Tribal Religions
History of Science, Philosphy & Culture in Indian Civilization Vol. II, Part 7

Edited by S. Shyamkishore Singh
June 2012
Distributed by
ISBN: 9788187586524
413 pages
$137.50 Hardcover

Though generally considered as a cultural universal, Religion is a complex term, with many varied connotations. It eludes a precise definition. Then there arises a yet more problematic question: What is tribal religion? Another question that logically follows is: how, or in which way, is religion relevant to the tribal life-worlds and systems of belief in the supernatural? Putting together 25 scholarly papers, this volume addresses these and other kindred questions about tribal religion from different perspectives.

A nearly eight per cent of India’s over 1,200 million population comprises tribal communities, inhabiting different parts of the country. Despite their significant presence, many, even in India, are ignorant of the tribal socio-cultural life and belief systems. The primary reason being: most of the tribes have, for centuries, been completely divorced from the mainstream life – untouched by the phenomenal socioeconomic changes that India has experienced in over six decades since its independence. The tribals, on the contrary, are confronted by serious, altogether new problems that threaten their very survival and cultural identity – leave alone the threats to their indigenous faiths and practices.

Written by widely-recognized scholars, the papers here present the traditional religious beliefs and ritualistic practices of various tribes of India, more particularly of the North-Eastern India which has the largest clusters of tribal communities. Going into the nature of tribal societies and various theories about the origin and development of religion, the volume offers indepth, well-researched accounts of the traditional religion (including religious beliefs, rituals, and ceremonies) of the Karbis, the Rabhhas, the Khasis, the Garos, the Bodos, the Boroks, the Thadou Kukis, the Paites, the Andros, the Nagas, the Sumis, and the Santals, among others – together with a look at the issues that plague them. A few papers also consider the religious beliefs of the tribes in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and other parts of South India.

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