Why Mother Mary Statue is Dressed in Sarna Adivasi Attire?

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For centuries, the Adivasi Community of Jharkhand have tried to very-very hard to keep intact their distinctive art, culture, rites, rituals, and Sarna religion. Their proud ancestors have successfully managed to keep out hordes of non-Adivasi religious influence at bay. They refused to bow before the might of even the most powerful religious forces. They were willing to sacrifice their present as well as their future to keep alive their unique traditions. But, it seems that their efforts are in vain.

Off-late, Sarna Adivasi community have come under intense pressure to convert, more so from the powerful people who crossed over to other religious group(s). The blind pursuit of their personal and professional ambition of powerful people often result in the incidents like the recent installation of holy Mother Mary statue in Ranchi (Jharkhand), done right in the heart-land of Adivasi community.

As far as our religious knowledge about Christianity goes, the statue of esteemed Mother Mary should look like this:

Mother Mary

Instead in Ranchi, the recently installed the Mother Mary Statue dressed in sacred Sarna Adivasi attire looks like this:

Mother Mary in Jharkhand

Now anyone, who holds a just, balanced and non-partisans views on the Sarna Adivasi religion and Christianity (mind you here we are talking about only one branch of Christian community and not the whole Christian community of Jharkhand state) could smell the sense of betrayal and see the act of proselytization here, in this incident.

Let us give you an example to clarify, if one wants to worship Christian gods, one goes to Church, similarly to pay respect to Hindu gods, one visits Temple, and it is true for almost all the other religions. Now, one does not try to mix-and-match the religious identities and symbols between any two religions, more so when they are considered sacred by their followers, as it is likely to create unnecessary tension among its followers and pit one religious-group against another religious group. It may further be noted that the said Mother Mary statue resembles the sacred Goddess Chala-pacho Devi (Sarna Devi in young Avatar) of the Sarna Adivasi community (of Oraon tribe).

Sarna Adivasi_protest Pic Courtesy the Hindu

In this case, it is evident that Sarna followers have vociferously and in non-violent manners, registered their protest against such a deliberate move and requested the responsible people in concerned Christian group to remove the objectionable statue.

Yet, we see no positive response from them.

# Who Installed the Mother Mary Statue in Sarna Adivasi Attire?

Few months ago, the said statue was installed at the instance of Cardinal Telesphore Toppo at the Catholic Church parish in Singpur in Ranchi District. Since then, the elders from Sarna Adivasi community have been urging and requesting the Cardinal and the Catholic Church authorities to remove the controversial statue, but so far they have not done anything positive about the said controversy.

Mind you, the Christianity community of Jharkhand, like in other parts of world is also divided into quite a few branches, viz., Catholic, Protestants, Orthodox, Anglican, et al. So, it would be wrong to blame the entire Christian community for the installation of the said statue.

# Why blatant disregard for the religious beliefs of Sarna religion follower?

It is a less acknowledged fact that in the last couple of centuries, since the arrival of colonial rulers in Jharkhand, India, the Adivasi community and the Adivasi families of Jharkhand have been divided along religious lines. And among the Adivasi communities this process of religious-conversion by the powerful religious groups still continues in Jharkhand.

So, in many cases, we have one Adivasi brother following Sarna religion while another Adivasi brother following Christianity religion and so on and so forth. It is one of the reasons, why we see diverse religious groups in the state, peacefully co-existing among the Adivasi communities.

Sarna Adivasi protest pic courtesy livemintThe religious leaders believe that the one brother / sister would not really take up arm against another brother / sister, more so in the name of religion.

And these religious leaders are counting on the same fact.

# Why such an act of great provocation?

The installation of Mother Mary statue is not really a move backed by religious beliefs as these religious leaders would like us to believe.

It is a well thought out political strategy, a religious move that accords greater and decisive political power to its religious leaders.

