Difference between tribals religion and Santals religion



1. The Religious Belief System and Practices of the Austroasiatic Adivasi Peoples like the Santals, Mahalis, Birhoṛs etc. is collectively called as Sạri Dhorom.

The Religious Belief System and Practices of the Dravidian Adivasi Peoples like the Orãos, Maltos, Saurias, Kumarbhags etc. is called as Sarṇa Dhorom.

Some later adherents of this Sarṇa Religion are the Muṇḍas, Bhumijs, Hos, Khaṛias etc. who though originally being of Austroasiatic stock, are following this Dravidian religion of their neighbours, perhaps due to historical influences.

Some section of the Santals too now profess their religion’s name to be Sarṇa, though in every practical aspect they undeniably follow the rituals and beliefs of the Sạri Dhorom only.

2. The Sacred Grove of the Sạri Dhorom is called as the Jaher Than or Jaher Gaṛh or Jahera.

The Sacred Grove of the Sarṇa Dhorom is in contrast called as the Sarṇa Sthal or Sarṇa Sthali.

3. In Jaher, the Sạri Dhorom followers worships various deities, such as the female deity Ram Sạlgi a.k.a. Jaher Era a.k.a. Jaher Ayo; the male deity Maraṅ Buru; another male deity Liṭạ Gosãe, and the composite ancestral deities collectively known as the Mõṛẽko Turuiko.

At Sarṇa, the Sarṇa Dhorom followers worships only one male deity – Buṛadeo a.k.a. Baṛadeo. No other deity is worshipped in Sarṇa Sthal.

Lately though, some Sarṇa Dhorom followers, under the influence of the neighbouring Hindu Dhorom, are shifting their place of worship from the Sacred Grove “Sarṇa Sthal” to a type of Temple constructed using brick, cement and concrete, called as the “Sarṇa Mandir”. Therein they are nowadays worshipping a newfound female deity, the “Sarṇa Mata”, of whom not much is recorded in their earlier annals and oral traditions. Here the Deko mimicking and influence can be clearly seen as they call this newfound female deity as “Sarṇa Mata” and not as “Sarṇa Ayo” or “Sarṇa Era”.

4. The Sarṇa Dhorom followers worships the Supreme Deity / Supreme Creator “Buṛadeo” / “Baṛadeo” at their Sacred Grove, the Sarṇa Sthal. They do not worship Him in the newly built Sarṇa Mandirs.

At the Jaher, the Sạri Dhorom followers never worships the Supreme Deity / Supreme Creator, who is variously known as the Ṭhạkur Jiv, Ṭhạkur Jiu, Maraṅ Ṭhạkur, Cando Baba or Cando (not the Moon, a mere celestial object, but the Creator of all such things). They also never erect any shrine in His reverence.
It must be clearly mentioned that the Sạri Dhorom Supreme Creator, the Ṭhạkur Jiv is not the same as their Prime deity, the Maraṅ Buru. The former is an eternal being associated with their Creation Narrative, while the later is a rescuer of their people when they entered India in the ancient times, through the legendary mountain passes called the Siń Duạr and the Bạńhĩ Duạr respectively.

5. The Sạri Dhorom pantheon, apart from the Supreme Creator – Ṭhạkur Jiv / Maraṅ Ṭhạkur / Cando / Cando Baba, the Interlocutor deity – Liṭạ Gosãe / Liṭạ Goḍet, the Prime deity – Maraṅ Buru, the Incumbent deity of the sacred grove – Ram Sạlgi / Jaher Ayo /Jaher Era, the Composite Ancestral deities – Mõṛẽko Turuiko, also comprises of specific Ancestral deities – Hapṛam Boṅgas, Tutelary deities specific to each of the clans/subsepts (khũṭ ko) – Oṛaḱ Boṅgas, Abge Boṅgas, Incumbent deities of abodes / places – Mạńjhi Boṅgas, Pargana Boṅgas, Simạ Boṅgas, Baṛge Boṅgas, Darha Boṅgas etc, deities of the Hunt – Bir Boṅgas, Bạghut Boṅgas, Hurut́ Khuṇṭut́ren Boṅgas etc, and also the Unknown deities – Bin Baḍae Boṅgas.

The Sarṇa Dhorom pantheon traditionally comprised of the Supreme Creator – Buṛadeo / Baṛadeo only (some communities call Him as Dharmesh, a loan word from Saṃskr̥t, a conjunction of ‘Dharma’ and ‘Īśa’). Nowadays there’s another deity though – the female deity “Sarṇa Mata”. Even if there are some tutelary deities (due to neighbouring Sạri influence), they are different from the Sạri Dhorom tutelary deities.

