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The flag representing the indigenous Sarna religion of the Adivasi of central-eastern India.
Sarna dhorom

Sarnaism or Sarna[1][2][3] (local languages: Sarna Dhorom, meaning "Religion of the Holy Woods") defines the indigenous religions of the Adivasi populations of the states of Central-East India in the states of Jharkhand, Odisha and Chattisgarh. The main ethnic follower of the religion are the Munda, the Ho, the Santal, the Khuruk, and others. Some tribal population practice Sarna belief in addition to following Hinduism.


Sarna means "grove" and it is etymologically related to the name of the sal tree, sacred to the religion, from which is derived Sari Dhorom (or, "Religion of the Sal Tree").


Sarnaist followers have been organising protests and petitions to have their religion recognised by the government of India in census forms.[4][5]


Adherents of Sarnaism believe in, worship and revere Dharmesh, or God as the creator of the universe, who is also called Marang Buru[6] or Singbonga or by other names by different tribes. Adherents also believe in, worship and revere Chalapachho Devi, the Mother Goddess, identified as the earth, nature, and the World Tree, symbolised by the Sal tree. Dharmesh is believed to manifest in Sal trees.

Worship places and rites

Sarna temples are called sthal or asthal, and can be found in villages, while worship can be performed also in jaher, or sacred groves. Sal trees are present both in the temples and 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.


  • Akhil Bharatiya Sarna Dharam (ABSD)


Jharkhand - 4,223,500

Assam - 1,000,000-1,500,000(estimated)

Odisha - 500,000-1,000,000(estimated)

Census 2011 (Jharkhand and Odisha): 4,957,000[7]


  • A. K. Sachchidananda. Elite and Development. Concept Publishing Co., New Delhi, 1980. ASIN B000MBN8J2
  • James Minahan. Ethnic Groups of South Asia and the Pacific: An Encyclopedia. Series: Ethnic Groups of the World. ABC-CLIO, 2012. ISBN 1598846590
  • Kishor Vidya Niketan. The Spectrum of Tribal Religion in Bihar: A Study of Continuity & Change Among the Oraon of Chotanagpur. 1988.
  • Malini Srivastava. The Sacred Complex of Munda Tribe. Department of Anthropology, University of Allahabad, Allahabad 211 002, Uttar Pradesh, India. Anthropologist, 9(4): 327-330 (2007)
  • Phatik Chandra Hembram. Sari-Sarna (Santhal Religion). Mittal Publications, 1988. ISBN 8170990440



  1. Minahan, 2012. p. 236
  2. Sachchidananda, 1980. p. 235
  3. Srivastava, 2007.
  4. SANTOSH K. KIRO. Delhi demo for Sarna identity. The Telegraph, 2013
  5. Pranab Mukherjee. Tribals to rally for inclusion of Sarna religion in census. Times of India, 2013.
  6. Minahan, 2012. p. 236
  7. ZEESHAN SHAIKH for The Indian Express: "Fewer minor faiths in India now, finds Census; number of their adherents up"

External links