The Marathi of India
A cluster of 4 Marathi speaking groups in India.
The Marathi-speaking peoples are located in near the west coast of central India, primarily in Maharashtra and other surrounding states. The Marathi cluster includes four distinct unreached people groups: the Berar Marathi, (or Brahmani), which has a population of over seven million; the Dhanwar; the Maratha, with a population of over sixty million; and the Thakur. Each group speaks a different dialect of Marathi, the state language of Maharashtra.
The Marathi groups vary in location and type. Some of the tribes live in the hills, while others live in the Deccan Plateau. There are landowners and cultivators, as well as illiterate tribes living in small jungle villages. All levels of society can be seen among these tribes. They also have differing religious practices and cultural traditions.
The Marathi are believed to have descended from the ancient Maratha kingdom. This dynasty was begun by the great leader, Maratha, and hero, Sivaji. The kingdom was in power from the seventeenth century until the early nineteenth century.
What are their lives like?
Since most of the Marathi are Hindus, they are separated into a number of social castes, as is common throughout India. The caste levels are based on the measure of purity in relationship to the holy scriptures. There are four known castes, the highest being the Brahmin, or the priestly class. The Kshittree is the military class, a strong but almost extinct group, whose history gives them great importance. The third class, the Weysh, is the commercial or business community. The lowest class, the Shooder, consists of farmers and cultivators.
Although the Marathi groups are made up of grant holders, landowners, and soldiers, the majority belong to the lowest class of farmers. Only a few are ruling chiefs. Some are merchants, and many are in the army or other branches of government service.
In the plateau region, bulls are used for plowing the fields. Almost every farmer, except the poorest, has cattle and takes great pride in them. They are kept on the farm in a cattle shed, and sometimes they even share the courtyard inside the house area. Staple foods produced are wheat cakes, rice, lentil beans, and other vegetables.
The Marathi villages located in the coastal regions of the Arabian Sea consist of long streets that run north and south, with houses on either side. Each house has its own walled or fenced in enclosure around the yard. Those who live in the Deccan Plateau have tightly clustered villages, each with a Hindu temple and the "big house" of a rich landlord. The farmers do not live on their land. The farmland surrounds the villages, and they go out to the fields to grow food for their families. Temporary shelters are located near the gardens.
Most of the Marathi do not eat beef or pork and seldom drink liquor, but the men usually smoke. The tribes that live in the hills, such as the Thaku, are practically cut off from those in the plains. They are hunters, and they eat whatever game they kill. Most of the mountain people stay in debt to those who live in the plains.
What are their beliefs?
According to Hindu doctrine, animals as well as humans have souls. Hindus worship some gods in the form of animals. Cows are sacred, but monkeys, snakes, and other animals are also revered.
Hinduism teaches that the soul never dies. When the body dies, the soul is reborn. This continuous process of rebirth is called "reincarnation." The soul may be reborn as either an animal or a human. If a person lives a good life, the soul will be born into a higher state. If a person leads an evil life, the soul will be born into a lower state, perhaps into the body of a worm. A person's reincarnation continues until he or she achieves spiritual perfection. The soul then enters a new level of existence from which it never returns.
The few Muslims that exist among the Marathi (8%) are remnants of Muslim invaders and wars with the Moguls that took place during the eighteenth century. They belong to the Hanafite branch of Islam.
What are their needs?
By the early 1900's, India's population was increasing by about 18 million a year. This has led to serious overcrowding, increasing the poor living conditions.
The Marathi have had a series of rises and falls throughout their political history. They have a great need for stability—something that can only be found through knowing Christ.
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Bethany World Prayer Center
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