The Assamese of Bhutan
The Assamese first came to the southeastern regions of Bhutan from nearby India. However, their attempts to settle were challenged by confrontations with the native Bhutanese. In the seventeenth century, the British fixed the Assam-Bhutan border, thus resolving the conflict.
Today, the Assamese form only a small minority in Bhutan, the "land of the dragons". They dwell in southern Bhutan's humid, subtropical climate, where an average of 80 inches (2,000 mm) of rain falls each year. The land and climate are much like that of Assam, where they originated. It is a country filled with beautiful rivers, valleys, and mountains reaching 5,000 ft (1,500 m).
What Are Their Lives Like?
Highways have been constructed through the area, linking India with Bhutan. This facilitates free trade between the two countries. In addition to farming, some Assamese work at local manufacturing industries that specialize in the production of such things as food, cement, and lumber.
Small villages are scattered throughout the region. Houses are usually made of bamboo, mud, and thatch, much like the huts of the Assamese who live in India. They grow rice in small fields around their homes, which allows them to easily keep an eye on the crop. Most villages are self-sufficient and have enough food, so there is little need for response to outside influence and change. In contrast to Assam, there are no cities or towns in this region of Bhutan, allowing the Assamese to continue enjoying a rural lifestyle.
Rhinoceroses, elephants, tigers, monkeys, and other wild animals roam the area. The grasslands often grow so dense and high that even elephants have difficulty wandering through the region.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Hindus believe that horoscopes and astrology can determine a person's fate. They use these methods to choose the right mate, to select an occupation, and to calculate a person's time of death. Another important teaching is that the soul never dies. They believe that when the body dies the soul is reborn, or reincarnated, as either an animal or a human. Religious rituals are constantly practiced to ensure the next life will be better than the present one. Prayers are recited upon waking; baths are usually taken before meals; certain foods are only eaten on particular dishes; and different garments are worn while eating and sleeping.
Hindus are divided into social classes known as "castes." Generally, those belonging to the lower castes are poor, while those in the upper castes are educated and wealthy.
What Are Their Needs?
About 90% of the adults in Bhutan cannot read or write. Perhaps the need for teachers will open a door of opportunity for Christians to live among the Assamese and share the love of Christ with them.
The Assamese of India; The Assamese of Bangladesh.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
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Bethany World Prayer Center
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