The Maitili of India
Over thousands of years, countless groups have migrated into India, many of which have maintained distinctive cultures. Today, more than 800 languages are spoken throughout the country. The complex Hindu "caste" system has further divided the people into an endless number of social classes.
The Maitili inhabit the Mithila region of northern Bihar State. Their region is bordered by the Ganges River on the south and the Himalayas on the north. Some of the greatest intellectual discussions in the history of human thought took place in the ancient city of Mithila. Scholars formerly came to Mithila from all over India to receive the highest training in logic available at that time.
Most of the Maitili are members of the Brahman and other high castes of Hindus. (The Brahmans make up the highest category in the Hindu caste system.) Although the Maitili region has a rich cultural heritage, its Bradhman community is not as well respected as other Brahmans.
What Are Their Lives Like?
The Maitili are a very religious people, extraordinarily devoted to the religious law. They are so orthodox in their beliefs that they would dare not tell a lie, especially when referring to their religious lives.
The Maitili have changed very little since ancient times. Their women still practice age-old folk art traditions. For example, even the poorest families live in homes that have been beautifully adorned with traditional designs. Most of the houses are decorated with geometrical patterns and figures of gods or people. The women use locally manufactured colors and gums for decoration. They use thread, match-sticks, or thin bamboo sticks wrapped in cotton as paint brushes.
The fact that the Maitili live in an isolated region of India has contributed to their cultural behavior. Their long seclusion has resulted in a distinct "backwardness" and a general lack of initiative among the people.
The Maitili Brahmans have been split into several sub-groups: the Srotiyas, the Yogyas, the Panjibahas, and the Jaibaras. These groups are organized into successive ranks with each level subordinate to the one above.
Among the Maitili, two of the most important ceremonies are marriage (jauna) and death. Girls are not allowed to remain unmarried because the Brahmans consider marriage to be a religious sacrament with its partners predestined by the gods. The question of viewing ones physical features before marriage is of no concern to them at all in settling the marriage. The date of a marriage is fixed by an astrologer. In the jauna ceremony, a boy is allowed to wear the sacred thread of a Brahman.
After a Maitili dies, the body is cremated. Before death, he performs a type of "death ritual." In this ritual, he worships a cow and gives it to one of his near relatives. The Maitili believe that a "river" lies between this world and the next. This worship ritual supposedly helps him to cross the river and reach heaven by holding onto the cow’s long tail.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Although 95% of the Maitili are Hindus, they have maintained their traditional superstitions. They believe that spirits and imps (elves or small demons) exist, sometimes in bodily form. Witchcraft abounds and spells are often cast. The Maitili believe that sacrifices must constantly be made in order to keep the spirits appeased. However, one Hindu sect, the Upanisads, has introduced a new religion that opposes sacrificial ceremonies. Their primary aim is to deliver individuals from their mundane lives by being absorbed in the search for truth. In this "quest for knowledge," rituals are useless. This type of thinking is more in line with modern Hindu attitudes.
What Are Their Needs?
The Maitili are steeped in superstition and deception, yet consider themselves to be very intellectual. Two missions agencies are currently targeting this people group, but their progress has been slow and difficult. Much prayer is needed to break down the strongholds that are keeping the Maitili in spiritual darkness.
- Pray against the spirits of Hinduism and ethnic religions that are keeping the Maitili bound.
- Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through intercession.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom and favor to the missions agencies that are targeting the Maitili.
- Pray that the Lord will raise up additional long term workers to join those who have already responded.
- Ask God to speed the completion of the translation of the Jesus film and other evangelistic materials into the Maitili language.
- Pray that God will reveal Himself to the Maitili through dreams and visions.
- Pray that God will give the Maitili believers boldness to share Christ with their own people.
- Ask the Lord to bring forth a triumphant Maitili Church for the glory of His name!
The Maitili of Nepal.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Maitili
- Country: India
- Their language: Maitili (Anga)
- Largest religion:
- Christians: Less than 1%
- Church members: 5,841
- 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: 7,598,800 (26%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 21,605,000 (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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