Brill’s Encyclopedia of the Religions of the Indigenous People of South Asia Online

Get access Subject: Asian Studies

Edited by:
Marine Carrin (Editor-in-Chief), University of Toulouse Jean Jaurès, and Michel Boivin, Centre for South Asian Studies (CNRS-EHESS), Gérard Toffin, Centre d’Études Himalayennes, Paul Hockings, University of Illinois at Chicago, Raphaël Rousseleau, Université de Lausanne, Tanka Subba, North-Eastern Hill University, Harald Lambs-Tyche, University of de Picardie-Jules Verne (Section Editors)

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Brill’s Encyclopedia of the Religions of the Indigenous People of South Asia strives to reflect the diversity of indigenous cultures of South Asia with its many language groups and religious traditions. Shaped by their own mythologies, these tribal religions differ in form and content from Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Islam, Sikhism, and Christianity, though variants of the latter traditions have been adopted by some indigenous people. Religion is taken in a broad sense and includes aspects of morality, symbolism, identity formation, environmental concerns, and art. Far from being simple survivals of an earlier stage, these religions often show remarkable capacity for adaptation and change. The approach is contemporary rather than a reconstruction of an anterior state, though it does not overlook relevant historical processes.

More information:

Santal: Fact Sheet

(579 words)

Author(s): Carrin, Marine
The Santal are known for their rebellion in 1855 and have a long history of exploitation and migration. Numbering 7 to 8 million according to the 2011 census, which does not take into account the Santals who live in states that do not recognize them as Scheduled Tribe, they are probably the largest indigenous group in India and live in four different states (Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand, and Bihar) as well as in Bangladesh and Nepal. Their original homeland is Hazaribagh on the Chhotanagpur plateau…
Date: 2019-11-02

Santal: Religious Modernization Seen As Universalization

(6,028 words)

Author(s): Andersen, Peter B.
In the anthropological study of tribes, it has been common to see tribal movements as well as so-called conversion to nontribal religions as cases of loss of the original culture, and not as instances of relevant adaptation to changed circumstances, which may lead to the preservation of a culture. These assumptions have been criticized since the 1960s, but the old concept of conversion comes up again and again with the assumption that conversion from one religion to another indicates an absolute…
Date: 2019-11-02

Santal: Santal Religion Reinvented

(7,011 words)

Author(s): Carrin, Marine
The present situation among Santals and other Mundari-speaking groups seems paradoxical. On the one hand, galloping development under the neoliberal regime is driving the Ādivāsīs from their land, with little hope of decent work in the cities. On the other hand, we are witnessing a major surge of cultural activity with a strong affirmation of Ādivāsī identity. These seemingly opposing trends are bound together through the fabric of indigenous knowledge, providing an ontological base for the cult…
Date: 2019-11-02

Saora: Embodying Spirits from Paintings to Script: Ritual Change among the Saora

(6,016 words)

Author(s): Guillaume-Pey, Cécile
In Saora villages located at the Odisha-Andhra Pradesh border, one can find, in the central room of the houses, mural paintings made with rice powder (fig. 1). A band of geometric patterns defines the outline of these images, whose content is particularly dense. Motifs depicting components of the natural environment are mixed among numerous white figures with anthropomorphic or zoomorphic contours engaging in agrarian operations, rituals, and sexual intercourse. In the Saora villages of Andhra Pradesh, they are called idisu’ung, a word that can be translated as “painted ho…
Date: 2019-11-02

Saora: Fact Sheet

(488 words)

Author(s): Guillaume-Pey, Cécile
Saora, Sora, Savara, Sabara, Saura, Sahara: these are all terms referring to a group living mainly in southern Odisha and northern Andhra Pradesh states, where the Saora are classified as Scheduled Tribe by the government. According to the 2011 census of India, they number 534,751 in Odisha and 139,424 in Andhra Pradesh. Most of the Saora live in rural areas at the border of these two states, practicing agriculture – shifting cultivation on hill slopes and rice cultivation in plains. Since the e…
Date: 2019-11-02