Many of us have heard the story of the shepherds. The shepherds would always like to keep their flocks of sheep together and united at one place.

But how can shepherds do that?

• One of the ways is to keep a very close eye on his flocks of sheep besides using the carrot and stick policies.

• Other way is to tell their flocks of sheep that a lion would come, attack them and eat them; for when they try to move away from the flock. It is in the interest of entire flocks of sheep to stay together, keep their unity and simply follow the orders of wise shepherds.

So the Shepherds use rewards, punishment and even fear to keep their flocks together.

In case the aggrieved party resort to retaliation then the Shepherds would claim that they are true and only saviour of their flock of sheep. This would further strengthen their hold on their flock of sheep. And then they would be to direct their flock of sheep to move in particular direction for their own safety or else the blood-thirsty animals would again attack them. As the fear-psychosis takes over the flocks of sheep, they can be herded and lorded over by the shepherds in any manner that they want, more so, when the 2014 General elections is just round the corner.

# Why don’t they remove the Mother Mary Statue in Sarna Adivasi Attire?

In a game of political chess, the first player has played its move and the second player has also responded by showing its strength.

With political parties closely watching their moves and in the game of political one-upmanship, it’s is highly unlikely that Shepherds would back down. The stakes are very high and another election shall come only when the terms of newly elected government (after 2014 election) ends.

# Will the Catholic Church parish remove the controversial statue?

With the General elections round the corner, we would see further hardening of the religious views in Jharkhand; as it seems that the peace does not really suit the politically power-hungry people. Being a sensible Jharkhandi, one can only hope and pray that the better sense prevail and the Catholic Church parish removes the controversial statue.

As the installation of the said statue is more of a political decision and less of a religious decision; besides it threatens the unity of Adivasi community of Jharkhand.

One should always remember that it is easier to destroy than to create.

Let’s give real Adivasi issues centre stage and do not let such a religiously sensitive issue dominate the headlines for wrong reasons.

Let’s give peace a chance.

Team Focus

Team Focus

We are bunch of commoners and our bloggers' e-magazine focuses on the AlterNative Voices from Jharkhand, India.
Team Focus
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We are bunch of commoners and our bloggers' e-magazine focuses on the AlterNative Voices from Jharkhand, India.


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10 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Uk says:

    “We are bunch of commoners from jharkhand, who have got together and volunteered to bring to you,the first and only e-magazine focussing on our state jharkhand and it’s people” this is what I read somewhere above, but I would like to know the name of the person,who has written it, because I found it biased and the creation of some insecure mentality. Who is miserably trying to convince others he is right,it would be much better if the person responsible for this article, would have tried to get the official response from the other side,would have put in some efforts to represent their views as well. I am not going to get convinced just based on his preconceived imaginations. Please treat your readers as mature people and try to give them the details of the both sides, rather than just trying to force feed or impose personal thinking & views on others.

    1. Team Focus
      Team Focus says: Author

      Our reply:

      As we said, we are bunch of commoners with limited reach and even meager resources. Not only our FOCUS team (our phones remain unanswered), but also quite a few journalists from reputed publications and even the top Sarna Adivasi leaders want to know “why” and “how” this kind of installation took place. But no explanation is forthcoming from the people responsible for the same. This could be one of the reason, why you feel that the said story is biased and one-sided. We analyze a news-story and stand by our news-analysis of the same.

      Instead of indulging in rhetoric, we would welcome civil-debate on the contentious-issue; hope you would assist us in getting the viewpoint from the other side or better still, we invite you to write point-by-point rebuttal of the same. In case, Mr. Uk (Mr.Uttam), you can get us other side of story, we would welcome it and publish the same. In our earlier comment too, we had asked for the explanations but so far we have not received any reply. An early replay shall be appreciated by us.

