The Khirwar of India
The Khirwar are a sub-group of the Gond, the largest tribal group in India. Historically, the Gond were the most important group of original Indian tribes. In the 1500's, several Gond dynasties were established and the Gond rajas, or kings, ruled like Hindu princes until they were conquered by Muslim armies in 1592. During the 1700's, the Gond lost all power to the Maratha kings. In the following century of Maratha rule, all of the Gond territory was overrun and the people were completely dispossessed of their power.
Today, the Khirwar live among the many Hindi tribes in the Surguja district at the borders of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. Some speak the local Hindi dialect in addition to their own language, Khirwari. Although the Gond stand outside the rigid caste (social class) system as a distinct communityŚnot ranked in terms of the Hindu hierarchyŚthe surrounding Hindi tribes consider them to be of a "lower" status.
What are their lives like?
Most of the Khirwar are farmers, using bulls to plow their fields. Rice is the most important crop, although other grains are also grown. Since the Khirwar do not make their own farm equipment, they are dependent on nearby villages for supplies like earthenware, iron tools, and carts. Such items can be obtained in the weekly markets. Rice is traded for necessary goods or services.
Khirwar society consists of exogamous clan units. This means that they do not marry within the same clan. They have three types of marriages. The first is by negotiation, which can be quite expensive for the groom's family. The second requires bride-service, in which the groom agrees to work for his in-laws for several years. The third is a type of elopement known as "capture of the bride." Since many girls are forced to marry at an early age, the divorce rate is very high. Divorce is neither condemned nor looked down upon. However, barrenness is considered a curse.
The Khirwar live in small, windowless huts made with mud walls and thatched roofs. A village consists of several homes that line a narrow, open space. In this area, villagers commonly gather to chat, hold meetings, or perform certain rituals. The villagers do not make their own clothes. All ornaments and items of dress are obtained from neighboring groups. This gives them opportunities to interact with outside society.
What are their beliefs?
Although the Khirwar are considered 70% Hindu, their beliefs are often combined with animism (belief that non-human objects have spirits). They worship a multitude of gods and spirits. They seek to appease the spirits through elaborate rituals and sacrifices. Cows, goats, and birds are often sacrificed to the spirits in order to gain their support. The villagers also call upon a spirit of rain/river water to bless them with good catches of fish and abundant crops. Central to their beliefs is the veneration of clan deities. The two sacred objects which symbolize these gods are an iron spearhead and a fly-whisk made from a yak's tail.
While the Khirwar do not necessarily believe in the immortality of souls, they do believe in the transmigration of souls, or the passing of a soul from one body to another after death. Some believe that a person may be transmigrated into the body of an animal or a human, depending on whether he or she lived a good or evil life.
The Khirwar also believe in three worlds. The earth is considered the "middle" world, inhabited by humans and supernatural beings. The sky, or "upper" world, is thought to be the home of the supreme spirit, or "high god." He is not represented by any symbol, but is believed to be the creator and to be supreme to all other gods. He is considered too remote to directly interact in the lives of people. The third is the "underworld," or place of the dead.
What are their needs?
The Khirwar do not have any Christian resources available in their own language, and there are very few known believers among them. Sustained intercession, evangelistic tools, and continued missions efforts are essential for seeing them reached with the Gospel.
- Ask the Lord to send Christian humanitarian aid workers to minister to the physical and spiritual needs of the Khirwar.
- Pray that the Jesus film and Christian broadcasts will soon be made available to the Khirwar.
- Ask the Lord Jesus to begin revealing Himself to these precious people through dreams and visions.
- Pray that the Holy Spirit will place a hunger within the Khirwar to have a personal relationship with their Creator.
- Ask the Lord to save key leaders among the Khirwar who will boldly declare the Gospel.
- Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that are keeping the Khirwar bound.
- Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin faithfully interceding for the Khirwar.
- Pray that strong local churches will be planted among the Khirwar by the year 2000.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Khirwar
- Country: India
- Their language: Khirwar
- Largest religion:
- Christian: <1%
- Church members: 20
- 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: 1
- Persons who have heard the Gospel: 6,100 (15%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 34,700 (85%)
- Country: India
- Major peoples in size order:
- Major religions:
- Number of denominations: 163
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Bethany World Prayer Center
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