The Dhatki Bhil of India
Although most of the Dhatki Bhil, or Thar, are located in the Tharparkar and Sanghar districts of Pakistan, approximately 15,000 live in India. They belong to the larger Bhil group, the third largest tribe in India.
The Dhatki Bhil are one of the groups classified as "scheduled" tribes in India, traditionally called "untouchables" by the caste Hindus. They differ from other Bhil tribes in that 65% of the Dhatki Bhil are Muslim; whereas, the other Bhil tribes are Hindu.
Because of the long-standing strife between Hindus and Muslims, Pakistan was established as a separate Muslim state in 1947. At the partition, the majority of the Hindus fled to India, while most of the Muslims remained in Pakistan. Many of the Dhatki Bhil chose to remain in India as a Muslim minority rather than relocate in Pakistan. Southeastern Pakistan, where the remainder of the Dhatki Bhil reside, was the scene of major border disputes from 1965 to 1971.
What Are Their Lives Like?
The name "Bhil" was derived from the Dravidian word billee, meaning "bow," the characteristic weapon of the tribe. The semi-nomadic Bhil have a reputation of being very volatile and so skillful with a bow and arrow that until recently, strangers feared to enter Bhil villages. Their region of habitation, western Rajasthan, is barren and always lacking water. The Dhatki Bhil, therefore, are extremely dependent on rainfall. If the rains are late, or if they do not come at all, famine is the inevitable result.
The Dhatki Bhil today are predominantly peasants, laborers, and watchmen. With a growth in population, landholdings are small and unprofitable. They work as field laborers, and some sell grass and fuel for cash.
Dhatki Bhil villages are not compact, but widely scattered. Houses are located in individual fields, where crops such as millet, maize, wheat and barley are grown. The tribe is divided into a number of clans, and clan exogamy (marrying outside one's group) is strictly enforced. If they intermarry, the Bhil of the lower class must convert to the higher class and sever all family ties.
Each village has a panchayat (council) led by a headman, who deals with disputes, elopement, abduction, and fighting. Family respect is strong. Property is shared equally by male descendants.
Both the Muslim and the Hindu Dhatki Bhil social hierarchical systems are based on castes. The Muslim caste system, unlike the Hindu system, is not based on purity and pollution concepts, nor is it sanctioned by religious ideas. Among the Muslim castes, the highest members are the sayyids, and the lowest are the "sweepers."
The Muslim hierarchical system can be classified into seven main categories. In order of descending rank, they are: persons of holy descent, landowners and/or administrators, priests, craftsmen, agricultural tenants and laborers, herders, and the so-called "despised group."
What Are Their Beliefs?
The majority of the Bhil are Hindu; however, the Dhatki Bhil are the exception, with a majority of them being Muslim. In 1480, when the Bhil area was invaded by the Muslims, many Bhil converted to Islam. Others retreated into the forested central Indian highlands. The Dhatki Bhil were likely part of the small percentage of Bhil who lived alongside the non-Bhil in mixed communities on the plains. Over time, they began borrowing the social practices and cultural traits of the "superior people." It is certain that the practice of purdah (covering of women's faces) is a custom that the Bhil borrowed.
What Are Their Needs?
The Dhatki Bhil have no scriptures available in their own language, nor are there any missions agencies currently working among them. Christian resources, such as the Jesus film and radio broadcasts, are also lacking. The Dhatki Bhil remain largely untouched by the Gospel. The need for Christian workers to show them the love of Jesus in practical ways is desperately needed.
- Ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers to the Dhatki Bhil of India.
- Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that are keeping the Dhatki Bhil bound.
- Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through intercession.
- Pray that Christian radio broadcasts, evangelical literature, and the Jesus film will be made available to the Dhatki Bhil.
- Ask the Lord to save key leaders among the Dhatki Bhil who will boldly declare the Gospel.
- Pray that the Dhatki Bhil will hunger to know Jesus and that God will reveal Himself to them through dreams and visions.
- Ask the Lord to protect, strengthen, and encourage the very small number of Dhatki Bhil believers.
- Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Dhatki Bhil by the year 2000.
See also the following Bhil Groups:
The Central Bhil;
The Chodhari Bhil;
The Dangs Bhil;
The Eastern Bhil Bhilbari;
The Pardhi Bhil;
The Pawari Bhil;
The Tadvi Bhil;
The Rajput Garasia;
The Adiwasi Garasia;
The Meghwar Bhil;
The Sansi Bhil.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Dhatki Bhil
- Country: India
- Their language: Thar (Dhatki)
- Largest religion:
- Christians: <1%
- Church members: 7
- 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: 0
- Persons who have heard the Gospel: 1,500 (10%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 13,500 (90%)
- Country: India
- Major peoples in size order:
- Major religions:
- Number of denominations: 8
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
This profile may be copied and distributed without obtaining permission
as long as it is not altered, bound, published
or used for profit purposes.