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The Sarna Religion: A Deep Dive into the Indigenous Faith of India

sarna religion

sarna religion

The Sarna religion, also known as Sarnaism or Sarna Dharm, is an indigenous faith practiced by various tribal communities in India. With a rich history and unique set of beliefs, this religion holds a significant place in the cultural fabric of the country. In this article, we will explore the origins, beliefs, rituals, and current status of the Sarna religion, shedding light on its importance and contributions to Indian society.

The Origins of Sarna Religion

The Sarna religion traces its roots back to ancient times, long before the advent of major religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam in the Indian subcontinent. It is primarily practiced by tribal communities, such as the Santhal, Munda, Ho, and Oraon, who have inhabited the region for centuries.

The word “Sarna” is derived from the Santhali language, meaning “grove” or “sacred grove.” These groves, often located in the midst of dense forests, are considered sacred spaces where the deities of the Sarna religion reside. The worship of nature and natural elements is a central aspect of Sarnaism.

Beliefs and Deities

The Sarna religion is polytheistic, with a pantheon of deities representing various aspects of nature, such as mountains, rivers, trees, and animals. These deities are believed to have the power to influence the lives of individuals and communities, and therefore, they are revered and worshipped.


One of the most important deities in the Sarna religion is Marang Buru, also known as Singbonga or Jaher Era. Marang Buru is considered the supreme deity and the creator of the universe. Other prominent deities include Manjhi, the goddess of snakes, and Jaher Era, the goddess of forests.

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Unlike many organized religions, the Sarna religion does not have a strict set of scriptures or religious texts. Instead, the knowledge and rituals are passed down orally from one generation to another. The tribal priests, known as “Ojhas” or “Pahan,” play a crucial role in preserving and transmitting the religious traditions.

Rituals and Festivals

The Sarna religion is deeply intertwined with the daily lives of its followers, and rituals play a significant role in their religious practices. These rituals are performed to seek blessings, protection, and guidance from the deities.

One of the most important rituals in the Sarna religion is the “Sarhul” festival, which celebrates the arrival of spring. During this festival, people offer prayers and sacrifices to the deities, seeking their blessings for a bountiful harvest. The festival involves vibrant processions, traditional dances, and community feasts.


Another significant festival is the “Karam Parab,” which is celebrated to honor the goddess Karam. This festival is particularly important for the Mundas and Oraons, who believe that Karam is the goddess of fertility and prosperity.

Challenges and Preservation

Despite its rich cultural heritage and deep-rooted traditions, the Sarna religion faces several challenges in the modern era. The influence of mainstream religions, rapid urbanization, and the erosion of traditional tribal lifestyles have posed threats to the survival of this indigenous faith.

Conversion to other religions, particularly Hinduism and Christianity, has been a significant concern for the Sarna community. The allure of social and economic benefits associated with conversion, coupled with the lack of awareness and support for the Sarna religion, has led to a decline in its followers.

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However, efforts are being made to preserve and revive the Sarna religion. Various organizations and individuals are working towards raising awareness, documenting the rituals and traditions, and advocating for the recognition of the Sarna religion as a distinct faith.



1. Is the Sarna religion recognized by the Indian government?

Currently, the Sarna religion is not recognized as a separate religion by the Indian government. It is often considered a part of the broader umbrella of tribal or indigenous religions. However, there have been ongoing discussions and demands for official recognition to protect and preserve the unique identity of the Sarna religion.

2. How does the Sarna religion contribute to the conservation of nature?

The Sarna religion places a strong emphasis on the worship and protection of nature. The sacred groves, which are an integral part of Sarnaism, serve as important ecological hotspots, preserving biodiversity and acting as natural habitats for various species. The rituals and beliefs associated with the Sarna religion promote sustainable practices and a harmonious relationship with the environment.

3. Are there any famous personalities who follow the Sarna religion?

While the Sarna religion is primarily practiced by tribal communities, there have been instances of individuals from other backgrounds embracing this faith. Notable personalities like Birsa Munda, a tribal freedom fighter, and Ram Dayal Munda, a renowned scholar and activist, have been associated with the Sarna religion and have played significant roles in promoting its recognition and preservation.

4. How can people support the preservation of the Sarna religion?

There are several ways in which individuals can support the preservation of the Sarna religion. Firstly, raising awareness about the existence and significance of this indigenous faith is crucial. This can be done through educational initiatives, cultural exchanges, and media representation. Additionally, supporting organizations and initiatives that work towards documenting and preserving the rituals, traditions, and oral history of the Sarna religion can make a significant impact.


5. What can we learn from the Sarna religion?

The Sarna religion offers valuable insights into the deep connection between humans and nature. It teaches us the importance of respecting and preserving the environment, as well as the significance of community, rituals, and cultural heritage. The Sarna religion serves as a reminder of the diversity and richness of India’s religious landscape and the need to protect and celebrate indigenous faiths.

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The Sarna religion, an indigenous faith practiced by tribal communities in India, holds a significant place in the country’s cultural heritage. With its roots in ancient times, the Sarna religion emphasizes the worship of nature and the belief in a pantheon of deities. Despite facing challenges in the modern era, efforts are being made to preserve and revive this unique faith. By raising awareness, documenting traditions, and advocating for recognition, the Sarna religion can continue to thrive and contribute to India’s diverse religious landscape.

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