The Dehati of India
India is a complex mosaic of ethnic, linguistic, religious, and social groupings. Because of this diversity, it is extremely difficult to adequately describe any single people group. Ranking second only to China among the most populous nations, India has more than 935,000,000 inhabitants. The overall population density is about 762 people per square mile.
India may be divided into four main regions: the Himalayas, the northern river-plains region, the Deccan Plateau, and the Eastern and Western Ghat Mountains. Because of its numerous geographical features, climatic conditions are also widely diversified on a seasonal and regional basis, ranging from tropical to temperate extremes.
In the midst of this complexity can be found the 37,400 Dehati. They are located mainly in the states of Bihar and Orissa. Their language, Dehati Maithili, belongs to the Indo-Aryan language family. Little is known about their specific lifestyle and culture.
What are their lives like?
About 73% of India's population lives in rural areas and is engaged in some form of agricultural activity. Many are farmers who barely grow enough to survive. Their farms are extremely small and often very fragmented. The raising of livestock, particularly horned cattle, buffalo, horses, and mules, is a central feature of the economy. Because of Hindu influence, however, these animals are used almost exclusively as beasts of burden rather than sources of meat.
Indian culture is primarily Hindu-oriented. Many Hindu institutions, including the rigid caste (social class) system, have wide-ranging effects on Indian society. The word "caste" basically means breed, race, or kind. Indian society is divided into hierarchical castes that are usually endogamous (marriage only within the caste). Castes may be defined by occupation or by kinship and lineage, although there are some exceptions. Nevertheless, caste is so fundamental to the social organization of India that it prevails in all parts, except some of the tribal populations.
Not enough is known about the Dehati to accurately place them in the caste system; thus, their particular lifestyle and culture cannot be adequately described. What is known, however, is that many of the Dehati live in the agricultural state of Bihar, where barley, maize, rice, sugarcane, and wheat are grown. It is assumed that their lifestyle is similar to that of the other peoples in the region. Further research is needed to clearly identify the Dehati so that they can be reached with the Gospel.
What are their beliefs?
The Dehati are 95% Hindu and follow the basic Hindu customs and traditions. The term "Hinduism" came into use about A.D.1200, but clearly identifying what Hindus believe is difficult. The religion has no founder, no prophet, and no instructional structure. It is a way of living much more than a theology; it is a philosophy more than a religion. Contrary to popular belief in the West, Hinduism is not an ancient, fixed set of beliefs. Rather, it is a body of customs, practices, and beliefs which go through major changes every few hundred years.
The majority of Hindus believe in a supreme being. Some respect all life and eat only vegetables, while others will gladly eat meat from sacrifices in the temple. To some, their religion is highly personal; to others, it is impersonal. While most Hindus worship Brahman (the creator), Shiva (the destroyer), Vishnu (the preserver), and the goddess Shaktri, they also worship a pantheon of other minor gods, their incarnations, spouses, or offspring. A belief in reincarnation (continuous cycle of death and rebirth) is one of the few unifying features of Hinduism.
What are their needs?
The Dehati are lacking any Christian resources in their own language. The Bible, the Jesus film, and Christian radio broadcasts are not yet available to them. The few known Dehati believers need Christian materials to encourage and strengthen them in their walk with the Lord. Fervent intercession and increased missions efforts are necessities to seeing the Dehati reached with the Good News.
- Ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers to live and work among the Dehati of India.
- Pray that Christian radio broadcasts, evangelical literature, and the Jesus film will soon be made available to the Dehati.
- Ask the Lord to raise up qualified linguists to translate the Bible into the Dehati Maithili language.
- Ask God to save key leaders among the Dehati who will boldly declare the Gospel.
- Pray that God will strengthen, embolden, and protect the few known Dehati believers.
- Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that are keeping the Dehati bound.
- Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the spiritual soil of India through worship and intercession.
- Pray that strong local churches will be raised up among the Dehati by the year 2000.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Dehati
- Country: India
- Their language: Dehati Maithili
- 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: 4,100 (11%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 33,300 (89%)
- Country: India
- Major peoples in size order:
- Major religions:
- Number of denominations: 163
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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