      1. Uk says:

        Whom did you try to speak to over the phone?? Did these journalists publish anything in this regard to support your claim??If You want to have civil debate on this serious issue based on,this biased article then,I m out of it. You must try to give your readers a level platform to have any kind of productive debate. You seem to have gone tangent on this issue. I see this debate going nowhere, primarily because it’s biased one,supplemented by involuntary idiocy of this article & insecurity. I am neither an agent of church nor a religiously insecure Sarna person. White saree with red borders is not specifically worn by Sarna women only, it rather represents tribal women attire in our locality. It is also used by tribal people of other states in the same form or modified way,with the same or different color combinations.what religion a tribal wants to follow please leave it to him or her. ” YOU CAN TAKE TRIBALS OUT OF CHRISTIANITY BUT YOU CAN NOT TAKE CHRISTIANITY OUT OF CHRISTIAN TRIBALS”. So please stop complaining & magnifying it as larger than life issue. One thing I would like to suggest to the focus team,please form an editing team and review all of your articles & works before posting it, which I thought was lacking in this particular article. otherwise you guys are doing fine.

  2. This is purely biased opinion ,regarding blaming someone ,for merely dressing a statue in particular dress meaning to convert Other faiths in there religious line.If any person is strong enough in his faith from inside ,no body can convert him by any means. Journalism should be be always unbiased ,may be e-magazine or paper based.1.why FOCUS team has not taken views of Cardinal toppo? and also Singpur parishners? 2.why common views of members of all churches committe not taken? Only after taking views of both side your kind and expert opninion was required. Overall media is not judiciary to decide but a good critics . I am not defending anybody ,but fact and intentions of writ up should fair.

    1. Team Focus
      Team Focus says: Author

      Our replies:

      (1) Both Cardinal Toppo and Singpur Parish are invited to send in their opinion and comments, we would welcome them and publish them here.

      (2) Again common views of members of all churches committee are also invited to send in their opinion and comments, we would welcome them and publish them here.

      We would want both parties to talk and resolve the issue in the best interest of the Adivasi society, sooner it happens, better it shall be for everyone.

  3. My personal opinion:
    1. All tribal people including christian tribals should have equal right over tribal culture including attire.
    2. shun divide and conquor strategy of vested interests.

    1. Team Focus
      Team Focus says: Author

      Our Opinion:

      (1) Even we agree that “All tribal people including christian tribals should have equal right over tribal culture including attire”.

      But that does not mean that one starts dressing their Gods & Goddesses in the sacred Sarna Adivasi attire.

      That is taking undue advantage and crosses the invisible boundary that divides any two different religions.

      (2) In this case, it seems few politically ambitious religious leaders are dividing and pitting one community against another.

      We do not understand, why does one needs to dress Mother Mary in sacred Sarna Adivasi attire and make her look like sacred Goddess Chala-pacho Devi (Sarna Devi) of the Sarna Adivasi community (of Oraon tribe). Hope better sense prevail.

      1. The argument regarding ” taking undue advantage” is required to be conclusively established by the evidence. In the absence of same, it is merely a fallacy. Hence it would be wrong to arrive at conclusion that the installation of statute dressed in a particular attire has been done with malafide intention.

        1. Team Focus
          Team Focus says: Author

          We believe that the matter of faith and religion does not fall in the realm of evidences. In any religion, one cannot really argue for or against the existence of gods / goddess in the court of law, with concrete evidence. It’s a known fact that Sarna Adivasi religion has rich oral traditions and well-established rites and rituals, passed down from one generations to another. Because of their oral-traditions and oral-knowledge; people from other religions have always taken advantage. And this case is no different than the so many other cases, that had happened in the past, with the Sarna Adivasi community.

          1. Kindly read my reply properly.. it is with regard to aspersions of ‘taking undue advantage and crossing indivisible boundary’. Nevertheless my opinion or your opinion can not be everyone’s opinion. Let people decide what is appropriate for them. I would prefer to invest my energy in some constructive thing, may be in deprecating the practice of dividing tribal community in the name of religion.

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