The Meghwar Bhil of Pakistan
The Meghwar Bhil is one of the people groups traditionally considered as "untouchable" by the caste-conscious Hindus. When India was partitioned into two countries (India and Pakistan) in 1947, caste Hindus left in large numbers. However, some of the scheduled caste Hindus, such as the Meghwar Bhil, chose to stay in Pakistan. Although they are part of a very small Hindu minority in Pakistan, they seem to prefer being despised by the Muslims rather than by their own Hindu brothers. Sadly, the ancient antagonism between the Muslims and the Hindu Meghwar was not lessened by the partition.
The Meghwar live in the southern Punjab region, northeast of the cities of Dadu and Nawabshah. Their language, Marwari Bhil, is a sub-group of the Bhil languages and part of the Indo-Aryan linguistic family. The Marwari Bhil language is mostly a spoken tongue, although some newspapers are written in the language.
What are their lives like?
In Hindu society, Brahmans are the highest caste; whereas scheduled castes, such as the Meghwar Bhil are the lowest and are classified as poor peasants and agricultural laborers. The Meghwar live mostly in rural areas, where many are migrant farm workers who follow the seasonal crops to bring extra income to their suffering families. Wheat and millet are staple food crops, followed by rice, cotton lint, and corn. For the farmers, the arid land requires irrigation, so monsoon rains are the key to their existence. They are fortunate in the Punjab to have the Indus River and its five eastern tributaries to help irrigate the land.
Marriage for the Meghwar is more of a union between two families than between two individuals. Most marriages are arranged, with much consideration given to caste and social rank. In rural areas, young couples generally live with or near the husband's family.
Meghwar women are easily spotted from a distance because of their long red petticoat skirts. In the villages, parents forbid the abandonment of this traditional dress, which is worn for every activity; but when young women go to the city they convert to the Pakistani women's full pants and long top so they will blend in with other women.
Recent reports note that the stronghold of feudalism has been strengthened rather than outlawed, despite the 1992 law that abolished the slavery of the Bhil groups to Pakistani landlords. The Human Rights Commission of the United Nations continues to find hidden cases of haris, or slaves, in rural areas, including hidden jails where the Meghwar are sometimes in chains for their indebtedness to their landlords. Pakistani landlords justify their actions by calling it a "partnership between tenant and landlord."
What are their beliefs?
Almost all of the Meghwar are Hindu. They also practice many animistic rituals, which reflects the belief that non-living objects have spirits. One example is the spirit ritual for the dead, where the Meghwar make sacrificial dough balls of wheat flour and water. If crows eat the dough balls, they believe the spirit of the departed person is in torment. There have been reports that no animals approach the dough balls of those who have accepted Jesus.
What are their needs?
The earliest evidence of successful evangelization in the area was in the 1900's. However, little was done to foster and preserve those beginnings, and at present there are only a handful of Meghwar Christians. A few missionaries are working among the Meghwar, but many more dedicated Christian workers are urgently needed. Researchers say that if the Meghwar are not reached soon they will become Muslims within ten years. The strength of the fundamental Islamic law leaves little room for tolerance of other religions. This will affect the Hindus and subtle pressure will be placed on them to either leave or convert.
Portions of the Bible and the Jesus film are available in the Marwari Bhil language, but no Christian broadcasts are accessible to these people.
- Pray that God will supply qualified linguists to complete the translation of the Bible into the Marwari Bhil language.
- Pray that the Lord will raise up long-term workers to join the few who have already responded.
- Pray for effectiveness of the Jesus film among the Meghwar Bhil.
- Ask God to strengthen, encourage, and protect the small number of Meghwar Bhil Christians.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Meghwar Bhil towards Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
- Take authority over the principalities and powers that are keeping the Meghwar Bhil bound in spiritual darkness.
- Pray that God will raise up prayer teams to break up the soil through worship and intercession.
- Ask the Lord to bring forth a triumphant Meghwar Bhil church for the glory of His name!
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 Sansi Bhil.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Meghwar Bhil
- Country: Pakistan
- Their language: Marwari Bhil
- Largest religion:
- Christians: 1%
- Church members: 1,967
- Scriptures in their own language: Portions
- Jesus Film in their own language: Available
- Christian broadcasts in their own language: None
- Mission agencies working among this people: 1
- Persons who have heard the Gospel: 63,000 (32%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 133,700 (68%)
- Country: Pakistan
- Major peoples in size order:
- Major religions:
- Number of denominations: 37
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Bethany World Prayer Center
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