The Koch of India
The Koch live in northeastern India, primarily in the states of Assam and Tripura. They are cut off from the rest of the country by the dense jungles, poor communication, and lack of transportation in this area of the country. Their language, Koch, is a Baric language that belongs to the Tibeto-Burman language family. Many Koch are bilingual, speaking both their native tongue and the language of their particular region.
In the sixteenth century, the Koch had established a dynasty in the Bihar region, but were driven from power by the Muslims and the Ahom. Today, they prefer the title Rajbansi, which means "men of royal blood," because of their ruling ancestors. The Koch entered India through northeast Bengal, where they originated. Although they follow many Hindu customs, they remain low in the Hindu "caste" (social class) hierarchy. The Koch automatically admit a person into their tribe if they are Hindu. In general, they are hard-working, peace-loving, and hospitable.
What are their lives like?
The social structure of the Koch is complex. They are divided into various geographical groups called jai. These groups differ in dialect, but not in race and customs. Each tribe is divided into two main groups called chachi. The chachi are divided into several sub-sections, which branch into local lineage groups. The Koch are only permitted to marry those within their own clans, and polygamy (having more than one spouse) is forbidden. The clans' names are derived from aspects of nature, such as heaven, earth, rivers, animals, and plants.
The Koch villages have special "community houses" for young bachelors. Girls are not permitted to enter these houses. Ironically, premarital relations are accepted among the Koch. Marriages are usually arranged by the parents. The groom customarily pays a "bride price."
The Koch are direct descendants of the Garo, who are known for their unique matriarchal (female-dominated) and matrilineal society (lineage is traced through the females). The Koch have traditionally practiced a "plot rotation" type of farming. Since property belongs to the women, the men only acquire rights to cultivate in a particular village when they married a woman of that village. The farmers grow vegetables, cotton, and pepper in the same clearing after slashing and burning the field. The government has recently discouraged the "slash and burn" method and has encouraged the farmers to plow the land. This has disrupted their matrilineal system, because where wet-rice cultivation is practiced, private ownership of land is essential. The Koch are still trying to adjust to this change.
Although specializing in agriculture, the Koch are also skillful carpenters, blacksmiths, and merchants. Many have moved to the plains and trade with the surrounding peoples, including the Bengali.
Houses in the hills are built on wooden stilts. They are made of temporary materials—usually mud or bamboo—and have thatch roofs. Some of the wealthier people have begun replacing their thatch roofs with planks. Each village is run by a village chief.
What are their beliefs?
The Koch practice ethnic religions that revolve around an extensive number of village and household gods. Some of the clans are more Hinduized than others. As a whole, the Koch venerate a great variety of deities and spirits who live both on Earth and in the world beyond. The gods of fire, water, and the forest are worshipped outside the village, often on riverbanks. The village gods are worshipped at shrines that are centrally located. A family's household gods are worshipped in the main room of their home.
What are their needs?
There are only 47 known Christians among the Koch of India at this time, but there are currently no mission agencies working among them. They do not have the Bible in their language, nor do they receive any Christian broadcasts. Laborers and additional evangelistic tools are greatly needed.
- Ask the Lord to call people who are willing to go to India and share Christ with the Koch.
- Ask God to encourage, and protect the 47 known Koch Christians.
- Pray that the Koch believers will have opportunities to share Christ with their own people.
- Pray that God will raise up qualified linguists to translate the Bible and the Jesus film into the Koch language.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Koch towards Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
- Pray that God will open the hearts of India's governmental leaders to the Gospel.
- Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that are keeping the Koch bound.
- Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Koch by the year 2000.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Koch
- Country: India
- Their language: Koch
- Largest religion:
- Christians: <1%
- Church members: 47
- 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: None
- Persons who have heard the Gospel: 1,400 (15%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 8,000 (85%)
- 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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