The Bhilala of India
The Bhilala are located in several states in western central India. They have particularly dense populations in the districts of Dhar, Jhabua, and West Nimar of Madhya Pradesh state. Their language, also called Bhilala, is a sub-group of the Bhil language, which belongs to the Indo-Aryan linguistic family.
The Bhil were conquered by the Rajput, but seem to have submitted more willingly than others. For this reason, the Bhil were treated kindly by the Rajput, even intermarrying with them. The Bhilala are the descendants of the Bhil and Rajput immigrants who invaded and eventually conquered the residents of Madhya Pradesh between the eleventh and fourteenth centuries. The Bhilala are considered as nobility among the Bhil, since they are the direct descendants of the Rajput chiefs who took the daughters of the Bhil chieftains to be their wives. However, they now reject all affiliations with the Bhil.
What are their lives like?
The Bhilala primarily work as farmers, farm servants, field laborers, and village watchmen. With a growth in population, most of their land holdings are small and generally non-productive. However, there are a few substantial landholders, and a number of Bhilala have even taken government jobs.
The Bhilala villages are rather widely scattered. The houses are located in individual fields where crops such as millet, maize, wheat, and barley are grown. The highlanders generally live in houses made with walls of sticks intertwined with twigs and small branches. The roofs are usually made of clay tiles, but are sometimes made of straw and leaves.
Each village is led by a Mandoi, or head man, who deals with such things as disputes, elopements, abductions, and fighting. Respect among family members is strong, and there is a great sense of connection between the living and the dead. Property is shared equally by the male descendants.
The Bhilala marry within their own classes. If they do marry someone of another class, the Bhilala of the lower class must convert to the higher, leaving behind all family ties. This custom is strictly enforced among the tribes.
The Bhilala are experts in handling the bow and arrow. In fact, the name "Bhil" was derived from the word billee, which means "bow." For years, the bow has been a characteristic weapon of the tribe, and the Bhilala usually carry their bows and arrows with them.
The Bhilala are known for their multi-colored, embroidered garments. Tattoos are also commonly worn by the villagers. They are a shy people who love dance, drama, and music. The length and enthusiasm for their festivals is usually directly proportional to the amount of alcohol that is consumed.
What are their beliefs?
Virtually 100% of the Bhilala practice some type of ethnic religion. They worship Hindu gods, and each family has its own "guardian deity" to whom special reverence is paid. They are not, however, too particular about the service of Brahmans (upper class Hindu scholars and religious leaders) in their religious ceremonies.
Generally, the Bhilala are very superstitious, believing in taboos and curses. Like other Bhil groups, they have a deep fear of the "evil eye." This is a belief that an envious person has the power to cast a spell on someone simply by gazing into his eyes.
Bhilala priests serve as mediums, diviners, healers, and worshipers. They may become possessed by spirits and/or induce possession in others. However, priests are generally no match for witches unless they are under possession. To deal with witches, the villagers call a witch doctor.
What are their needs?
There are no missions agencies currently working among the Bhilala. Daily they live in fear of the spiritual realm. They need to know that the perfect love of Jesus Christ will cast out every fear. At present, there are only 41 known believers among them.
- Pray against the spirits of pagan religions that are keeping the Bhilala bound.
- Pray that God will raise up prayer teams to break up the soil through worship and intercession.
- Ask the Lord to call people who are willing to go to India and share Christ with the Bhilala.
- Pray for effectiveness of the Jesus film among the Bhilala.
- Ask God to encourage and protect the small number of Bhilala Christians.
- Pray that God will raise up qualified linguists to translate the Bible into the Bhilala language.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Bhilala toward Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
- Pray that God will reveal Himself to them through dreams and visions.
- Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Bhilala by the year 2000.
See also the following Bhil Groups:
The Central Bhil;
The Chodhari Bhil;
The Dangs Bhil;
The Dhatki Bhil;
The Eastern Bhil Bhilbari;
The Pardhi Bhil;
The Pawari Bhil;
The Tadvi Bhil;
The Rajput Garasia;
The Adiwasi Garasia;
The Meghwar Bhil;
The Sansi Bhil.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Bhilala
- Country: India
- Their language: Bhilala
- Largest religion:
- Christians: <1%
- Church members: 41
- Scriptures in their own language: None
- Jesus Film in their own language: Available
- Christian broadcasts in their own language: None
- Mission agencies working among this people: None
- Persons who have heard the Gospel: 52,900 (13%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 353,500 (87%)
- 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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