Discuss the Impact of Hinduism and Christianity on Tribal Religions.


Tribals have been assimilated in the Hindu fold in varying degrees. Thant and Khasa are the Himalayan tribes who are referred to as Hinduised tribes. They have adopted Hindu caste names, wear sacred thread and have been assimilated with the Hindus. The Bauri of West Bengal claim to belong to Brahmin caste with the observation of number of days prescribed for mourning, wearing sacred thread, following Vaisnavism. Similarly, with the belief in the concepts of Karma, pollution, merit (Punya) and observing Hindu rituals, the Mahali of West Bengal have been assimilated into the Hindu fold.

It has been also observed that the tribal beliefs and practices too impacted Hinduism which results in the process of tribalization. In the Bastar region of Madhya Pradesh there is an acceptance of the tribal morals, rituals and beliefs among the high caste Hindus. Sociologist Hutton observes that Hindus and tribal religions share a common base. Apart from Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam, has affected the tribals e.g. Blot tribals are Buddhists, Bhils of Rajasthan have close contacts with Muslim.


While Hinduism has been unobtrusively making an impact on tribal life and culture, Christianity began making deep dents in it from the 19th century. Church has been one of the most important agencies of social change. The religion of any primitive people inevitably reflects the social structure of the community in which it develops. So is the case with the Indian tribes. Christianity reflects another type of social system which introduces new concepts with changes in the material culture, outlook on life, worldview etc.

There is a change in dress, increased devotion to education, acceptance of the new system of medicine as well as loss of faith in magic and witchcraft. For political affiliation, the converts turn to the purest for guidance., Change of this nature may easily be discerned in Meghalaya, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland.

Of the total Christian population in India, at least one-sixth belong to tribal groups. According to Sahay (1963) the Oraon of Chainpur in Ranchi district, Bihar gave up their faith in the traditional Sarna religion and adopted Christian faith. With this there were considerable changes in the festival celebrations, village organization, economic life etc. Thus, according to some scholars tribal religions disintegrated due to the impact of Christianity.

Tags: Ba Sociology

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