The Sunwar of Nepal
Tourism has grown in importance in Nepal since the 1960s. Katmandu, Nepal's capital, attracts visitors with many picturesque temples, which are typical of Buddhist art and architecture. A growing number of hikers and mountain climbers are using Katmandu as a major base for expeditions to Mount Everest. However, due to the rugged terrain, Nepal faces major transportation obstacles. Nearly half of the country's land is wasteland, and only about 18% is cultivated. The leading crops are sugarcane, rice, and maize, with some wheat, potatoes, and vegetables. Buckwheat is grown at higher altitudes.
Farming is the main occupation of the Sunwar. They grow rice, wheat, and barley in the river valleys, and maize and grain on the hill slopes. Tobacco is grown in the lowland regions, with the surplus being exported. Rice and oil seed also serve as exports. A few cows and buffaloes are kept, but they raise mostly poultry. Most of their animals and animal products are imported. India dominates trade in Nepal, but some commerce has been established with China and Bangladesh.
The Sunwar typically live in one-story homes built of stone and mud. The walls are whitewashed and the windows are painted black.
The men wear daura sunwals, which are long wrap-around cloths that have a jacket and waistband. The women wear velvet blouses and colorful wrap-around dresses called saris. The women also decorate themselves with gold ornaments in their noses and ears.
In Sunwar society, there are three types of marriages. The first is a marriage by consent; the second is marriage by abduction; and the third is an arranged marriage. Arranged marriages are generally organized by the parents when children are between eight and twelve years old.
When the girl's parents give consent for her to marry, they will receive a goat, a chicken, beer, salt, mustard oil, and one rupee of cash from the boy's parents. If her parents accept these gifts, the marriage is sure to take place. The goat and chicken are killed, and after a family priest has performed the necessary rites, the family and relatives nearby have a feast to celebrate the occasion.
What Are Their Beliefs?
The Sunwar are Hindu by name, but actually practice animism, which is the belief that animals and inanimate objects have spirits. They worship their ancestors, perform animal sacrifices, and call on evil spirits at their festivals. Every village has two priests who serve to perform these and many other rituals for the people.
The Sunwar observe numerous festivals, and also worship their own family gods. All religious rites are performed by a Brahman, who is a priest of the highest caste in Hinduism.
What Are Their Needs?
Nepal has been hidden away and forgotten by most of the world. The infant mortality rate is almost sixty percent. Many of the Sunwar men have been forced to join the Royal Nepalese Army in order to earn a living.
The government in Nepal is fiercely opposed to any form of evangelism, so laws are restrictive. Penalties for preaching the Gospel have been harsh, and many Christians have spent time in jail for their beliefs.
There are only nineteen known Christians among the Sunwar, and they do not have even the whole New Testament in their language. These few stand alone as Gospel witnesses to their people since there are no mission agencies currently working among them. The nearly 40,000 Sunwar of Nepal have little or no opportunity to know Jesus Christ as their Lord.
- Pray against the spirit of Hinduism that has kept the Sunwar bound for many generations.
- Pray that the doors of Nepal will soon open to missionaries.
- Ask the Lord to call people who are willing to go to Nepal and share Christ with the Sunwar.
- Pray for God to strengthen and encourage the few Sunwar Christians.
- Ask God to send Christian medical teams to work among the Sunwar.
- Pray that the Holy Spirit will soften the hearts of the Sunwar towards Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
- Ask the Lord to raise up linguists to translate the Bible into the Sunwari language.
- Pray that the laws which restrict the preaching of the Gospel will soon change.
- Ask the Lord to raise up a strong local church among the Sunwar by the year 2000.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Sunwar
- Country: Nepal
- Their language: Sunwari
- Largest religion:
- Christians: <1%
- Church members: 19
- Scriptures in their own language: Portions
- Jesus Film in their own language: None
- Christian broadcasts in their own language: None
- Mission agencies working among this people: 0
- Persons who have heard the Gospel: 5,500 (14%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 33,400 (86%)
- Country: Nepal
- Major peoples in size order:
- Major religions:
- Number of denominations: 27
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Bethany World Prayer Center
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