The Hindu Bengali of Bangladesh
The Hindu Bengali are part of the large Bengali ethno-linguistic group whose homeland, called Bengal, is spread over eastern India and nearly all of Bangladesh. Although most Bengali of Bangladesh are Muslim, approximately 15% are Hindus. The differing religions have divided the people for over 600 years, despite the fact that Bengali share a common language and history, and have very similar cultures. Their language is also known as Bengali.
During the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, a great number of Bengali converted to Islam, particularly in East Bengal. After 200 years of British rule, in 1947, East Bengal became independent as East Pakistan. However, harsh treatment by dominant West Pakistan led to a civil war which ended in East Pakistan's gain of independence as the nation of Bangladesh. Today, most Bengali of Bangladesh, Hindu and Muslim alike, are farmers with little hope of bettering themselves or their families.
What Are Their Lives Like?
The lives of the Hindu Bengali are deeply influenced by caste, or social class. For example, marriages almost never occur between people of differing castes. Although Bangladesh guarantees equality of opportunity, most prestigious Hindus also belong to a high caste, and most poor Hindus belong to a lower caste.
Nearly 75% of Bengali are engaged in farming. Rice is the primary crop and is eaten at every meal. Rice is cultivated year round in three growing seasons which are defined by the amount of rainfall. Bengali eat other foods such as vegetables, spices, and fish. Like most Hindus, the Hindu Bengali are vegetarians and especially loath the consumption of beef. They grow several commercial crops, including jute and sugarcane.
Most rural Bengali farmers live in small villages of 100 to 1,000 people. Individual houses are usually built of mud and are often two or three stories tall. After mud is excavated for home construction, the resulting pit eventually fills with water, thereby creating a pond used for bathing, laundering, and fishing. The roofs of homes are usually constructed from thatch grass, though some wealthier families can afford corrugated iron roofs.
Bengali usually live in extended families. The oldest man in the family is the head of the household and is over his married sons, their families, and any unmarried children or grandchildren.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Hindu Bengali follow a variety of Hindu sects. Generally, the upper castes focus on worship of the god Shiva and his female counterparts, while the lower castes lean toward the worship of the Lord Krishna. Regardless of their sect, Hindus share several common beliefs. They all believe in millions of gods and goddesses, the chief ones being the gods Brahman, Vishnu, and Shiva and the goddess Kali.
According to Hindu doctrine, souls live innumerable lives in different bodies. The people believe they will be born again after death over and over. If a person has lived a good life, he will be reborn into a higher caste, but if the person has led an evil life, he will be reborn in a lower caste or even as an animal. This process of birth and death supposedly continues until the soul achieves spiritual perfection and enters a higher dimension of existence.
What Are Their Needs?
The Hindu Bengali have long been bound by demonic spirits of oppression and false religion which can only be broken through prayer and intercession. Only a few Bengali have ever heard the Gospel, and fewer than 1% profess Christianity. However, tools to reach them are widely available, including the Bible, the Jesus film, Christian radio, and audio recordings of the Gospel.
Bangladesh is an impoverished land. The standard of living is one of the lowest in the world, and unemployment is near 50%. Heavy rains from annual monsoons and periodic cyclones wreak havoc in the nation. Illiteracy is high, and health care is inadequate.
- Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil with prayer and intercession.
- Ask the Lord to bless the labors of the missions agencies presently working among the Hindu Bengali.
- Pray that the Bengali will begin to hunger for a personal relationship with God.
- Pray that God will reveal Himself to the Bengali through dreams and visions.
- Pray that the Jesus film will be widely seen by the Hindu Bengali and that many souls will be won as a result.
- Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that are keeping the Hindu Bengali bound.
- Pray that God will give the Hindu Bengali believers boldness to share the love of Jesus with their own people.
- Pray that strong local churches will be raised up among the Bengali by the year 2000.
See also the following Groups:
The Bengali Cluster; The Bengali Tribes of South Asia; and
The Sylhetti Bengali of Bangladesh.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Hindu Bengali
- Country: Bangladesh
- Their language: Bangla-bhasa
- Largest religion:
- Christians: <1%
- Church members: 42,272
- Scriptures in their own language: Bible
- Jesus Film in their own language: Available
- Christian broadcasts in their own language: Available
- Mission agencies working among this people: 3
- Persons who have heard the Gospel: 7,228,500 (52%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 6,862,200 (48%)
- Country: Bangladesh
- Major peoples in size order:
- Major religions:
- Number of denominations: 43
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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