The Kumaoni of India
With a culture over 4,000 years old and the world's second largest population, India contains a multitude of closely related people groups. Over thousands of years, countless groups have migrated into this subcontinent, and many have maintained their distinctive cultures. Today, more than 800 languages are spoken in India, and the complex "caste" system has further divided the people into an endless number of social classes.
The Kumaoni, one of the many Hindu people groups of India, live throughout the beautiful foothills of the central Himalayas, particularly in the state of Uttar Pradesh. They are the descendants of the indigenous Dravidian peoples who married Aryan "barbarian" women.
The Kumaoni are a hardworking people who engage primarily in agriculture and timber trade. Their caste structure has basically only two categories: the upper class landowners and lower class landless servants.
What are their lives like?
The Kumaoni are generally light-skinned people with slender builds, brown hair, and long noses. Most of them are poor, honest farmers. They work hard to cultivate terraces on hillsides which produce only meager crops. Fortunately, they are able to grow almost all they need to survive. Only the poorest Kumaoni do not own land.
The principal crops raised are potatoes and rice. A variety of other vegetables are also grown. Wet rice is grown during the monsoon season, whereas dry rice, maize, millet, and wheat are raised on the drier land during the summer and winter months. Most of the farmers raise buffalo and goats for meat and cows for milk.
Kumaoni villages consist of loosely grouped homes surrounded by farm land. The villages are generally situated near rivers or springs, and the homes are connected by footpaths. Sometimes the paths meet together near a large tree that is used as a meeting place for the villagers as well as a resting place for travelers. There are also a number of larger towns in the hills where the important temples or monasteries are located.
The most common houses in the middle hills are made of mud-brick with thatch or tin roofs. The bottoms of these houses are painted in red clay and the top halves are whitewashed. The houses usually have two or more stories. The kitchen and living quarters are often located upstairs to keep it free of pollution by stray animals that might wander into the house. Most houses have porches and courtyards where people socialize and do common chores such as weaving.
Like almost all Hindus, the Kumaoni are required to marry within their own castes. Children, whether born to landowners or to servants, are treated well. There are many rites of passage for children such as the first rice feeding and the first haircut. Also, girls go through puberty rites and boys go through initiations known as "sacred thread ceremonies." When they are about eight years old, the children begin doing domestic chores. Girls help care for the younger children, haul water, and carry food for the animals. Boys usually tend to the animals.
What are their beliefs?
Virtually all of the Kumaoni are Hindus; however, their religious practices are mingled with animism (the belief that non-human objects have spirits). The Kumaoni believe in ghosts and demons that haunt the crossroads and rivers. Offerings must be made to these spirits in order to appease them. The Brahmans (Hindu priests) perform important domestic rituals and teachings for the people.
What are their needs?
Although the Kumaoni are currently being targeted by two missions agencies, less than 1% of the people have accepted Christ. Only portions of the Bible have been translated into their native language, Kumauni. More laborers, additional evangelistic tools, and a complete translation of the Bible are needed.
- Pray against the spirit of Hinduism that has kept the Kumaoni bound for many generations.
- Ask the Lord to call people who are willing to go to India and share Christ with the Kumaoni.
- Pray for God to raise up prayer teams who will break up the soil through worship and intercession.
- Ask God to give the Kumaoni Christians boldness to share the Gospel with their own people.
- Pray that God will raise up qualified linguists to complete translation of the Bible into Kumaoni.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the people toward Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
- Pray that God will begin revealing Himself to the Kumaoni Hindus through dreams and visions.
- Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Kumaoni by the year 2000.
See also the following related group:
Kumaoni of Nepal.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Kumaoni
- Country: India
- Their language: Kumaoni
- Largest religion:
- Christians: <1%
- Church members: 8,137
- 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: 2
- Persons who have heard the Gospel: 516,700 (26%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 1,517,500 (74%)
- Country: India
- Major peoples in size order:
- Major religions:
- Number of denominations: 163
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Bethany World Prayer Center
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