Prayer Profile
The Bantawa Rai of Nepal

[IMAGE] The small independent kingdom of Nepal is located along the southern slopes of the Himalayas, between India and Tibet. It is home to approximately 110 different tribal groups, each one with its own cultural distinctions. The country is primarily agricultural, and most of the population is dependent upon farming for survival. Unfortunately, it is still poor and undeveloped.

The Bantawa Rai belong to a cluster of people known as the Rai, the largest ethnic group in eastern Nepal. Each of the Rai groups speaks a different dialect and has its own religious beliefs. Their languages have transformed from the original language to a mixture of local dialects, from which most take their names.

Although their facial features are clearly Mongoloid, the Bantawa claim no relation to the Mongolian race. They believe that they are descendants of the goddesses Marema, Mahadeva, and Nina, (daughter of the earth).

What are their lives like?
The Bantawa Rai are primarily rice farmers. Unfortunately, they have been limited by insufficient knowledge of technology, causing a poor yield in crops. They farm rice in the low-lying areas, and raise potatoes, maize, wheat, and barley at higher altitudes. The men are responsible for plowing the fields, while the women take care of planting the seeds. Families often unite to help each other at harvest time.

The Bantawa Rai typically live in stone or wooden houses made with thatched roofs. The houses usually have wooden porches around the outside.

Collectively, the Rai are known as very courageous, daring, and fearless people. In recent history, they have won worldwide respect for their bravery in the Royal Nepalese Army. Joining the army is often a way out of enduring economic hardship. It also brings respect and honor, especially for those of high military rank.

Among the Rai, weddings are very festive occasions. Some marriages are facilitated by kongpi, or middlemen, who work out the details of the marriage. Gifts are presented to the families; and if accepted, a marriage date will be set. Other marriages are facilitated by the "arranged kidnapping" of the girl of one's choice. Many believe that this method brings about good results.

At the wedding, gifts are given to the parents of the bride and groom, as well as to a long line of family members and village elders. The sacrifice of an animal, usually a pig or rooster, may also be performed at this time. Meat and drinks are served in abundance. One favorite beverage is made from barley and potatoes. Often the whole night is spent in singing and celebration.

What are their beliefs?
Ninety percent of Nepal's population is Hindu. However, Hinduism and Buddhism exist side by side and are somewhat intermingled.

The majority of Bantawa Rai practice ethnic religions, such as animism (belief that non-human objects have spirits) and ancestor worship (praying to deceased ancestors for help and guidance). They also follow a Buddhist way of life and obey the teachings of the Lamas. Many have faith in various local spirits and supernatural forces. Consequently, there are a wide variety of gods and worship practices among them. These rituals are most evident during such events as births, marriages, and deaths.

What are their needs?
Nepal has long been hidden away and forgotten by most of the world. The government is fiercely opposed to any form of evangelization, and has restricted the spreading of the Gospel. The penalties for sharing Christianity have been harsh. Many believers have spent time in prison for their beliefs.

Illiteracy ranks as one of the country's most serious problems. Perhaps Christians might find open doors into Nepal as teachers.

The Bantawa Rai have neither the Bible nor the Jesus film in their language. Currently, there are no missions agencies targeting them. There are only 22 known believers among them.

Prayer Points

  • Pray against the spirits of Buddhism and ethnic religions that are keeping the Bantawa Rai bound.
  • Ask God to call out prayer teams to go and break up the soil through worship and intercession.
  • Pray that the Lord of the harvest will raise up long-term laborers to live and work among the Rai.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to complete the work begun in the hearts of the few Bantawa believers through adequate discipleship.
  • Pray that God will raise up qualified linguists to translate the Bible into the Bantawa language.
  • Pray for the speedy completion of the Jesus film and other evangelistic materials into the Bantawa language.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to open the hearts of Nepal's governmental leaders to the Gospel.
  • Ask the Lord to raise up a triumphant Church among the Bantawa Rai for the glory of His name!

See also the following Rai groups of Nepal:
Athapare Rai; Chamlinge Rai; Danuwar Rai; Kalinge Rai; Kulunge Rai; Saam Rai; Tamachhange Rai; Thulunge Rai.

Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.


  • People name: Bantawa Rai
  • Country: Nepal
  • Their language: Bantawa
  • Population: (1990) 19,300
    (1995) 21,900
    (2000) 24,800
  • Largest religion: Ethnic religionist 95%
    Buddhist (Tantrayana) 4.9%
  • Christians: <1%
  • Church members: 22
  • Scriptures in their own language: None
  • Jesus Film in their own language: None
  • Christian broadcasts in their own language: None
  • Mission agencies working among this people: None
  • Persons who have heard the Gospel: 2,400 (11%) Those evangelized by local Christians: 1,100 (5%)
    Those evangelized from the outside: 1,300 (6%)
  • Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 19,500 (89%)
  • Country: Nepal
  • Population: (1990) 19,253,000
    (1995) 21,917,700
    (2000) 24,841,500
  • Major peoples in size order: Nepalese (55.1%)
    Maitili (10.8%)
    Bhojpuri Bihari (7.8%)
    Newar (2.9%)
    Saptari Tharu (2.9%)
  • Major religions: Hindus (87.5%)
    Buddhists (6.9%)
    Muslims (3.5%)
  • Number of denominations: 27

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Bethany World Prayer Center

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