Tribal religions in India
About 104 million citizens of the Republic of India are members of Scheduled Tribes, which accounts for 8.6 percent of India's population (according to the 2011 census). Many Indians belonging to these populations adhere to traditional Indian tribal religions, often syncretized with one or more of the major religious traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and/or Christianity and often under ongoing pressure of cultural assimilation. 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 per cent of the population are Christian. Among the Kharia people of Bihar (population about 130,000), about 60 per cent 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.
- 2011 Census Primary Census Abstract
- "The Green Revolution in India". U.S. Library of Congress (released in public domain). Library of Congress Country Studies. Retrieved 2007-10-06.
- National Council of Educational Research and Training. "Social and Political Life - III". Publication Department, NCERT, 2009, p.83.