The Yerukala of India
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?
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?
What Are Their Needs?
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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