The Kolam of India
The Kolam inhabit the hills and plains of Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. They also live in the Yavatmal, Wardha, and Nanded districts of Maharashtra. They speak a Dravidian language called Kolami, and nearly all of the adults also speak Marathi, Telugu, or Gondi; however, proficiency is limited in Marathi. Their own language is used within the caste, while the state language is used to communicate with outsiders.
Around the twelfth century, the Kolam served as priests for the Gond, representing some of their important gods. It is generally accepted that the Kolam descended from the original population in the area. Since they now live near the Gond, they have adopted much of the Gond lifestyle. In addition, those living in the plains are now settled amidst the local Marathi groups. In spite of influences from outsiders, the Kolam have maintained their identity. They continue to speak their own language and live separately from other ethnic groups.
What Are Their Lives Like
The Kolam are mainly farmers and forest workers. In times past, they used shifting cultivation on the hill slopes. Today, they primarily live as settled farmers and use plow cultivation. The black, heavy soil found throughout the plains is good for growing cotton and oil-seed. Unfortunately, the land is not well suited for rice. The people are able to sustain themselves on the fruits of the forest such as mangoes, blackberries, tamarinds, and nuts. Gum is an important forest product used for trade in the weekly markets. Certain leaves are also gathered and sold to forest contractors. The Kolam make a few wooden articles and hunting nets for trade, but purchase most of their material items from the outside.
The Kolam tend to live apart from other ethnic groups in pods, or small settlements, that are sometimes a mile apart. Even though they are widespread, the Kolam continue to be ruled by their own people. Their villages are not very big—usually 60 houses or less. The settlements are often surrounded by agricultural fields and forests, where the cattle can graze. Wood from the surrounding tropical, deciduous forests is used as building materials and for making farm tools. Most of the Kolam live in square mud houses that are built with sloped, thatched roofs. There are a few rectangular houses made of brick, and some are roofed with tin or tile.
As with all Hindu societies in India, the Kolam belong to the caste (rigid social class) system. They neither associate with those of lower castes nor allow them to settle in their villages. They marry strictly within their own tribe; no Kolam will marry a non-Kolam. The tribe is divided into four sub-groups that may intermarry. Their society is patrilineal, meaning that the line of descent is traced through the males. Marriages are generally negotiated rather than arranged, with the parents taking into consideration the feelings of the boy and girl.
Some of the Kolam women wear toe rings or silver bracelets and married women wear black bead necklaces. Other than that, the Kolam wear very little jewelry. Men prefer wearing caps rather than the traditional turbans. During festive occasions, there are only two types of musical instruments played: a drum, or tappate, and a bamboo flute, or vas.
What Are Their Belief?
Most of the Kolam (90%) are ethnic religionists. Their own mystic folklore has been both influenced by and intermingled with many elements of Hinduism. The Kolam worship a number of gods and goddesses, as well as the spirits of their dead ancestors. They blame all misfortune on the wrath of the gods or on witchcraft. Sadly, they are one of the few tribes in central India that may still offer human sacrifices.
What Are Their Needs?
The physical needs of the Kolam are many. Families are large, ranging from eight to twelve members, and their meager incomes are rarely enough to meet their basic needs. Spiritually, they are also very needy. Though seven missions agencies are currently targeting them, a majority of the Kolam have not yet heard a clear presentation of the Gospel. Prayer is the key to seeing them reached for Christ.
- Ask the Lord to grant wisdom and favor to the missions agencies that are currently working among the Kolam.
- Ask God to use the few Kolam believers to share the love of Jesus with their friends and families.
- Pray that God will raise up qualified linguists to translate the Bible and other Christian materials into the Kolam language.
- Ask the Lord to raise up teams of intercessors who will faithfully stand in the gap for the Kolam.
- Pray that Jesus will begin revealing Himself to these precious people through dreams and visions.
- Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that are keeping the Kolam bound.
- Pray that the Holy Spirit will reveal to the Kolam that only Jesus' blood has the power to set them free.
- Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Kolam by the year 2000.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Kolam
- Country: India
- Their language: Kolami
- Largest religion:
- Christian: <1%
- Church members: 168
- 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: 7
- Persons who have heard the Gospel: 14,700 (26%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 41,300 (74%)
- Country: India
- Major peoples in size order:
- Major religions:
- Number of denominations: 8
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Bethany World Prayer Center
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