The Bantawa Rai of Nepal
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 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?
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?
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.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
This profile may be copied and distributed without obtaining permission
as long as it is not altered, bound, published
or used for profit purposes.