Religion plays an important part in the life of tribals.
Their belief in gods and goddesses, in bhuts
and spirits is engrained in them from their childhood. The worship of
these supernatural beings is supposed to protect them from all evils and
calamities, both natural and supernatural enhance the fertility of their
community, domestic animals and agricultural fields. Religion also
serves to engender and strengthen group consciousness and solidarity among
Every tribal village has in one of its corners a sacred
grove called Jaher or sarma. The village has a priest, he is known variously
as the pathan, the deuri, the naik, the kelo and so on. It is he
who performs all worship on behalf of the whole village. He is chosen
from among the most ancient families of the village for a term which varied
from tribe to tribe and place to place. He is held in high esteem
by the villagers and enjoys manifold privileges.
People living in tribal villages have a deep-rooted faith
in evil spirits, demons and witches. This accounts for the prestigious
position held by spirit doctors in tribal villages. They are popularly
known as Mati
or Ohja. These spirit doctors are believed to cure people of the diseases
and miseries caused by malevolent spirits. They are also regarded as physicians
possessing knowledge of medicinal herbs and capable of curing the diseased
by means of herbs as well as magical incantations.
The Santhal Pantheon
Religion is in extricably woven into the social life
of the Santhals. It has strengthened the social unity of these tribal
people, inspired in them a sense of social responsibility and endowed
them with a strong consciousness of the righteousness. They have
no temples or idols for purposes of worship. They look up on natural objects
like hills and dales, trees and groves with great reverential awe. The
Santhal Pantheon is essentially hierarchical in character. Singbonga is
the Supreme Being and the omnipotent deity who ranks highest in this hierarchy.
He is believed to be the creator and destroyer of all creatures inhabiting
both the visible and invisible world. There is no idol to represent him
nor any temple or shrine for his worship. Inferior in status to
Singbonga is the deity called Marang-Baru, the guardian of the Santhal
village who is invoked on all ceremonial occasions. Other deities are
Jaher-Buri and deities known as 'five and six'. All the deities are worshipped
by the Naik, village priest. He is held in high esteem by the villagers
and enjoys a number of privileges denied to common folk. The Santhals
have an extra priest called Kadam Naik who performs such functions as
are entrusted to him by the chief priest. The mati or Ojha is a spirit
doctor possessing knowledge of the herbs as well as other malevolent spirits.
'Dharmes' of the Oraons
The Oraons believe in hosts of Gods, goddesses
and the spirits of their ancestors. Dharmes is the omnipotent deity to
them who creates and destroys the world whenever he likes, he is not worshipped
in any shrine or temple. The Oraons have a sacred grove for the worship
of numerous other deities who are said to belong to ten different grades.
They are worshipped offerings and sacrifices by the village priest popularly
known as the Pahan on behalf of the entire village.
In olden days the Pahan used to be the sacerdotal as
well as the secular headman of the village. Later the office of the secular
headman grew very important and was entrusted to another member of the
same class to which the Pahan belonged. Sometimes the Pahan has to perform
so many varied functions that he is given an assistant called the Pujar.
A large number of the Oraons believe in witchcraft and worship Hindu gods.
The worship of the Devi Mai seems to be greatly in vogue in most of the
Oraon settlement. The Oraons have borrowed this practice from Hindus.
They have assimilated it so fully in their religion that one is apt to
mistake it for an indigenous custom. They worship goddess collectively
on behalf of the entire village. In many Oraon villages a small mud-built
house roofed with tiles for the worship of this Hindu deity.
The Mundas are polytheists and worship numerous deities
and spirits. Singbonga is their Supreme Being, he is not merely a spectator
of their deeds but possess the authority to punish evil-doers, he ranks
highest in their Pantheon. The spirits of their ancestors are called Orabongako-the
house hold gods.Hatubongako or the village gods occupy the most significant
place, they are regarded as the guardians of the village and their
help is invoked in agricultural and other economic operations. All the
deities are worshipped by the village priest known as the Pahan on behalf
of the entire community.
The presence of the spirits of the ancestors is very
real to the Mundas. The Mundas really feel that they are constantly with
them in the house. A few days after a man dies, his spirits is brought
from the grave by an elaborate ceremony to live in the house which was
his during his life time. To the Mundas, there are gods or spirits
in many natural objects such as mountain-peaks, waterfalls and trees.
The religion of Hos
The Ho religion resembles that of the other tribes in
Bihar. The village priest of the Hos known as Deuri performs all religious
rituals, on behalf of the entire community. He is held in high esteem
by the villagers and enjoys numerous privileges. He is not required to
propitiate malevolent spirits or deities, this task is assigned to the
spirit doctor known as the Deona among the Hos.