The Koli of Pakistan
A cluster of 4 Koli groups in Pakistan.
Very little is known about the history of the Koli. There is conflicting information about their origins as well. It is thought that the Tharadari Koli originated in the city of Tharad, which is located in Gujarat, western India. There is also a large group of Koli who were the earliest known inhabitants of the Bombay area on the west coast of India, south of Gujarat. According to one source, the Koli were once a fishing community.
As Hindus, the Koli of Pakistan are a minority. Most of the other Hindus fled to India in 1947 at the partition of India and Pakistan. The Koli tribes all speak their own Indo-Aryan languages. Only the Kutchi Koli, who speak Kachi Koli, are considered a subgroup of the Gujarati.
What Are Their Lives Like?
Flooding along the Indus is common after heavy rains, which occur from July until August. Unfortunately, the flooding has caused serious deforestation, soil erosion, and water logging. Much of the groundwater in the region has also become salty and unfit for agricultural use. Surface drains have been built to help solve these problems.
Sindh's largest water project, the construction of the Gudu Barrage Dam, has provided water for irrigation into the dry desert areas of Pakistan. Where irrigation is not available, the Koli depend on what little rainfall there is.
The Koli tribes living in the eastern portion of the Thar Desert (also known as the Great Indian Desert) raise livestock in the steppe areas. This region consists mainly of sand dunes with patches of clay. Camels are their main mode of transportation. Because these tribes live in drab surroundings, they often exhibit a vivid array of colors in their paintings and other artistic designs.
Koli houses vary from region to region. Some of the people live in simple houses with thatched roofs, mud walls, and dirt floors; others live in decorative homes with tiled roofs, brick walls, and paved or cement floors. Sadly, most of the people live in poverty. Less than half of the Koli are literate. Their social status is considered low, but not "impure," since some of the higher castes (social classes) accept water from them.
Most of the Koli tribes drink liquor and eat fish, fowl, and pork. However, as Hindus, they are not allowed to eat beef. Structurally, they are divided into exogamous clans, which means that they are not permitted to marry within their own families.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Hinduism teaches that the soul never dies, but is "reborn" after the body dies. This continuous process of rebirth is called "reincarnation." Hindus believe that the soul may be reborn as an animal or as a human. The law of karma states that every action influences how the soul will be born in the next reincarnation. Hindus believe that if a person lives a good life, his soul will be born into a higher state; but if he leads an evil life, he will be born into a lower state, perhaps into the body of a worm! They believe that a person continues to be reincarnated until he achieves "spiritual perfection."
"Pure Hinduism" does not exist in the state of Sindh. Rather, it is mingled with elements of Islam and other ethnic beliefs of the Koli. The primary deity of the Koli is the tiger god, Vaghdeva. The people worship carved wooden images of Vaghdeva.
What Are Their Needs?
Of the four Koli groups in Pakistan, only the Parkari Koachchhi have access to portions of Scripture in their own language. However, due to their low literacy rate, they first need to be taught how to read so that they might understand God's Word when it becomes available to them.
Only one group, the Kutchi Koli, has a missions agency currently targeting them. This tribe is less than 1% literate. Evangelistic resources such as Christian radio broadcasts, television programs, and the Jesus film are desperately needed to reach these illiterate groups. Perhaps Christian teachers will have the greatest opportunities to live and work among the Koli.Prayer Points
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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