The Barel of India
The Barel belong to a much larger cluster of peoples known as the Bhil. The Bhil are the third largest and most widely distributed tribal group in India. Although the Bhil were once thought of as a single tribe, it is now clear that they consist of many subgroups, one of which is the Barel.
The name "Bhil" was probably derived from the word villu or billu, which in most Dravidian languages is the word for "bow." The bow has long been a characteristic weapon of the Bhil because the tribesmen always carry their bows and arrows with them.
The Bhil tribes inhabit some of the most remote and inaccessible areas of India. Unfortunately, their scattered settlement pattern has hindered government efforts to provide services for the people. It has also facilitated their general distrust of government officials. The Barel language belongs to the Bhil branch of the Indo-Aryan language family. It reflects both Rajasthani and Gujarati influence.
What are their lives like?
The Barel were traditionally hunters and gatherers. They relied primarily on bows and arrows for hunting, although spears, slings, and axes were also used. Edible plants, roots, and fruits were gathered from the forests. Unfortunately, extensive deforestation in this region has greatly diminished the forest resources. As a result, most of the Barel are now settled farmers. Their primary crops include maize, millet, cucumbers, cotton, wild rice, lentils and barley. Some of the Barel have lost their land and now earn a living as hired laborers. Many of them have found jobs clearing forests or repairing roads. Since the Barel do not weave cloth, make pottery, or work with metals, they are dependent on trade to obtain these types of items.
The Barel mark their village boundaries by tying bundles of grass to trees along the paths. Each village usually contains from three to forty families. The villagers live in houses that are set far apart from each other. Most of the houses are built on hills with their fields surrounding them. Most villages also have some land that is reserved for community use.
The Barel live in wooden framed, rectangular homes that generally have two stories. The houses have bamboo walls daubed with plaster that is made of water, clay, and cattle dung. Such materials repel insects and keep the houses cool. The homes do not have windows, and have only a single entrance on the front wall. The roofs are usually thatched with grass or teak leaves and bamboo, materials that often require annual replacement.
The father is the head of his household, distributing the daily work among each of the family members and controlling all of the income. The mother assigns duties to her daughters and daughters-in-law, and supervises their work. These duties include preparing the family's meals and taking them to the men in the fields. Drawing water, milking cows, and gathering firewood are also part of the women's daily routines. Farm work such as plowing and sowing is done by the men. Hunting is also primarily a male activity.
The Barel are divided into clans, each of which is led by a chief. The chiefs have supreme power in matters concerning the clan. Since the clans are often geographically separated, the main purpose of the clan seems to be ensuring exogamous marriages (marriages between members of the same clan), and identifying the proper lines of descent.
What are their beliefs?
The Barel are virtually all Hindus. They worship a host of gods and goddesses as well as several local deities. Shrines for the various gods are built on elevated ground. Images of the deities are also kept near the agricultural fields. Offerings are made to the images to ensure the safety and quality of the crops.
What are their needs?
The Bible has not yet been translated into the Barel language; no Christian literature or radio broadcasts are available in the Barel language; and there are currently no missions agencies targeting this people group. Prayer is the first step toward seeing these precious people reached with the Good News of salvation.
- Pray that God will raise up prayer teams to begin breaking up the spiritual soil of India through worship and intercession.
- Ask God to send forth Christian laborers to live and work among the Barel.
- Ask God to speed the completion of the Bible, the Jesus film, and other evangelistic materials into the Barel language.
- Pray that God will reveal Himself to these precious people through dreams and visions.
- Ask God to use the small number of Barel believers to share Christ with their own people.
- Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that are keeping the Barel bound.
- Pray that the Holy Spirit will soften the hearts of the Barel towards Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
- Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Barel by the year 2000.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Barel
- Country: India
- Their language: Barel
- Largest religion:
- Christians: <1%
- Church members: 379
- 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: 42,100 (11%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 336,800 (89%)
- Country: India
- Major peoples in size order:
- Major religions:
- Number of denominations: 163
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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