|c. 7,841,870 - 9,341,870|
|Regions with significant populations|
Sarna are sacred groves in the Indian religious traditions of the Chota Nagpur Plateau region in the states of Jharkhand, Bihar, Assam and Chhattisgarh. Followers of these rituals primarily belong to the Munda, Bhumij, Kharia, Baiga, Ho, Kurukh and Santal. According to local belief, a Gram deoti or village deity resides in the sarna, where sacrifice is offered twice a year. Their belief system is called "Sarnaism" or "Religion of the Holy Woods", although it is not yet recognized as a religion by the Indian government.
Sarna means "grove" and is etymologically related to the name of the sal tree. For Santali mythological belief 'Sarna' means 'it is arrow'[Sar- arrow, Na- it is (in feminine gender of Santali grammar).
Adherents of Sarnaism believe in, worship, and revere a village deity as protector of village, who is called as Gaon khunt, Gram deoti, Dharmes, Marang Buru, Singbonga, or by other names by different tribes. Adherents also believe in, worship, and revere Dharti ayo or Chalapachho Devi, the mother goddess identified as the earth or nature.
Sarna is place of worship which is sacred grove. It is also called gram than, Jaher than or Jaher gar, and can be found in villages. Sal trees are in the sacred grove. The ceremonies are performed by the whole village community at a public gathering with the active participation of village priests, pahan. The chief assistant of village priest is called Naike.
The sthal typically has multiple trees like sal, mahua, neem, and banyan.
The main festival of Sarnaism is Sarhul, a festival in which devotees worship their ancestors. A legend among the Munda says a lion once ran after a man, who escaped by hiding in a bush. After the incident, he promised he would offer sakua flowers and leaves as well as a living animal. During the festival, the pahan brings three water pots to the sarna. If the water pots reduce in level, they believe the monsoon will fail, but if it stays the same the monsoon will come as normal. Men then offer sakua flowers and leaves.
|Total||c. 7,800,000 to 9,300,000|
|Source: 2011 Census of India|
Several tribal organisations and Christian missionaries are demanding a distinct census code for Sarnaism this, however, has been rejected by some because Sarnas are already covered by the Hindu code bills. People who reject this include India's Minister of Tribal Affairs, Jual Oram, who claims "There is no denial of the fact that tribals are Hindus." Concerns have been expressed for aggressive Christian missionary activities to convert the tribals in India, the demography of Manipur 80% of which belonged to the Indian-origin religions in 1951 census has come down to 50% by 2011 census, consequently there are efforts to purify (reconvert) the converted tribal, which is opposed by the Christian missionaries. Conversion efforts by Christian missionaries, which have been going on for a century, have caused conflict in the tribal areas of the Chota Nagpur region. The arrival of the first German Protestant missionaries in 1845 was followed by Catholic missionaries, conflict between Christian and non-Christian tribals became evident in 1947-48 during Indian independence movement in which Christian colonial rulers left India. The Catholic Church, led by Ranchi Catholic Archdiocese and Catholic bishops of Jharkhand, has been demanding a separate religious code for the tribal. This has caused conflict. Several tribal peoples have been converted to Christianity. BJP government which ruled the Jharkhand state from 2014 to 2019 had introduced an anti-conversion law as there were accusations of forced conversion and usurpation of tribals' land by the church. The former BJP-led government had placed checks on foreign funding provided to numerous NGOs run by Christian missionaries who were also accused of duping poor tribals.
In 2020, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha's (JMM), which was in power in Jharkhand at that time, passed an unanimous assembly resolution on 'Sarna Code' for the inclusion of Sarna as separate religion in 2021 census, and sent to central government for approval.
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