INDIA, November 25, 2019 (Sentinel Assam): Most ethnic groups and tribal communities across the North-eastern region are currently undergoing a phase where they are struggling to protect their respective identities. Over 200 years ago, majority of the communities across the region had practiced various indigenous faiths, which mostly revolved around worship of Nature. Trees, rocks, rivers, thunder, rain, earth, animals -- Nature was worshipped in various forms, each depicting or denoting a particular aspect or power of Nature. With the expansion of Hinduism in the remote past, as also when groups of people from mainland India started arriving in the region, it led to expansion of various Hindu sects, particularly to the Brahmaputra Valley. The Ahoms, for instance, had brought with them their own Deities when they arrived in Assam in the third decade of the thirteenth century.
But then, while they ruled over the larger portion of present-day Assam, hardly did they try to enforce their original faith upon the subjects. Instead, the Ahoms, who had first adopted and enriched the local Assamese language, later also adopted Hinduism, in the process getting Brahmin priests from Bengal and central India to run Hindu temples that they established and began patronizing. When Srimanta Sankaradeva propounded his Ek-sarana naam-dharma, he too did not enforce it on others, but adopted a rather democratic and open strategy. Things however drastically began to change with the arrival of the Christian missionaries in the region, beginning with the American Baptist Mission within less than a decade of the annexation of Assam to British India. The British did invite evangelists to win over the wild tribals with the message of the gospel and it took hardly one hundred years for most tribals of the region, barring those of Tripura and present-day Arunachal Pradesh, to owe allegiance to a new faith.
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