The Gurung of Bhutan
While the majority of the Gurung live in Nepal, over 35,000 can be found in the thick forests of southwestern Bhutan. Bhutan is the world's only Buddhist kingdom and is wedged in the Himalayas between India and Tibet. Because of the violent Himalayan thunderstorms, it is also known as Druk-Yul, "Land of the Thunder Dragon."
The origin of the Gurung is not clear, but it is probable that they first came from Tibet and then settled in Nepal. From there, some moved into Bhutan. During the time of British rule, immigration was encouraged by the Indian government, but it has been prohibited since 1959.
Although the Gurung have been given citizenship in Bhutan, they suffer tremendous discrimination. Today, the government is making efforts to integrate them into society, but they are still treated by many as second-class citizens. Their language, which is called Khas Kura, is part of the Tibeto-Burman language family.
What are their lives like?
In the areas settled by the Gurung, there is a shortage of good farm land, but immigrants from Nepal are banned from living in the central inner Himalayan region. This has produced considerable resentment among the Gurung and others from Nepal. A few Gurung groups have settled permanently on large clearings in the forests. However, most farmers practice "slash and burn" cultivation. In this method of agriculture, they first clear the land by burning. Then, they grow dry rice on it for three or four years. After that, they move on and begin the process all over again.
The majority of Gurung villages are located on the mountain slopes at elevations of 1,000 to 2,000 meters. Communities are generally scattered, but sometimes two or three houses are huddled together in heavily forested areas near their fields. Their houses are made of finely woven bamboo strips and have thatched roofs.
Traditionally, Gurung men wear bhotos (vests) and dhotis (loin cloths), which are wrapped around their waists and reach to their knees. A few wear jamas (Scottish skirts). Women wear colorful fariyas (saris), and ghaleks (upper garments) over blouses. The women are also very fond of ornaments such as nose rings and earrings.
Festive occasions are common in Gurung society, and the people love to sing and dance. The Rodi Ghar is a type of dance hall where young people gather to sing songs they have written.
When they marry, the Gurung achieve full adult status. Marriages are usually arranged by the mutual consent of the parents. The future bride and groom are generally betrothed when very young. At marriage, the bride is given wealth in the form of gold jewelry.
The basic domestic unit for the Gurung changes over time. Households often begin as nuclear families, with a man, his wife, and children living together. When the sons marry, their brides come into the home, and the family becomes an extended one. As the son's children grow, he builds his own house, usually next to that of his parents.
What are their beliefs?
One-half of the Gurung are animists, believing that non-human objects have spirits. However, they are strongly influenced by both Hinduism and Buddhism. They believe that illness is always caused by the devil or evil spirits. Lamas (Buddhist priests) read from the scriptures to expel the evil spirits. Upon death, a Gurung's horoscope is consulted, and his body is either cremated or buried, as directed by the astrologer.
What are their needs?
Water pollution is one of the most significant environmental problems in Bhutan, and 70% of the people in rural areas do not have pure water. Bhutan did not open its doors to tourism until 1974 and limits the number of tourists that may visit per year. There is still a ban on satellite television in an attempt to protect what the monarchy calls a "fragile culture." The repressive Buddhist government does not want exposure to Westerners or foreign religions. Prayer is the key to seeing Bhutan opened to the Gospel.
- Ask the Lord to send Christians who will witness through their lives to the Gurung of Bhutan.
- Pray for effectiveness of the Jesus film among the Gurung, with a bountiful harvest of souls.
- Ask God to anoint the spiritual ears of the Gurung as they listen to Christian broadcasts.
- Pray that God will supernaturally reveal Himself to the Gurung through dreams and visions.
- Ask the Lord to save key leaders among the Gurung who will boldly proclaim the Gospel.
- Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that have kept the Gurung bound for many generations.
- Ask God to raise up intercessors who will stand in the gap for the Gurung.
- Pray that strong local churches will be raised up among the Gurung by the year 2000.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Gurung
- Country: Bhutan
- Their language: Khas Kura
- Largest religion:
- Christians: 0%
- Church members: 0
- Scriptures in their own language: New Testament
- Jesus Film in their own language: Available
- Christian broadcasts in their own language: Available
- Mission agencies working among this people: 0
- Persons who have heard the Gospel: 10,600 (30%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 24,800 (70%)
- Country: Bhutan
- Major peoples in size order:
- Major religions:
- Number of denominations: 8
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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