Anthropology Paper II

Syllabus section: Impact of Hinduism on tribal societies.


Impact of Hinduism is one of the world’s oldest Religion, with roots and customs dating back more than 4,000 years. Today, Hinduism is the third-largest religion behind Christianity and Islam. Roughly 95 percent of the world’s Hindus live in India. Hinduism is unique in that it’s not a single religion but a compilation of many traditions and philosophies.

Assimilation of tribes into Hindu society is an ongoing process from time immemorial, because of this various tribes are at various levels of Hinduization. Impact of Hinduism in tribes is the best example of acculturation and transculturation.

Tribes in India started following Hinduism because of following reasons:

  • Due to the contacts the tribals had with their Hindu neighbours
  • The tribal population of India has contributed to the making of Hinduism
  • In some places it happened as an outcome of tribal will for social reforms and economic development
  • Historically tribes have been an integral part of Indian society
  • Modernization resulted in emulation of Hindu practices by the tribes
  • Establishment of British rule hastened the process of culture contact with the outside world as a consequence of increased communication.
Some examples of Hinduized tribes in India:
Tribes Practices
The Tharu and the Khasa Adopted Hindu caste names, Wearing the sacred thread. Establishing social links with the local Rajput and Brahmin groups, Incorporated their identity with high caste Hindus.
Chero and Paharias Kshatriya model of Hinduism has been adopted
Bhumij Tribal Rajput continuum
Mahali Beliefs in the Hindu concepts of Karma, pollution, merit (punya) and observing Hindu life cycle rituals


Case study: Kora tribes
  • Kora religious beliefs are absolutely influenced of Hindu religion
  • Kora people keep the figures or pictures of some deities into their living room.
  • They also believed in Sharul worship which is animal sacrifices worship.
  • For different divinity the Kora people sacrificed various types of animals which to be made to complete their traditional worship.
  • Kora people had been simultaneously beliefs Hindu god and goddess and natural worships.
  • Kali is a goddess of power but in Kora society they practice it because they believe she is be responsible for causing different types of fever, bloodshed and accident
  • Kora people beliefs undressed pieces of stones are generally considered as the resting place of certain deities where propitiation is being done which is the existences of ancestral sprits as they believe.
  • One of the Hindu goddess ‘Saraswati’ worship has been practiced by the Kora people in Naudiha village.
Manifestations of impact of Hinduism on tribal societies:-
  • Tribes have adopted Hindu dogmas, rituals, beliefs and many other things.
  • Tribes have adopted vegetarianism and some tribes even started following Upanayana.
  • The rituals of tribal people have become very expensive. For example, Lambadas and Banjaras are taking the help of Brahmin priests for their rituals like marriages, etc.
  • With the help of Brahmins, some tribes started claiming caste status especially Gonds, Bhils, Bhumjis of Central India adopted Rajput culture. Tharu’s and Khasas of North West have started claiming the status of Kshatriyas
  • Tribes have given up sacrifices of both human and animals.
  • Kshyatrisation amongst tribes seems to be a form of Sanskritization.
  • Some tribes like Khonds of Odisha even started forming a miniature caste system within them.
  • Some of the tribes of South India also started marrying cross- cousins. That means they are organizing into Hindu Caste Field.
  • Even the tribes have given up bride price in favour of Dowry system.
  • Egalitarian nature of tribe is becoming irrelevant. Especially there seems to be increasing inequality between tribal men and women.
  • In certain tribes child marriage is taking place.
  • Permissiveness of tribal women is getting decreased.
  • Even religious beliefs, festivals are replaced by the Hindu beliefs and festivals.
  • Dressing style, food habits of tribes also changed
  • Marriage rituals and death rituals are also changing.