6. The Sạri Dhorom has well defined strictures regarding the Jurisdiction of its various types of Priests.
The Mạńjhis, Chairpersons of the Village Council, “Ato Bạisi” / “Mạńjhi Bạisi” / “Kulhi Dupuṛuṕ”, can act as priests on some specific occasions, but can never assume the role of the Naekes, the village priests. The Naekes or Village Priests also can never officiate any worship event held beyond the bounds of the villages. For that purpose, they have the Priests of the Wilderness, the Kuḍạm Naekes, who in turn cannot officiate at worships within the village limits. Again both these types of full fledged priests can never officiate any worship at the Hunt. Doing so is believed to be extremely dangerous for the hunting party, and that responsibility lies solely with the Dihris, the Convenor, Chairperson cum temporary priest at the Disom Sendras and Lo Bir Bạisis (Annual Hunts cum Supreme Appellate Councils of various regions). A Dihri, though being the Chairperson of the temporary but apex appellate council, is never allowed to perform the acts of the Naekes or the Kuḍạm Naekes.
This kind of democratic division of labour is not seen among the Sarṇa Dhorom priests, known simply as the Pahans or the Layas, who are but of only one category.

7. A peculiar association of the place of worship with the professed religion is evident in the name of the Sarṇa Religion, which directly derives from the Dravidian Sacred Grove, in want of any better nomenclature.

In contrast, the Austroasiatic Adivasi People never calls their ancestral religion as the Jaher Religion or something like that. Nor any other people does that. Naming the religions generally after their places of worship can lead to a situation where Islam will be called as the Masjid Mazhab, Hinduism as the Mandir Dharma, Christianity as the Church Religion and Sikhism as the Gurdwara Sahib Panth!

Some section of the Santals, a major Austroasiatic Tribe, associates their place of worship with the religion they follow, when they self-identify as “Jaher Boṅga Santals”. However, the Sarṇa Religion followers among the Santals never self-identify as “Sarṇa Boṅga Santals” though they advocate for the Sarṇa name.

8. Among Santals, a major Austroasiatic Tribe, the Sạri Dhorom name is endorsed by scholars like Sadhu Ramchand Murmu, Dr Dhirendranath Baskey, Dr Timotheas Hembrom et al.
Guru Goṅke Pt Raghunath Murmu is known to have endorsed the Sarṇa Dhorom name, perhaps due to some strategic political compulsions arising out of his pact with Maraṅ Goṅke Jaipal Singh Muṇḍa, regarding pan-Jharkhandi identity construction through the proposed Troika of Kherwal-Sarṇa-Ol Chiki.
It must be noted however, though Panḍitji honoured his part of the pact and accepted the Sarṇa nomenclature as the name of his ancestral religion, Maraṅ Goṅke and other Jharkhand Movement leaders never fulfilled their part of the mutual promise. That’s why today, Santals are bickering and infighting among themselves over the Sạri and Sarṇa names, but the other Jharkhandi tribes never accepted Ol chiki, and went forward to invent their “own” scripts like the Tolong Siki, Varang Kshiti, Mundari Bani etc.

9. As a result of this complex past background, ASECA of Odisha promotes the Sarṇa name for traditional Austroasiatic tribal religion, while the West Bengal chapter of ASECA bitterly opposes it, and champions the name Sạri, as being the name of their ancestral religion.

10. The recently circulated story of ancestor females supposedly searching for an arrow shot in the air, and shouting in excitement “Sar Na! Sar Na!” when they found it struck in the trunk of some Shorea robusta tree, can safely be termed as a Fakelore of recent construction. No supporting evidence for it can be found in the documented oral narrations of past authors like Guru Kolean, Sagram Murmu, Choṭrae Desmạńjhi, Ramdas Ṭuḍu ‘Reska’, Sạdhu Ramchand Murmu et al. Perhaps it is constructed to justify the politically motivated choice of Sarṇa by Pt Raghunath Murmu.
Such other Fakelores abound the Santal society today; of which, if some are reclaiming the Harappan civilisation, by interpreting the recent Punjabi names as ‘Mońj Jo Dare’, ‘Hoṛ Rapaḱ’, ‘Kạli Boṅgan Than’ etc, then some others are claiming “Shiva” to be originated from the nickname of some ancient Santal Guru, whose matted hair or ‘Jaṭa’ was infested with Lice (Se), thus him being called as “Se Bohoḱ” or a derivative “Se-bohoḥ”!

In conclusion, it can be said without any hesitation that, this debate and disunity over nomenclature is causing irreparable harm to the Santal Society, and must be addressed collectively in a democratic, amicable and mature manner.

Written by- TONOL MURMU