One of best kept secret about the adivasi society is that they have their own religion called Sarna Dharam, majority population of the adivasi community belonging to major tribes of Jharkhand, including, Munda, Oraon, Santhal, Ho, Kharia, etc., numbering in excess of few crores by head count belonging to Jharkhand, follow the most egalitarian and natural religion on earth.
Oraon tribe followed Sarna Dharam, where Sarna means sacred grove. Their religion is based on the oral traditions passed from generation-to-generation. The religion is deeply ingrained in their culture and traditions, respecting the superiority of our natural world and its power. It strongly believes in one God, the Supreme Being, the Great Spirit, the Great One, the Creator, the Mighty Spirit, the one who rules over the entire universe, known as Dharmesh. They strongly believe in Lord Dharmesh’s appearance in Sal trees.
According to Oraon’s philosophy, the lord Dharmesh is the most powerful and most important deity. He is responsible for the creation of our universe including our ancestors besides acting as our protector. Infact the whole world (Universe) is regulated by a superpower that is Dharmesh in Kurukh which simply means the almighty, he is also called Mahaedeo. The great one Dharmesh’s purity demands that he be offered sacrifices only of things that are white. Hence he is given sacrifices of white goats, white fowls, white gulainchi flowers, white cloth, sugar, milk, etc. White is the sacred colour of Oraon tribe, in fact it is true for most adivasi.
Among the many important deities, the Chala-pacho Devi (Sarna Devi) is among the most important and most respected deity. The Gram Devi Chala-Pachho is a caring Old age lady with beautifully flowing white hair. It is believed that the Sal tree is the holy abode of the Sarna Devi, the mother goddess that protects and nurtures the Oraon tribe and others. On the occasion of Sarhul festival, the Pahan conducts special puja of the Devi. According to Sarna Dharam, the Devi lives in the wooden soop of Pahan kept at Chala-Kutti place, the auspicious place at Pahan’s home. At Kutti place, one stick made up of Saal wood or Bamboo Wood is fixed on the ground, on this respected wooden soop called Sarna-Soop, the Sarna-Devi resides.
Oraons perform rituals under the Sal trees at a place called ‘Sarna Sthal’, it is also known as ‘Jaher’ (sacred grove); it resembles a small forest patch. In Oraons’ villages, one can easily find the sacred religious place the ‘Sarna Sthal’ that has holy Sal trees and other trees planted at the site. Sometimes the Jaher are located inside the nearby forest area and not in the village.
This Sarna Sthal (Jaher) is a common religious place for the whole village and almost all the important socio-religious ceremonies of the village take place at this place only. These ceremonies are performed by the whole village community at a public gathering with the active participation of village priests known as ‘Pahan’. The chief assistant of village priest is called ‘Pujaar’ or ‘Panbhara’.