Tribal religions of India and their survival

#1 May 15th, 2005, 23:56
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  • zenkris is offline
#1
For those here who are interested in anthropology:

Are the any ancient tribal religions left in India, except in the far-off parts of the country such as Arunachal Pradesh?
I would guess if they hadn't been converted into hinduism, the christian missionaries will do the job.

http://in.news.yahoo.com/050515/137/5yjpo.html

At least are there tribals, such as in south or central india etc, who have accepted mainstream hinduism, but retained some of their own beliefs, practices?

Here in eastern europe even hundreds of years after being converted into christianity, some belief in slavic gods (due to probable common origin related to vedic ones) remained, but gradually they became extinct as well. now only certain elements of folklore retain the rich "pagan" heritage.

I guess it would be a waist if even where such groups still exist, like in India and Sri Lanka, they are taught to abandon their culture in favor of the more mainstream one (whether hindu or christian or whatever).
#2 May 16th, 2005, 00:42
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  • Jorge Reverter is offline
#2

Cool Tribes

Hi Zenkris,

I've been very much interested about tribal people especially in Orissa. One can't generalize about "tribes", but normally they still have their own gods and practices in the relation with the common things of the life.

In general they are absolutely traditionals, but most of their traditions can be considered as "very modern" compared with hindouism. as an anecdote, the Bondas have a curious custom called " Moitra" in relation with the homosexuality, giving through ceremonies an status for the couples, and considering from this moment linked both famillies.

Actually their beliefs are a melting-pot ot ancient gods with hindu gods and ritual practices in a curious syncretic religion.

Christian religions are of course taking small portions of this cake, but in a way that I personnally can't accept: " Have a new and true God in exchange of food and medicines". Normally they only add this christian god to their great number of tribal and hindou gods.

Tribes in settlement in low lands in contact with hindou populations have already lost their gods and traditions and can be considered as a new hindou caste.

Is really a very interesting world.

Jorge
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#3 May 16th, 2005, 00:48
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Someone once quipped that there are at least as many gods in India as there are villages, so how to define mainstream Hinduism?

There are certainly tribal people in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. I remember coming across a website giving brief details of Kerala's hill tribes sometime last year. Sorry, I can't find it now.
#4 May 16th, 2005, 01:00
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  • machadinha is offline
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A Google search on +tribal +india will yield more results than you can handle; try to narrow it down by searching for +tribal +india +religion or similar, or substitute adivasi for tribal. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adivasi would seem to make for the usual good starting point, far from complete but with plenty of further pointers.
#5 May 16th, 2005, 01:11
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When we were at Deogarh MP last year to see the Jain fort and the Gupta era Dashavatar Temple there were tribals that the fort caretaker said were of the Saharia tribals. Jorge, have you ever heard of them?
Anyway, across from the Dashavatar Temple was a small shrine with this god (attachment) It was quite unusual and I took a photograph. The caretaker told me it was called the Bharo Dog God. So many gods in India... The caretaker who was incredibly knowledgeable, didn't know much about this Bharo Dog God, or wasn't into telling me much about it.

http://www.indiamike.com/india/attac...tid=2200&stc=1
.
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#6 May 16th, 2005, 01:15
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Thanks for your replies.

Well, I would define mainstream hinduism by (perhaps the only) main difference between hinduism and buddhism:

1. absolute authority of the vedas as scriptures

2. castes as defined by ancient scriptures such as manu and vishnu smritis: 4 main ones brahmins, kshatriyas, vaishyas and shudras.
meaning - no people wearing the sacred brahmin thread in the community - not mainstream hinduism.
correct me if i'm wrong, though.

otherwise, it IS defficult to define mainstream hinduism. the south indian god murugan was included into the mainstream pantheon and identified as one of the vedic gods...

there was an interesting article i read, describing that most of the dalits were originally tribals converted into hinduism, but since many of their habits were not as per the mainstream hindu society, they were put outside of the 4 varnas, even lower than shudras.
#7 May 16th, 2005, 01:23
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  • machadinha is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by byronic Anyway, across from the Dashavatar Temple was a small shrine with this god (attachment) It was quite unusual and I took a photograph.
From a layman's perspective, could be (a local early inspiration of) Durga or Kali no? If you take the carrier to be a lion and the club, the severed head, and what are possibly a disc and whatever the fourth attribute is (could be a conch or flame) the icon doesn't seem so inexplicable, albeit it something of an interesting jumble perhaps.
#8 May 16th, 2005, 01:32
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I'm sorry Byronic, but I have'nt heard about Saharia tribals. Very curious this Bhoro Dog God. In fact most of the indian gods have firstly an tribal origin.

For instance, Lord Jagganath, one of the avatars of Vishnu, and his brother Balbadhra and sister Subhadra, have a tribal origin, in this case the Sabaras tribe, with the tribal name for Lord Jagganath of " Neela Madhab". In the Puranas you can find legends about his origin in the times of king Indradyumna.
Probably that's why in the famous festival of "Rath Yatra" in the fortnight of Ashadi (June-July) in Puri, there is no discrimination of caste, and even the untouchables are mixed in the ceremonies.

Jorge
#9 May 16th, 2005, 01:59
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Originally Posted by machadinha From a layman's perspective, could be (a local early inspiration of) Durga or Kali no? If you take the carrier to be a lion and the club, the severed head, and what are possibly a disc and whatever the fourth attribute is (could be a conch or flame) the icon doesn't seem so inexplicable, albeit it something of an interesting jumble perhaps.
Yes I was thinking along the same lines as this, Its a mystery I'll probably never learn the answer too It could very well also be a 'later' day god of Durga too, right? This 'Dog God' could very well have come into being in the past 10 or 20 years for all we know? Like Jai Santoshi Maa, the goddess who as far as I know came about and was born sometime in the 1970s ?

.
#10 May 16th, 2005, 02:13
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Originally Posted by byronic Yes I was thinking along the same lines as this, Its a mystery I'll probably never learn the answer too It could very well also be a 'later' day god of Durga too, right? This 'Dog God' could very well have come into being in the past 10 or 20 years for all we know? Like Jai Santoshi Maa, the goddess who as far as I know came about and was born sometime in the 1970s ?
Hmm yes or your guide's pronunciation may just have been off, I've had it like that plenty of times. Or he thought a good story was better than nothing

I was looking at the apparent age of the piece though. Lions being awkwardly depicted, somewhat dog-like, used to be quite common in many artistic styles.

In general and this might start another war, but there is no such thing as an original Hindu culture, any more than there was any other original culture. It's a story of people overthrowing one another and developing a common grounds and philosophy as it happened, describing it in terms of dalits or tribals vs. all the rest of society is far too simplistic I think. Even today who qualifies as a "scheduled class" is a subject of pretty much endless debate. Jorge Reverter's comments strike closer to the mark. It is pretty clear that the Hindu pantheon arose out of the need and the desire not to overthrow existing deities but rather to incorporate them into mainstream religion; likewise it would seem clear to me at least that many legends and stories originated to explain existing iconography, rather than the other way around i.e. the latter being illustrations of the former. For a description of the general process (and many other things) Robert Graves's The White Goddess is a good read, if far from uncontroversial; regarding Hindu deities David Kinsley's Hindu Goddesses is a good start.

Anyway and as most of us will know in India it's very hard to get *the* definitive story on pretty much anything. Hey at least people like story-telling!

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