Prayer Profile
The Yerukala of India

[IMAGE] The Yerukala live in the hills and plains of Andhra Pradesh, a state in south central India. They are primarily located in the Godivari district. They speak Sankara-Yerukala, a Southern Dravidian language that is distinctly related to Tamil. Many of the Yerukala also speak Telugu, another Dravidian language.

The Yerukala were previously nomads who acted as spies for the rulers of the land. They collected secret information from enemy territories until the British occupied the country. At that time, they lost their jobs as intelligence staff and settled in agriculture or petty trades, such as making ropes, mats, and baskets. Unfortunately, the introduction of railroads brought a setback to their businesses, and they turned to crime for survival. Due to their desperate situation, subsequent police oppression, harsh punishments, and torture, the Yerukala have been driven to a sub-human standard of living.

What Are Their Lives Like?
The Yerukala are rather easy-going and laid back by nature, and consequently have never become successful farmers.

In times past, the Yerukala lived in the forests and were satisfied with the forest economy of hunting and gathering. In 1878, the sale of forest produce was strictly prohibited by the British government and the Yerukala were forced to the plains. The tribes lost everything they had and rebelled against the government, who in turn forced them to settle on small portions of land that were insufficient for survival. This displacement had a detrimental effect on their lives, which led to maladjustment and a loss of self-respect in society. Today, they remain bound by poverty.

Today, the Yerukala deal in salt, tamarind (plant used to make curry), and curry leaves. They wander from place to place to trade their goods, carrying them on donkeys or bulls. Some make mats, baskets, and ropes to sell. Others are employed as village watchmen. Sometimes the women will beg for a living. All the while, they are observing the houses and villagers in order to get information for their husbands, who attempt to rob the houses at night.

In the Yerukala settlements, rice is the main crop produced, but its success is entirely dependent on timely monsoons. There, they no longer practice their old methods of earning money, such as fortune-telling and tattooing. Their primary occupations are farming, crime, agricultural labor, and some government jobs.

Although the Yerukala are considered an ex-criminal tribe, 40% of them are still involved in crime, both out of tradition and necessity. They are a threat to the neighboring peoples and are known as burglars, thieves, and highway robbers.

Interestingly, their social code of conduct is enforced by an assembly, and their punishments are often severe. For example, they may dip the fingers of the accused in boiling oil or make him walk through a crackling bed of fire. If the accused is injured during this process, he is considered guilty. It is illegal for a man to speak poorly of a woman. If a man is reported as having done so, he may be fined. A man is strictly forbidden to marry any woman of a lower caste. If he does, he must "be purified" by having his tongue burned with a gold-piece. These rules are believed to maintain the social status and reverence for the women of the community.

One distinctive trait of the Yerukala is that if a man goes to jail, his wife selects another partner for the period of her husband's absence. She then returns to her original husband upon his release.

What Are Their Beliefs?
Influenced by the Hindu religion, the Yerukala worship Vishnu, "preserver of the universe." They also have faith in natural forces such as the sun, the moon, and fire. They are not allowed to enter Hindu temples, so they keep stones or mud idols under trees and give them offerings.

What Are Their Needs?
At the present time, the Yerukala have no scriptures in their language. Only one missions agency is working among them, but with very few evangelistic materials. Prayer is the key to reaching these people with the Gospel.

Prayer Points

  • Ask God to grant wisdom and favor to the missions agency that is working among the Yerukala.
  • Pray that the Lord will raise up long term workers to join the few who have already responded.
  • Ask God to speed the completion of the Jesus film and other evangelistic materials into the Yerukala language.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to complete the work begun in the hearts of the Yerukala believers through adequate discipleship.
  • Pray that God will raise up qualified linguists to translate the Bible into Sankara-Yerukala.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Yerukala so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
  • Take authority over the spiritual powers that are keeping them bound.
  • Ask the Lord to bring forth a triumphant Yerukala church for the glory of His name!

Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.


  • People name: Yerukala
  • Country: India
  • Their language: Sankara-Yerukala
  • Population: (1990) 101,100
    (1995) 111,300
    (2000) 121,500
  • Largest religion: Hindu 95%
    Nonreligious 3.6%
  • Christians: 1.3%
  • Church members: 1,524
  • 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: 1
  • Persons who have heard the Gospel: 32,700 (30%) Those evangelized by local Christians: 8,200 (8%)
    Those evangelized from the outside: 24,500(22%)
  • Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 78,600 (70%)
  • Country: India
  • Population: (1990) 850,638,100
    (1995) 935,744,300
    (2000) 1,022,021,300
  • Major peoples in size order: Hindi (High Hindi) 9.5%
    Telugu 7.8%
    Maratha 7.4%
    Bengali 6.4%
    Hindi (Bazaar, Popular) 5.5%
  • Major religions: Hindu 78.2%
    Muslim 12%
    Christian 4.3%
  • Number of denominations: 163

© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center

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