Honoring Tribal Spirituality in India: An Exploratory Study of Their Beliefs, Rituals and Healing Practices
2. Background to the Study
3. Community Engagement in Context
4. Literature Review
5.1. Study Design and Participants
5.2. Data Collection
5.3. Ethical Considerations
5.4. Data Analysis
6. Findings and Discussion
Theme 1: Characteristics of Tribal Communities
- Indigenous people
- (Participant 1): “The indigenous people who have actually owned that land”.
- (Participant 2): “It is the real citizen of that land”.
- (Participant 3): “They have a long history of culture”.
- (Participant 4): “They have the different, own culture”.
- Forest life
- (Participant 1): “They are totally dependent on the forests”.
- (Participant2): “They live in the forest they think that the forest is the whole of their Mother Earth…Mother nature…gift of mother nature. They are living in one community, they own the land, they have communism… no division of land”.
- Socially excluded community
- (Participant 12): “We all know that this tribes are the poorest people in the country”.
- (Participant 13): “Tribal communities don’t have lots of resources. No basic resources”.
- (Participant 15): “One way of defining them is under the Indian constitution there is… people have been defined according to their caste within that there are a group of people who are being called scheduled in the tribes who have been demarcated officially as scheduled tribes”.
- (Participant 10): “If you look at the human development index, tribals are the most vulnerable”.
- (Participant 8): “When you say tribal community, it is always the area where exclusively the tribals are staying, they are on hill tops, inaccessible area and away from the main village”.
- (Participant 6): “In this context this is the village you have to walk a little down, some kilometres and then we reach their hamlets, there are small hamlets of each tribal community and they are not even aware of what happens”.
- (Participant 17): “There are houses and they don’t have any locks or any doors or anything. So they’re just free in that way, so they are united, they trust each other in a way that we cannot trust each other”.
- (Participant 23): “They are considered to be very primitive tribals who…they have the basic things to clothe themselves but they are marginalised in terms of food, health”.
- Family connectedness
- (Participant 1): “If you go there and look at the surroundings and the way the houses are situated, infrastructure in tribal village perspective, it is that only conveys that these people are united”.
- (Participant 2): “There is a huge emphasis on family wellbeing amongst them”.
- (Participant 3): “Family preservation”.
- (Participant 4): “They stay together”.
Theme 2: Tribal Spirituality
- Nature worship
- (Participant 1): “They really revere nature as their God”.
- (Participant 5): “They are the worshipers of nature”.
- (Participant 2): “They believe in nature. It is called animism. So for them tree is to be worship”.
- (Participant 3): “An entire Hill is considered to be their God”.
- (Participant 4): “These tribal believe in nature worship they believe that the God of Green, Hira Dev that’s what they call him. That’s their God, that basically the nature, the trees, the forest, that provide them with the basic amenities that they want. That is their God”.
- “Katkarwadi, so they have this particular song based on their worship and their belief on the Green God, so they practice these particular beliefs in the folk dances, folk songs, folklore’s so that’s how we know that this is their base of belief, that this is the God that they believe in, they don’t believe in worshiping idols and everything they just believe in practicing worship to the God”. “They take nature as their God, private provider… because preservation of the forest and nature is important for the future generation of them. So they have been pushing themselves to preserve, to plant more and more trees”.
- (Participant 5): “There is what you call totemism that exist there”.
- “They always pray to the nature as I know tribal communities they pray to the trees, they pray to animals, they have also some like if they constructed a well, they pray to that well also because that well gives them water, so they pray to the water also…these are their spiritual consensus”.
- (Participant 6): “Even they worship animals such as tiger”.
- “They made a certain point in the forest where they have put a stone on the name of a tiger, on the occasions of Diwali the festival of India or their festival, they have certain festivals so they provide, they keep a food over there as an offering to the God or the tiger, so that’s how they practice”.
- Indigenous spirituality
- (Participant 1): “So as generation to generation, so we pray to the God, for our ancestors have prayed”.
- (Participant 2): “This tradition is coming from the ancient people, so they are not understanding why they are doing… they just following”.
- “So it passes down. Continues through like oral, there’s nothing written as such”.
- (Participant 3): “The belief, superstitious beliefs…because these tribal people believe on superstition a lot”. “They will go and worship a tree and they will light diya”.
- (Participant 4): “Morality play the very important role in the tribal culture…there is a lot to learn from the tribal culture”.
- (Participant 5): “It’s not written, it’s not recorded anywhere but still people remember all songs, each and every piece of that song. Each song has a meaning. Different meanings related to the present context and the previous context considering the nature and the issues that they are facing. Every song has a specific issue”.
- (Participant 6): “There are songs on social issues, the community. They have their unique songs”.
- Prayers and rituals
- (Participant 1): “They do individual prayers these people like in their family, in their homes”
- (Participant 2): “Have individual prayers of such but the community makes a song in their own language which has been used”.
- (Participant 3): “For every problem they face and for every joyous occasion as well they have this song”.
- (Participant 4): “They celebrate. They have a particular dance form, they do a dance on that day. Particular dance for a particular ritual”.
- (Participant 5): “They use a drum”.
- (Participant 6): “Local instrument whatever they get…”.
- “They use sticks and beat on that and they also make noise”.
Theme 3: Healing Methodologies
- (Participant 15): “Tribal people have rich knowledge, what we call indigenous knowledge of plants”.
- (Participant 16): “Even there is a health problem people are not aware of, they are not aware about how to cure a disease means still they uses the old traditional Ayurvedic medicines to cure themselves. Most of them are frightened to visit a doctor”.
- (Participant 17): “The people who had some kind of understanding of medicine became traditional healers because the village is self-sufficient…they don’t have to rely on others”.
- (Participant 18): “They have their own way of healing themselves. In every place there is one person who is, has a very good understanding of the nature, take Ayurvedic medicines from the forest, make a tablet of that, herbs”.
- (Participant 19): “He consult with the rest of the village then so if they get sick the people go to him, is he called a Vaidya”.
- (Participant 20): “He don’t share the formula with anyone even not with his family”.
- “It is indigenous knowledge that he has gained but he doesn’t share that with the family or other people of the village”.
- (Participant 21): “We seen a person over here who cures snake bites but by doing some spiritual work like sprinkling water on that affected person, the person get healed…so most people who have problems by snake biting they come to him and they are good now we also”.
- (Participant 22): “Music is part of the healing process”.
7. Discussion and Conclusions
Conflicts of Interest
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Rowkith, S.; Bhagwan, R. Honoring Tribal Spirituality in India: An Exploratory Study of Their Beliefs, Rituals and Healing Practices. Religions 2020, 11, 549. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11110549
Rowkith S, Bhagwan R. Honoring Tribal Spirituality in India: An Exploratory Study of Their Beliefs, Rituals and Healing Practices. Religions. 2020; 11(11):549. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11110549Chicago/Turabian Style
Rowkith, Shannal, and Raisuyah Bhagwan. 2020. "Honoring Tribal Spirituality in India: An Exploratory Study of Their Beliefs, Rituals and Healing Practices" Religions 11, no. 11: 549. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11110549