Prayer Profile
The Kanarese of India

[IMAGE] The nearly thirty million Kanarese are the largest people group of Karnataka state in south-central India. They are also known as the Kannadiga and are primarily distinguished by their language, a Dravidian tongue called Kannada. Kannada possesses an ancient literary tradition stretching back to the ninth century A.D. It has its own script, which is used only by Kannada and two other related languages.

Most of the Kanarese are Hindus, but a few follow Islam or Jainism (an offshoot of Hinduism). Even though there has been a Christian church in the area for at least 1,500 years, the Kanarese as a whole have been very unreceptive to Christianity.

During the British rule of India, the present-day state of Karnataka exercised a large degree of autonomy, and it developed into a large, influential section of the country. During the twentieth century, Karnataka became one of the most prosperous, modernized Indian states.

What are their lives like?
Most of the Kanarese earn a living through agriculture. The most important crops grown include rice, sorghum, tobacco, cotton, sugarcane, potatoes, onions, and chilies. Coffee and cotton are major plantation crops, but tea and rubber are also raised. Although their economy continues to be rural, the Kanarese have begun to industrialize, especially in the city of Bangalore. Manufacturing is very important to the economy of that city, and many Kanarese work in the manufacturing industry there. Also, universities and technical colleges in Bangalore furnish training.

The social lives of the Kanarese are dominated by India's strict "caste" system of hereditary social classes. Most castes have certain occupations that all its members follow. Some castes are considered to be higher and more honorable than others. Consequently, members of "high" castes seldom interact with and never marry people belonging to "low" castes. Since gaining its independence from Great Britain, the Indian government has attempted to abolish the caste system. However, it is so deeply ingrained in the people that it has been virtually impossible to eradicate.

The Kanarese in rural areas live in joint family units, with three generations living under one roof. The men of the family exert the authority, and the ones who earn the livelihood have the greatest voice in family matters. However, much respect is shown to the elders. In recent years, this type of family structure has been disrupted as people have left rural areas and migrated to major cities. Family life is also being affected by better education and increasing independence of young people.

What are their beliefs?
Nearly nine out of every ten Kanarese are Hindus; the remainder are Muslims and Jains. Hindus believe in millions of gods and goddesses. According to the Hindu doctrine of reincarnation, a person's soul is reborn into another body after death. This process of birth and death supposedly continues until the soul achieves "spiritual perfection" and enters a higher dimension of existence. The Kanarese Muslims believe in only one God, and they believe that following the commands of the prophet Mohammed will earn them salvation. Although those who practice Jainism share several key beliefs with Hindus, they are opposed to the Hindu caste system. In addition, Jains do not worship a multitude of gods as do Hindus.

What are their needs?
Health care, proper nutrition, clean water, electricity, education, shelter, and transportation are all readily available in Karnataka. Because of their low incomes, however, many of the poorer Kanarese do not have access to these basic necessities.

There are a few Christians among the Kanarese, but the people traditionally have been very resistant to the Gospel. Among the Christians, there is a great need to raise up qualified leaders through training. Although the Bible, Christian radio broadcasts, and the Jesus film are currently available in Kannada, it is difficult to break through the walls of Hinduism. Christian media personnel and additional missionaries are essential to reaching the Kanarese with the Gospel.

Prayer Points

  • Ask the Lord of the harvest to send full-time missionaries to work among the Kanarese of India.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to give creative ideas for evangelism to the missions agencies that are targeting the Kanarese.
  • Pray for effectiveness of the Jesus film among the Kanarese, with many conversions resulting.
  • Ask God to anoint the Gospel as it goes forth via radio in their area.
  • Pray that God will give the Kanarese believers boldness to share Christ with their own people.
  • Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that are keeping the Kanarese bound.
  • Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
  • Ask the Lord to bring forth a triumphant Kanarese church for the glory of His name!

Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.


  • People name: Kanarese
  • Country: India
  • Their language: Kannada
  • Population: (1990) 26,511,800
    (1995) 29,164,200
    (2000) 31,853,200
  • Largest religion: Hindu 90%
    Muslim 6.8%
  • Christians: 3.1%
  • Church members: 907,008
  • 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: 16
  • Persons who have heard the Gospel: 18,988,800 (65%) Those evangelized by local Christians: 2,656,900 (9%)
    Those evangelized from the outside: 16,331,900 (56%)
  • Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 10,175,400 (35%)
  • Country: India
  • Population: (1990) 850,638,100
    (1995) 935,744,300
    (2000) 1,022,021,300
  • Major peoples in size order: Hindi (High Hindi) 9.5%
    Telugu 7.8%
    Maratha 7.4%
    Bengali 6.4%
    Hindi (Bazaar, Popular) 5.5%
  • Major religions: Hindu 78.2%
    Muslim 12%
    Christian 4.3%
  • Number of denominations: 163

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Bethany World Prayer Center

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