by some social groups. Some tribal groups sacrifice dogs or pigs when making a wood carving; otherwise the carver will soon fall ill or die.
Head-hunting was a significant practice, since fertile crops depended on a sprinkling of blood from a stranger over the fields. Reincarnation is believed by many Naga tribes and the dead are buried in the direction from which their ancestors have arrived. The doctrine of ‘Genna’ involves the entire tribal villages, clans, households, age groups, sex groups, in a series of rituals that are regularly practised. This genna ritual is also the result of an emergency such as an earthquake.