The Koya of India
The Koya live in the forests, plains, and valleys on both sides of the Godavari River, which lies in the central Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. Many also live in the states of Madhya Pradesh and Orissa. The Koya are said to have migrated to central India from their original home in Bastar, northern India. Their main deity still resides in a cave in the Bastar region.
The Koya language, also called Koya, is closely related to Gondi and has been strongly influenced by Telugu, the tongue of the neighboring Hindu population. Most Koya speak either Gondi or Telugu, in addition to Koya.
Since India's independence from the British in 1947, the Indian government has increased its influence over the Koya. As a result, the Koya have rebelled numerous times. The Koya resent the restrictions that have been placed on their use of reserve forests and distillation of liquor. They also resent the hydroelectric projects and rehabilitation of refugees in their land.
What are their lives like?
The Koya are primarily farmers. They once shifted from one plot to another, farming various areas. However, the government has now restricted their movement and has encouraged them to farm on fixed plots. They showed the Koya how to farm coconut and coffee. They also granted the Koya permanent ownership rights to their land if they would grow rice there.
In the hill regions occupied by the Koya, there are still no permanent farms. Crops are grown in small clearings for only two or three years. However, the Hindu population in Koya territory is gradually increasing, forcing the Koya to settle in fixed areas. Rice and tobacco are the main cash crops for those in the hill regions.
Because the income from farming is very low, many of the Koya who do not own land work as hired farm laborers. Others weave bamboo baskets and sell them at the weekly markets to Hindu merchants. They also hunt and gather forest produce to supplement the vegetables grown in their home gardens. Cattle are symbols of wealth. They are kept for their dairy products, meat, fertilizer, trade, and are also used in religious sacrifices.
The Koya usually live in villages. Occasionally, they can be found in villages mixed with other tribal and non-tribal peoples. Koya villages are located near dependable water sources. The larger villages are situated near the rivers, while the smaller ones can be found in the hills and jungles. Their wood, thatch, and mud houses are built without windows. They usually have two rooms and a porch around the outside.
Koya society is divided into three occupational groups: blacksmiths; bards (people who sing during sacrifices); and funeral drummers and singers. They are also dependent on farming for survival. The Koya only marry within their own groups.
All Koya belong to one of five sub-divisions called gotrams. Most marriages are pre-adolescent and arranged by the parents with the consent of the boy and girl. Social order is maintained through the family, the lineage elders, and the village council.
What are their beliefs?
The Koya practice their own ethnic religion, but also worship a number of Hindu gods and goddesses. Many Koya deities are female, the most important being the "mother earth." Sacrifices are carried out by the village priests. The Koya do not believe in heaven, hell, or reincarnation. When a person dies, his body is burned and the ashes are placed in a clay pot. The Koya believe that his spirit either lingers about the clay ancestor pot, patrols the sky over the village, or wanders about the village disturbing daily life.
What are their needs?
Cholera, smallpox, and malaria are big problems for the Koya. They need quality medical care as well as health and hygiene education.
Two books of the Bible were translated into Telugu in the 1800's. However, the Koya language is not yet written. These precious people need a translation of the Bible in their own language.
- Pray that God will give the missions agencies strategies for reaching the Koya with the Gospel.
- Ask God to give the Koya Christians a burden to share the Good News with their own people.
- Pray that God will raise up linguists to develop a written script for the Koya language.
- Pray that Christian radio and television broadcasts will soon be aired in the Koya language.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Koya towards Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
- Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that are keeping the Koya bound.
- Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
- Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Koya by the year 2000.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Koya
- Country: India
- Their language: Koya
- Largest religion:
- Christians: 2%
- Church members: 6,981
- Scriptures in their own language: Portions
- Jesus Film in their own language: None
- Christian broadcasts in their own language: None
- Mission agencies working among this people: 7
- Persons who have heard the Gospel: 101,200 (29%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 247,800 (71%)
- Country: India
- Major peoples in size order:
- Major religions:
- Number of denominations: 163
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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